How To Steal Passion

Image credit: Pixabay

Passion and purpose have always been strong motivators for me, right behind not getting shot again.

When it comes to purpose and passion though, there must be balance, because one without the other is akin to an untamed fire hose spraying everything in its path. Here’s what I mean.

Passion without purpose is directionless — you’re moving closer and closer toward nothing because an end state (a purpose, a direction) hasn’t been identified yet. Similarly, pursuing a purpose without the passion behind it is the very feeling of creative tension you experience when you know what you want to do but don’t take any action to move forward.

It’s the latter piece — purpose without passion — that’s unsettling because purpose without passion is like being in the “driver’s seat” with a clear destination, a full coffee mug…and your car doesn’t start. You’re out of gas because there’s no fuel (i.e. passion) to move you forward.

The good news is, passion can be forged. All it takes is a shift in perspective, a different angle of view, a powerful question that causes you to reframe an old problem through a new lens and see an opportunity where you once saw an obstacle. Hell, an entire industry — the coaching industry — is based upon the art and science of asking powerful questions. Questions demand answers and answers provide insight.

If you want to learn how to become more passionate, look no further than an artist. Seriously. If you really think about it, artists don’t exactly make the big bucks (just being honest here) and that’s okay because they’re not passionate about money. They’re passionate about creating; about forging certainty from uncertainty.

The creative process requires chaos before form emerges. — Marilyn Ferguson

To survive as an artist (which I am not, by the way) you need clarity on two things:

1) What you do (your passion)

2) Why you do it (your purpose)

And actually, I would say these two principles apply not only to starving artists but to everything in life. Entrepreneurs. Athletes. Investors. Philanthropists. Police officers. You’re either passionate about what you do, or you’re not. You either have a purpose for why you do it, or you don’t.

Look at how artists paint (or sculpt or write or whatever it is they do). It’s all or nothing for artists when it comes to producing work. They either love what they create or detest it and start over. There’s no middle ground when it comes to finalizing their work because their work is a rendition of them. It speaks to their identity and how they see the world, so you better believe that whatever they end up with is going to “speak to them;” there is no middle ground. No mediocrity.

How do they get there — to that zen-like place that everybody aspires yet few achieve? And how do they know they’ve created the perfect piece? I mean, how do they really know when it’s ready, right?

Well, chances are they didn’t get there — to “zen” — in one fell swoop. Instead, they constantly refined and improved their last piece; they constantly looked for ways to make it even better.

And then, when they weren’t working on a single piece, they were looking for inspiration. All throughout the day, artists are constantly searching for inspiration because that’s how they survive. If they don’t innovate, they don’t produce, and if they don’t produce, then they just become another “starving artist.” Just. Like. Your. Company.

Purpose and Passion Go Hand In Hand

Purpose and passion complement each other; they need each other. Artists need purpose and passion to be effective and efficient in what they do, because without either — purpose or passion — then they’ll dilly dally around, chase their tail and get nowhere fast, and “nowhere” isn’t a fun place to be. In fact, being nowhere sucks. Bad.

But you know what? Leaders are no different. Teams are no different. To be the type of leader that you read about demands both purpose and passion. Teams need direction and engagement.

When you’re passionate about something there’s no stopping you. When you’re purposeful about that same thing then there’s only one right answer to pursuing it, which is “don’t stop.”

Purpose and passion are inspiring, almost infectious. As a leader, there are three ways you “infect” others:

1) Positively

2) Negatively

3) Indifferently

Having said this, “infecting” others through purpose and passion is easier said than done. Moreover, what do you do if you haven’t yet discovered purpose or passion for yourself in your work or at home?

That’s where artists come into play. When artists “do their thing” they’re in what’s known as flow state. So, if you want to inject more passion and purpose into your life then let’s consider what artists must do to produce work, and then steal the hell out of it:

Eleven Ways To Steal Passion

1. Passion fuels effort.

People who are passionate about their work don’t easily “clock out.” In fact, they’re most likely workaholics because they enjoy what they do and the people they work with.

2. Passion creates.

It’s not easy converting the intangible into the tangible, yet that’s exactly what artists do. They turn an idea into reality; into a “thing” that you can see and touch.

3. Passion inspires.

Artists are, well, unique. The majority (and I’m going to completely stereotype and over-generalize here, so bear with me) of artist types are, well, eclectic. They typically swim upstream against social norms because they value difference — and this is exactly what makes them inspiring.

People get inspired when they see others doing something that they themselves would choose not to do but wish they did. Artists are courageous in every right. Ryan Berman, in his forthcoming book Return On Courage, says “Companies either make Believers or fake Believers.” Artists do the same. Leaders do the same. Believers are made when there’s purpose and passion behind a belief.

4. Passion incites curiosity.

Curiosity breeds questions and questions demand answers. If you want a better answer, ask a better question, but start by being curious — it’s one of the qualities that make you a better leader.

5. Passion propels you through ambiguity.

Looking at a blank canvas might feel overwhelming. After all, there’s so much to do, so much that hasn’t been created yet. And that’s why uncertainty is so valuable, because from uncertainty emerges certainty. You can’t become any more uncertain when you’re surrounded by zero answers, it’s almost like downgrading an “F” on a report card to an “F-.” You can’t, because you’re already bad. Passionate people find answers. They create certainty where it didn’t previously exist. They find meaning where others find empty space.

6. Passion wins.

Passionate people take the time to clarify what winning looks and then work backwards from there so they know where to begin. Think of an artist (again), for example. They don’t just dip a paint brush in a random color and start brushing up and down aimlessly. They have a vision; they have a clear picture in their heads as to what they want to paint — what success looks like — and they do it.

7. Passion allows you to adapt.

When you’re passionate about something you’re willing to fit the mold — any mold — if that means moving closer toward your purpose. Of the 174 students who started in my BUD/S class, 34 of us graduated. Thirty-four young men adapted to the demands of training, of the environment in which they found themselves because they were clear on their why. When you’re clear on why you’re doing something, then what you do next is an easy choice.

8. Passion allows for fit.

They understand that it is possible to fit a square peg in a round hole by hammering it over and over until it fits, but they know the end state won’t look pretty. Instead, passion drives creativity such that the artist realizes he can chip away at the pre-existing peg until it’s ready to fit.

8. Passion kills failure.

When you’re passionate about something there is no “end state,” only a “next state” that moves you closer toward the goal line (i.e. your purpose). By working from a place of passion, you hammer the last nail into the coffin of failure and stop seeing it as a permanent state of acceptance and instead view it as a temporary state of learning; a stepping stone along the path of “right.”

9. Passion compels practice.

Nothing good comes easily, and anything worth doing is worth doing right — the first time. I remember something the SEAL instructors used to say to us, in between curse words and other smart comments, “There are two ways to do something: the right way, and again.”

Artists don’t settle for mediocrity because their work is a reflection of them. Rather, they constantly refine their skills by employing curiosity, focus, discipline and authenticity in everything they do. Are leaders any different?

10. Passion breeds learning.

When you’re passionate about something you become a student of the game. You want to learn; you want to become better because you’re passionate about the value you create.

After all, that’s your purpose — to create value for others. Artists examine their work and they examine the work of others. They’re constantly learning, constantly reviewing and constantly looking to align what they do with why they do it. They’re in a constant state of learning, and what enables learning is the desire (i.e. passion) to throw ego aside in light of the higher purpose (to improve).

11. Passion drives performance.

If you want to crush anything in life, you need to put in the time. Listen, learn, do the work and repeat. It’s that simple — but not easy [LINK].

It doesn’t matter what your job is or where you work, you need passion to move the needle from ordinary to extraordinary. Without passion, you’re just “there;” buying your time until the hour arrives to clock out, go home, and start anew the next day.

And then you die.

The bottom line: purpose and passion go hand in hand. You can have just one, but only to the extent that you’re willing to show up less than what you’re capable of showing up as.

Wake up. Kick ass. Reassess your passion and purpose. Kick more ass. Repeat. That’s the secret to stealing passion.

Jeff Boss is Co-Founder of Chaos Advantage, a coaching and consulting firm that works with leaders and their teams to navigate uncertainty and win as one by leveraging the unique experiences in leadership and teamwork of special operations. He is author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations and Managing The Mental Game: How To Think More Effectively, Navigate Uncertainty, And Build Mental Fortitude, former Navy SEAL of 13 years and host of The Chaos Cast Podcast: Life Lessons For Finding Certainty In Uncertain Situations. Receive his weekly leadership insights here.