Passion v Purpose
This week I will achieve a decade-long ambition by working in London’s most instantly recognisable tower, The Gherkin. At 500,000 sq ft, it’s impressive to say the least. Michael got a gig there ten years ago and I concede envy, it seemed such a waste for a petrol-head to be chosen over an architect. The event combines two passions, rainmaking and architecture, which is a bullseye in terms of self-actualisation. If I asked you to reflect upon what single trait might have led me here many would say passion, however, passion is never enough.
This view is reinforced in the first chapter of No Hard Feelings, Emotions At Work (Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy) which says we should get a life before work overwhelms everything else. Fair enough, work isn’t everything. But it is something that consumes a lot of our time and energy over a lifetime. So if passion is not it, what is?
Purpose, that’s what. It is usefulness and purpose that gets us up in the morning, has us staying late, and gets us to go the extra mile. My dad worked harder than anyone I ever knew and we never discussed what drove him, but if I had to guess it was to show his bullying father he could make it, for his own self-respect and to provide for his family. Dad would never have expressed his business as a passion - he was an industrial waste contractor- though given the chance he would tell you how much he loved to work. And what he had for dinner last time he ate out, as he loved his food!
We hear a lot these days about following your personal passions to achieve happiness. Terrific if that has worked for you, but the counter-narrative we hear less often is this.
Here it is in three parts:
- Find a goal. Make it a big one, not an achievable one. When I say unachievable I don’t mean something you patently will never be able to do, but something that is in the distance. At the start of my business, twenty years ago, my aim was to deliver a keynote in Barcelona for 10k - I’m 75% of the way there.
- Ask yourself this: what am I willing to sacrifice in order to achieve my goal? This is important. You need to find your “why” because it is going to be tough. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that the training regime is miles more exacting than the race.
- Break it into small chunks as you need to get your arse off the sofa. Seriously, get off the sofa tomorrow and do something, anything, that will take you nearer your destination. Start by choosing things you like to do and enjoy the journey. Or at least not resent it.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible!
I remember one evening dad said to my brother and I that he needed us “for a wee while after dinner to shift some stuff round the back”. A mountain of topsoil, eighteen tonnes, was blocking the road outside our house. It seemed impossible that two small boys, two wheel barrows and one man could shift it. It took four hours, John and I filling one barrow while dad wheeled the other round the back. My brother and I hated our dad that night for a while as there was football down the park, but I can still tear up just thinking about that night. I guess you know what our “why” was – it begins with L. Once we were in a rhythm we got seriously competitive, sledging him for being back too slow, making him go faster. And it is amazing how that mountain disappeared, one shovel at a time. It was after 11pm and almost dark when we got a hard brush out and swept the street, job done. Purpose, not passion is what you need to look for, folks.
Good luck finding it, but nurturing it and honing it have little to do with luck. Mine this week will be found in a beautiful bullet-shaped building in London and occasionally it’s Barcelona.