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The elements of passion

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A colleague, Mick Landmann, introduced me to the great Ken Robinson, a very funny speaker and holder of strong views on education. Last night, I watched him talk about his latest book, the Element, which is about the importance of having a passion for what you do in life.

If we follow our passions, Robinson argues, we are so much more motivated to do our work, are so much better at it, and we can achieve, much, much more.

He also made very clear the link between the problems we face in running up against resource constraints (land, water, oil etc) and the importance of following that passion. His suggestion is that for us, as a society, to find a way out of these problems it’s essential that all of us do what we are most passionate about.

The logic, I guess, is that these problems are so difficult that they require all of our individual and collective power to overcome them. Only by fully tapping into our passions can we access that power.

For me, this is where business comes in. I have been asking myself again recently, thanks to Simon Conroy, what business is. For me, business, when all is said and done, is a sandpit, a place to experiment, that allows people to be their best. To tap into that passion.

Sure, business can generate money. It provides employment. But much more importantly it clearly identifies problems and opportunities. Such problems, opportunities and the resulting solutions are meat and potatoes to someone with passion.

With passion people will work the long days, take the risks, and overcome the fears (facing conflict, for example) needed to solve the most difficult of problems, tackle the most inspiring of opportunities, and come up with the most creative solutions.

And through that work, become whatever they can become.

“Win-win” is a rather over-used term. But if at the same time as developing ourselves, we solve some of our hardest and most challenging problems, I can’t help thinking that is a real win-win.

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Author: Pete Burden

Strategy, Leadership and Organisational Coach I am an experienced strategy, leadership and organisational coach. I work with the MDs of purpose-led businesses - people using the freedom, flexibility, and practicality of business to disrupt the world in positive ways.

2 thoughts on “The elements of passion

  1. Passion? I don’t think it matters to most people what work they do – I’m sure many who enjoy their work simply rationalize their enjoyment by claiming they were born to be TV producers or investment bankers. I suspect it’s mainly the structure of the activity they enjoy, rather than the subject of the activity. I love being involved in live TV: I’m more “passionate” about poetry, but it’s not a field in which I can envisage making a meaningful contribution (let alone earn a living!). Similarly, as for what business is about, it depends entirely on your psyche: some people like the opportunity to be “heroic” by overcoming impossible obstacles, others love to see their vision become a reality, many just like to keep everything humming along happily (no matter what it is). As you mention in a subsequent blog, it’s great if you “always wanted to be a doctor”, or “work with animals”, but what about the rest of us who never quite decide what we want to be when we grow up?

  2. I think you’re right Scott, most people don’t care what work they do. But it does seem such a waste. Life is so short (I realise now as I get older!).

    That said, if it meeds social needs, keeps people out of mischief and pays the bills, we probably shouldn’t grumble. Many people globally don’t get even that.

    I also really like your comment about business/work being an opportunity to be yourself – that’s exactly what I mean by saying it’s a sandpit. The legislative structure is so broad it really is possible to do whatever you want in business. Only our imaginations constrain us.

    And as for the last point, what so good about growing up?!

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