Passion Leads to Success, Or Does it?

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passion leads to success

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” – Walt Disney

Have you ever found yourself sitting at a table with someone who only talks about themselves excessively and their theories about life and business are juvenile, overly simplistic and shallow?

I happened to be sitting next to a friend of a friend at dinner last week who fit this description. He attributed his success (success is a relative term, people) to being “passionate.”

If only it were that simple. This theory does have merit, but it’s far from the entire story.

Defining and Directing “Passionate”

One of many flaws in the argument is that “passionate” is too nebulous of a concept to universally have an impact in the real-world. Yes, passion has the dictionary definition of an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something.

But in reality, recruitment experts don’t know anyone who wakes up every day for their job with a compelling enthusiasm. After all, work is work. Some days are good and passion comes naturally. Others are tiring.

Moreover, use of the word gives people who are not experienced in their career or who are down on their luck the thought that because they don’t love every day, their chances are zero.

You can be passionate about painting, but if you don’t have the resiliency, curiosity, appreciation for what skill and opportunities you have and ability to control your inner monologue, that passion quickly turns into frustration.

Therefore, being “passionate” and successful are mutually exclusive. Passion alone doesn’t put food on the table.

Where you direct passion is more important. For instance, if you are passionate about improving your skills, and about acquiring the emotional reasoning to keep your chin up during the downs, then you have a shot at loving your job, because winning is fun.

Success itself builds confidence, and is a key passion component.

Passion as a Focus Foundation

“It takes attention to retrieve the appropriate references from memory, to evaluate the event, and then to choose the right thing to do.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow”

Passion fuels resilience and provides you with the ambition to learn and strive to become more competent at what you do. More important than anything else, it affords you the ability to focus.

In anything, focus allows you to achieve complex tasks. When you are able to achieve complex tasks, you:

  1. Become more indispensable as an employee.
  2. Become more respected around the office.
  3. Become able to negotiate higher pay for your services.

These three facets build upon your confidence and overall satisfaction. Not only that, the feeling of success spawns better client and co-worker relationships because you are willing to take chances, speak your mind and both lead others around you and be self-assured enough to follow good leadership.

Unfortunately, full attention is not possible when unhappy at work. When unhappy, much of your brain power and ability to focus on the task at hand are diverted by feelings of worry, anger, jealousy, resentment or an overall sense of inadequacy.

All of these kill attention span. Becoming a basketball player without the focus and attention to properly form your jump shot is a much more difficult proposition.

In the End

Passion means different things to different people, and in success it is far from the whole story. However, for any of us, passion does begin with appreciating what we have in life, doing things for others and understanding that if today isn’t perfect, there is always another one coming tomorrow.

Campfire Photo via Shutterstock


Personal Branding Blog The Personal Branding Blog is part of the Small Business Trends Publisher Channel, offering branding and career advice from Dan Schawbel and his team of experts. The blog helps professionals build a powerful brand to remain competitive in the job market.

4 Reactions
  1. Interesting stuff. I think you’ve illustrated just how important it is to get ‘beneath the label’. I’ve known some people who use the idea of passion almost as an excuse to avoid the nitty gritty of research and preparation.

    It’s a fairly common one in the UK pub industry. People like the idea of running a pub. Say they’re passionate about it, but then overlook the need to analyse markets, trends etc etc.

  2. Well balanced article. Having passion along with other traits will make someone more successful, but there will be passionate people who fail and successful people who aren’t passionate.

  3. Passion for me is like a powerful energy that fuels work. Passion is so powerful that you move because of it. If you say that you are passionate about something but it does not push you to move, I wouldn’t really call that ‘passionate’.

  4. The problem with the passion argument is that some people forget that they are running a business. S**t still needs to be done, and that s**t may be things that you are not passionate about.

    I don’t know anyone who has a passion for accounting (doing the books) but it has to be done.

    I have seen business run by two people and because they are opposites, they both enjoyed the business tasks that the other one hated. It worked really well!

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