February 5 – Passions and Life

 “People spend their lives in the service of their passions instead of employing their passions in the service of their lives.” (Sir Richard Steele)

This is another quote that I am not sure I am in agreement with. I think because I am not sure why the author thinks that my passions and my life are in conflict with each other.

For me, my passions and my life are one in the same. I don’t compartmentalize the things I am passionate about from something else called “my life”. I have many passions in my life; things about which I feel strongly and spend a lot of my time and effort on. Among them are:

  • Being a husband worthy of my wife
  • Being a father who raises strong, independent children
  • Being a caring friend
  • Doing the best job I can at work
  • Photography
  • Writing
  • And so on…

These passions, when summed together, make up my life. I don’t use one to serve the other, because I don’t see the distinction.

To me, the things about which I am passionate shape who I am and what I do. On a daily basis, and without having to write a plan, I know where my passions lie, and how they influence who I am.

All this thinking about passions and lives puts me in mind of a story. In the early days of my career, when I was still in my 20s, I was known to be quite fiery. I had a bit of a temper, and my sarcastic wit was mostly unchecked. One thing that was true was that when I knew I was right, I couldn’t see anyone else’s viewpoint. I hadn’t learned the painful lesson about seeing things from another person’s perspective, nor the one about how what I see as right may not seem the same to someone else. No, I was bull headed.

I recall being in a Performance Review with a boss for whom I didn’t have a lot of respect. This boss told me that my passions would be my downfall, that unless I learned to check them at the door I would never be successful. This boss went so far as to tell me that the volunteer work I did outside of work was detrimental to my career. I listened, my blood boiled, the hair on the back of my neck bristled, but I said very little. Shortly after that PR I went in search of a new job, and changed assignments within a few months.

To be sure, there were elements of that PR that were correct. I did need to learn how to reign in my temper and sarcasm. Eventually I learned that lesson. Today my anger and sarcasm get me into predicaments far less often than they did then.

But, there were elements of that PR that didn’t work for me. I can’t say where I’d be in my career had I not been a Boy Scout leader, or done Youth Ministry at my church. Perhaps I would be a rung up on the ladder from where I am now. I do, however,  know this. If doing those things meant I sacrificed a promotion in my career, then there were worth it. I had a true passion for leading young Scouts, and working in my Church. Those things were an integral part of who I was, and who I am.

Perhaps Sir Richard Steele would have agreed with that boss back in the 80s. Perhaps his advice, that that person’s would have been to set aside my after work activities and focus my passions in my career. As I look back now I am glad I didn’t follow that advice!

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