Applicants tell me that they’d work “100 hours a week” if they were passionate about their work. Many also tell me that they can’t figure out why they lose passion in every interest they pick up. In other words, they’re asking me why they’re aimless and depressed.
“Give them time, they just need to find their passion,” offers the well meaning parent. Cliche aside, sure sure, but how does one find passion? People seem to think it’s about sampling as many different interests until there’s that — woo woo! — perfect spark, perfect match. Serenfuckingdipity. Those who lack passion simply didn’t get a chance to sample enough activities, declares PTA mom who voted to give all students their own laptop. Solution: provide more activities, more electives until every one of these little darlings finds his/her passion.
Won’t work because passion is first and foremost an act, not a feeling. If you think it’s a feeling that drives action, then you have it ass backwards. It starts as an action — mostly painful and frustrating — that gradually, slowly, leads to rare euphoric feeling (achievement), to feeling passionate about something. Anything, not just the usual writer-rockstar-journalist-event-planner-jock fantasy. Could be picking up dog shit, or scamming people with three card monty, or pimpin’ midget hoes. There’s no hierarchy of activities, one can LEARN to be passionate about anything.
Think of it this way, what’s the difference between infatuation and love? Infatuation is instant, it’s the moment she thinks she’s met her ideal man. Let’s see: tall (not too) dark (the right kind of dark) and handsome; six figure salary (low six figure so she can maintain her leftie politics without being called a champagne socialist); awww yeah, a nice, Zulu-sized dick (without it coming from Zulu-land). “It was meant to be,” she coos. Yeah. Until he demands anal sex from her daily and she develops bowel problems. Zulu dick not so fun now, eh?
Above illustrates what many experience when choosing a calling. The reason why so many lose passion for something — quit — is because they can’t handle pain and frustration, failure. They’re infatuated with this and that career. They can’t take it up the ass because they idealize the life of whatever it is they want to be. They never think about the process of becoming a surgeon; or a rock star; or a porn star; or President of USA. To develop passion, one must learn to take it up the ass.
Take the kid who wants to be a rock-star. He practices and practices. Sends demos to studios. Only rejections. Dejected, he quits. Another kid keeps going, practices more after each rejection. Keeps going until he gets his first contract. It’s disingenuous to say that for the former, it just wasn’t meant to be while for the latter, he simply has passion for music. No, the former couldn’t handle failure and his feelings of frustration. The latter did. He invested more and more in spite of mounting rejections.
Yeah yeah, there’s more to it, we’ll discuss later. For now, let’s complete the analogy. What do you do to make someone fall in love with you? Jiggling your tits will, at best, get you infatuation, and at worst, have you branded a slut. Seduction means not only making someone notice and want you, but to also work for your affections. And the deeper the investment, the more in love with you he’ll be. That’s why adage tells women to not spread legs too early, to make the guy wait work work wait for it. You slowly pull him in, show him a bit more of the prize each time he does something right. Push him away when he fucks up. Manipulative? Sure, if you say so. But the other option is a guy who quickly grows bored of you. Or worse, a guy who doesn’t grow bored with you because he’s boring. Love is earned, rarely given, because love is frustrating work.
The point is, passion, like love, requires work. This work involves mostly lows — rejection and failure — and few highs. The more pain and frustration one experiences, the better the high. The inability to handle rejection and failure — likely due to sense of entitlement and poor impulse control — prevents one from developing passion. I’ll ask an applicant, over e-mail:
Hey, thanks for your response. Can you make your responses more readable? Think about how your audience is experiencing your response. Also reconsider your answers for questions 4-9. Do an internet search. Finally, aim to be consistent. Resubmit at your leisure.
Two-thirds respond with a tantrum. Most of the rest respond by trying to do as I ask, treating each task as an annoying hurdle than as a learning experience, dropping out after getting frustrated with being asked to reconsider this and that. Rarely, someone figures out that the interview begins the moment I e-mail them and that they’re being tested on how well they handle failure, how they talk about their failures, and their willingness to learn from their failures. I’m testing their capacity for passion.
Why Your Hobby Is Not Your Passion
So you like cooking and serving your friends. Or you can play a video game 16 hours straight. You’re starting to think that cooking is your passion. You wonder why a game is so fun but life isn’t.
The reason you think cooking is your passion, is pleasurable, is because people compliment you on it. It’s fun because your ego is getting massaged. Cooking is not your passion precisely because it’s your hobby. Don’t confuse the feeling you get from affirmation of the ego (happiness) with passion. Passion rarely feels good. Cooking, for most, isn’t so fun when Gordon Ramsay asks you why you’re a stupid cunt for frying an egg in boiling oil. If it is fun having a maniac scream in your face about fuck ups your friends and family either won’t mention to you or don’t notice, then maybe your hobby is your passion.
Video games are fun because they’re manipulative. They use push-pull tactics great seducers use to lure their love “victims.” They make you struggle, and you’re rewarded if you work hard enough, solve enough problems. So why can’t this work ethic, this passion to solve problems, be easily carried over to real life? Because real life is REAL, where the consequences of not killing all the Satanic looking giant penguins is REAL death and destruction of humanity. Where a wrong decision means REAL nuclear holocaust. Where serving a bad dish to a REAL prominent reviewer sinks your REAL business. Where “redo” and “restart” aren’t options. The pressure is REAL. Most hobbies are NOT REAL. They merely provide ESCAPE from REALity.
How to Train Passion into Child
Say a child wants piano lessons. Make him accomplish something to earn the right to take piano lessons. Don’t just give it to him. Make him earn it. He’ll be more likely to stick with it if he has to work at getting a shot at it. And when he begins to experience difficulty, DON’T LET HIM QUIT! Don’t make the lame excuse of “it’s just not his passion,” or the equally asinine “it’s just not his forte.” Don’t create someone who will never become passionate about anything. The activity is irrelevant, passion is expressed through one’s ability to handle failure and pressure.
Meaning and Fulfillment
Working long and hard isn’t enough to make someone passionate about something. The act has to be meaningful. Acts that are meaningful are those that help other people become better. Any activity can be meaningful. The three card monty scam artist can be passionate about scamming people because he believes he’s helping dumbasses figure out how naive and stupid they really are. A beer maker can be passionate about his work because he thinks he’s helping people to relax and have a good time with friends. A football player can be passionate about getting brain cells knocked out of him because he wants the feeling of winning a championship and bringing a city together like never before.
The cook who seeks approval and affirmation instead of, say, redefining proper portion sizes to help people control weight is going to hate her job because work, at the highest level at least, is mostly rejection (most people don’t like being told they eat too much), little affirmation. The kid who wants to be a rock star so he can get laid whenever he wants will never become the rock star working to resolve a geopolitical conflict that has cost many lives. Put simply, passion is the act of serving other people. Passion is Sisyphean rage against the inevitable, that “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”