In Work, Is Passion Really Necessary?

Everybody talks about passion in work. Some people say one should follow a passion to right work. Others argue that chasing a passion isn’t practical. Corporations and nonprofits alike want passion – for the cause, the technology, the industry. Making “passion” into a hiring requirement leaves many of us with a dilemma.

How many of us are really passionate about, say, presenting a budget analysis to an auditor?

I’d argue that too many discrete ideas have been subsumed under the label “passion.”

First one: caring, which I define as being emotionally invested in an outcome. I care deeply about the well being of animals in our society. I am motivated to work for their welfare – and willing to do take on tasks I might not enjoy – because I care.

Second: interest, which I define as being intellectually curious about something. Most of the people I’ve encountered in high-tech companies are interested, excited, intrigued, and fascinated by their work. I’ve been in that heady space at numerous jobs and have been motivated to do some great work. Is this “passion”, though? Not really.

Passion is a term I reserve for an activity I can’t stop myself from doing or a goal I can’t stop myself from pursuing. There’s the rub. I can no more force myself to be “passionate” about work – even fascinating, exciting, intriguing work that I care deeply about – than I could force myself to believe in blue unicorns.

Who can?

I think there are many people who are passionate out there, and many more who are simply living a lie. The irony – all this fake passion does not make for more productive, engaged workplaces. Rather, fantasy-building and guilt become a distraction from what otherwise would be satisfying work.

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