We are enormously attracted by euphoria and dedication. We really admire them. May the hero in the epic perish in the end – he stood up for his cause and burned for it. Sometimes even literally. What we give him credit for is a quality that unites all successful people: passion. Passion makes us persevere when setbacks or critics come along. Passion outlasts short-term enthusiasm. It makes our eyes sparkle when we tell of our ideas or successes. And passion infects people who see and hear it. Passion often makes the difference between fortune and fiasco. But what constitutes passion?
➠ Contents: What you can expect
Passion: the will to succeed
There are many synonyms for the seemingly magical virtue of passion: Dedication, lifeblood, energy, burning, fire, pluckiness, verve, bravery, thirst for discovery. What they all have in common: They have enormous potential. Passion for something unleashes unimagined power and gives the person who possesses it almost superhuman powers. And passion distinguishes those who succeed from those who don’t possess this trait.
Example Vince Lombardi. He was a strict man. He got his first football coaching job at, of all places, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Lombardi was considered authoritarian, perfectionist but enormously adaptable. Among his strengths was his ability to recognize the tactics and strategies of opposing teams and adapt them to the abilities of his players, creating balanced teams.
His career was correspondingly steep: He soon moved to the National Football League (NFL) and won the NFL championship with the Green Bay Packers in 1961, 1962 and 1965, followed by two more NFL titles in 1966 and 1967, followed by several Super Bowl victories. Lombardi, who suffered from red-green blindness, has since been considered a coaching legend. Demanding and strict, but also one who always demanded independence from his players. From him also comes the remarkable bon mot:
The difference between successful people and all the others is not lack of strength, talent or knowledge. It is the lack of will.
Passion is not a question of talent
You could also translate the saying with "passion". In soccer, one would probably say: someone like that has the "drive to score". Players like this want to score goals, to score the ball. Absolutely. Come what may. Cost what it may. Over the course of his career, Lombardi had also found that his best and most successful athletes possessed this trait.
This passion does not only appear in sports, but everywhere. If you take a closer look at some of history’s success stories, you soon realize that they were not always among the high achievers in their school class or at university. They were also not particularly talented or knew more than others. Not at all. But they wanted to achieve their goals. Absolutely. From the heart. And this is then even transferred to their environment.
You can light a thousand candles on one candle without it losing its luminosity.
Passion overcomes obstacles
Steep thesis, yes. But there are numerous examples and evidence of this:
A college dropout who was determined to make his Microsoft idea a reality. Sure, his computer knowledge was vast, but he didn’t know a thing about business management. Nevertheless, he has prevailed and in the meantime made it to the richest man in the world.
In middle school he had big problems because of his dyslexia. He gloriously failed his school newspaper – despite prominent supporters such as John le Carre or Jean-Paul Sartre. And he left school without a diploma. Nevertheless, he founded his company Virgin just one year later and is now considered an entrepreneurial multi-talent with an estimated fortune of four billion US dollars.
As co-founder of the Internet portal Scout24 and CEO and co-owner of Beisheim Holding Switzerland, the then 39-year-old was extremely successful. Then came 2002 – and with it a serious motorcycle accident in South Africa in which Schoss lost a leg and an arm. Soon after, his marriage broke up, and he was also disempowered from an entrepreneurial point of view. Although he was physically damaged, he did not give up, on the contrary: he founded again. This time the foundation My Handicap. An online platform where people with disabilities can inform themselves, exchange ideas and make contacts. Today he says: "Many simply don’t have the willpower to deal with the disaster at hand. The meaning of life cannot be that we are doing well for 80 years at a stretch, but that we are developing further. And you develop fastest when it hurts the most."
I’m sure you can think of many more examples as well: Athletes, founders, managers, colleagues. The essential thing about them is that they all set themselves a (long-term) goal to which they devote themselves with all their might. In short, they are passionate about their work and enormously focused on it.
The complicated term Volition is often used synonymously. People who possess this characteristic really sink their teeth into their project, their task, their goal and only let go when this goal has been reached and the desired success has been achieved. Terrier qualities just. "I bet there isn’t a single success person who doesn’t have this trait," says University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, for example, who is one of the luminaries in the field. "No one is so talented that they don’t have to fight for their success – and passion helps enormously in that process."
Passion impossible? Life is not a pony farm
The opposite of focus can be observed even more often. Unfortunately. People make great plans, start something, but then do not finish it and give up. The reasons:
- Because they allow themselves to be distracted by other, supposedly easier goals.
- Because there is resistance. Doubt. Or simply..
- Because it takes too long and is too exhausting for them.
Can be. But halay you never find out, how successful you could have been. It is much better to "want" to find out if you can do it after all. Overcoming all odds. My uncle wrote me a card in the seventies that I still have today because I have never forgotten the words. On which stood the poem of R. Halm, which was probably also found in many poetry albums at the time:
I want! This word is powerful,
one speaks seriously and quietly.
Ripping the stars from the sky,
the little word: I want!
33 questions to help you recognize your passion
Before you follow your passions (not only in love), you need to know them first, of course. That is easier written than done. While many people sense that they are not happy with their current path, they cannot name alternatives. They don’t know their "true passion" and probably have never seriously engaged in it.
The following questions can help to recognize hidden passions and to find the individually suitable way. Of course, you need a healthy amount of self-reflection and a willingness to break away from ingrained thought patterns to do this:
- What topics and questions have fascinated and interested you for years?
- What topics can you spend hours on??
- Are there any questions that you always ask yourself with enthusiasm?
- With which tasks time seems to fly by?
- What tasks do you wish you could do when you’re bored?
- Are there jobs and tasks that you dream about again and again?
- What kind of work do you do particularly well?
- Are there tasks that come naturally to you??
- What topics can you talk about with enthusiasm?
- Are there topics that your friends and family already can’t hear anymore because you talk about them all the time?
- What does your ideal job and workplace look like?
- Which of your abilities – not only in the work context – are you proud of??
- What kind of work and topics do you enjoy??
- What career alternatives have you considered over and over again?
- Which activities and tasks do you not currently perform, but can you imagine in an excellent and vivid way??
- What would you do if you were financially secure??
- Which task would you pursue if you did not have to live from it??
- What values and issues are particularly important to you in your life?
- What qualities and skills do your friends value in you?
- Are there jobs you would still like to do 20 or 30 years from now??
- What issues do you deal with on your vacation and in your free time??
- Which tasks make you feel really good?
- What kind of work gives you the feeling that you are doing something meaningful??
- For which projects do you like to invest overtime and extra work??
- Are there any tasks that you like to take on voluntarily?
- Can you spontaneously name your favorite topics and areas of interest??
- With which activities do you provide a balance to your job??
- What services would you offer as a freelancer?
- What does or would your ideal customer look like??
- What does or would your ideal project look like??
- For which topics do you want to inspire other people?
- What issues do you stand up for with conviction?
- On which topics you become emotional and enthusiastic?
How you inspire passion in others
To (re)ignite passion in other people is not only a noble task – it is THE management task par excellence. Likewise, all those who give a so-called impulse lecture want to do the same. Encouraging others to do their best is not only deeply satisfying and fun – it’s also motivating. This does not make it any easier. But there are a few good clues as to what inspires people (on the job) in the long term and arouses their passion:
The feeling of being just an insignificant cog in the wheel paralyzes any enthusiasm for work in the long run. Everyone wants to know that their work adds value, that it is important and indispensable. If you convey exactly this to your employees, you will awaken their enthusiasm anew.
This is an overused and unfortunately too often misused term. But he hits the nail on the head: people are social beings, and companies are social organizations. Even if you muddle along on your own for a while, cooperation, collaboration and recognition and encouragement from others – in short, "team spirit" – is what we look for in our jobs, in addition to meaningful work. Those who find it, like to do more.
Speaking of team spirit: it includes that all gratuities – salary, bonuses, praise – are transparent, comprehensible and fair. Nothing is more detrimental to motivation for the job than nepotism or unfair pay.
This point is strongly related to the first one, but deserves a special mention (or rather attention). Money is the reward. But it never compensates for lack of recognition. No matter what you create or produce, you want your colleagues and customers to notice it, especially if it was good. Praise is a form of attention, a particularly positive one. But objective and fair criticism is also part of it. Especially with high achievers, you can’t make enough fuss about their merits. In this way, you even become a role model and incentive for others.
The phrase "lifelong learning" always sounds appealing, but it’s in our own best interest: We want to develop ourselves further, grow in our jobs, and acquire more responsibility and creative freedom. But only where people can do the same, passion thrives. Glass ceilings and lack of development by supervisors or trained service providers are motivational killers – and quite often a major reason to change jobs.
For most entrepreneurs, becoming self-employed was their main desire: to become more independent in their decisions, in their creations, and in their daily work routine. Employees want that too. And indeed, freedom and self-determination are huge driving forces. Wherever you can: Show people how to become more independent – and you’ll inspire their passion!
Despite passion: Success needs something playful
Despite all passion for your thing, you should never seem dogged about it. No matter how much drudgery, no matter how many experiences and failures are ultimately behind it, how hard you had to work for it: it should remain a secret. "Whatever one does – the harder it is, the easier it has to look." – This is an iron rule of success.
People always see success in the end. They react to it either with admiration or with envy. But they never see the work, the hardships that were behind it. We all like to ignore them. We adore the singing trio that warbles an impromptu polyphonic motet. We love magicians who enchant us with feats of skill. If they are presented gracefully, it increases our admiration tenfold. But all these illusionists should please not sweat or tell us afterwards how many hours of hard training were necessary for it. Instinctively then immediately our respect sinks. Now we know: Anyone who practices, practices, practices just as much can achieve the same thing. How ordinary!
Keep your efforts to yourself!
Everyone, really everyone, who is successful in the limelight has prepared thoroughly before entering the stage. Before fame there is always sweat. Anyone who says otherwise is doing it right – but is lying. One must keep one’s efforts to oneself, no matter how great the temptation, no matter how much it would flatter one’s vanity to have others applaud our cleverness. The more one moans about too little time, too much work and about his or her sacrifice, the less interesting he or she makes himself or herself. He is but a poor mortal after all.
Who on the other hand shows his passion, but conceals the effort behind it, who creates something that is greater than man’s work. In the Book of the Courtier, published by Baldassare Castiglione in 1528, he described the highly elaborate manners of the perfect courtier. Who, Castiglione said, must perform everything with "sprezzatura", with ease and nonchalance. Why? Because it inspires awe! You seem to be the only one who can accomplish this feat. It makes one unique. And that gives great influence.
It would also be pretty stupid to reveal one’s tricks and ploys: Such information only gives others tools that they can later use against you. So nurture your passion, awaken your passion, put in the right effort. But any success in doing so should retain something of a playful quality. And the work behind it – your noble secret.
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