Purpose beats Passion

02. We like working with people with a strong purpose. Passion is great, but purpose is different. It’s about knowing what you want to achieve; the difference you want to make.

I’m a pretty emotional human, with an addictive personality. I’m easily distracted, and am interested in almost anything that takes my fancy at any given moment. So far this year, I have listened to almost every podcast series I can possibly fit around work and home commitments. They’ve been on US politics – specifically about Watergate or Robert Kennedy – the World Cup; people who publish magazines; Aaron Draplin; mindfulness, or the American Civil War (and they’re just the topics I can easily remember). I’ve read three dense books in ten days on Irish History in the early 1900s, and I’ve a feeling that I may be becoming hooked on collecting Panini World Cup stickers and playing Fallout games again.

I love this stuff, and today I’m as passionate about these things as I can ever remember about being – about any of the things I’ve been into. But eventually, as always, the passion for these things fades as I get into new things. Things like the emerging beer mat collection currently sitting on a shelf in my home office, a new brand of notepads, or the ten bobble heads that I added to my Amazon wishlist last week. In spite of the gleaming sunshine.

My passions at any given time are many, fleeting and without any type of focus. They are driven almost exclusively by a weird emotional state of longing for things, or experiences. If I followed the advice about doing the things that I loved today as a career choice, I’d likely have 15 different careers this year.

Purpose and passion are different beasts. Doing things passionately means that they’re done with emotion, and emotions for most people fluctuate. A passionate act is often an impulsive or irrational act. On a good day, passion is fiery, heartfelt and exciting. On a bad day, it is uncontrollable, fanatical and violent. For the record, I have never been violently into podcasts about Aaron Draplin documentaries, but it would be fair to say that I am fanatical about Fallout games.

A purposeful act is a rational and functional act. You know why you’re doing something with purpose and as such, that reason can be easily explained. Having a strong sense of purpose means that you’ve identified a goal that you are intent on achieving, with purpose, and that motivating factor is the reason that people with purpose are easier to help, because they have a goal in mind.

A purposeful act is also an outward facing act; it achieves something outside of yourself. There’s an emotional element to it in that you can feel a sense of achievement in doing something with purpose, but feeding a passion is entirely inward facing. It’s about pleasing yourself.

Work done with purpose gets finished and pays the bills. That work builds into a body of work that shows consistency and focus. Passion can make the work more pleasurable, but it doesn’t make sure it’s delivered on time and meets the expectations of the customer. Nobody is passionate about hitting deadlines.

I love spending time with people who are passionately into things. Their excitement for the things that they’re into is infectious and makes for a good conversation over a few beers. But I love working with people with purpose. Their clarity in solving the things in the world that they want to solve makes it easier to want to help them, and clearer to see how we can.


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