When someone seems stuck in their career and unsure of their next step, a question they’re often asked to answer is, “What are you passionate about?” That seems like a logical starting point. After all, when you’re working on your passion, whatever it is, the belief is that you’ll enjoy yourself more and be more willing to do what needs to be done.
But is passion really enough? I thought it was until I saw a movie this weekend called Herb and Dorothy which chronicles the true story of a Manhattan couple, who over a 40-year period amassed one of the most impressive collections of Minimalist and Conceptual art—nearly 5,000 pieces—all on a postal worker’s salary, and all from a one-bedroom apartment.
They lived day-to-day on Dorothy’s salary as a librarian and spent every penny Herb made on art. They bought pieces that they liked, were affordable and could fit into their tiny living space.
You could say they had a passion for art, but I also saw a very deep commitment to it as well. They spent every single dollar and every single free moment they had immersed in art, learning about it, talking about it, visiting galleries, meeting artists.
I really didn’t get Herb and Dorothy at first. Early in the film, I was disturbed by what seemed like an extreme art addiction. No matter how much they collected, they kept wanting more. What was the point of collecting so many pieces? When you had to start stacking works under the bed shouldn’t that have been a signal that enough was enough? It seemed like a constant thirst that couldn’t be quenched, and that bothered me.
But then I thought about the other extreme, that group of people who work and live without either passion or commitment. Going through the motions, caring very little and giving up at the first obstacle. That actually bothered me more. And it should bother you too because those people could be working for you, interacting with your customers, influencing your staff, or involved in something much more critical to your life.
Just getting by
You can’t really control the actions or motivations (or lack thereof) of others. You can’t manifest a desire within someone to do well; only they can do that. But what you can do is be a role model and develop excellence in yourself by re-committing to commitment.
If you’ve already identified what you’re passionate about from a work standpoint, ask yourself next how you can also remain committed to it for the long term, because that’s the true turning point towards excellence.
- Put in the time that’s required?
- Invest the money that’s needed?
- Build the relationships I need to build?
- Learn everything I need to know?
Being passionate about your work is for your benefit. Being committed to your work is for the benefit of others. Only when both elements of the equation are addressed can you be truly excellent in your field.