The case against capital-P Passion

Find your Passion. Pursue your Passion. Fight for your Passion. Devote yourself to your Passion.

Capital-P Passion: the mythical, inspiring, odds-defying drive to do an undefined something that is somehow coded into your DNA and will give your life meaning and catapult you to glory and eternal personal happiness.

In many cultures, we’re indoctrinated in this belief day in, day out, from birth until death. The pressure to find this Passion is immense, the chances of actually having it are low, and the lack of it drives people to think there’s something “wrong with them” and prevents them from pursuing perfectly lovely and acceptable pursuits because these perfectly lovely and acceptable pursuits fail to make their blood boil with an all-consuming-angsty drive and so they should be holding out, right? Wrong.

I’d like to propose an alternative model. This is what I will call the humble and unprepossessing lowercase-p passion, which I shall define as: a slow-growing feeling that emerges after you work on something for a while that has value to your community and leaves you with a pleasant sense of satisfaction.

I became aware of this lowercase-p passion over the past few years of my life, and I spoke about it only a few days ago when I was invited to present at an event hosted by WomenIN that introduced entrepreneurial women in the community. I had seven minutes and seven slides to present who I am and what I do. It was an awesome event, but perhaps the best part was that it forced me into some serious self reflection.

During my presentation, I didn’t expound upon capital-P Passion and lowercase-p passion. I didn’t even mention them. What I talked about was my career in writing and how, a few years ago, I found my way. Instead of holding out to write about things that drove me wild with excitement, I started to write about things that needed to be written about (in other words, I gave up on Passion, and sought out passion). It became my strategy. When it came to my nonfiction writing, I decided I would only write about things that needed to be written about and that would benefit society. Scrap all that other stuff.

At face value, the things I found that needed to be written about aren’t the most interesting things. Think agricultural communication, logging, climate change models and stover (I bet you don’t even know what that last word means).

But they needed to be written about. And what I discovered was that as I wound my way down these obscure paths, I found that a little spark of interest appeared and that, to my unending shock, it slowly grew into a bonfire of curiosity and excitement. By the time I was halfway into a project, there was an undeniable passion for the topic at hand.

I assure you, I had no intrinsic Passion for these topics. But by the end, I certainly had passion for them. I still do, in fact. And this is why I called my presentation “Writing to the Gaps,” and why I call what I do today this very thing. I choose to write where I perceive there is a need. I write where I see holes.

I don’t write about my Passion.

And this is the best thing I have ever done for my professional career.

Taking the pressure off ourselves to find our Passion will ease unrealistic expectations that prevent us from taking advantage of opportunities around us that, if grasped, will provide value to our society. And by working on something that we identify as having value to our society, there’s a good chance that passion will slowly emerge over time.

I present this photo as evidence. Do you see my face? Do you see that unadulterated happiness? I mean, for Pete’s sake, the last time I saw myself smile like that was in a picture from when I was 3 years-old.

Now read carefully the title of the book on the screen behind me. Ponder if you think that book was really my capital-P Passion.

No. That, my friends, is lowercase-p passion. I recommend it.





5 thoughts on “The case against capital-P Passion

  1. 1. I love that I now know what stover is (had to google, cuz that’s my “P”assion — learning new stuff)
    2. I WISH i’d been able to be at the MBX event. Really.
    3. You and Elizabeth Gilbert are talking very similarly about p and P. She talks about how the search for “P” has waylaid people. Y’all sympatico.
    4. Love you!


  2. It’s similar (though not exact. It’s never exact) to what I tell college students- Let go of the all-consuming pressure to know exactly what you want to be and exactly how to get there. Instead, think about what you’d like to simply try. If in an a year or two it doesn’t light any fires, try something else. You’ll be better off for the experiences.


  3. Yup! Even when you think you have something that should fit the bill for “P”assion… Something you feel like you’ve been chasing for years… You question if it’s enough! Endless battle. Live and enjoy the moment, and all the small “p” passions, and even the daily, some might call mundane tasks. 😁


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