A guest post from {grow} community member Jeremy Floyd

From Donald Trump to Oprah Winfrey, the “secret” to success seems always to be “follow your passion.” I get lost with this directive. To me, it’s akin to telling someone to embrace their “freedom.” Okay, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?

Passion is a loaded term. That soup of spiritual, emotional, mental, physical/social longing, and satisfaction each have unique ingredients. The challenge is to bring alignment that satisfies all elements of your person. I’ve found myself chasing mental “passion” only to drain all energy from my physical body and vice versa.

So what’s alignment? Most of us have spent much of our lives with the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The real question is WHY do you want to be when you grow up?  Below the surface of the what is a reason that drives you. The alignment of the why, how, and what are the critical recipe to figuring out the “passion” question.

Simon Sinek does a nice job of explaining the approach of the what versus the why by illustrating the Golden Circle. (If you haven’t seen his TED talk check it out.)

When I was 15, my deepest longing was to direct movies. I spent years in the theatre trying my hand at acting, directing, and a ton of time in the technical production.  Other masters came into my life, and in the pursuit of their satisfaction I quashed the dream.  At 27, I thought my passion was to be a lawyer.  But I focused on the “what” of being a lawyer – power, money and success – rather than the “why,” which is helping people.  I went down a ridiculously difficult road to discover the inside of the “what” was different than the outside of the “why.”

So, how do you get to the true heart of your passion?

  1. Remove the “whats.” We spend a great deal of time in our culture driving to the features of our lives: what clothes we wear to work; what car we will drive; what kind of house we’ll live in. etc. These are all results, or features, and they cannot drive the decision.
  2. What is the problem in the world that gets you excited?  After years of searching, I believe that people and organizations are uniquely situated to be incredible, but they don’t always discern their path to excellence.
  3. What can you do better than anyone else to solve that problem? In marketing terms, what is the “point of differentiation?” For me, I believe that by spending time with people and organizations, listening to them, and bringing into focus the “thing” that really drives them, I am helping to unleash potential.
  4. There lies the WHY. Why?  That is the real center, isn’t it?  My purpose or WHY statement is to unleash potential. The purpose should be boiled down to one or two words and be very simple.
  5. How do you do it?  The how is the bridge from the why to the what.  It becomes the rules or framework that directs the purpose into the action.
  6. Finally, what’s the what?  At this point it is easier to determine what you can do, but more importantly it determines what you can’t do. The realm of opportunity is limited by the answers to the preceding questions. So, it is easy for me to say based on my purpose and promises that I would not, for example, be satisfied as a scientist working in a lab all day because I would not be unleashing the potential of people.
Obviously, this an oversimplified approach. It may take months, if not years, to answer question number two, for example. But shifting the focus from the outside to looking inside is the start of the journey towards passion, er, purpose. Despite the difficulty of the journey, it gives greater meaning to everything in your life.
In his book, Sinek tells the parable of the bricklayers:

One day while wandering, I came across three bricklayers. I asked the first bricklayer what he was doing.

“Laying bricks,” he told me.

I asked the second what he was doing.

“Making a brick wall,” he told me.

I asked the third.

“Building a cathedral,” he explained.

Once you’ve identified the purpose, every action that you make in your life has greater meaning and significance. Suddenly, there is alignment between your actions and your goals.

And only then, I would say, you can truly be passionate.

I know this is a very different perspective. How does it land on you?

Jeremy Floyd, President of Bluegill Creative, facilitates corporate and board retreats to help organizations discover their reason for being. He also posts about marketing and digital media on his blog.

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