Thursday, May 30, 2013


A friend described a recent experience in his rural general store.

A woman from Manhattan vacationing here in the Berkshires had taken offense that his inventory didn't include many of the products she was accustomed to seeing in the city.

He apologized and offered to help her find substitutes.

She declined, or rather, ignored his offer and continued her lament.

He tried to explain that as a small business owner in an area where business traffic was sporadic, he simply couldn't afford to carry all the stock that one might carry somewhere else.

Apparently the woman had never had to make choices due budget limitations. She paused for a moment considering his statement, dismissed it as nonsensical, and then intensified her complaint from lament to rage.

At a loss for what to do next, my friend feigned stumbling into the checkout counter. He lowered his left hand to steady himself and raised his right to massage his temple.

The woman stopped talking and looked at him curiously.

He looked up at her squinting and said, "I apologize mam. My wife decided that I was not as sensitive as she'd like me to be. So last week I underwent brain-replacement surgery; they replaced my male brain with one from a female. The surgery went fine, but I'm still experiencing some of the after-affects.

The woman's face softened. She said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't even know that they could do that. No wonder you're struggling to keep your store stocked with the proper inventory."

Last night, we all sit around the kitchen table talking about passion. Lately I've been thinking a lot about passion as I've come to realize that many people I know experience significant side-effects due to its absence in their lives. The side-effects are so significant that I can get pretty passionate about passion or the absence thereof.

Everyone with me is someone whom I have considered to be passionate about what they do. However, as they talk, the little bells in my head that indicate inconsistencies in a person's statements begin to sound. One theme of inconsistency amounts to something like, "I'm passionate about thus and such; I just have a hard time getting myself to do it consistently."

For me, there's no need to replay and analyze the tape, no photo-finish. If you're passionate about something, the problem isn't getting yourself to do it; the problem is getting yourself to do other things that your passion displaces. You don't go to bed setting your alarm to ensure that you get up early to practice; you struggle to sleep because you can't wait to get up and practice.

Everyone else apparently has a different definition than I do.

As we talk, there's no debate about whether or not they experience what I would call attributes of being dispassionate. The debate is over what you call that collection of attributes.

For everyone else, the fact that you struggle to do something consistently doesn't mean you're not passionate about it. For me, its the very nature of passion is to struggle to do anything else.

Any way, I'm pretty sure that my definition probably better represents that found in the dictionary. So, I suggest that maybe we need a different word to describe what everyone else experiences.

That doesn't fly.

I slowly realize that for everyone else "passion" is more than a neutral description of a state of being. It has positive charge to it, its absence having a negative one. To be dispassionate would be a "bad" thing.

So now I'm thinking, "Wow, to be dispassionate would be so bad that it's better to change the meaning of the word passionate to include you than it is to look at your being dispassionate and change you."

In the end, it comes down to picking. You get really good at one thing because you don't spend time on other things. For some people (I would call them passionate), picking is easy. For others, well, not so much.

The non-pickers will often say things like, "I enjoy so many activities. Why should I have to choose?"

You don't.

Some non-pickers don't pick for fear of having picked wrongly. Some non-pickers don't pick because they fear failing, e.g., if I never commit to something then I can never fail because I'll always be able to say that I wasn't really trying all that hard.

When you're passionate about something (or whatever you want to call what I'm describing), you don't miss what you've not chosen and you don't fear failing because the passion isn't about the goal, it's about the process. Picking is a side-effect of passion, not vice versa.

There's a tricky part. Oftentimes passion develops only as you get good at something. Prior to getting good, the passion may spark momentarily from time to time, but you have to fan those sparks into a consistent flame.


By picking.

Happy Thursday,

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