Staying focused is virtually impossible without passion. Passion is a craving deep within us, that yearning for something we feel we just must have. It surfaces in a multitude of ways. For example, consider the story of Patrick (Pádraic) Henry Pearse.
Headmaster at St. Edna’s, a small private college south of Dublin, Pearse’s passion was Ireland’s heritage, something he feared was being destroyed by the domination of the English.
Pearse was by nature a gentle man who could never harm even the smallest creature. He had spent his life helping his students understand and pursue their own big dreams. Pearse certainly was not considered a militant or a revolutionary. Yet he was driven by his passion for Ireland.
No longer able to watch the nation’s language, culture, and history eroding, he felt it was time “to pursue his own great goals that, in his words, ‘were dreamed in the heart and that only the heart could hold.’ ”4
He embraced the cause to reclaim Ireland and within a year was a leader of the Easter Rising, the Irish rebellion of 1916. After days of intense fighting, the British army defeated the revolutionaries, and on May 3, 1916, Pearse and others were executed in a jail in Dublin. The British leaders mistakenly thought this would put an end to the rebellion. But they did not understand the power of a person’s passion, as people across Ireland embraced Pearse’s ideas for saving Ireland and dreaming big dreams.
In 1921, Ireland declared freedom from England, and Pearse’s passion and dreams for the Irish culture came to fruition. Pádraic Henry Pearse’s passion ultimately forced a nation to find itself.
Finding our passion includes dreaming big. Ask yourself some questions:
- What is my burning passion?
- What work do I find absorbing, involving, engrossing?
- What mission in life absolutely absorbs me?
- What is my distinctive skill?
Answers to questions like these will point you to your passion.
A friend of mine, the late Leonard Shatzkin, had a passion for mathematics that helped him become a pioneer in understanding the technicalities of inventory management. He developed a model of inventory control using linear regression that proved to be revolutionary for two companies he headed. But his passion didn’t just stop with benefits for his own organizations. Leonard then devoted the rest of his professional career to telling anyone who would listen about maximizing return on investment and minimizing overstocks.
That’s what passion is like; one way or another it demands expression. Even after his death, the effects of Leonard’s passion live on. His ideas and systems serve many individuals and organizations well.
Too often we allow old habits, the rigors of everyday life, and our ongoing fears or frustrations to impede our passion. We are cautioned by friends: “Don’t be so idealistic.” “Don’t be so daring.” “What if you fail?” These kinds of comments can shrink our passion so that we settle for working in fields away from our passion. We abandon it, we make do, and we play it safe.
Just as a mighty river needs a channel, passion needs a channel and a goal. Without such restraint, the result is a flood, a natural disaster. You need to make certain that you control your passion, not the other way around.