Passion Does not Exist in the Job, It Exists in Us



"I have developer’s disease. I love to sit at a drafting table and draw plans for hotels, wrestling with problems of traffic and the flow of people. That’s what turns me on." — Steve Wynn

Don’t put your passion on a pedestal.  Your ideal job is not “out there” somewhere, just waiting for you to come along and find it.  You can grow your passion for your job right under your feet. … But what if you don’t feel passionate about anything?  … Or what if you don’t feel passion for the job you’ve got … is there something you can do?

Srikumar Rao offers some powerful advice you can use to transform your job in his Leading@Google talk on  Mental Chatter, Mental Models, and  Me-Centered Universe.

What Passion in Your Job Feels Like

What’s it like to have a job that lights your fire?   Your heart sings and your mind soars.   Srikumar describes it like this:

”You get up in the morning and your blood is singing at the thought of being who you are and doing what you do, that as you go through the day, there are several moments when you come intensely alive, that you’re completely, completely absorbed in what you’re doing, that you feel that, YES you are doing exactly what it is that you were put on the Earth to do, and just vibrantly, radiantly alive."

Your Ideal Job is Not "Out There"

The mistake we make is thinking that our ideal job is out there somewhere, and all we have to do is go find it.   Srikumar says:

"The mistake that most of us make is the same one: We think our ideal job is out there, and we have to find it.  And if we can find it, life will be great.   We define our ideal job in terms of a bunch of parameters:  Here’s how much it pays, here’s the type of person my boss is, here’s how big my office is, here’s how deep the carpeting is, and here’s how much I travel … and once I can find that, then I’ll be passionate about my job.  You might have 10 or you might have 15, but you have a bunch of parameters, but once I can find that, I’ll be passionate about my job. … Wrong!"

Ignite the Passion, Right Where You Are

If you don’t find the passion inside you, then you’ll never find it.  Srikumar says:

"First of all, that exact concatenation of circumstances does not exist, and, if it did exist and you were plugged into it, it probably would not take more than six months before you were the same sorry, miserable self there as you were where you are because one of the things that we have to realize that we don’t is … passion does not exist in the job, it exists in us.  And either we find it in us, right where we are, or we will never find it.  And the best thing is you can ignite it insight right where you are.  And the beautiful thing is that if you ignite the passion inside you right where you are, the external world has a marvelous, mysterious, miraculous way of re-arranging itself to suit the new person you are becoming."

Pick a Project and Transform Your Job

You can transform your job, right from where you are.  Srikumar shares three steps to transforming your job:

  1. Get out of the space from which you are observing.   Take a notebook along with you at all times and systematically note the things that are pretty good about your job.  The act of doing this moves you to a different space.
  2. Pick something significant.  Pick any one of these things that you came up with that is important to you and significant for the company.  For example, if you like working with a particular customer, you can challenge yourself with, how do you get more customers like that, or how do you transform your relationships with all your customers to be like that.
  3. Make it a one month project.   Simply come up with a one month project where you are going to increase that one component.  Every day do one thing.   Do something every day, ideally in the morning.

You can change your focus each month to another aspect that you enjoy.  If you don’t make the progress you expect in the month, then give yourself more time.  Unless, the excuse is you didn’t do anything during the month toward your project.  Then there is no excuse.  But if you did a little something toward your project each day, then simply give yourself more time.

Remember Two Things Whenever You Get Frustrated

Whenever you get frustrated, angry, or disappointed, there are two things that are always true:

  1. You’re focused on what’s wrong, instead of what’s right.  Srikumar says, “First, you’re concentrating exclusively on the two, three, or four things that are wrong with your job … more precisely the two, three, or four things that YOU think are wrong with your job, and completely ignoring the 30, 40, or 50 things that are actually pretty good about it.”
  2. You’re living squarely in a “Me-Centered” universe.  Srikumar says,“It’s extraordinarily difficult to live any kind of fulfilled life if you’re living in a me-centered Universe.  It just doesn’t happen.” And you know you’re living in a “Me-Centered” Universe, if your mental chatter goes something like this, “Poor me, poor me … I’m so bright, so talented — why do I not get promoted instead of that turkey in the next cubicle who is a Cretan but somehow or other he sucks up to bosses and therefore he’s got promoted … now how caustically unfair life is … poor me, poor me.”

You’ll find that simply spending more time in what you enjoy will transform you, your job, and your world around you.

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  1. YES!!! Doing that which brings joy is a great way to more more fully into what rings from your heart. And even if it is small steps, these are steps that are so worth taking…

  2. Here I am being contrarian again.

    I do think ‘out there’ makes a difference. Do you really think it would be a good thing to be joy filled about being exploited? I don’t think so. I think external situations of exploitation should be changed. I think the discontent can be used in positive ways. I think we can feel good about changing awful situations ‘out there’.

    I know this is not your intention, but it is an implication of the position that ‘it is all up to us’ how we feel.

    I really don’t think it is desirable to believe that ‘out there’ is neutral and it is up to us how we feel about it. I really prefer a beautiful and sustainable ‘out there’. The idea that we can be OK with making things uglier and less sustainable I think is just awful. But this is an implication of the position that ‘it is all up to us’ how we feel.

    This is why I’m being contrarian.

  3. J.D. – how are you sir?
    The older I get, the more I realize how true this is. I’ve coined my career around being so universal and flexible, in any environment, that I could find a certain level of success anywhere.

    One thing I never addressed, ever, was what I really loved to do (my passion). It has literally been about achieving the highest pay possible. And now, here I sit, not with dollar signs in my eyes, but with passion. I’m now focussed on doing what I want to do, what I love doing, because that’s where the fulfillment resides for me.

    Thank you J.D.

  4. Passion is truly internal. It’s an innate desire to achieve. A desire to do more, have more and be more. This takes time to cultivate. Some people are passionate at first. Later on this idea dies out. But the strongest. The Julius Caesars, Rothchilds and Rockefellers are never deterred. They live ad have lived with passion. And we must do the same.

  5. @ Lance — It makes so much sense that we have to own figuring out what we want, and choose to do more of it. After all, we can’t expect somebody else to figure out our passion or create the perfect job for us.

    @ Evan – Externalizing your happiness is actually the common path, not contrarian — thus Srikumar’s insight. Selective intolerance is an effective strategy, given the connection between lows frustation tolerance and happiness. It’s less about how you feel and more about what you do about it, given the way emotion flows from motion.

    @ Jk — I’m doing well. Making a living and funding your life style is a part of life, and part of the path. It sounds like you’re making a great transition, and moving up the Maslow stack.

    There’s a method you might enjoy for finding your passion, which is the “golden circle.” Here are my golden circle results.

    @ Jonathan — Stoking your fires is truly a skill, and part of mastering your self. It took me a while to truly appreciate the distinction between inspired action versus carrots and sticks. In the end, intrinsic motivation wins over extrinsic motivation.

  6. @ Evan — Good perspective — and you’re on the same page as Srikumar.

    @ Jannie — You always know how to find it — it’s your super skill.

    Perception is such a powerful thing … and how we frame things either empowers us or disables us. I always liked Tony Robbins simple definition of power — the ability to act.

  7. Hi JD .. everyone says when I talk about my blog – we can see how passionate you are .. so I’ve found the passion – now I need to find the way .. and this post has just come at the right time – do the three things that will drive life forward so the passion can be king .. and use the one month project time … good thoughts.

    The frustration – yes I have to say quite often – all will be well, just plod on and move forward – all will be well and I am lucky I have a future and an outlet .. do the things that matter and move my project forward ..

    Thanks – Hilary

    PS Jannie’s words ring so true – wise lady there ..

  8. @ Hilary — I agree. I think your blog is a perfect channel and kindling for your fire. It gives you a chance to dig deep into research and share what you find with the world.

    Jannie really is the wise one.

  9. Hi JD .. thanks .. and yes = Jannie seems to hit the nail on the head, time and time again .. probably too much wine up the tree with the guitar?! & having BB as manigements purveyor of all blog things & karrits etc .. ?! Cheers .. been to London and back and it’s positively freezing! Yugh… Hilary

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