A Business Technology Place

When do we find our passion?

When I lost my early life-passion.
There was a time in my early high school days that I wanted to become a veterinarian. I loved animals and I thought I wanted to spend my days helping animals. But I’m not a veterinarian today.

It changed for me during the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I attended an academic and tour at the University of Georgia and chose a medical oriented preview session. Quite honestly, I can’t remember the exact medical images they showed on the screen that day. I don’t even think it was of animals. But I do remember that it was at that moment that I knew I would not study to become a veterinarian. It hit me while I sat in the desk and watched a professor turn through some slides with voice-over of particular conditions and methods of study. I finished the session in the class, but I was done with what I thought would become my life-passion.Passion Life Creating

When I found a passion that stuck.
When I returned back to high school life, I signed-up for some electives in computer programming. I started programming in BASIC. Something clicked during this time. I remember writing simple programs outside of school assignments and helping other students with their assignments. I had found a something that intrigued me and I wanted to learn more.

The timing of all this ran parallel to my research and decision for college studies. Georgia Tech was on my short list for a few reasons. My strongest grades were in math and science courses, and Tech had a well respected computer science program. I applied to Georgia Tech first. After a quick acceptance, I didn’t fill out any further applications. I had found both a school and a course of study. I never changed my major in undergraduate studies and I’ve held various technology related jobs since graduation.

But technology and computer programming are not my passion. I see my larger passion as using technology to solve problems. I like to build stuff. I like to tinker with technology. But I really like to see technology solve problems, provide automation, or eliminate redundancies.

When do we find passion that influences our life decisions?
As I watch my kids grow and mature, I’ve tried to determine what their passion is or will be. When is the moment that someone finds their life-passion? I’m sure it’s different for everyone. Perhaps some people never find it. Some people may spend their lives wandering from thing-to-thing. But others find something that drives and motivates them. When and how does this happen?

Fast Company published and article about Steve Jobs and his life-passion. The writer of the article suggests that Steve Jobs tried lots of small things in life while looking for something that he loved. So it wasn’t so much that he followed his passion as it was that he looked for something that worked in his life and that he could love to do.

I think the pursuit of a life-passion is a life long process. Maybe there is a defining moment that begins the pursuit. But it turns into a life journey of “do what you love” which includes variations, trials, failures, and successes. In my own experience my life-passion of using technology to solve problems has evolved through experience, discovery, and failures. I suspect it will continue to evolve as long as I live.

So I don’t know that there is an exact “when” for finding our life-passion. Some people seem to discover it in their youth while others, such as Steve Jobs, find it later in life. If there was a set answer it would take away from the life experience of searching. Keep searching, keep trying, keep living.

When does process remove your passion?

I’ve heard it said of teachers before that they lose their ability to do what they are passionate about because of all the paper work required for their job.  As organizations or groups mature typically the processes within each group will tend to expand. So my question is, when does following the process remove people from their passions and what they love to do (i.e. serve a customer, teach a student, write software code, advise patients, etc.)? I see people making decisions because that’s what the process says or they are looking to check-off on a process step. At some point they lose site of the real need they are trying to solve as the following the process rules their thoughts and actions.

In my professional life, my passion zones are around being part of software development and helping to solve business needs through the use of technology.  I had a reflective moment this week that I spend most of my time navigating through process management requirements such that I’m losing the ability to work in my passion zones. But is that really true? Is process management really part of the journey to solving the business need or producing the piece of software? Can the two be separated? Should we consider all of the steps and flows of a process part of the act of solving a business need or teaching a student, or advising a patient?

Let me know your thoughts and experiences.

Passion and emotion leadership primer

Organizational leaders use the terms ‘passion’ and ’emotion’ in their communication to try to frame desired and undesired behavior. Passion is typically used in the positive context. You might hear things like “We want our people to be passionate about their jobs” or “We promote passionate employees in the workplace”. On the contrary emotion, is typically used in a negative context. We hear things like “Don’t be emotional” or “We are looking for employees to react without emotion”.

So what’s really the difference between these two nouns and what’s the leadership principal we should follow? Webster defines passion as a strong liking or desire for an activity or thing and Wikipedia defines passion as a type of emotion with compelling feelings, enthusiasm, or desire for something. So passion is defined as a positive type of feeling that drives people to action. Our underlying belief is that through passion you will be able to sustain and enhance the object of your actions. Strong leadership is built on this very principal; to get others to build, sustain, and enhance objects of focus.

Emotion is a more general term and covers a wider range of mental states.  Webster defines emotion as a mental reaction subjectively experienced and as a strong feeling which is directed at some object. In terms of leadership, I believe the key part of this definition is that emotion tends to be a ‘reaction’ instead of a well thought out course of action. So leaders see emotional reactions as negative because they don’t believe the reaction to be based on sound thought and logic.

I think the challenge for leaders in the workplace is to properly use and and interpret these two types elements of human behavior. It can be easy to confuse passion and emotion if the passionate acts by a person run contrary to existing thoughts, processes, or direction. In this case, the burden of proof lies with the passionate employee to show their actions are of true sound judgement and do in-fact support the vision and mission of the organization.