Time to talk about passion

Posted on October 4, 2012


Big shoes to fill

OK son, let’s talk about passion.

You know how you just want to do what you want to do no matter what you need to do? That’s passion. You’re a passionate guy. You’re passionate about eating junk food, playing Minecraft, watching Scooby Doo. You’re passionate about one day buying a Bugatti—the most expensive car ever made—which is funny because you are also passionate about spending every cent you earn within 30 seconds of earning it, so good luck with that.

The truth is, I want you to be passionate, and I just hope that someday your passion will be directed toward something other than stuff that kills you, turns your brain to mush, causes your teeth to fall out, makes you broke, homeless or otherwise severely compromised.

Your passions are pretty much in line with every other 11 year-old boy’s, so I’m not really worried yet. I didn’t even have a passion until around junior year in high school when I finally decided to try windsurfing. For a while, it was all I’d think about.

OK, I thought about girls too, but the difference was that I actually had a chance at windsurfing.

But here’s the thing: your grandparents didn’t pursue their passions until well into retirement. And it’s no coincidence that I never saw them truly happy until well into retirement either. They were all about sacrifice. They put off their passions; they were miserable so my brothers and I wouldn’t have to be.  A truly amazing sacrifice.

What perhaps they didn’t account for is the fact that I would become my parents.

I gave up windsurfing to focus on being a grownup. It actually never occurred to me to pursue my passions once “real life” began. It’s supposed to work like this: we graduate from high school and go right to college where we learn to be grownups and decide what we want to do with our lives, then we go to graduate school where we meet our spouses, finish that, get a job, have kids, get a promotion, and continue to climb to the top of wherever we are. Then, when there’s no place else to move up to, we get another job someplace bigger and move up there. When you can’t go any higher, then you’re successful. At some point, we retire and then we get to do, well, whatever we want, I guess.

I’m supposed to do all that so you can have a good life and lots of choices when you grow up.  The irony is that my parents were given a good life and had all those choices, but forfeited them in order to ensure I’d have a good life with lots of choices. And what did I do with all those choices? I forfeited them so you’d have a good life and have lots of choices. If the whole premise of this blog is anywhere near accurate (and I think I’ve provided enough proof that it is) then you’ll be destined to do the same thing.


About a year ago, I finally realized that it can’t be about putting off your passions until you’re nearly too old to pursue them. I was on a pretty impressive career track, but I gave up a bunch of responsibility at work—and with it, a chunk of my salary—for a position that some might consider a demotion. I hopped off the leadership ladder and it’s the best career choice I’ve ever made. I’m far more passionate about what I do now and I do it really well. Most importantly, I get to spend more time with my family. Granted, we’re spending much of our time trying not to spend money we no longer have, but I’m working on that part. I am absolutely convinced that if you let your passions lead, life’s necessities will follow.

I’m not done yet. I started this blog last year because one of my passions is writing. I couldn’t do it back when life was all about the “job.” Am I successful? A year into it, I’m making almost no money yet, but I’ve got thousands of subscribers and that’s tremendously satisfying. I’m already successful by the measures I choose to use.

And that was the big realization for me: We get to define our own measures of success.

Have a look at your grandparents—they’re living with passion–and figure out how to do that now and for the rest of your life.  Your grandfather is an awesome photographer. He probably could have lived quite comfortably doing it if he hadn’t waited until he was in his late 60s to start. Your grandmother is an amazing artist and she gave it up for 30 years in order to pursue the security of a grownup career and support the family. They waited until they were nearly 70 years old to live passionately; I waited until I was 45 and I’m still working on it. Don’t you wait at all.