Steve Jobs once spent thirty minutes debating the shade of grey for the Apple Store’s bathroom signs. He obsessed over other “irrelevant details” like the aesthetics of inside computers. He screamed at people if they were slightly off the mark.
Steve Jobs was passionate.
His rival Bill Gates worked hard too, but with a steady pace and even keel. Bill has had a major impact just like Steve did, but compared to Steve Jobs, would you describe Bill as passionate? One could argue Bill wasn’t passionate because he didn’t show much emotion externally.
But you can’t say he didn’t care.
Caring, not passion, is the catalyst for life success. Caring is the underlying motive of passion, as well as perseverance, courage, and diligence. In success stew, caring is the flavor that brings out the best in the other ingredients. In chemistry, it’s the chemical added to the beaker that makes it explode (success!). Without it, you’re sure to have bland stew and a boring day in chemistry class.
As for passion, it’s great, but it isn’t necessary.
Why We Can’t Rely On Passion
Almost everyone seems to believe that you need to be passionate to succeed. They say it is the key to achieving your dreams. But this is far from the truth. Passion is completely unreliable and cannot be easily obtained.
The answer is caring. You don’t need passion to succeed, you simply need to care about succeeding in whatever it is you want to do. There is a key difference that makes caring reliable and necessary – “care” is a verb. Passion is a noun.
Passion (NOUN) – “strong or barely controllable emotion.”
Care (VERB) – “Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.”
Even the most passionate people have moments of “blah.” It just happens, and that’s because we can’t completely control our passion. “Barely controllable” is even in the definition! So what do these typically passionate people have to fall back on when they aren’t feeling it? They still care, of course!
We can see from these definitions passionate people also care, as strong emotions indicate importance. But you can care about something without being passionate about it – when it’s important, but you’re not overly emotional about it (brushing your teeth).
“You need to find your passion” literally means “you need to find something you’re strongly emotional about.” Ok, sure, but not everyone is wired with strong emotional circuitry. Are these people hopeless? Or is this advice fatally flawed?
Passion, still being a noun, is not something you can do. “Hey honey, I’m gonna go out in the field and passion around a little bit.” Um…Yeah, it just doesn’t work and it sounds awkward.
You can’t choose to be passionate about something just like you can’t choose to fall in love with a stranger. It’s there or it isn’t. It happens or it doesn’t. Yes, you can choose to cultivate passion, or love, over time – but it isn’t guaranteed to work.
Why are we asking people to change something they only partially control? Why are we telling them they’re missing something they may never be able to obtain?
The answer is, as usual, shallow thinking. We see people do amazing things and single out the externally visible attribute of passion as the key. But the real commonality is that they cared, deeply, for something. Martin Luther King cared about racial equality, Steve Jobs cared about changing the world with technology, and James Cameron cares about storytelling and deep sea exploration (a man after my own heart).
“Care” is a verb. You can choose to care about anything at any time. It is simply to “attach importance to something.” I decided that it is important to brush my teeth every day. Boom. Done. I care about oral hygiene, but I’m far from passionate about it. I wish there was a way to brush my teeth passively so I could never think about it again. But because I do care about hygiene and my health, I brush my teeth daily.
Caring leads to action.
But don’t misunderstand me. Passion is fantastic. It is the epitome of caring, and that’s the problem. Passion is talked about as the starting point for searching people. They’ll talk like one day you’ll trip over your passion while walking in the woods. You’re far more likely to “trip over it” when you care about something.
Start With Caring – Passion Is A Bonus
It all starts with caring, despite what you hear constantly about following your passion. If I tell you that you need to be passionate to succeed, it might intimidate you out of trying, because maybe you aren’t a very emotional/passionate person. One look at Steve Jobs’s intense passion and it’s hard to argue that any of us are very passionate!
But we all care about something. Caring is the framework for our lives and it’s where you should start.
You want to start a sock business?
You want to run a marathon?
You want to play frisbee tomorrow?
You want to lose 40 pounds?
You want to clean your house?
You want to make a difference in the world?
If so, don’t show me how passionate you are. Emotions come and go. We’ve all heard fiery, emotional political speeches… that fizzle into calculated lies after elections. Politicians care about getting votes.
Show me how much you care by taking action!
We can’t help but take action on what we care about most. Unfortunately, a lot of people care too much about the wrong things or they suppress their real cares. Not many people would admit they “care a lot about watching TV,” but when Americans are watching 5.1 hours per day (Nielsen), they obviously do. 30% of your waking hours on one activity means you care a lot about it!
The Challenge. The Answer.
1. Examine your typical use of time. Accept that your time usage effectively ranks your current cares (it does). I know it looks bad to say you care about TV (or whatever else) this much, but keep in mind that leisure activities do have importance. Don’t feel bad if you care a lot about relaxing, but do think about it in relation to other possibilities.
2. Think about your “true” cares. Think about your values. Why do you care about them? Have you buried them under fear and distractions?
3. Comparing what you found in #1 and #2, pinpoint the areas in which you could swap time spent on “placeholder cares” (watching TV) with your deepest cares (selling socks in Japan). Nobody needs to watch TV 5 hours every day!
Figure out what you care about. If intense passion springs forth as a result, that’s great. If not, don’t sweat it.
You don’t need passion to take meaningful action, which results in a meaningful life.