Dirty Word

Passion is a dirty word.

Don't believe me? Inject it into an office discussion and watch the battle lines form with believers on one side and haters on the other.

There's little middle ground here.

The Nature of Work

Some argue that work is simply an evil necessity as we trade labor for dollars. What Daniel Pink would call Drive 2.0. These people hold that attempting to inject passion into the workplace is inappropriate as if mixing emotion with intellect somehow lessens the result.

A re-reading of emotional intelligence could be in order for this group.

On the other end of the spectrum we find the cabal of self-promoters pronouncing loudly that passion must be inherent in all of our work-a-day tasks lest we fall into a meaningless existential abyss.

Revisiting Zen principles might help here for sometimes routine itself is the reason. Chop wood, carry water.

What is a Word

Formerly a useful word passion is now a pariah denigrated by its very definition. But is this necessary?

Should we feel bad about believing in passion?

Passion need not be all or nothing. What if its meaning had more nuance than simply that of an on or off switch? What if passion also embraced a deep and steady glow like the unspent embers in a winter fire simply waiting for oxygen to rekindle the flame?

Passion for what? Entirely subjective. Hiring the best people, becoming a fine enginner, spending company funds intentionally and intelligently.

Passion for running a few seconds faster than yesterday. For being a better teammate. For being patient.

Whatever excites and enthuses us.


We are sometimes confronted with work that on its face seems meaningless, dull or rote. Yet perhaps its not the task itself that brings about passion but how we approach that work. What we can do as individuals to be a little better at it today than yesterday. A little more impactful.

Indeed, more passionate.

Passion in the office need not look like phoney self-promotion inducing over the top behavior. It need not be loud calling attention to itself demanding others pay homage. It need not be all about us.

Passion may look much more like the marathon runner putting one foot in front of the other in a steady rythym of pace, hydration and breathing to achieve that 26.2 in the mix with all the other runners finding their groove.

Passion may be showing up every day doing the best we can with what we've got that day, whatever that is.

Passion may be persistence.

Maybe we should stop thinking about passion as something extraordinary few will ever realize when the truth is its already in us. We are extraordinary simply because of who we are, what we've experienced and what we can strive for.

We are the passion we seek if we would just allow our best selves come forth.

Passion doesn't need to remain a dirty word.



5 thoughts on “Dirty Word

  1. Ah passion – you know how I feel about this word.

    What you might not know is that I really liked your post and your take on this. I agree with your point that that if we can see passion as an exclusive state of being, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a dirty word.

    Unfortunately that’s not as easy as it sounds, because what some may consider passion – I call fanaticism. And what I call passion, others call weird obsession.

    Another good read – thank you.

    • Thank you Julie: one of the things I really enjoy about interacting with you and so many others in my networks is the ability to disagree but do so civilly. I certainly don’t have the answer to passion, and recognize that one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor as you point out. Yet I believe in it, and in its appropriate value to the workplace. Like you (I suspect) what I do not believe in is all the chest-thumping and “hey-look-at-me” strutting I see sometimes on-line when it comes to ‘passion’ or ‘authenticity.’ Its a variation on the old saying, if you have to tell someone you’re passionate, uh, you’re not. Thank for taking the time to write my friend!

  2. Passion is a natural human response. Definitely subjective as you say, and a good thing too, otherwise we’d all be fighting over the same jobs and half the things in this World would never get done. Another interesting read.

    • Agree Helen – to deny passion is to deny one’s nature. And yes, the variety in what we each have passion for and about definitely makes the world a richer more vibrant place. As always, I’m honored that you took the time to read, and comment!, on my work.

  3. You know I’m passionate about this. I’m passionate about lots of things. I’m passionate about improving things and that means I’m passionate about the component parts of that improvement. Can every job be a source of (or channel for) passion? I don’t know, but I’m passionate about improving the ones that I impact. I think even the people who don’t like the word probably are too – or we wouldn’t get such a passionate reaction to it. Enjoyed the piece very much

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