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The Paradox of Passion

I believe that the phrase “follow your passion” or “cultivate your passions” is one of the most used and abused in recent decades. After all, it has a component of hope that is difficult to be immune to: it gives the illusion that, however unresolved and unsatisfactory your life is, engaging in something will give you happiness and allow you to realize yourself.

That following one’s passions is a positive attitude is undeniable. The problem is not, in fact, feeding them and translating them into reality but rather * how * you do it. Having a passion isn’t wrong; it is often wrong, however, how we pursue our intimate passion.

Having a passion, in fact, is not enough to make it come true. To do this it takes a lot of work, exactly like to improve in any activity you apply you need constancy and perseverance. There are too often neglected aspects of the path that leads us to make of a passion into an occupation or a lifestyle capable of realizing us. Because realizing a passion can bring happiness, but just failing to pursue it leads to the exact opposite. Focusing solely on our passion can involve risks.

We all feel that we are particularly inclined to something. Sometimes we convince ourselves to the point of turning our whole life into a particular passion. We need to have a more relaxed attitude in this regard, not thinking that passion is perfection but rather “something we are interested in doing”. It must be something we do independently, we must be able to do it well, it must give a sense of belonging and community.

There are many people who have failed having totally dedicated themselves to their passion and taking risks, only because they have not been able to bear the load of choices and responsibilities. Better, for example, to pursue your passion by taking small steps and increasing your commitment little by little.

In fact, if we think about it, it is also wrong to “follow” one’s passion. It is passion that must follow us.

If we please her, in fact, as zealous servants, we will end up succumbing to her. Our times and our energies must be imposed to it and not the other way around. If we become dependent on it and things do not turn well immediately, there are anxiety and depression waiting for us, not only for the failure to realize the dream, but especially for the elapsed time that does not go back and, perhaps, for having lost some opportunities of new interests, likely unthinkable.

There are those who say that just balance is enough. But passion and balance are antithetical. Passion burns and consumes you and requires a lot of energy and dedication. You can’t treat it like something you do when you feel like it or have time, otherwise it’s a pastime that’s fine, but it’s not a passion.

Having passions is fine! Passions are a very powerful source of motivation: they push us to improve and give us hope. They show us a possible future and make us often imagine it with a clarity that makes it almost real. To pursue them in an intelligent way, however, we must not end up being slaves to them and think that failing to achieve them is a verdict that weighs on our lives: either they were not the right passions for us or we faced them with a wrong approach and path.

As in many cases of life what matters to us does not what happens to us, but how we face it, even in this it does not only matter the passion we have but how we manage it.

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.
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Len Bernat

Aldo – What an important reminder for all of us. – that to follow our passion may require us to step outside of our comfort zone to learn about things that may challenge our capabilities (i.e. process management, accounting, financing, supply chains, etc.). But if it is truly a passion, you will emerce yourself in the activities that help you be successful so that you can enjoy the passion. So, used effectively, a passion will make us grow as a person. Well done – great article.

Jonathan Solomon

Thank you, Aldo, for a very though provoking post… and as I read it I began to examine it with reference to my own life and how I have spent it. What you say is true, “Having a passion, in fact, is not enough to make it come true.”

I would like to bring in Purpose into the equation. Passion and purpose are distinct. Passion is about emotions, the motivation and what makes us feel good, i.e. “do what you love”. Purpose is the reason, or the why behind what we do, primarily for others, i.e, “do what contributes”. Where passion can be all over the place, wild and exciting, purpose is much more focused. Passions can also come and go, whereas purpose tends to be longer term. Passions are inwardly focused whereas purpose is outwardly focused on the greater impact we have on others and on our surroundings.

In my own experience, it doesn’t have to be an either/or question. The magic happens when we figure out a way to align our purpose, our passions AND our talents. My purpose is to inspire people regardless of the circumstances and situation they may find themselves in and, to create a positive change. My passion for the last 30 odd years has been in the humanitarian arena, but I was, and continue to be, just as passionate about quality compassionate service under any circumstance, empathy and practical help in the immediate.

If we take passion away but still have purpose, it becomes a mediocre engagement. If we take purpose away and are left with only passion, many times it tends to become self-destructing.

I have realized that Passion and Purpose, combined together with compassion and empathy are all part of me already.

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

Darlene Corbett

Thank you, Aldo, for this thought-provoking article. You are right about passion. Igniting the spark is the beginning, but feeding the passion slowly and steadily is the fuel for endurance.💖

Joel Elveson

Aldo, it is right to follow your passions but not without a clear vision as well as clear thinking. What you may be following or chasing could very well be disastrous or dangerous. In the end, we all have to follow the course or chase dreams in whatever way best suits us. Great article, Aldo.

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