What is passion, really? Have you ever had an experience where you were ignited by someone’s passion just in his or her presence? Why do some people live with passion and some people don’t? Is passion something either you have it or you don’t? Or is it something that can be discovered and cultivated?
A couple of years ago I watched a movie titled Julie and Julia by Nora Ephron, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The movie portraits parallel stories of two women finding their passion and becoming who they are meant to be.
Julie Child was wife to a US diplomat. She had a man she loved, friends, the ability to travel and explore, and wanted for nothing, materially, but she was utterly bored. She desperately wanted some meaning in her life.
Yet the only thing she was really passionate about was food. She realized this almost jokingly, but it stayed with her. One day Julia decided she must FIND SOMETHING TO DO. She explored many different things—chess, hat making, etc. They bored her head off.
Then she thought, “I love food, why don’t I learn cooking!” She enrolled herself in this basic cooking class. Again, it bored her. She went to talk to the head of the school, requesting to be in a more advanced class. And there she was, cooking with professional chefs—in Paris.
She was the slowest, clumsiest and most inexperienced in the class, and was looked down upon by her fellow students. But somehow, somewhere, this ignited her competitive spirit, and suddenly she became alive, really alive.
She was obsessed! Chopping onions, flipping eggs, she began to practice rigorously at home. Then she got really good at it and proudly found herself ahead of everyone in her class. She was gaining confidence in her own abilities.
This led her to an important opportunity. Her friends were writing a book on French cooking. They were told by their American publisher that they needed to find a way to translate it into English for an American audience. And they came to Julia for help. Julia said YES! And she found her greatest passion and her ultimate work: “Mastering the Art French Cooking (for Americans).”
What does this story tell us about passion? What can we learn from Julia’s experience to uncover our passion and follow the path laid out for us to our greatest potential and ultimate fulfillment?
Passion and gifts are the two sides of the same coin: Each one of us has something we can do in a certain way that is better than anyone else on earth.
Our unique gift is the place wherein lies our greatest accomplishment and fulfillment. Passion is an outward manifestation of this gift, seeking to be expressed, developed, and mastered. In Julia’s story, she is passionate about food. The enjoyment made her feel alive, and it was her way of connecting with the highest form of her existence. Yet she never cooked before. The love of food was giving her a clue that ultimately led to her true passion.
Passion needs to be compelling.
We can have many gifts. They show up as interests we have. Some are strong enough that they turn into hobbies. We enjoy them in our spare time. But when the passion is compelling and powerful enough, it turns into our mission: who we MUST be and what we MUST do. It becomes a divine obsession: we become it, it becomes us, and we live in a zone of unmistaken aliveness and flow.
This passion propels us to master our greatest gifts, make our greatest contributions, and give us the ultimate fulfillment. In Julia’s story, she discovered her ultimate passion and gifts: as a writer and chef to bring French Cooking to American kitchens.
Passion is action.
We can be passionate about things and about people. For example, Julia was passionate about food. But only when we take an active role in the creative process and challenge ourselves will our passion come alive. Only when Julia began to learn cooking, teach cooking, and write about cooking, did she discover her true passion.
Passion leads to mastery.
When we are truly passionate about something, we are propelled to move forward, to try and fail, to learn from our mistakes, and to overcome many obstacles on our way to mastery. If we don’t have compelling passion, we will stop somewhere along the way. We will play it safe and not play it to the very edge. We will at best become good, but not great. For our gifts to be expressed fully, we need a powerful engine fueled by compelling passion!
Passion leaves clues.
If you are living in your passion, congratulations to you! You have the pre-requisite for a meaningful and fulfilling life. If you are yet to find it, I encourage you to take the time, as long as you need, to discover it and follow it. It is your life, and you are worth it!
Passion leaves clues. Follow its signs, experiment and listen to your heart. They will lead you there. They always do, because it is who you are, and the universe wants you to find your passion and master your gifts. It is wonderful for everyone!
I wrote this post a couple of years ago while I was searching for my passion. Looking back, I’m pleased to see that I’ve followed my heart and taken some important steps toward living a passionate and authentic life. There were, and remain, many challenges along the way for sure, but I feel truly blessed for having found and followed the path that was set out for me.
If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.” — T. Alan Armstrong