Friday, April 13, 2007

Passion, Power, Product

This weekend, I will be thinking about the relationship between passion, power and the ability to tolerate uncertainty. W. B. Yeats once said that poets "sing amid our uncertainty." I think this might be true not only of artists, but of most people who create something signficant.

We often associate passion and power with the ability to produce - to create tangible results. Whether we are talking about performers, athletes or business leaders, the people we admire for productivity are also people we celebrate for their passion. We associate passion with power: the ability to focus on something with energy, intellect and commitment drives both activity and creativity. At the moment, this connection is being widely promoted as "The Secret" to success - it's as if the ability to hold a thought with enough intensity produces real outcomes.

It's worth remembering the other side of the coin. The ability to hold a thought with intensity often produces unintended consequences: people go bankrupt because they forget to pay bills, lose families because they forget to build relationships, and inspire outrage because they forget the need for connections. Successful people almost always have more than one story of spectacular failure in their experience.

It's possible that passion does not create certainty: it's possible that it allows us to live with uncertainty. It's possible that the real secret is this: we all sing amid our uncertainty if we are going to sing at all. Those of us who succeed, succeed because uncertainty does not stop us.

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