Several years ago, in the middle of a big corporate training program, one of my internal learning champions dropped a bomb on me.

Apparently, a very senior HR person had told her “Your vendor is over engaged”.

That “vendor” was me. And that “over engagement” was me doing my good work. The fact that I had helped participants achieve a 38% promotion rate out of the program didn’t matter.  The fact that people were literally queuing up to take part in it didn’t matter. What did seem to matter was that I cared too much. I was too invested in the people I was working with – their experience and outcomes. I was just too damn PASSIONATE!

Did it hurt? Sure. For about three seconds. No one wants to hear that someone is critical of his or her work. Did it make me change how I did things? Nope. Was this the first time that I’d been told that I was “too passionate”? Not by a long shot.

The Price of Passion

I’d been hearing about my abundance of passion for my entire life. I would dive into every challenge with my full self. All in, every time. Success or failure didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that I attacked it with gusto and self-belief. My parents celebrated and fretted in equal measure. Bad bosses rolled their eyes and shut me down. Good bosses helped me to channel my energy for the greater good. Some people leaned into my unrelenting ‘go get ‘em’ attitude and were inspired by it, others ran screaming, and far too many tried to feed off it for their own benefit. None of these scenarios bothered me one bit – because I had passion to spare, and share. And I had long since figured out something that so many others hadn’t yet.

Passion is what carries purpose into the world. (And it’s a key element to manifesting your unerring swagger.)

As such, can you ever have too much? To me, it’s like someone saying “You have too much purpose and self-belief. Can you just rein it in to make us all feel more comfortable?”

To hell with that!

Conversely, people don’t like it when they feel you don’t have enough passion. They have ALL the words to comment on your seeming lack of conviction for the pursuits that matter to them, not realizing that passion is a completely personal, unique and yes, even subjective thing.

Can Passion Ever Bite You in the Ass?

There’s been much discussion on the subject. Some will tell you that having an abundance of passion can be detrimental. There are classifications like “harmonious passion” versus “obsessive passion” –  the former meaning the ability to internalize passion into one’s own identify in a positive way that enhances your well-being and the latter being such that it controls your life in an unhealthy way.

OK – I can buy that. Your passion or purpose shouldn’t turn you into a bullish, myopic or controlling asshole. But if it doesn’t line up with others’ views on how much oomph you should apply to your way of doing things, then the issue is likely far more theirs than yours. Just ask every entrepreneur, innovator or dreamer who’s been able to bring their visions to life in the face of adversity, scrutiny or criticism. I’d lay dollars to donuts that they’d cite passion as a key ingredient in their success.

In my years of living with unfettered joie de vivre, I’ve realized a consistent truth.

Those who complain about your ‘get up and go’ are usually those who’s zest for life done gone up and went. Your zip highlights their zap.

So, before you let someone put your passion in check, check yourself to figure out whether you’re in that harmonious place or slipping into the ‘passion as an excuse’ territory. What better way to do that than with a handy dandy little checklist!!

  1. Is the intention of your passion to inspire? If so, are you good with accepting that it may not?
  2. Is your passion trying to force other people to change how they do things? Is it making you a pain in the ass to collaborate with?
  3. Are you willing to gently educate people on your passion, or do you expect them to just ‘get it’?
  4. Is your passion inextricably tied to your ego? Do you get deeply hurt (and react badly) when people reject it – or can you shrug it off?
  5. Is your passion authentic to your purpose or is it just spewing your energy all over the place? Are you able to focus it?
  6. Does your passion make you feel superior to or more entitled than others who seem passionless to you? Or do you have compassion for their struggles or journey? And are you willing to stay open to learning?
  7. Are you aware when your passion conflicts with someone else’s? Do you know how to manage and create shared energy for the greater good?
  8. Are you aware of when and if your passion is clouding your judgment? Do you have the humility to stop or revisit situations should it happen?
  9. When life gets rough, are you able to hold onto your passion and purpose or do situations or environments have the power to zap it? Can you take your passion with you wherever you go?
  10. Does your passion make you HAPPY or is it a source of stress and anxiety? Are you pissed off at the world for not living up to your ardent expectations?

I know that if I allowed the world to dictate how passionate I should be, I’d be a deflated little balloon by now. And anyone who knows me knows I sure as hell ain’t that. But as I’ve grown, I’ve also learned that there’s more to it than just being ‘full on’ all of the time.

Intention, self-belief, compassion, humility, openness, honesty, integrity – all of these attributes can help you to unleash your passion in ways that will have people clambering to jump on your bandwagon instead of trying to chase it outta town.

To my passion-fuelled brothers and sisters – I salute you. Keep fighting the good fight and don’t ever let the haters bring you down. The world needs more of us.

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