Passion vs Persistence

I was initially going to name this post “Inspiration: Passion vs Logic and Persistence” but I thought that might put people off. Has it so far???

Early this week a very nice lady from my business networking group contacted me on Facebook and in introducing herself asked me “what is it you are passionate about”?

Passionate? Me? I am a lawyer who specializes in asset protection and tax planning. I avoid talking about what I do at parties because I don’t want to put people to sleep. Passionate?

I told her how I helped people to form companies and trusts in order to protect their assets, reduce their taxes and obtain greater financial privacy, provided her with some of my credentials, yada yada yada. Then I asked her what she did. Well, it looked like I avoided that one.

She answered me and explained to me what she was working on. Then she again asked me “what is it you are passionate about?” Damn. Well I am either going to have to totally ignore this and not respond, or try to come up with some way of answering that is not insulting.

You see, I do not think very highly of passion. Don’t get me wrong, it serves a valuable purpose at times, but in business I don’t see the value. I realize that this goes against all the recent self-help programs and gurus. I am just not into the “aspirational” culture and society.

This was my answer: “Every day I try to wake up early, I try to do what is right, I try live up to my obligations, I try to honor my principles, and at the end of the day I look back. And if I am not altogether happy with how I did that day, I go to sleep knowing I am going to have another chance tomorrow to do better.”

That’s it. No passion.

This week I read an interesting article that I think is somewhat related: “Don’t Bet Big. Little Bets Are The Ones That Turn Into Billion-Dollar Ideas“. This articles discusses how some of the greatest entrepreneurial creations of the last 20 years have been “discovered” and not “created”. They were discovered by persistent people:

“When I was in business school, one of the most common things I would hear people say was that they wanted to do something new—like start a company or take an unconventional career path—but that they needed “a great idea” first. That always surprised me a bit, especially at an entrepreneurial hub like Stanford, since most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas—they discover them.”

The author points out that one of the biggest ideas in recent history was the result of a class project to improve library searches: Google.

I can just imagine the discussion between the two creators, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as they discussed what they were going to do for their class project:

Larry: “Man that idea sucks. We have to come up with something better than that! Something exciting and revolutionary.”

Sergey: “Well you come up with something then. That’s all I can think of.”

Larry: “What about 3D environments for computing?”

Sergey: “What do we know about that? Plus where will we get the equipment.”

Larry: “But library search algorithm??? Can we get any more boring than that?”

Sergey: “Like I said, come up with something better.”

Larry: “Ok, library search algorithms it is. It should be enough to give us a passing grade.”

And so Google was born. Not in a passionate moment where someone cried, “Eureka!” but in a calm and plodding way.

Logic combined with Persistence, in my humble opinion, will beat Passion in much the same way the tortoise beat the hare. Not only is Passion a rather transient and unreliable motivation, but it also can be fickle; the same Passion that makes a man want to marry his wife will make him desire another. But more likely it is not the Passion that drives the cheating spouse away, but just fatigue. Passion gets old.

Of course behind the Logic and Persistence must exist Optimism. You must believe that after doggedly plodding on day after day well after the magic is gone, something out there will turn up that will dazzle you or at least give you a reason to keep going. That is true inspiration.



Wordle: Passion vs Persistence