Early 20th Century French novelist and playwright, Émile Zola famously scrawled “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” Admittedly, a somewhat macabre statement, it is nevertheless one that perfectly captures the crux of this week’s weblog entry. For me, passion is the strongest of all emotions; compelling enthusiasm allowing those who possess it to achieve limitless bounties of life. According to 18th Century German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
Speaking to the masses with the fervent ardor born of experience, American abolitionist, the former slave, Harriet Tubman, proclaimed “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” While the former two characteristics are critical to the pursuit of achievement, passion is the attribute that best fires one’s zeal for accomplishment. The most successful people I have ever met all shared one common denominator: Boundless passion for the endeavor in which they excelled.
Passion is also many times the great equalizer. A virtuous quality that allows some to ultimately overcome otherwise hindering shortcomings. This is a palpable reality underscored by French philosopher, Albert Camus’s, passage “There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” Examples of those who leveraged passion to conquer adversity and are ample and commonplace.
While he certainly had talent, it was more, passion that allowed diminutive 5’3”Muggsy Bogus to play 14 productive years in the National Basketball Association; a league in which the average player stands a towering 6’7”! It was also passion more than skill that allowed former New York Yankee, Jim Abbott, pitch 10 years in Major League Baseball despite being born without a right hand.
And, it is passion – together with fearless determination and revolutionary advancements in prosthetics – that drives military amputees to overcome debilitating battlefield injuries, remain in uniform, and serve in combat time and again. To the last group especially, I am reminded of a comment by author Callum Illman, “Life will only have a meaning once you’ve achieved to find your true passion…within the limitless boundaries of destiny”
Though rare, I have encountered the occasional person who wistfully lacks passion altogether or just as dismally, cannot even comprehend the attribute or its importance. English social critic and poet, T.S. Eliot likely had those doleful individuals in mind when he penned this stanza, “It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”
If you find yourself in this group please seek out and embrace something that stirs some passion within you and grasp it. I am not talking a monumental activity or life altering calling here (I am not discouraging it either, mind you.) Something as simple as a new hobby or a decision to volunteer at a community shelter or local hospital will suffice quite nicely. If you do this, I promise you will reap positive dividends. Your life will personify what another British poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, felt when he penned the following strophe, “The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but on the mastery of his passions.”
At the start of his meteoric rise to fame in 1955, the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley, noted “Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine.” What this statement lacks in sophistication, it delivers in veracity. Dreams fuel ambition which in turn, fuel passion. An immigrant’s dream to come to the United States in search of a better life serves as the catalyst providing the ambition to make it happen. Actually achieving a better life, doing what is necessary to succeed is a by-product of passion; making the seemingly impossible a possibility. As Nelson Mandela once said “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
The charismatic French military and political legend, Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, offered that “Great ambition is the passion of a great character.” This is a powerful quote that epitomizes the gist of people who have flourished in life. It is surely true of those I have served with in my career or have rubbed elbows with during my life.
One of my subalternes (please excuse my homage to Monsieur Bonaparte here), Fatah Jabarkhail, is a fitting example. Fatah, an immigrant from Afghanistan, is the language and culture director for the Department of Defense (DoD) training program I manage. He brings a degree of passion to the mission that inspires everyone within his sphere. It is no accident that our students – senior DoD civilians – routinely single out the instructional programs Fatah manages as the best portions of the seven week course. French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sarte, wrote “We must act out passion before we can feel it”; a credo Fatah understands and symbolizes.
Ok, I have spent 10 paragraphs extolling the many virtues of injecting passion into one’s life as a means of fostering success. In fairness, I cannot break contact now without at least offering a cautionary word regarding the fine line that exists between passion and overzealousness. In this regard, I humbly punt to the American Colonial sage, Benjamin Franklin, who warned “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” Bottom line: Do not override intellect and intuition by following your heart.
Renowned Italian film director, the legendary Federico Fellini, asserted “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only PASSION of life.” This is more important in the Second Fifty than it ever was in the First.
Kudos to those of you who recognized my blog entry title is actually a lyric borrowed from music legend Rod Stewart’s 1980 hit song, “Passion.”