Can passion be cultivated in life?


Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Cardi B.

All the greats talk about following your passion.

How crucial it is for success. 

Passion, clearly, is a major part of a well-lived life. It brings meaning to the struggle of your day-to-day.

But what if you don’t feel passionate about anything?

Can you cultivate it? Can you learn to become more passionate about something?

Or are you just f-cked?

Should you just sit your unpassionate ass down and leave the personal growth to the big boys?

If you have no idea what your passion could be, I’m not surprised. 

People assume that your passion is just going to reveal itself out of nowhere one day. You hate your work, and then you find your passion, and then you sail off into the sunset with an acoustic guitar. 

I wanted to figure out how passion really works, so I’ve spent the day going down the rabbit hole of personal development.

I hope that what I have learned will help you to realize how passion can be cultivated in your own life.

The bastardization of passion in 2022

I know some of you might absolutely hate the word passion by now, and fair play to you.

I get it.

To be honest, part of me feels the same way.

If you walk into a coffee shop and there are two guys talking and either of them has a kombucha, you just know that one of those f-ckers is going to start talking about their passion sooner or later.

In 2022, the word gets slung around like charlie was in the 80s.

Anytime someone feels optimistic about their job. Passion.

When someone has a hobby that they quite like. Here we go. Passion.

When someone has an idea for a side hustle or wants to do some charity work on holiday.

It’s passion, mate. 

Things usually become clichés because everybody says them, and usually, everybody says them because there is some fundamental relatable truth in there somewhere.

But because of their truth, they have become overused to the point where their original specific relatable brilliance is diluted.

Before long, we tire of talking about a concept that, until it started being spewed every which way to describe anything, actually had the power to make our lives better.

We need to draw some lines around passion, so that we know we are all talking about the same thing.

We can talk about cultivating your passion later on.

First, let’s nail down what it really looks like.

What exactly does a real passion look like?

“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.”

T.s. Elliot

The online etymology dictionary describes passion as:

passion (n.)

c. 1200, “the sufferings of Christ on the Cross; the death of Christ,” 

Late Latin passionem (nominative passio) “suffering, enduring,” from past-participle stem of Latin pati “to endure, undergo, experience,”

Passion, originally, was suffering. Not just needless suffering, either. 

In Christianity, “The passion of the Christ” refers to the week where Jesus took the weight of all of the world’s sin onto himself and was crucified to save humanity.

This description reveals a whole lot about what passion really means.

When you have a passion for something, you love it so deeply that you are willing to suffer for it.

This definition then goes further.

“intense or vehement emotion or desire”

Passion, then, is anything but lukewarm. You will know when you experience it. If you’re wondering how some people can work on 1 specific thing unwaveringly at the expense of any kind of balance in their life, now you know.

The etymology of passion makes something else clear, too.

“the state of being affected or acted upon by something external”

I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you. 

You don’t completely get to choose what you’re passionate about. 

You were given certain strengths and certain interests.

F-ck knows how that all works, but it is an undeniable limitation of existence.

External is misleading because we are talking in part about your genetic makeup, but it’s not like it’s completely within your control.

And if you think about it, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Imagine a world…

Imagine a world where you could just choose your passions and strengths.

If you wanted to love something/be fascinated by something/be good at something, you could just flip a switch in your brain.

And so all of us are brilliant, and we are all the same, and anything anyone does anyone else could do if they wanted to. 

How lame and low resolution of a world is that??

If you bought a computer game like that, you would be bored in 2 seconds.

Ultimately, the limitations are what define the game. If there are no imposed limitations, there is no fun in figuring out the game.

If nothing is rare, nothing is sacred.

In our world, thank god, you have to figure out what you might be good at. You have to hone your skills and try to make your name at something. You have to learn to follow your intuition. 

In the bullsh-t matrix world of unlimited passion, there is no doubt in your mind. You are just like everyone else. You have no edges.

I’d rather stick pins in my eyes, to be honest.

How can passion be cultivated if it is external?

This is a question that I have wrestled with more than once. 

The reason why this question exists is that I believe I was thinking about passion in the wrong way.

If you think about it, all that we are as people is a combination of nature, nurture, and decisions.

The code of our DNA ran over time in a specific environment around specific people.

So if there is a genetic component behind our passions, it wouldn’t be something so specific as “Baking” or “graphic design”.

No one is born with a passion for graphic design.

The genetic component of passion would be far more to do with our personality type, the ways we learn, and maybe the physical attributes that we were blessed with. 

These dispositions, along with the experiences of our early upbringing and environment, are then what lead to us feeling drawn to certain facets of our lives over others.

Learning skills is challenging and meaningful

Although there are things that we like doing and things that we would avoid like the plague, it is not passions that we find ourselves blessed with per se.

Interests, yes. We all have those.

But passion is not casual. Passion is suffering, remember.

And a willingness to suffer is exactly what you will need for you to cultivate your interest into a passion. 

Example: My passion for restaurants

I feel very passionately about restaurants. One day, I hope to own one.

Of course, no one is born passionate about restaurants. But there were a few components to my personality as a kid that led me down the path that I now find myself on. 

I’m kind of introverted- I like to party don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always been energized by being on my own. 

As a boy, I would enjoy cooking in the kitchen as it was a time when I could throw myself into doing something rather than randomly socializing. It was pure flow-state.

Also, I don’t care about stuff at all. I’m the opposite of materialistic, for whatever reason. 

In my view, eating really good food with people you love is about as good as life can get. And so cooking food provides real value for other people, which is rewarding.

Finally, I am independent to a fault. I am horrible at being micromanaged and would hate to be told what to do by someone who I thought was stupid. But delicious food is self-evident. If you are a good cook, it is immediately obvious to everyone. So normally people who are in senior positions really know what they’re talking about. 

I guess I was born with these traits. And I guess I have always been interested in cooking. But at the end of the day, I still had to suffer along with everyone else trying to succeed as a chef.

I was keen, sure. But I didn’t actually know anything. I still had to learn the skills.

Learning skills is bloody difficult.

So I struggled and I failed, and all this failure was hard to take. I almost got fired, I barely slept, and I rarely did anything other than cook for the first few years of my career.

There were multiple times when I almost couldn’t take it.

Then again, I also learned an absolute f*ck tonne.

And I’ve never felt so passionate about anything in all my life.

Today, it’s a very different story. I’ve spent 5 years in serious restaurants. I can go further, but I am confident in my abilities. I know what being a chef entails. I have suffered and come out of the other side more than I was. 

Because it’s gotten easier, although I still love cooking, I don’t feel quite so awake. Working some days is like going to the gym and lifting weights that are light.

I found myself looking for something else to wrestle with.

I’ve now felt drawn to blogging, of all things.

You need a real challenge to feel real passion

Jordan Peterson talks about this a lot. 

A former Harvard professor, Peterson describes the most meaningful life as being right on the border between chaos and order. Where things are not so hard that you fall apart, but not so easy that you are asleep and complacent. 

“To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth, and adventure. When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping, and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice–it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.”

It seems to me that Peterson is describing that intense desire that is inherent to passion.

Can your passion change over time?

If passion is what Peterson is describing here, then it would make sense that your passion is related to your own personal goals.

Set ambitious goals that are genuinely achievable, based on your interests and strengths, and apply yourself to achieving them. As you struggle to make progress, you will feel passionate and fulfilled. 

As you move towards your goal, you will learn. As you learn, your goal might shift. As you move forwards, you might find yourself having a new vision. 

You want to be careful here. 

There are 2 reasons for a shift in goals. It might be time to change what you’re doing, or you might be rationalizing giving up on your current ambition.

No one should just assume what they tell themselves is true.

The way to overcome this is simple. When you feel drawn to something, when you feel the urge to set a new goal, only allow yourself to follow a more difficult path than the one you are currently on.

If your new goal makes your life harder, but it still excites you, then that is a good indication that your intuition is leading you somewhere. 

Passion content that I think is brilliant

When researching for this article, I found this video to be hilarious and informative. 

I straight up binged his content after watching it.

I’m not affiliated with this guy in any way, but I think my article will be stronger for having this content on it. You watch the first 30 seconds, and I’m pretty sure you’ll watch the whole thing.

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