What’s the ‘passion’ I would pursue?

What’s the ‘passion’ I would pursue?

This may not be a fashionable answer, but in my case the truth is, there isn’t one. People think I am distracted, lack focus, and do too many things at one time. But I have always loved everything I have done – and the thought of many other things that I would love to do, with almost equal excitement, keeps me enthused and praying for more than 24 hours in a day. So should I miss having ‘a passion’?

Well, this does fly in the face of ‘pursuing your passion’, ‘finding your passion’, ‘living your passion’ and the million other forms of this piece of advice – essentially giving ‘one’ pursuit everything you’ve got. Over the years, mentoring and working with young people has revealed unnecessary anxiety about being ‘confused’ and not having found that one thing that one should be willing to die for. And that led me to reflect and think about this need for ‘a passion’ – the upside, and the downside too!

Reflection and observation have led to a new, and rather comforting, realisation. Some individuals have ‘a passion’ and some of us ‘bring passion to whatever we do’. We find several professions and hobbies attractive, and could see ourselves fulfilled in all of these. Are we confused or do we have options and choices – all of them equally good ones? I often tell young people to be careful how they describe themselves – not ‘I don’t know what I want to do’ but ‘there are so many different things I want to do’. Not I am ‘confused’ but ‘I have many options’.

Isn’t choice, in fact, one of the biggest indicators of success? And if yes, then why would we give that up even at the cost of ‘a passion’?

While the worldly definition entails wealth, stature or fame, at the absolute heart of success is freedom and choice. Success liberates people, allowing them to not feel cornered in a particular profession, job, lifestyle or anything else. They can always let go, move on, and find something equally rewarding and fun!

Now, there is even a word for such people – its called ‘multipotentialite’ – coined by Emilie Wapnick. And they have three superpowers. One, is idea synthesis. That is, combining two or more fields and create something new. Two, is rapid learning. Multiple interests demand the ability to quickly dive into something and grasp its essence. And three, is adaptability, which is the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation. The pressure to focus on one thing and one passion, can dilute these three valuable skills in multipotentialites.

Even as we debate the pros and cons of experts versus multipotentialites, today’s reality is that very few people will have only one career in their entire life. Partly because of how rapidly change sets in and partly because of long lives, the vast majority of us will have multiple careers during our lifetime. Wouldn’t it help if we had multiple strong interests and passions too?

It is the time of multiple passions as much as it is the time for ‘a passion’. This is what I think; but, what do you think? Proud with passion (not a passion) and with wishes for a wonderful holiday season and new year!

– With Lisa Qian, Yale University

Anuradha Das Mathur, Editor, CFO India