What is Passion?

February 6, 2008

The other day I was having lunch with Mike Bell, the man who hired me for an engineering co-op job during university – an opportunity that changed my life. He has also changed the lives of over 250,000 students who have been educated with his math instruction methods.

During our time together, he gave me his definition of passion. He said:

“When I see the word ‘passion,’ I actually see three words. In the middle is ‘I’ and on either side are “pass” and “on.” To me, passion is when ‘I pass on’ something I love to others. It’s when I make a contribution to the world.”

Works for me.

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Play Like The Patriots?

February 5, 2008

Readers of my blog know that my “theme” this year is Play Like the Patriots. For those of you who missed it, my beloved team was defeated by the New York Giants in a major upset Sunday night in the Superbowl. After winning all 18 games this year, the Patriots lost the big one. I expected all of my New York friends rub this in my face a bit. They didn’t let me down. Heck, I’d probably have done the same thing had we won.

One blog reader, Toli, commented:

“Stephen, you know I love your stuff, but you must reconsider something: live this year like the Patriots? Which means, basically doing your best and then failing to achieve at the most important moment? This is why I side with the Giants: achieving your goals is always messy, but you get there in the end.”

Thanks Toli, that made me smile!

Although (I assume) you are just poking fun at me, let me provide 3 reasons why I stand by my theme.

1. I said “play like the Patriots” not “win like the Patriots.”

In life – and in business – there aren’t “Superbowls” that determine winners (and losers). Success is not decided by one outcome or game. It is much more complex than that. Unlike sports, the season never ends. It is a continual journey of improvement.

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Live and Love Like a Little One

February 4, 2008

Here is a beautiful passage that Antony, a reader in Australia, sent to me. It poetically describes how adults can rekindle their love of life by thinking like a child. This is an eloquent, simple, and compelling example of what I mean by Goal-Free Living.

This is from Muhammad Ali: “Children make you want to start life over,” by Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist practitioner for 25 years and a parent for one year.

I look at my 14-month-old daughter and I see a being who is completely free from hatred. She has no regrets, no baggage. She doesn’t label herself, doesn’t judge herself. She doesn’t think of herself as being successful or a failure, popular or unpopular, good or bad, rich or poor, lucky or unfortunate.

And to her everything seems new and fresh. Today’s 20th reading of “Pat the Bunny” or “Barnyard Dance” is as delightful to her as the first (I wish that were the case for her parents). When she falls down she simply picks herself back up. She doesn’t lie there saying “I’ve tried walking. It doesn’t work. I’m just not a walking kind of person.”

The simplest things are intriguing. She’ll take immense pleasure simply from moving her hands. A leaf picked up on a walk is a world of fascination.

She has, in short, what Suzuki Roshi called “Beginner’s Mind.” And that’s something we all, certainly at times, want, and even crave.

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Can You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

February 1, 2008

In a previous blog entry, I discussed an Economist article that showed:

  1. There is a perception that particular traits are important to good leadership, namely competence, dominance, and facial maturity. Likability and trustworthiness are not.
  2. Just by looking at a picture, we can get a sense of someone’s leadership qualities and hence their personality.

In that earlier blog entry, I focused primarily on point #1 and its relationship to the Presidential elections.

Today I want to talk a bit about point #2. The correlation between looks and personality has always been an interesting topic for me.

I remember a friend of mine from high school. Everything about him screamed “nerd.” He wore polo shirts buttoned to the top (back when this was not popular). His hair was greasy and slicked to the side. He always walked around with a stack of books in front of him. And yes, he wore a pocket protector with a myriad of pens. It may come as no surprise that he was the captain of the math and chess clubs. His looks matched his personality.

This made me wonder…which came first: his looks or his personality/interests.

Do nerdy looking people choose nerdy endeavors? Or do people who enjoy nerdy endeavors groom themselves to look the part?

What’s the Causality between Appearance and Personality?

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