top of page

Really, what is your Passion?

A reflection on So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport

Just about five years ago, in a college admission interview, a lady from the admission board asked me, "Why do you want to major in Environmental Studies?" "Because I saw environmental problems happening, and I want to protect the Earth," without looking directly into her eyes, I gibbered from what I could remember from an answer script I had formulated named PASSION. I was always super nervous speaking to strangers in this (for me at that time) interrogating manner. What I drafted ahead was basically to give for-the-Earth and protect-the-Earth kind of response to any question about my future orientation. I managed to convince myself that I was passionate about helping the Earth, though my helping-the-Earth feeling was not up to the expectation. I laugh it off every time this flashback appears.

This blog post is, however, not to inspect my embarrassing self-deceit experience about which I intend to talk in another opportunity since self-deception is ubiquitous, and I am still practicing it today. Self-deception can be for either for the good or the bad of society.

Anyway, let get back to the main discussion: what is the Passion? The reason I told you my nothing-to-be-proud-of story is that I thought the lady wanted to know my Passion. Well, schools have every right to understand applicants' intentions, and applicants have every right to present themselves in their way, even by making up things. Sometimes we can turn ideas into reality if we believe and work hard for it, I always feel. However, the point is that if someone questioned me about my Passion, and my answer was for the Earth, it would be an outrageous fabrication. It is hard to have an honest answer!

How can we follow our passions if we don't have any relevant passions to follow?

Passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion or an intense desire or enthusiasm for something as I search for it on Google. In this sense, I see Passion occurs in sexual love, self-oriented habits, and everything associated with the SELF. I don't believe in the word Passion when it comes to for-others statements. In other words, Passion is ultimately for the self. Whether you work in NPOs (non-profit organizations), actively participating in humanitarian activities, or you donate billions of dollars to make the vaccine available to everybody. Altruism, in its highest form, does not exist*. At the end of the day, why the word Passion even exists if it is never applicable to real-life situations? I agree. Therefore, we need to broaden the meaning of Passion.

Cal Newport, in So Good They Can't Ignore You, accepts a looser definition of Passion, and I agree with him because, as I always mentioned in my posts before, I don't think there is an extreme point. In that sense, Passion becomes a more practical word, a more usable word. Instead of candidly saying I love tennis or I love dancing, I now can say I want to be an environmentalist to save the Earth.

The author, however, still believes that Passion is not pre-existent, and the "Follow You Passion" slogan is innocent optimism and potentially causes confusion and angst. The interview question What is your passion/ dream? though have no intention to tell us to chase after the Passion at all, shows the assumption that we know that we should chase after, which is unlikely right.

"Telling someone to "follow their passion" is not just an act of innocent optimism, but also potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst."

Reflecting on my experiences, I could not refuse to agree that Passion does not come out of thin air. It is instead a by-product of years and years of expertise when we are so good at specific skills that we start realizing what we can contribute to others and society. This is Passion.

How about you? What is your Passion?


* If you are not persuaded by this statement, I recommend you to read The Selfish Genes, by Richard Dawkins.

bottom of page