Passion – it’s on the ceiling!

Sally’s World, April 2003


In the 80s, we worked hard. In the early 90s, we worked smart. In the late 90s, we worked fast. But now, firmly established in the first decade of the new millennium, we are working all three, but most of all we are working passion.

Today many of us have switched careers or spun out of traditional organizations into smaller more intimate ones – maybe even our own. It’s a realignment of values – we are giving up what doesn’t matter for what does matter. In seeking to live from our hearts in our work and personal lives, we are responding to the irresistible tug of passion.
When passion is present, we don’t stop simply because something goes wrong. We feel the pain, yet we keep going. Having passion doesn’t mean that we will succeed. It simply means that our endurance and resilience are boosted by the power of our authentic presence. Working from passion might improve the likelihood of our success, while most certainly changing our definition of success.
But don’t mistake drive for passion. Drive is a push, not a pull. It takes us away from, not into our hearts.

Sometimes I can’t believe what a wonderful life I have because as a writer and a journalist, I often get to experience mind meld with fascinating and insightful people. Because of a book project that I am working on, I had one of those conversations the other day with
Randy Komisar, author of The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.

Komisar, who is a long-time practitioner of Buddhism, integrates his life and his work with a powerful core belief: Time is short. Don’t squander any of it. Invest your time in only those things that are important.

We were talking about passion and its role in start-up business. Komisar believes that women are better at recognizing and following passion than men are.

I agree.

To live from passion, you have to listen to your intuition and be open to hearing the beat of your personal drummer. Komisar says that women are more open-minded than men in this way, in part because men are slotted into the breadwinner role that women have traditionally been excluded from.

“Women – it’s the other side of the curse, the curse being that they’ve not had the opportunities,” Komisar says.” Women because of that are open-minded about finding what matters. They are empowered because they are disempowered in the traditional sense. Women are much more creative, I think, and much more courageous in terms of looking for those things that really matter.”

“If you think about it, (passion is at the core) of the traditional dilemma of being the super mom,” Komisar says. “You have your family and you have your career. What you see (in the struggle) is balancing two passions.”

“Most of the women involved in the dialogue about balance of life and career are involved because they care about both, because they have passion.”

Men are suffering more than women in this equation, Komisar says.
“Talk to a 50-year old man about what he wants to do next, and he looks at you (lost) … I”ll play golf. There’s no dimensionality. Their whole identity is in one thing.

Komisar, who teaches classes in entrepreneurship at Stanford, says he has learned much from students pushing against his ideas. He now more fully understands the multiplicity of passion. You may have many passions, and you will follow different passions at different times in your life.

Personally, I have been giving passion free rein in my work for a while now. I can attest that it’s difficult, financial lunacy, and often lonely. But I can also attest to the breathless creative flow that occurs when I and my passion are working side by side. There’ s nothing like it.
Except maybe this.

When I was a 10-year-old kid, I and my best friend of the week would do shoulder stands on my living room couch and imagine that we were walking from room to room on the ceiling. We would step over the tops of door frames, whose structures formed little barriers between the rooms, creating an archipelago of ceiling space, and walk from island to island, checking the treasure that laid in the bowls of the glass light fixtures.

Maybe it was the blood rushing to my head, but I used to wonder if my friend were seeing the same thing I was seeing as we explored the upside down world. I would fantasize that I was inside her brain, looking out from behind her eyes, walking on the ceiling from room to room, until it was time to go and I walked down the walls and out the door and across the street to eat dinner with her family. I would be me, but inside her head for just an hour or two, just long enough to understand what it was like to be her.

I haven’t learned yet how to get inside the mind of another, but I have found the next best thing – the wisdom I am exposed to in a great interview and the fact that I can pass it on to you. What could be better? That’s passion!