“Nothing great has done great in the world without passion”
— Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Passion now has a very different connotation from what our ancient forefathers would think about it. Passion is something you do first thing in the morning and last thing in the night. This is what you do when the kids fall asleep. Passion is what you want to talk about when you meet your friends. Passion is a state of mind.
Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a biologist. While I was labeled a “straight-B student” in primary school, I’ve always excelled at biology. By the time I finished my PhD, however, I completely lost my passion for biology. I felt that my young self died somewhere during my university years.
I couldn’t cut myself off from science, though. I was doing what I was supposed to do: helping fellow scientists to conduct research and make great discoveries. But I refused to give up chasing my passion. And, in my mid-30s, I figured out what I’m ultimately passionate about.
The intentional component: writing
I’ve always been good at writing and paying attention to detail. When it came to creative writing projects, I’ve been the go-to guy in the office. After finishing my PhD, I was writing scientific papers in my spare time as a hobby. When I was short of ideas and material, I immersed myself in translation. Two years later, I ended up receiving a university degree in English translation. While I enjoyed every moment of those writing projects, they were way too technical for my creative self.
After years of procrastination, it was time to take stock. When I looked back on my life, I recognized a recurring element: it was writing. Be it my thesis, a scientific paper, a tech tutorial, or a speech, I’d lose the sense of time when engaged with these activities. But I remained uncertain whether writing was my true calling.
It wasn’t until I embraced my childhood activities that I got tangible proof of my passion. As a young child, I was doing two things most of the time: playing with Lego blocks and “annotating” nature books. What I figured out was that there’s a single common element between the two: creativity.
And what is writing ultimately?
Creative work. Putting words together that stick, just as with Lego blocks. It was a life-changing discovery. But there’s another component missing from the story, which happened by accident.
The accidental component: productivity
When I was promoted to head of a department in the office, I quickly ran out of steam. I was pulled deeper and deeper into the downward spiral of my 9-5. For the first time in my life, I experienced severe sleeping issues. I knew there could be a better way to handle things. Which made me turn to productivity and read the book on a Christmas holiday that changed my life forever: it was David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
And there was no break from there.
I quickly found myself in a launch team of a productivity book, authored guest posts for productivity blogs, and became a productivity enthusiast. It was Christmas morning every single day. I soon launched my productivity blog. It seemed I just found something I lost a long time ago: my passion.
I don’t believe there’s a universal formula for passion, but here’s how it worked for me:
Intentional component + Accidental component = Passion
(Writing + Productivity = Productivity blog)
I’m still amazed at how much great insights I derived from my childhood. So, if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in the wrong direction, take stock of your life. Look back to childhood and ask yourself what you were doing (and enjoying) most of the time. Ask people around you how they see you. What are the activities that make you lose the sense of time? It’s never too late to (re)discover your passion.