I ran into this girl at work the other day. Let’s call her Eva. I’ve met Eva many times before. In fact, I know her quite well by now. She is friendly, always polite, smart and usually in a good mood. She is ambitious and is just over all a great person. She works hard and is hoping to get a promotion soon.
Despite her good traits, I have zero interest in spending more time with Eva. I don’t want hang out with her, join her for dinner or even suggest that we have coffee.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this as I left work. What makes someone likable? Why don’t I want to become friends with Eva? Having moved around a lot, I am always looking to build up new friendships.
And just like everyone else, I sometimes worry if others will like me. I am not nearly as outgoing or nice as Eva. Why would anyone ask me out for a coffee or a glass of wine after work? Why would they find me interesting?
Almost twenty years ago, my old high-school friend Christine was in a car with her fiancé, heading for France. They toured around the great wine country and finished off in Champagne to… well, buy some champagne. With the car full of wine bottles, they drove back to finalize their wedding preparations.
They didn’t go to France because they had a deep love for specific wines. They didn’t go there to enjoy the scenery or even for the French cuisine (although I am sure they did that too!). They weren’t driven by a passion, but rather by a fear.
Christine and her fiancé wanted to impress their friends at the wedding. They wanted to stand out as the couple who served wines they had picked up from a hidden-away vineyard outside of a picturesque French town, rather than in the local supermarket.
The wine was great, but I have barely spoken to Christine since.
Why did I stop talking to Christine? And why do I not want to get to know Eva?
To figure it out, I started to think about the people who have the exact opposite effect on me. People I am dying to become friends with or spend more time with. Or just people whose books I can’t wait to read, whose podcasts I listen to, whose blogs I follow or videos I watch. Those who impress me, who have a hunger and drive that seems endless. People I want to interview, understand and learn from. People who are successful in what they do and happy while doing it.
Unlike Christine, these people don’t do anything to impress others (that is merely a side effect). They don’t try to fit in and do things just because others do it or because it’s expected of them. Unlike Eva, they don’t care about becoming a manager just to boost their CVs or because their friends all climbed the corporate ladder and they feel left behind.
They can feel fear just like everybody else, but it doesn’t drive them. They don’t live on the surface of society where most people run around in a daze working 9 to 5, doing errands, checking Facebook and watching TV to pass the rest of their days.
Instead, they go deep. They don’t need to waste time. They feel that they don’t have enough time. If you find them in a bar, it’s not because it’s Friday night and they’ve just followed the crowd. It’s because they have taken an intentional break to socialize with friends or because it’s a good networking opportunity. They have intention and purpose.
Not only does fear not drive them, it also doesn’t stop them. If they are obsessed with a new knitting technique, they won’t stop talking about it, even though others may find them weird (no offense to knitters!).
I could not care any less about knitting, but I would still rather listen to that person who has a strong passion, than to colleagues gossiping and doing small talk about their mainstream weekends.
These people on a mission don’t just accept the world as it is and the small part they play in it, but are constantly thinking of how things can be improved, changed and developed. They don’t sit around waiting for a solution to come their way – they start digging for it. And then adapt and adjust as they go.
They ask, they initiate, they create and they learn. They can do it at work or at home, but they always have some project lined up. They have energy and a hunger for something more.
So what is the big difference? Where does all that come from? And why do some people fascinate us, while others leave us indifferent? What is it that makes them interesting and often more successful?
Is it confidence, brains or drive?
Is it passion or creativity?
It’s smaller than that. And we all have it. We can all decide how much we want activate it, use it and follow it.