There is way too much passion in our midst.
I mean passion as in the advice thousands of college grads hear every spring to “follow your passion.” I mean the passions that people stick on their social media profiles and job applications.
If you don’t have a passion these days, well, you’re lame.
This is not good. It’s a kind of mass-market narcissism. It’s also lousy advice.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“Follow your passion,” is on one level just a harmless variation of hackneyed old cliches. “This above all: to thine own self be true,” Polonius said to his son, Hamlet. March to your own drummer. Do what you love, etc.
But in the nomenclature of early 21st-century America individualism, the concept of passion has a special place.
If it is not prominently displayed, like a brand label, a young person is at risk of appearing uncool, uninformed, uninteresting or unemployable. A passion is an essential accessory to a well-coiffed “personal brand.”
Surf around Twitter: Passionate Yogi, Passionate dancer or “Passionate Politiquette” – whatever that is.
There are at least nine Twitter accounts devoted to passion mentoring. People are passionate about artisanal soap, the perfect dill pickle, Jerry Lewis movies or the history of dental floss. One young lady is “Passionate about SEO, SEM, Social, performance mktg & analytics.” Really? Whatever.
Sometimes passions are genuine, deep and enduring. Too often they are phony.
Most people don’t actually have a deep and enduring passion upon which to sensibly build a vocation. Those who do are lucky ducks.
Most of us are “passionate” about different things at different stages in our lives. Many of us are only passionate about people – partners, family, children, friends – and not things.
And contrary to the modern mantra, we all are not “great at something.” Becoming great at something involves drudgery, sacrifice and failure; it is not simply a matter of finding your drummer and marching. In fact, the word passion comes from the Latin word for suffer.
I have begun to hear more young people confess (and confess is the right word) that they really don’t have a “passion” for any special career. This feels to them like a failure or a flaw.
It is great if you have a passion that matches a job. It is OK to be passionate about people and not a career.
It is OK to dump the whole passion thing, obsessively.