Posted on: February 14, 2019

Dr. Mark Thaller Weighs in on Passion

Dr. Mark Thaller Weighs in on Passion

So . . . I’ve been asked to write about passion; something that all of us know is important, and yet many of us take for granted. In fact, it’s very unlikely that we can find a single person claiming to lack self-proclaimed passion. Yet, it’s also likely that upon asking ten people to define passion, ten different responses are received.

The most overwhelmingly common response defines passion as “what I like to do”. Another common response aligns passion with an individual’s career. In my opinion, neither could be farther from the truth!

Let’s start with some various definitions from the dictionary. Passion can be defined as:

  1. Strong and barely controllable emotion
  2. Extreme interest or wish
  3. Willingness to sacrifice
  4. Very powerful feelings
  5. Many others

Note that nowhere within this list of definitions is passion necessarily aligned with a person’s work, occupation, career or professional aspirations.

I have spent several decades thinking about this topic. There are rarely absolutes on issues concerning emotion, sentiment and ambition. With this caveat, please accept my apologies if the following contradicts your existing understanding on this topic. But… here goes.


To act or behave in what others may describe as a risk-seeking manner with an associated willingness to accept failure . . . in pursuit of an unquenchable thirst for learning, engagement and/or infinite understanding of a particular topic, objective or activity.

Does this mean that many of us may lack passion? Yes, I am sorry to say that it does. This is not to imply that passion cannot be nurtured. We simply have to listen to our heart, soul and mind and follow our instincts.


It’s also helpful to know what passion is NOT.

  • Career success, per-se
  • Accumulation of material goods financial compensation, per-se
  • Philanthropy and charity, per-se
  • Government or military service, per-se
  • Religious ambition, per-se
  • Various hobbies, per-se

So, what are some metrics to help each of determine what we are passionate about? Try asking yourselves:

  1. What would I do for free for the rest of my life if I won the lottery?
  2. What would I regret not/never doing if I were to unexpectedly die for some reason?
  3. What do I stand for as a person for which I am totally proud and without reservation?

Being passionate about something associated with our careers, our lives, our society and our friends is exceptionally likely to make us more successful, more impactful to our society and more loyal and empathetic with our friends.

  • Being a great manager requires functional skills like marketing, logistics and accounting.
  • Being a great person/friend requires people skills like listening, empathy and civility.
  • Being a great LEADER requires passion that aligns with whatever you are doing, and by so demonstrating this passion others are inspired to work harder, try harder and perform far beyond what they may have thought was possible.

Some examples of passion may include:

  1. Passionate about teaching, grooming and inspiring Afghanistan’s future leaders.
  2. Passionate about helping resolve the TB/HIV/Diabetes/malaria crises in Africa.
  3. Passionate about being an impactful author, teacher and/or communicator to help foster the improvement of civil rights worldwide.

There are not really any wrong answers. But as you can see from the examples above, our own personal drive and ambition are directly associated with our passion. We should ask ourselves if our lives, friends, culture, career, education align with our true passion. If so; fantastic! If not, then consider an adjustment in your profession, life-style and/or choice of colleagues. Such an alignment is not required. But, if alignment occurs then your performance, leadership and outcome are enormously enhanced.


So, what’s my own personal passion?

To have an impact upon the world by living my life in such a manner that on my deathbed someday there are absolutely no regrets; no business left undone nor promises left unfulfilled.

What are the implications of my own personal passion?

I prefer to take action now rather than wait; to speak now rather than remain silent; and to provide praise and encouragement now rather than to avoid taking a position.

 Can my passion be better described, refined and/or identified?

Absolutely. As you may guess, each of our responses may include subsets within subsets.

Request: Please respond to this blog and provide a very brief description of your passion. Limit your responses to 50 words. The description of my own passion (above) required 33 words. Thanks very much for taking a few moments to read this, for your response and for your response.