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March 3, 2016

Passion Statement

Nowadays, we hear more often about pursuing one's passion at work and career. Especially in my kind of work where we are supposed to do the "impossible" that passion has become a key word and ingredient in driving the internal motivation to pursue the almost unachievable. Passion is such a big word and its true essence is sometimes hardly noticed. It comes from the Latin word passio which means "to suffer" or "to endure". So your passion is something you are willing to endure for or suffer. It is something that you are willing to do even if it hurts. Its oldest root word "pei" literally means "to hurt". And it is usually referred to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. In other words, me ganung level ang "passion" yung handa kang magpakamatay. Pag hindi ka nasasaktan, hindi yan passion. Whether your passion is a person, a relationship or an advocacy or issue or set of values and beliefs, you are willing to offer you life for it(them) because that is what passion requires. Thus, even if the odds are against you, and the challenges are overwhelming, even if it already painful, you are still going to push through with it because "that is your passion". It's more than just a strong feeling. It is an expression of willingness to go through a lot of sacrifice.
Passion is quite abstract it is hard to describe and to measure. I am not aware if there is any metrics yet to measure how one person is more or less passionate than others. Perhaps it is because we have different passions so it is very hard to compare and even if we share "similar" passions, how each one perceives his or her passion to be would differ from the others. So usually passion is described figuratively. A classic example would be passion is like fire. Fire. After all in the early 1500's the word fire would be used in relation to "passion" or "ardent, burning feelings". Its old Latin root word is "egni- which means to ignite, to animate. Fire is seen as a life-giving force. Somewhat just like passion. Your passion is that one thing that will drive you to do things even if it's impossible to do. Many think that passion is more of an internal work. Perhaps it starts internally but just like fire, it needs external elements. You can develop your passion but it needs to be nurtured as well. To create fire, we learn that there are at least 3 basic elements: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen. The absence of one will prohibit the production of fire. For example, you may be very passionate in your job right now but if your working environment prohibits you from maximizing your fullest potentials, the passion can subside or it will seek out other environments which it will find suitable.
You need help in developing your passion but it starts with you. You have to choose to develop your passions. You have to invest time and effort on it. But just like fire, you need help. For example, you might need a coach to help you or mentor to guide you in honing your passions. Passions need to be nurtured. Because they are as transient as the candle flame. Like what Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "What to ourselves in passion we propose,The passion ending, doth the purpose lose." Thus the reinforcing emotions and situations that help sustain the passion should be further maintained in order for the passion not to end.
When work does not anymore feel relevant or align with one's values, the passion for the work usually dies. When one cannot answer with confidence the questions, "Why am I here?" or "What am I here for?" as confident as the first time the person was asked in relation to one's career or chosen direction, somehow there is a flickering of the passion. Experts would usually suggest, making a switch (because priorities can change) or reinventing one's job description or getting a coach or mentor. So, while nurturing passion can be internal work, external factors like employees or friends or family can kill someone's passion.

As taken from a website:
"Many employees — especially Millennials — use their day job to primarily support a parallel career or personal passion of some kind. Providing employees the opportunities and support to pursue their passions greatly improves their overall happiness and productivity. Yet many managers still feel the need to force employees to work within a little box, limiting their ambitions. Like any abusive relationship, they want the employee to believe that there is nowhere else to go and they should give up trying. Smart employees know better, and smart managers know that 65 percent of employees cite a lack of flexibility as a reason for quitting."(

But that statement is referring to how employees get "engaged" in their work, not directly referring to how people maintain and sustain their passions. Forbes, citing an external report, would differentiate between employee engagement and passion:

"Passion is different from, and more important than, engagement. “Employee engagement is typically defined,” the report says, “by how happy workers are with their work setting, coworkers, organization-wide programs, and their overall treatment by their employer. Employee engagement is important, and improving it typically will give a firm a bump in performance. But engagement is often a one-time bump; employees move from unhappy to happy, bring a better attitude to work, and possibly take fewer sick days. However, workers who are merely engaged won’t actively seek to achieve higher performance levels, to the benefit of self and firm; passionate workers will, though.”

By contrast, passion in workers relates to “how they respond to challenges. Do they get excited by, and actively seek out, challenges? How do they solve problems? How do they learn, develop skills, and build their careers over the long term? How do they interact with others to pursue those goals? … [They] help themselves and the companies they work for develop the capabilities to constantly learn and improve performance. Rather than a one-time performance bump, [passionate workers] deliver sustained and significant performance improvement over time.”

John Hagel c0-chairman Deloitte Center For The Edge as cited in the same Forbes article aptly said, "Rather than just focusing on recruiting more passionate workers, the big opportunity is to look at the existing workforce and create environments that can tap into, nurture and amplify the passion of every worker already on the job. Without the right work environments, efforts to recruit additional passionate workers will likely be undermined as those new workers become frustrated in environments that do not support passion.

So just like the triangle of fire, I propose a triangle of Passion as well: Values(Attitude), Opportunity, Support.

What you currently do should align with your values. It something that you give high regard and willing to "die for" or "suffer for". You have to identify your values. Your values must be clear to you and that the work or career you choose should be aligned with your values. Your values act as your North Star. They steadily point to the right direction. And it clarifies your passion. This is perhaps the internal work of developing one's passion: clarification of one's values. Someone wrote that "It’s not a very popular message, but the hidden cause of personal dissatisfaction often comes from cultivating desires and passions that offend your personal values."

People need support to develop and nurture their passions. That is why others would consider having a coach or mentor. This is true in all aspects of life and in different forms of career. Support comes in many forms. The most valued support are usually the tangibles(fair compensation, benefits at work, logistics, supplies) but do not count out the intangible support as well like genuine support for growth and development. As one article from Forbes said, "High-potential employees want a leader that allows them to learn from their mistakes and guides them to overcome the burdens associated with failure. If a leader limits their employees’ ability to unleash their passionate pursuits of excellence, they will never discover their full potential.Employees want leaders to trust them, not micromanage them. They want leaders to encourage risk taking and exploration that allows them to learn and cultivate capabilities on the job. If not, how else will they earn trust?" I remember when I was the Municipal Health Officer of a town. The Mayor who is basically my boss allowed me to manage my health programs and approach the problems with my own "diskarte", basically giving me a free hand. He did not usually go over my shoulders and micromanage or interfere in how we manage the clinics. He trusted me enough that I could manage the health clinic.
All I needed to do was inform him of the current problems and lay out to him my plans. A classic example was his directive that his signature and approval was not needed in relation to the deployment of the municipal ambulance. All it needed was my signature and approval, a stark difference from the previous administration who required a lot of people to sign off before any patient can use the ambulance. And because of this, we were able to improve the health indicators of the municipality, dropping to zero the number of maternal deaths within a span of 2 years and decreasing the number of infant deaths drastically within the same amount of time. Of course, we needed the support, and the Mayor was willing to give it. One huge support was the renovation of the health facility. He knew that for us to fulfill our jobs and duties all we needed were the adequate logistics. The staff were passionate already with the work. Despite the small salary they were willing to travel to every village and perform their usual duties but willingness to do the work was not enough. The children needed vaccine, the mothers needed a birthing clinic, patients needed medicines.

Dean Nitin Nohria wrote in a blog, "I don’t think people should ever go to a place about which they don’t have a passion. They should not just chase opportunity. They should chase opportunity where they have a passion. And for me, one of the most exciting things that’s happening about this new global century is that it creates many, many more possibilities for people to find places where they have an opportunity and a passion.(" There must be an outlet where your passion can be actualized. Finding opportunities come two-way. The individual has to seek out opportunities or opportunities have to be given to individuals.

So as I reflect on my own passions and how I manage to nurture them and how along the way there were critical moments when the passion flickered out, I remember today the Mayors and Municipal Health Officers I have trained in the past two years under the Health Leaders for the Poor training program of the Zuellig Family Foundation who will be graduating tomorrow from the program. I remember them and how they have also sustained their passion for better health outcomes for their constituents despite the challenging environment they are in (e.g. geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, typhoon-prone areas). I remember their personal stories and how they inspired me to also nurture and chase after my own passions.

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