We see them. We love them. We admire them. And, we often describe passionate people as those who have an indescribable fire in their belly--an emotional charge that somehow inspires endless persistence and energy to achieve at any cost.
But, after I recently witnessed two very passionate business leaders wrestle through a disagreement, I wondered, "Is passion--for your work, for your project, for proving you're right about your ideas--always beneficial?"
I think I'm a passionate guy about my work. But, are there times my energy, belief, and vigor could be my downfall? And, are we all so hung up on finding, and pursuing our passion that we can't see when it's getting in our own way?
As an expert on this subject, I could just give you my perspective. But, I was curious to understand how other experts who understand passion would respond to my question. "Can too much passion hurt us?"
Ironically, we all answered the question the same. "Yes." Here are the top five reasons why:
1. It can make you dismiss strategy.
"Passion drives people to accomplish," said Louis Efron, author of Purpose Meets Execution. "Passion is a component of understanding your purpose. It's that thing you feel you must do."
Efron is right. I've seen many leaders and entrepreneurs who are so passionate that they often overlook strategy. It's like they believe their extreme passion will somehow overcompensate for the fact that they don't have a plan, or they don't have the knowledge.
Efron added, "Purpose, passion, and strategy need to align if you want to see great results."
2. It can cloud your business judgment.
The business world is always talking about the value of being passionate. But, as Steve Schwab, the founder and CEO of Sea Side Reservations, told me, "There's a time and a place for passion. And, no one talks about the benefits of being dispassionate, which can be more beneficial."
Schwab makes a great point. Removing emotion from conversations is often harder than becoming passionate in a heated moment. In all businesses we can find ourselves in conversations with employees, clients, and bosses that could lead to conflict.
"Clients have emotions," Schwab added. "But, that doesn't mean we should be emotional. We don't need to take offense. We just need to solve the problem."
3. It can limit your possibilities.
"If you think you need to be passionate about everything you do in life, you're doomed," Larry Winget, bestselling author of What's Wrong With Damn Near Everything, told me. "I don't know where this whole idea came from that there wouldn't be aspects of our work that we don't like."
He's right. Focusing on the fact that we all must be passionate about every hour of every day is limiting. I've heard from people who job hop because they discover something they don't like.
"It's ridiculous," added Winget. "If you are passionate about one aspect of your job, and you're willing to do all the other stuff in order to do what you love, then you're in a great spot."
4. It can steal your identity.
"I totally get passion. And, I love passionate people," Stacie Mallen, chief people officer at Campus Logic, told me. "But, I've seen people become so wrapped up in the pursuit of their passion that they lose the truth of who they are--almost becoming the stereotype of who they think they should be."
Goals, accomplishments, and achievements do change us. They make us grow. But, we shouldn't try to change ourselves into a person we think we need to become to make our goals a reality.
"You are you," said Mallen. "You're awesome. Just become the best version of yourself. And, don't let a passion strip your identity."
5. It can make you unaware of the present--and the people who support you.
Yes, I could have found another expert to respond to this point. But, this is where my expertise lies--witnessing firsthand, both professionally and personally, how passion can make people blind to both the opportunities that exist, and the people who surround them today.
I've witnessed too many highly-passionate people risk their relationships, risk their homes, risk their reputations, and neglect to appreciate the people around them in order to pursue a dream. I've seen too many fail--because their focus on the future makes them oblivious to the present.
One leader I interviewed years ago may have said it best when they told me, "Todd, I was so focused on achieving my goal that I took for granted all the wonderful people who were helping me get there. And, by the time I realized it, they were already gone."