Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Are You Passionate About?

Last night, at an informal meeting of expats here in Buenos Aires, the host insisted that we not talk about work, religion or politics. This, understandably, made starting conversations much more exciting. In front of a group of people, he turned to me and asked "What are you passionate about?".

Silence. Uncertainty. Embarrassment. I felt as if I had to show a piece of my artwork in front of a crowd full of art critics (side note: I'm incredibly un-gifted at art).

Awkward laughter erupted from lady standing next to me "Oh my gosh, I love that question, but somebody asked me that a month ago and I still have no idea what to say."

This is an interesting question for a lot of reasons. Most obviously, it provokes conversation by getting to the real and most interesting facts about each other. But that is also why people are reluctant to ask it: It exposes people. What struck me the most about the question was my initial hesitation to answer. Inherently, people are reluctant to pick directions, as well as to expose their inner selves, which is why we're indecisive so often and why we get embarrassed so easily. It is also exactly why answering the passion question is so hard since it forces us to do both at the same time: (1) Share our direction in life by (2) publicly stating what means the most to you. And not only that, but it leaves you open to judgement in the process.

But here is what had me reflecting on this so much: When I was a kid I wasn't embarrassed to show my artwork or announce to the world what I love... so why am I reluctant now that I'm an "adult"?

In case you're dying to know what I am passionate about, here are my answer from last night:
"Three things come to mind first:
  1. Experiencing the richness of nature. Hence my love for skiing, climbing, hiking, camping, sailing, and everything else outdoors.
  2. Learning from and with people. This explains my insatiable appetite to develop relationships, network, watch TED talks, and engage in discussions with people from different backgrounds, cultures and professions.
  3. Leaving the world a better place. Which explains my current global volunteering adventure and desire to develop a business that is environmentally and socially responsible."

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