Passion: Find it. Live it. Just Don’t Confuse it with Success.


Our eight-year-old can shake her money-maker.  The kid has some serious moves and has been self-choreographing and making videos of herself like it’s her job.  She dances till she’s good and sweaty, multiple times daily.  Each song added to her iPod touch play list brings with it the possibility for more self-expression.  Passion.

I’m writing this blog from my hotel room in the LA area, where I’m visiting to watch the CrossFit Games.  Like so many people who started CrossFit years ago, I remember when the Games were at a ranch in Aromas—a smaller festival with an accessibility that is no longer possible with the growth of the sport of CrossFit and the progress of the movement as a whole.  People have feelings and opinions about changes like these.  Mine is that the evolution of the sport of CrossFit is an amazing collective accomplishment attributable first and foremost to the passion of founder, Greg Glassman, and the inner circle of CrossFit HQ.  It is also fueled by the passion of thousands of people worldwide who have devoted their lives to a broader movement that has grown in ways few could have predicted.  There is a driving force of commitment and energy that pushes this thing forward, even if leaving behind aspects of the past for which some people might yearn.

Passion doesn’t always lead to progress.  Passion doesn’t always lead to success.  Passion doesn’t always lead anywhere we can define.  But having passion and pursuing something with passion does ensure that we are living with fire and making use of ourselves in ways that we wouldn’t if we weren’t passionate.  Have an old hobby but never quite find the time to do something with it?  Have an interest that for some reason you’ve been too shy to admit, so it’s gone by the wayside since you packed up your books after college?  Maybe you were a painter back in the day, but then you had kids and life got busy.  Somewhat metaphorically, standing in for parts of yourself, your paintbrushes lost their bristles and your paints dried up.  Maybe you were once a passionate golfer or once rode horses with abandon.  Maybe for you it was music—playing, composing, and watching live shows.  It didn’t matter who was playing—you loved to soak in the vibe and the melody.

Life is hectic.  We all have responsibilities.  We are in relationships and have jobs, there are bills to pay, and traffic can suck time out of our days.  We must shop for food, do our laundry, and keep up with friends on Facebook and photos on Instagram.  If we don’t pay attention, days turn into months and then years.  We may be caught up in the superficial aspects of youth fresh out of college, leaving on the table an intellectual passion or interest in order to remain socially viable.  Then, suddenly, we aren’t just a few years out of college but are well into middle-age and fully immersed in our ways.  Later, we may move into retirement and look back with longing on all that time in the rat race when other things—our passions included—got pushed aside.

In the blink of an eye, we can lose hold of a passionate existence and live a life of routine, comfort, and, in extreme cases, boredom.  We can be all too successful at rationalizing why it is that we don’t read the classics any more or that we don’t hike the Tetons.  We can declare to ourselves with conviction that the reasons we don’t play chess or basketball, despite our love of both, are logical and absolute.  We can maintain the perspective that raising kids is our passion and when they are in college we can rediscover dormant aspects of who we are, or at least who we once were.

But there’s a funny thing about passion.  It needs to be nourished, and it needs time to be expressed.  It needs to be genuine, and it needs an outlet.  We need to be uninhibited and fearless in our expression and pursuit of things for which we have passion.  We need to know that having and expressing a passion inherently means not being tied to any plan or outcome; passion has no business plan, nor should it be tethered by spreadsheets.  Don’t get me wrong—we may be passionate about our jobs or a business idea or some kind of venture or goal for the future.  But if that is what drives us and the passion takes a back seat, over time we are likely to be making spreadsheets and evaluating in ways that we might not have if passion were the true fuel of the endeavor.  Paint for the purpose of expression, and perhaps some day your paintings will sell.  Paint for the purpose of selling, and soon you will lack the fire from within that once moved your brush.

Our eight-year-old has dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and a professional dancer.  But when she is dancing full-throttle in our living room or dribbling the soccer ball out at the field, damn straight she isn’t thinking about a job in the future.  She’s fully immersed in the moment and the energy involved is magnetic.  Yes, she’s eight.  Eight-year-old kids often exude passion for their interests.  It’s tempting to brush this off as a simple reflection of life being so much easier when we’re young and can dance or play soccer or sing or build Legos without a care in the world.  Maybe.

But maybe we can glean something more from the passion of young people. Maybe it’s more about their psychological standing and ability to be in the moment that allows them to pursue things passionately in ways we adults often can’t quite enable ourselves to do.  We are always so worried about the future, the point of it all, the reason for doing what we are doing.  We are hindered by judgments and opinions, by social and cultural constraints.

You’ve heard people talk about living with passion before.  This is not a new concept.  I will throw in a wrinkle here and remind us all that passion and talent are not one and the same.  Being good at something does not equate to having passion for it.  Being successful does not mean the same thing as doing something with passion.  It’s easy to confuse the two; if we are extremely good at something, the outcomes and accolades can be quite enticing and seductive.  We can pour ourselves into an endeavor and do extremely well at it, but if we are not driven by an internal fire that is positive and feeds our soul, let’s be careful not to call it passion.  Elite athletes who make it to the pinnacle of their sport may or may not have true passion for what they do.  CEO’s and other captains of industry may or may not be passionate about their work.  Some people are lucky enough to combine raw talent, drive, success, and passion in their jobs or extracurricular pursuits.  This is, of course, a possibility.  Just make sure you’re not confusing success with passion.  If you’re not sure, it’s probably just success and not passion, or at least an imbalance of the two.


The photo above is of me and Steve Liberati of Steve’s Club, an organization supporting at-risk youth via CrossFit training, community, and mentoring.  Steve is an example of someone with unceasing passion for his work, which has lead to great outcomes.  Plenty of people have benefited from the trickle-down of his seemingly boundless energy and vision.  I wrote about Steve in my book, and it was great to catch up with him at the CrossFit Games.  Visit his website to find out more about what he does.

The photo below, left, is of me and Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD and San Francisco CrossFit.  Kelly embodies passion; his is a drive to get people around the world moving better and taking care of the their bodies, en route to injury prevention and a cultural shift in how we deal with our physical selves.  If you’ve ever had the privilege of hearing Kelly speak or spending time with him as he goes about his life, you know for sure he is passionate about his work and walks his talk.  Check out his vast knowledge and inspiration on his website.

The photo below, right, is of me and Lisbeth Darsh. Lisbeth works for CrossFit and is absolutely inspired by, and committed to, her work.  She also has a blog called Words with Lisbeth, where she shares another passion–telling it like it is.  This blog is not her job, but she puts her heart and soul into it, and her following speaks to the passion she exudes and to our collective desire for our own experiences to be reflected in what we read.

kellyphoto lisbethphoto

This last photo below is of me with Carl Paoli, whose passion for human movement and physical expression has made him a bit of a celebrity.  The guy has endless amounts of energy and commitment to what he does, and he is clear that having a long-term plan is secondary to doing work that inspires him and impacts others.  Check out Naka Athletics to find out more about Carl’s work.


After watching plenty of passion on display at the CrossFit Games and receiving videos of my dancing daughter from my parents back home babysitting, my call to action this week is this:  rediscover a passion and set aside a good hour each week to explore it.  Dust off that guitar.  Invest in a new pair of hiking shoes.  Break out the cooking tools.  Join the board of that non-profit you think about often.  Plan your next run.  Write a poem.  Don’t worry where any of it takes you. If you really do it, and you awaken your passion, my guess is it’ll take you places you can’t get to on a map or measure in dollars.  Have at it!


  1. […] following it ever since then.  There was a great post on about Passion called Passion: Find it. Live it.  Just don’t confuse it with success.   If you have some time today, I’d take the time to (1) check out Fred’s art and (2) […]

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