This past Sunday our family went over to a friend’s home for lunch. Conversation was rolling, people were catching up, but not me. I was sitting toward the back of their living room enduring deep frustration. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t upset. I was suffering.
I’m a victim of passion. I live with such fierce vision, ideas, and desires that it actually hurts. My chest burns. My thoughts storm. My feet begin to tap. On many occasions I can’t sleep or I chase my thinking into the night. Or my mind becomes consumed with images of what could be. Images so real and so important that doing anything else at the moment seems irresponsible.
If you look up the original definition of the word “passion,” you’ll find it’s defined like this: To endure suffering. The word was first used in the late 12th century to describe Christ’s willingness to suffer on the cross.
Since then, the word “passion” has been hijacked. Misused and abused. Reduced by a feel-good culture chasing simpler language. Today, passion is understood as “what excites you” or “what puts the sparkle in your eyes, the twinkle in your toes.”
But passion is so much more.
It is the willingness to suffer for what you love. It is an experience to be coupled with words like preparation, readiness, submission, and loyalty.
It’s one thing to suffer and be a victim; it’s an entirely different thing to be willing to suffer for a vision and become a victor.
When we discover what we are willing to pay for, we discover our life’s mission and purpose.
If passion is simply what makes you happy, you’ll quit doing it when it gets tough, when it becomes too risky, when you’re ignored and mocked. Your true passion is what you’re willing to do if it kills you.
So here are 4 points that will help you embrace, understand, and welcome suffering on your pursuit to success.
1. Success requires us first to obsess over a problem.
Passion is almost always rooted in the hatred of a current solution. If we look behind every great man and woman of change, we will see quotes of despise, frustration, and animosity toward the status quo. Their hearts thunder desperately for a revision.
We saw this with Steve Jobs. He hated PC. Not just the computer, but their entire way of thinking. He often said quotes like this:
“If, for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Age for about twenty years.”
In an interview with Jobs in 2003, he uses words like “wretched” and “anguish” while describing the current solution to the phone industry.
Ultimately, without problems, Apple would have never been as great as they are. Steve needed problems to fight. He needed something to suffer for. It was this obsession for better that caused his brilliant alteration (the iPhone).
Critical Question: What problem do you obsess over? What current solution are you willing to suffer through to create revision?
2. Without trials, we do not grow.
Similar to the way our muscular system relies on weight to strengthen itself, human emotions require resistance to grow. Often, the anguish inflicted during a season of suffering, might very well be the personal development required to produce your passion.
We spend our entire lives avoiding trials. We look for the path of least resistance. But this is not the way of the great. Instead, when struggles land before you, consider it opportunity. For it is these moments that mature us. That develop our character and shave off the unneeded edges of our temperament.
Remember, there isn’t a living thing on this planet that doesn’t share in the battle against resistance. We are all fighting for survival… the survival of our bodies, our ideas, and our passions.
Critical Question: What trials are you facing right now? Are you counting them as opportunities? Can you see how they are preparing you for your passion?
3. A great thing given is never better than a great thing earned.
Getting something for nothing always comes with problems. Whether it’s the list of lottery winners, who go bankrupt shortly after receiving millions, or the son who inherits the family business and doesn’t care about the company’s success.
We must remove the idea that we can have great things with no suffering. We must discern the differences between need, which should be met, and an entitled desire, which should be starved.
Because entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from the required work and I am owed special treatment.
Shockingly, the passions that sit deep in our soul would be robbed if they were accomplished overnight. The journey toward change requires a desire to earn it. To not take shortcuts. To not cheat our way to a solution. But to find ourselves qualified, proven, and capable of our own achievements.
Critical Question: What do you want for free that you should earn? Maybe it’s an audience or a steady income or beautiful website? How can you properly starve that entitlement?
4. A fire outside of a fireplace is dangerous
This is less of a reason and more of a lesson. Passion can be a dangerous thing. Like anything, it has a time and a place. Your ability to uphold boundaries for your passions will determine the level of suffering you endure.
As I mentioned earlier, passions are painful. And in an effort to relieve the pain, we obsess over a solution. The sooner a solution, the faster the pain will subside. But the moment you prioritize your passions above the important people in your life, you’ve become a fire outside a fireplace.
The key to stewarding passion is finding control in the midst of something seemingly uncontrollable. To be okay with the timing, the required work, the pain, and the suffering.
Critical Question: Do you let your passions take over your life? Do you make irresponsible decisions in a moment of obsession? If so, how can you eliminate those moments in the future?
At the end of the day, we must realize that the pain we experience from the passions we have, is a good thing. For without it, life would be flat.
How about your passion? When asked what you’re passionate about, don’t tell me what makes you feel good or what excites you. What are you willing to suffer for? Let me know in the comments below.
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