Monday, May 11, 2009

Check Your Passion at the Door

I was thinking the other day of a sign I saw on a developed beach many years ago.  I don’t recall the exact verbiage on the sign but it went something like this:

Beach Rules

No ball playing

No Frisbee playing

No swimming

No picnics or food consumption

No bicycles on boardwalk

No animals permitted

Enjoy the beach – it is here for your enjoyment

I remember reading this and laughing at the irony.  However, after I laughed, I noticed that the beach was also pretty much empty.  The intention by the owner had stifled any opportunity for most people to find fulfillment and therefore they stayed away regardless of what the owners thought the beach could provide for people.  People went elsewhere where their passions around beach usage could be explored and enjoyed.

The other day I was re-reading Donald R. Keough’s “The 10 Commandments for Business Failure” and I wasn’t laughing.   As I was reading this, I was thinking about a number of groups, business units and volunteer groups, that were unable to gain traction and momentum and they were on my mind as I read the book.

For those who haven’t read this great book, the 11 commandments (yes, there are 11) that Keough believes are embraced by people intent on snatching failure from the jaws of victory are as follows:

1. Quit taking risks

2. Be inflexible

3. Isolate yourself

4. Assume infallibility

5. Play the game close to the foul line – blur moral/ethical lines

6. Don’t take time to think

7. Put all your faith in experts and outside consultants

8. Love your bureaucracy

9. Send mixed messages

10. Be afraid of the future

11. Lose your passion for work, for life

For the sake of my thoughts today, I’m going to rename number 11 to read:

11. Lose your passion - or allow someone to take it from you

After re-reading this book and digesting its wisdom yet again, I stumbled upon a short half-page article on the web by Dr. Tom Cocklereece where he focused on the 11th commandment and discussed ways that churches are choking the passion out of people to make a difference to their church.  His brief article really resonated with me.

Dr. Cocklereece posits that if you really want to fail, then lose your passion – lose your optimism that the impossible is not only possible but is probable if your passion is strong enough.

He goes on to discuss the great idea killers of our society today, including the perennial favorites “that’s good enough.”, “that’s not my job.”, “I don’t care.”, “I’m retiring soon anyway.” or the classic “we have never done it that way before.”.

Here is my favorite lately.

“Don’t rock the boat”.

It comes in many flavors but it translates into the same thing:

You represent change and change is something I fear, so I will do whatever it takes to prevent you from changing my world even if my world needs change.


I would rather not change and continue to demonstrate minimal results than change and produce results.


The suggestion of change represents a threat to my authority since people will discover that I am not the only source of ideas and therefore I will block your initiatives to enhance our results in order to protect my authority.

People resisting such change will discover reserves of energy that they (and you) never thought they had.  If only they had that much passion for creating more measurable, impactful results in the first place.

I think there are many times when one shouldn’t rock the boat.  For example, if a group is producing great results or results that are already meeting the expectations of the upstream or downstream people of that group, then the group should be left alone.

If the group doesn’t actually want to achieve anything, the fact that you see potential is irrelevant – they are happy and should be left alone.

If the group is outside your forte, area of influence or responsibility, then you should probably leave them alone.

If you couldn’t do any better yourself, then you should leave them alone.

However, if the group is not meeting the expectations of the mandate established for them or are violating ethical, moral or legal guidelines then they deserve to be rocked.

If you are a member of the group or a group upstream or downstream from that group and are impacted as a result of their apathy, indifference or incompetence, then the group deserves to be rocked.

If they are promoting a message or mission of “x” and are intentionally misrepresenting traction towards that mission, then they deserve to be rocked.

If they are in a mode of constantly blaming everyone and everything else for their inability to execute and some of the previous criteria apply, then they deserve to be rocked.

That’s not to say that we should be on a personal mission to be looking for people and groups who need to be shaken up.  Not only would that be be exhausting, in many situations we don’t have the right to interfere.

However, I am witnessing more and more people who are directly involved with groups plagued with apathy, indifference or incompetence, have an awareness of unethical, immoral or illegal activities within those groups or have a knowledge of significantly better ways of delivering results and yet are choosing to look the other way, even if they know that people upstream or downstream from that group are being adversely impacted.

Looking the other way would be bad enough if they looked away and forgot about it.

However, they are consumed by what they are witnessing and tell people privately about how such actions violate their psyche based on some personal standard.  Publically, they claim to have no issues or concerns. 

However, their passion for correcting things is just talk.  For some reason, their passion will not carry them towards taking action.

They do this to protect personal or business interests, appearances, reputation (fearing the “why did you allow this to go on so long” question), friendships, etc.

“I don’t want to rock the boat”, they say, all the while suggesting it is clearly important to them because they can’t stop talking about it or better – they are constantly imploring you to carry their fight for them.

My thought to them in return:

“Isn’t it better to rock the boat then watch it sink?”

Maybe rocking the boat will slosh the stagnant water out of the boat, enabling it to ride higher in the water.  Maybe some excess cargo that is weighing the boat down will get sloshed out as well.

It was expressed to me recently that I should tone down my passion for excellence and results so that I don’t offend others in a particular group.

What’s wrong with asking those people to pick up their passion for excellence and results so that I am not offended or so that the people directly affected by their actions are not disappointed or offended?

If they are offended that their track record for producing no result is being challenged, perhaps they deserve to be offended.

Don’t the users of their product or service deserve the best result possible?

Why do we accept a lackluster result as acceptable under the guise of not offending someone?

In a world of political correctness, we are often cautioned not to offend the person not producing or contributing because “everyone is doing the best they can”. 

However, sometimes we need to gently point those people in a different direction, where they can produce a better result than where they are.  They will probably be happier anyway once they are in a place where their contribution is more in line with their abilities.

As Donald Trump once said, we need to be careful that we don’t get caught up in a world where “we reward people just for showing up”.

In a world where our ethical, moral and legal guidelines are constantly being evaluated and many times being relaxed, we need to start demanding a higher standard, not accepting a lower one.

What’s wrong with asking the frequently avoided questions, to use a term I first heard my friend Steve Bannister use?

Let’s start asking more questions.

Questions about passion.

Questions about purpose.

Questions about measurable outcomes.

Questions about ethics, morals and legalities.

Questions about achieving results.

Questions about consistency between our stated intentions and our actual execution.

Let’s not ask the questions as in “you have the wrong answers and I have the right ones”.

Let’s ask them from the standpoint of “if we ask the questions together and challenge each other towards a higher standard then we will produce a better result and we will all learn from the process”.

Let’s not be afraid to ask questions.  When asked from the standpoint of maximizing results in a respectful, collaborative and knowledge-sharing way, there is nothing wrong with asking them and in fact, we should ask them.

We are not trying to figure out who is right or wrong or who is smarter.

We are trying to figure out how to produce the best result possible.

Let’s not lower our expectations to the lowest common denominator.

Let’s raise them to the highest common denominator.

Let’s raise them to the best result possible based on our collective talents and not limit them based on the talents of the weakest link.

The consumers of our products and services deserve and demand it.

The members of these groups and organizations deserve it.

The people who invest their time, talent and treasure deserve it.

We deserve it.

The Earth deserves it.

Our children deserve it.

This is not a license to bully others as some people who resist change or protect apathy like to do.  It’s a license to collaborate and seek the best result possible.

It’s a license to live to your greatest potential, love yourself and others, learn (and share knowledge) and to leave a legacy.

If you are not making progress, move on – there is someone else out there desperate for your passion.  The folks you leave behind perhaps need to learn additional lessons before your respective passions can be in congruence.

Remember the law of the 4 SWs:

  • some will
  • some won’t
  • so what
  • someone’s waiting.

As Dr. Cocklereece closed his article:

If we truly value something we will do it—not just teach or talk about it.

Be passionate!

Your passion is simmering – what do you want to do with it and how badly do you want to achieve it?

Do you know the answer?

Good – what are you waiting for – get on with it.

The emperor is not wearing any clothes.  Someone is waiting for you to cry out.  Don’t worry – once you step up and call it, you will be surrounded by many people happy to step up and support you.

If your passion already has a home and is producing results, I thank you.  You are a role model from which we can all learn.

Whether your passion flows unrestrained or is still evolving, I thank you for it - we all benefit from it when the time is right for it to manifest.

In service and servanthood.


PS A day after I posted this, I came across a quote by Zig Ziglar that I thought embodied this post perfectly.

“Don’t be a wandering generality – become a meaningful specific”.

Live passionately and on purpose.

May your purpose be seized by your passion – don’t let anyone put your fire out.


  1. Harry,

    Like usual very inspiring muse!!!
    I personally don't know what I would do if I could not live my passion as it is a major part of me as a person both spiritually and intellectually.

    I like the irony in the beach senerio as how true it is! It reminds me of the song about "Signs"!!!

    I am going to look into this book and add it to my reading list.

    Thank You and Blessings,


  2. Hey Peter,

    Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Enjoy the book - check out Bill Hybel's "Holy Discontent" as well - great reading!

    Take care,


  3. Harry,
    I resonate with your passion for "passion." I want to comment on the influence we have on groups and the impact group consciousness has on us.

    We become more like those who surround us. If we unconsciously hang around groups who focus on "getting by" then that will be our area of focus. However, if we surround ourselves with passionate people who question life and live in the now, we cannot help but become more like them.

    There is power in numbers and I believe the power of 12 has been demonstrated throughout history as highly significant. If we look at the 12 closest or most influential people in our lives. we will see that they represent our thoughts and beliefs.

    When we live out of passion, we circulate our influence with those in our circle. If some in the circle don't resonate with the passion or want to hold us back, then we will alter the members to include those who truly resonate.

    What your article suggests is that we not fall asleep but rather stay awake and keep others awake so we can live life as it's meant to be - full on from the heart. I passionately agree!

  4. Hi Leonard,

    Your kind response really resonates with me - no surprise - from one passionate person to another. :-)

    You raise an interesting point about hanging out with less passionate / less purpose-filled people who suck our life essence out.

    Many like to hang out with these people because if satisifies their ego - that they are in charge or are "better" than the group.

    What they don't realize is that their potential is being diminished.

    It reminds me of the ice cube tray, with one "cube" filled with water and the rest being empty. The tray is designed to equalize content across all cubes, so that they all have equal amounts of water. Eventually the really full cube will have much less - and no more than anyone else.

    This is a sad waste of potential and fulfillment.

    I love your passion, Leonard and I love the way you incubate it in others.

    The world owes a debt of gratitude to people like you.

    Take care and create a great day!