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  • Writer's pictureEmily Breeden

“Passion” is a One Night Stand

Now, don’t get TOO excited about the title.  This is not a post about a one-night-stand….(or is it?  Keep reading…) 😉

Something you might not know about me is that I love listening to podcasts.  I used to drive a lot for work, and podcasts not only made me feel productive (you know, because my brain was all stimulated and sh*t), but they also made the time go by SO fast.  There were so many times when I’d want to keep driving after I had reached my destination, just to finish the episode.  Freakonomics radio was my favorite for a while, This American Life was a close second, and of course (more recently) Serial was super addicting and awesome.

Another one of my favorites is TED Radio Hour.  Ever watch TED (technology, entertainment, design) Talks??  They are the best!!!  However, I have a very short attention span (don’t we all?).  So rather than listening to actual TED talks while driving, I listen to the podcast which combines about 3-5 TED speakers into a one hour interview, with little tidbits from each of their talks to go with whatever the theme of the week is.

The other day, during my 5 hour drive from Milwaukee back to Minneapolis, I was listening to the TED radio episode called “The Source of Creativity“… and one of the speakers caught my attention like none other.

The first 3 speakers were fantastic, per usual, but it was Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, who almost caused me to get into an accident because I was so entranced with what she was saying.  Just kidding, that was a huge exaggeration, and I am a safe driver… when there aren’t giant yellow poles next to me in parking garages…

Seriously, I was REALLY excited about what she said.  She put into words something I have been trying to sort out in my head for a very long time.

When I decided to change my career and leave my “usually-stuck-behind-a-computer” analyst job at headquarters to go into outside sales, I was told “That’s great!  You’re following your passion!!” even though I had no idea what I was doing.  I was always like “Yeah!  Go me!” but that word “passion” just never felt right…

Now here I am again, after quitting my sales job, and everyone keeps saying, “That’s SO awesome you quit your job to follow your PASSION and go to Peru!!”  and every time, I awkwardly smile and say “Thank you!!!?” while simultaneously thinking “Am I following my passion?  What am I even DOING with my life?  Which passion am I following exactly?!  Do they know I’m only going to Peru for 2 months?”

…I want to send Elizabeth Gilbert a Thank You letter for what she said, because it feels like a million pounds have been lifted off my shoulders.  Here it is:

“We keep telling people to follow their passion, but I feel like that can be an intimidating, and almost cruel thing to say to them.  First of all, if somebody has one central, powerful, burning passion, they’re probably ALREADY following it, because, that’s sort of the definition of “passion”…you don’t really have a choice… And, if you DON’T have one central, burning passion (which is a LOT of people) and somebody tells you to just “Follow your passion!”… Well, I think you have the right to give them the finger.  It just makes you feel worse!

So I always say to people, if you don’t have an obvious PASSION, forget about it… FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY.  “Passion” is sort of a tower of flame that is not always accessible.  However, CURIOSITY is something that anybody can access, any day.  Following your curiosity may lead you to your passion, OR it may not, and it may have been “for nothing” …in which case, all you’ve done your entire life is spend your existence in pursuit of the things that made you feel curious and inspired, and that should be good enough.  If you get to do that, that’s a wonderful way to have spent your time here.”

Whew!  I wanted to pull over and do this:


Isn’t it such a relief to think about life that way?  It’s so much pressure to think you HAVE to “find your passion.”  It seems so permanent, as if you can only get one to follow in your lifetime.  Like you have to choose one, and even if you fail at it a million times and start to resent it and maybe want to try something else, you still should stick with it because it’s THE life passion you decided to pick, and you’re stuck with it!!  (ohh, f*ck… and I just realized that entire sentence sounds like a synonym for a shitty marriage, which just made me laugh.)

Curiosity is MUCH more attainable.  As Elizabeth says in another interview where she dives deeper into the concept… “Passion is rare; PASSION IS A ONE-NIGHT STAND.” [See, there’s the blog post title.  Told you it wasn’t about sex!  You pervs.]  “Passion is hot, it burns.  Every day, you can’t access that.”

I, personally, am much more comfortable with the idea of following my curiosities.  Here are some examples of how one curiosity can lead to some awesome experiences:

  1. In college, I was curious about Europe (mainly because I always thought people with accents were SO CUTE!), and ended up studying abroad …twice.  A summer program in Belgium, and a semester in Spain.  I know, I know… I am a lucky little biotch.  I thank my parents a lot still, don’t worry.

  2. After seeing Europe, I was curious about other parts of the world… So after graduating I took a job which required Middle East travel.  I got to travel to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE for work multiple times… Oh heeeey, Dubai!!!

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  1. After being back from Spain for a couple years, I realized I really missed speaking Spanish, and somehow curiosity led me to find a Bilingual Toastmasters club in Milwaukee.

  2. After becoming more confident (largely because of Toastmasters!), I became curious about sales, so I applied for an outside sales position in Minneapolis.

  3. After seeing all the beautiful lakes around Minnesota, I was curious about getting back into sailing, so I found a guy on Craigslist looking for a crew. (Ummmmm…. Never do that, by the way… he was f*cking nuts.  However, THAT experience led me to make friends in the sailing community, which ultimately helped me find an amazing sailing club to join!!)

  4. The first couple times I went sailing, I became curious about all of the kiteboarders I was seeing, and the other C.A.C. (Craiglist Ad Crew) victim happened to be a kiteboarder.  So he introduced me to an acquaintance who taught lessons

  1. After my first kiteboarding lesson (WHICH WAS THE MOST FUN OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!!), and seeing how out of shape I was (“sore” is an understatement) I decided to try getting back into working out, and getting healthier…

  2. And more recently on my long journey to feel healthier, I became curious about the nutritional company that has helped me a ton (see this post for details) – and now I find myself with lots of new friends and connections, learning about an industry I never knew existed, and having a blast as I prepare for my volunteer trip in Peru, (which, of course, just started as just a curiosity!!)

These are just some examples… But honestly, it is so freaking cool to think about how following one little curiosity can lead to so many new experiences and connections.  None of the above things have become one single, burning “passion” of mine at this point, but all of them are/were both fantastic AND scary in their own way.  Every single one of those involved getting out of my comfort zone… which I think is the most important thing in the world.

My trip to Peru may be life-changing and I might come back with one ultimate passion that I want to follow; or, it also might go down in the books (or blogs) as another curiosity that I followed.  And guess what?  Either way, it will be a BEAUTIFUL experience!!! (unless I get malaria, severe traveler’s diarrhea, yellow fever, and typhoid fever all at the same time.  Aaaaand I just jinxed it.) 😛 

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