Must Passion for Profit Take Control of Our Lives?

My colleague Patrick Rhone, who does such a marvelous job with the design and formatting of Pegasus, recently shared with me one of his blog posts.  We were discussing in a staff meeting the importance of free human agency and he mentioned his different take on achievement.

Here is his blog:

Profit and Passion

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (via Annie Mueller)

Once we can divorce profit and passion, only then can we find passion in any profit and truly profit from our passion.  The idea being that it is not the thing that is the passion, but something deeper.  That the thing is simply a clear path to a feeling… A place.

I’ve had a lot of disparate jobs in my life.  Bagging groceries, working front desk at a hotel, managing video rental stores, writing customer service letters — the list goes on.  A common thread I found in all of my jobs and roles, both past and present, is “helping people.”  Every job I’ve had or volunteer opportunity, this is not only the common thread, but what “filled me up” about it.  And if I can simply identify the way in which whatever I choose to do helps people, I then can be filled up doing just about anything.

Once I discovered that my real passion wasn’t the various jobs/titles/work I’ve done in my life, but, instead, was the common thread that ran through all of them, I found that I didn’t need to do a particular job or a thing to experience the joy of my passion.  I found those roles were simply a catalyst and that I could find my passion doing just about any job or thing.

If I were paid to dig ditches, I would discover that the ditch is for a water line to a new house. That means someone gets clean water.  Once I think it through, I can find my passion in the ditch digging.

My friend, the storyteller Kevin Kling, once said to me, “A story is always about two things: what it’s about and what it’s really about.”

I think this is the “really” behind “pursuing your passion.”

Now, I am a writer, technical consultant, circus rigger, home restorer and mental health advocate (Not to mention a husband, father, son and friend).  The title field on my business cards reads, master generalist.  If you ask me what I do for a living, I’ll answer, “I help people. Sometimes, money is involved.”

I discovered that I don’t need a specific career, job, hobby, etc. to be able to “do what I love” or get “paid for my passion.”  I could stop chasing it and start realizing that I already have it (or could choose to).  Not only have it in one specific thing, but could have it in just about anything.

Patrick’s insight aligns with a famous affirmation of Mencius:

Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.  The king said, “Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?”

Mencius replied, “Why must your Majesty use that word “profit?”  What I am provided with are counsels to benevolence and righteousness and these are my only topics.  If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?,” the great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?”  Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.  In the kingdom of ten thousand chariots, the murderer of his sovereign shall be the chief of a family of a thousand chariots.  In the kingdom of a thousand chariots, the murderer of his prince shall be the chief of a family of a hundred chariots.  To have a thousand in ten thousand and a hundred in a thousand cannot be said not to be a large allotment, but if righteousness be put last and profit be put first, they will not be satisfied without snatching all.  There never has been a benevolent man who neglected his parents.  There never has been a righteous man who made his sovereign an after consideration.  Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness and let these be your only themes.”  Why must you use that word – “profit?”