After about 13 years living on the left side of my brain, I got this crazy idea to take guitar lessons. I can't remember where the motivation came from, other than having a general love of music. Looking back it seems especially strange since this impulse to learn guitar came after having suffered through the torture of piano lessons and a shockingly unspectacular stint as a trumpet player (actually, more of a trumpet blower than trumpet player). Whatever the reason, though, guitar turned out to be a passionate interest of mine. I've never become more than a pedestrian player, but I still love to play, and I'm sure I always will.
I don't know if everyone has a passion, but I do know that everyone should. Having a passion is what teaches us about our inner fire - that otherwise latent power we all have to face down and overcome obstacles in our lives. There is a purity in the enjoyment we get in pursuing our passion that is impervious to the de-motivating effects of failure. In fact, pursuing a passion is not about success or achievement at all. It is about the fulfillment we experience through the simple act of engaging in our passion.
My daughter enjoys singing and performing. I don't know if it's risen to the level of passion within her, yet, but we'll see. My son, though, does have a passion - karate. Ryan is 11 and has been taking lessons now for about 6 years. For the first few years, it was more of an interest than a passion. These days though, he can't take two steps, it seems, without throwing out some kind of karate move. Unfortunately for my poor, withering body, he's decided the best barometer of his development is to hammer me with kicks and punches, then ask, "Did that hurt?" - as I wait for feeling and function to return to my now permanently black and blue arms.
While recovering from my most recent son-induced beating, I thought about how lucky he is to know the feeling of being passionate about something. It's a reference point he will always have in the face of the many challenges he'll face.
No one gets to go through life unaffected by failures, setbacks and disappointments. In great measure, how well we cope with those unwelcome periods is based on the belief we have in our capacity to overcome. And, there are different shades of belief - there are confident beliefs and passionate beliefs. Confident believes are rooted in the head. Passionate beliefs are rooted in the heart. When confidence and positive thinking fail, passion endures. In the darkest of times, confidence can be crushed and that little cheerleader in the back of our head can be drowned out. Passion, though, lives in our soul. Things we are passionate about have intrinsic meaning and value to us. That is why success does not fuel passion. Passion burns simply because we love whatever it is we are passionate about. The act of engaging in our passion is its own reward.
So, even in the absence of any extrinsic rewards, the joy we receive through the simple act of engaging in our passion can sustain us until, one day, we realize that the real secret to success lies less in our ability to achieve, than in our capacity to never give up.