Words by: Ricky Sheward
You’ve seen it on job applications. “We’re looking for a dedicated (check), driven (no problem), creative (yeah) and passionate (uh oh) individual.”
And immediately we start trying to be mind-readers. We try to predict what the employer wants to hear. The truth? For some reason the truth seems ludicrous and, for some of us, embarrassing. Instead, we stop being who we are and try to be who we think they want us to be. And I say try because you can’t keep it up: You’re destined to fail.
What is passion, exactly? The Macquarie dictionary defines it as “any strong feeling or emotion, such as hope, fear, joy, grief, anger, love, desire etc.” That’s quite a list of words, and, interestingly, not all of them positive. I say interesting because I believe it’s one of the genuine hallmarks of passion. Whether it’s an angry retort or a standing ovation, something stirs your emotions enough to compel you to add your voice. This “overflow” is where passion lies. It’s right there in our language, isn’t it? Do we not share our passions? It’s the point where interest stops being about just your satisfaction and becomes about getting it out there, spreading it, sharing it with others.
Now, I’m no Tom Cruise when it comes to the things I love, true. But I wouldn’t say I have no passion. In fact, I’d say passion has had the single greatest effect on my professional life so far.
I’d like to share that story with you. I’m a bit embarrassed by it, sure, but I followed my passion and it opened up doors I’d never considered before.
My passion is Japan. When I was a kid I loved to play video games. I had a friend who would bring over games and we’d tackle them together. One day, he introduced me a game from Japan. We struggled with that. We had a notepad nearby where we’d copy all the strange symbols into just so we could remember which attack did what. I don’t recall finishing it but I remember thinking how cool those graphics were and how I wished I understood the story a bit more. From there I got into Anime. I did boxset swaps, went to Supernova a few times, and even joined the Anime Club at Griffith. Even started learning the Japanese names for attacks on Dragonball Z and using them around my friends. On reflection, I was probably a little insufferable.
When I got to University, all students in Linguistics had to choose a language to specialise in. Having studied German all my life, the choice was obvious: I swapped to Japanese. Not my most logical decision I grant you; it certainly baffled my family. But this was a decision made with the heart.
Shortly after graduating, I got my first job as a Coordinator of International Relations for Cairns’ sister city, Oyama. I stayed in that job for five years. During my time there I got to:
- Climb Mt. Fuji
- Travel all around the country (been to Kyoto about four times)
- Go to live music events
- Study swordsmanship in Sano and perform at martial arts festivals
- Join in a festival as a backup drummer
And, of course…
- Meet and work with some truly amazing people who shared their passions with me.
I’m not saying it’s an experience on par with the life of Ghandi, but the point is this: I never intended to do any of these things. They appeared when I followed my passion and they remain some of the best experiences of my life. And, more importantly, it deepened my passion. I stopped being all about pop culture and started learning a bit of history. I delved further into the language so I could communicate better. I learned more about the social structure, the education system and cultural norms, not through books but through interaction. And through these interactions I learned about others’ passions.
And they were fascinating.
A truly passionate individual will make the mundane seem exciting. A truly passionate person will never complain about their work because they love what they do. And this is what that employer is looking for. This is why you want a passionate individual working with you.
And exactly why you should follow your passion looking for a job, rather than letting your job dictate your passions.