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The Perils of Working from Passion


Do you ever get so excited by a project that you can’t wait to work on it? You bounce out of bed with a sense of  purpose, alive with multiple possibilities for the future racing through your mind.

How great is that? Isn’t working from a sense of purpose something everyone wants?

But then you hit a roadblock, the project stalls, you have to find more money or…???

Your passion starts monkeying with your clarity, and:

  • Your belief in how great the project could be makes it hard to let things be “good enough.”
  • You keep wanting to figure out “one more thing” before you get going.
  • You feel caught like a deer in the headlights, facing too many choices and  incomplete information.
  • You don’t want to act prematurely and put the project at risk – until you feel more certain.


  • You decide to forcefully push ahead without working through the details, to “make it happen.”

This week, I discovered that in addition to the passion, purpose and sense of possibility I had for a favorite project, I needed to find some balancing values in order to keep things marching forward. 

That’s why, this week, I went over to “the dark side” (read: my weaker side) of detachment, objectivity, and analytic rationality.

Passion and detachment: they’re BOTH needed.

Now, you may be a master of the art of working with objectivity (ok, it’s not so dark) and your challenge may be to pump up your passion and enliven your projects with more personal feeling and energy so you can engage people more. (Call me! I know how to help.)

pink-computer-768x512But as a feeler, to be able to move into action on my project, I needed to change my approach.

Instead of listening to my heart, it was time to listen to the numbers.

My challenge was creating a budget for a key project. Our client, who’d underwritten our planning process, needed us to produce a “fixed price bid” for the remainder of the project.

She announced, “I need the numbers NOW.”

I gagged. My stomach lurched into a knot, my head into a tailspin. We still lacked information, with key questions sitting on the table, unanswered by the client. How could we commit to a budget with so many uncertainties ahead?

Businesswoman is searching for ideas with bright light bulb and arrows to represent mind map

Time to invoke my rational super-powers, pull up the spreadsheet, and become more objective and detached. I took a few deep breaths. I could do this. I had to. Sure, I didn’t have the answers. But, I could document assumptions and move ahead.

I typed in numbers and studied what I saw. Logic rather than passion was my guide.

I was reasonable.

And then it emerged: a budget. Beautiful, thoughtful, elegant.

Cool objectivity had saved the day.

I sent the budget off – setting aside my concerns about whether the client would “like me” after she saw what I feared were numbers that might exceed her resources. My numbers were fair. I knew we’d be negotiating so I chanted the mantra:

“It’s not personal.”

If you find yourself trapped in your own passionate feelings about a project, here’s what I learned:

  • Keep breathing
  • Stay present: no stalling/no jumping ahead.
  • Stay interested in the details of what you’re producing.
  • Find the artistry in the practical thing you are building, e.g. a budget.
  • Realize that just because you are personally passionate about your project doesn’t mean that you have to take everything personally.
  • Enjoy what you get – and take time to celebrate the little breakthroughs (like sending in a budget!)

Although this approach may not lead to everything you want, I guarantee it’ll keep things moving forward! 

The cool thing is that my project is going to happen (give or take a few budget changes), and I’ll help an organization capture its legacy and shape its future by capturing its stories. Which is something I’m really passionate about!!!

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for your great suggestions, Sally. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed or to ‘freeze’ in those moments. I’ll remember your ideas next time I find myself there!

    1. Thanks Carolyn, So Nice to hear from you and glad that you can continue to see the progress forward in what you are doing – no matter what the journey looks like. My best, Sally

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