This is a piece quickly scribbled on Facebook for my son Julio to reflect on, as he crafted his resume’. Carlo asked that I post it here also.
Everyone is passionate about something. When passion is channeled entirely towards a cause, we get an advocate, an activist, a zealot or even a militant. Legendary Filipino photographer John Chua is an advocate, Jose Rizal an activist, Bin Laden a zealot and militant. It can be about sovereignty or photography.
When the passion is aligned with a source of livelihood — work — then we get an entrepreneur or a pioneer — Steve Jobs, Li Ka-Shing, Orville and Wilbur Wright, John Lennon, Coco Chanel.
Few of us get a chance to have perfect alignment between what we passionately want to do versus what we get to do or have to do. We do have to earn a living, if only to be able to continue being passionate about something (then we become active in a charity, an NGO, or a sport, even a hobby).
Some of us are thrust into roles that tremendously benefit a team, an organization, or a country — then we become a reluctant leader, like college basketball coach Norman Black, Philippine cabinet secretary Jesse Robredo, who died in an airplane crash last year, Noynoy Aquino (who had to be persuaded to run for Philippine President, thank goodness, otherwise Erap would be President today — he was 1st runner-up).
These reluctant leaders dedicate their lives and talent to that role. Then they fade out and do what they always wanted to do. Or they die in role.
I’ve learned that fulfillment — the contentment over a job well done, a cause well-served, a role fulfilled to the great benefit of others — is what really matters.
And you know what? We never know where the fulfillment will come from.
Che Guevara died in the mountains of Bolivia. He was passionate, but for what? Lance Armstrong was so passionate about winning that he shamelessly cheated and lied his way to victory. No fulfillment there. There’s a lot of passion in the science and arts, and yet nobody really cares until you invent a cure for cancer or paint the next Mona Lisa. Then it matters.
The key is, society as a whole must benefit. Advocate. Your field of expertise must benefit. Pioneer. Your team must benefit. Leader. And you, in the most selfish, self-centered way, must benefit. Only then will there be complete fulfillment. If any one of those is missing, you are a Lance Armstrong, a Che Guevara or a Don Quixote.
Passion isn’t the thing. Fulfillment is. And you know what? Fulfillment is a moving target. You stake your life on a narrowing funnel of options as you grow older, and you hope you find fulfillment.
And then you die.
In my all-time favorite book, Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Caine Mutiny, Willie Keith’s father sends his son a Bible, a last gift just before the father dies. The gift catches up with Willie in Pearl Harbor, where he is in transit to the floating rattletrap, the USS Caine. Stunned to see the handwriting of his father, already passed away, Willie opens the Bible to Ecclesiastes 9:10, which his Dad has underlined in a wavering hand.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Posted from Singapore, January 26, 2013.