My grandmother was a telephone operator for Ma Bell in Chicago.

Answering phone calls was not her passion – she didn’t dream of becoming a telephone operator. But she did grow up wanting a job.

And she brought her passion with her:

  • She set the record for number of calls answered in one month, raising the required minimum for all operators
  • She was once on a break outside on a cold, icy day when she slipped on the sidewalk. To protect the team’s injury-free-days record, she claimed she fell across the street.
  • She left to have children and returned as soon as they were all in school.
  • She retired after 25 years of service, proudly wearing her AT&T, ruby-studded retirement ring until she died.

Mike Rowe, host of the show Dirty Jobs, recently reflected, “People I’ve met on my journeys didn’t realize their dream. They looked around for an opportunity. They identified the opportunity. They worked at the opportunity. They got good at the opportunity. And then they figured out how to love it.”

Researchers at Stanford affirmed Rowe’s perspective in a recent study, concluding that following our passion is harmful because it presumes that it’s something to be chased. Instead passion should be developed.


  • Cultivate interests
  • Seek opportunities
  • Ask, “How can I improve myself / this task / this role / my team / the organization?”
  • Build a toolbox of skills, experiences, resources, connections, mentors, and mentees

I grew up wondering what my passion is… And then I discovered a business law class. I developed my interest: I sought mentoring, I went to law school, I created internships, and I became a corporate attorney. And I loved it!

Passion is not to be chased. Passion ignites from within.

The question is… what are you doing to fan the flames?

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