Read the title again. Sweet, right? I totally came up with that myself. And it’s totally true. Without risk, there is no passion. Prove me wrong, sucker.
I googled “without risk there is no passion” to see if anybody else ever thought that same thought that I thought.
Several years ago, I asserted that one way to discover your passion is to look for times in your life when (1) you’ve tried something and failed at it and (2) you’ve looked forward to doing it again. (Here’s the video.)
How do I know that Kung Fu Panda is passionate about kung fu? Watch Scene 11. He gets his butt handed to him five times, but every time he gets whooped, he’s even more psyched to get his kung fu on. That’s how I know he’s passionate about kung fu. (That and his first name is Kung Fu.)
Standup comedy is like that for me. But my reaction to an ass whooping is different than Kung Fu Panda’s. When I eat a turd sandwich on stage, it kills me; I can have a cloud hanging over my head for a couple weeks. But it also doubles my resolve. I have to get back in. And when I get back in and I crush, it’s the best feeling in the world. Imagine the feeling the Highlander would get winning a VMA and scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl, all while cutting off the head of another highlander. That’d be close.
So risk is essential. You can’t fail if you never risk. Thomas J. Watson, the guy who made IBM an international juggernaut, said, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate” (nevermind that the best way to increase your failure rate is to double your failure rate). The more you risk, the more you fail. And the more you fail, the more opportunities you have to find areas of passion.
“Okay, Greg, risk taking can help me discover my passion, but you said passion is impossible without risk.” Relax. Maybe you didn’t know it, but I’m a mathematician, so let me prove this whole thing using an indirect proof.
Let’s assume that it is possible to be passionate about something yet not take any risks regarding that thing.
Can someone be a passionate foodie without taking frequent risks like trying new restaurants, using new recipes, or eating rabbit meat? Nope. A “foodie” who doesn’t take risks is just an asshole. I mean a snob. I mean I like Cheesecake Factory, stop judging me.
Can someone be passionate about technology but never try new technology? Nope. Saying you’re passionate about technology but never trying new technology means you’re the managing partner.¹
I guess you could be passionate about classic technology (Atari 2600 video games, Commodore 64 computers, Mattel Electronic Football, and the wheel) without trying new technology. Doesn’t matter. If you’re truly passionate, you’ve got to take risks. Risks like buying old technology online, risking that the polaroid camera doesn’t work, or that the Betamax player is really a VHS player with “Betamax” written on the side in Sharpie, or that girls will never talk to you.²
You’re not passionate if you’re satisfied. Passionate people have an undercurrent of discontent. You’re not passionate if you say Homer Simpson’s prayer in “And Maggie Makes Three”:
Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me, and I am thankful. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here’s the deal: You freeze everything as it is and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is okay, please give me absolutely no sign. [Nothing happens.] Okay, deal.
In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. [Nothing happens.] Thy will be done.
Passionate people do experience contentment, but either (1) it’s temporary or (2) it’s the enigmatic feeling of contentment that exists within regular, passionate risk-taking.
Passionate people stretch themselves. Everybody will eventually get stretched by their circumstances, but passionate people don’t have that kind of time.
Without risk, there is no passion. Prove me wrong.³
²It’s not a phase you’ll grow out of.
³Seriously, because if no one can prove me wrong, then I’ll write a best-selling book called “Without Risk, There Is No Passion,” and with the book advance, I’ll buy a superyacht.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.