Passion free fruit…

I woke up this morning feeling fine, as I had something special on my mind. In fact it was splenetic rather than special. Michael Ruhlman is a writer whose words make sense to me, and his piece entitled “The Fallacy of “Follow your Passion” resonated clearly with my own views.  Passion, it appears, is all around us,  so we should be feeling it in our fingers and in our toes. Every branch of the media trumpets the discovery of yet another butcher, baker or cup cake maker who is, first and foremost, “passionate” about their chosen metier. There is a memorable sequence in Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore’s version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in which a “passionate” one legged Dudley Moore applies for the job of running messages across the moors. Peter Cooke’s sage observation ” I have nothing against your right leg. The problem is that neither do you” says it all. Passionate enthusiasm is a wonderful emotion, but it has no link whatsoever to ability.  Few of us would be overjoyed by the prospect of being treated by  a “passionate” dentist or anaesthetist nor by the sight of a “passionate” pilot emerging from the cockpit of our flight. Maybe we just relish passion in people who can’t kill or maim us. Having a passion has hitherto signified being desirous, but in nowspeak it has transmogrified into a self bestowed confirmation of quality and talent. For “I am passionate about…” read “Aren’t I just so good at..” The annoying thing about wanting to be good at something is that it takes time, honesty and hard work to find out if you have any hope of being good at that something  –   but that concept would be ill at ease with the zeitgeist.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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33 Responses to Passion free fruit…

  1. Your statement. “It takes time, honesty and hard work to find out if you have any hope of being good at that something” reminds me of a comment my daughter made. She was a child then, taking tennis lessons. When I asked her how her class was she said, ” Boring. The instructor taught us the forehand. But he already taught us the forehand last week.”

    Exactly. Now she was an expert, having been taught it one time.

  2. Such fun! What a great word “splenetic”

  3. Roger, thank you for railing about language corruptions like “passionate”. I know that complaining about poor usage of language is pissing into the wind, but hey, someone has to do it. When I point out grammatical errors to my juniors, I am net by a certain rolling of the eyes, and if there were thought balloons as the comics, “Silly old fart” would float above them. Please keep doing it.

    But Ronnie’s comment brings to mind a conversation between a chess champion (It might have been that fellow who wrote about chess for the Times) and Carol Vordeman and Tony Buzan. The question was asked as to the difference between the brains of Raymond Keene (I remembered his name) and Vordeman’s. The answer was “Nothing, it is just that Raymond put in 10,000 hours learning chess.”

    Which brings me to the moral of this rant: if you have not spent the 10,000 hours learning whatever it is, then you are probably not passionate about it.

    I am passionate about my wife, and I have spent 10,000 hours learning her (moderate success) and passionate about good martinis. I hope I have not spent 10,000 hours with martinis.

    • I was a test pilot for Martinis in my youth but I think 10,000 hours of flying the difficult way is terminal. It reminds me of the news that “Dean Martin is not drinking any more” which was modified a breath later with “He’s not drinking any less”:)

  4. Mad Dog says:

    It’s all down to learning and practice, but passion helps to keep you going when you make mistakes 😉
    Mr. Spigot will want a bit of Winky Wankie Woo next!

  5. Leta Blake says:

    Loved it. Lord knows I am passionate about a lot of things that I lack any ability or talent for. Music, for example. I am decidedly passionate about music. But I can’t carry a tune, have unpredictable ability to keep rhythm, and can’t play any instruments to save my life. I do think that Mad Dog has a point in saying that passion is what helps a person going at something they *are* good at, too, though. Something needs to drive one through the mistakes, the humiliation, the misery, the disappointment, etc, etc, in order to finally do something. So, I guess passion surely isn’t the end all, be all, but if you aren’t on fire just a little for whatever it is you’re pursuing, then you’re probably not going to keep going after the first speed bump or twenty.

  6. Well said. While language does and should evolve sometimes it takes leaps that it shouldn’t. Passionate is one of them. And in reading this post I realise that people have been using it a lot to describe what they are doing. Which would be fine if it didn’t have the implication that they were an expert at that activity. I’m passionate about a few things but readily admit I’m still on the learning curve. Some curves are steeper than others!

  7. Hmmm, perhaps “Follow your obsession” would do instead.. no, that sounds a bit like a stalker. How about “Follow your fervor”.. sounds somewhat feverish.. “Follow your frenzy”.. that sounds a bit like my musical skill:D “Follow your Ardor” again, a bit too stalker and love-sick. “Follow your joy”.. I think I’ll stick to that one!!
    The sad fact of it all.. is that some often trumpet “Following your passion” as if it ensures financial gain.. another misleading aphorism!

  8. As much as I enjoyed (and agreed with) your post, the very best line is that answer to Barbara
    “There are no comparatives left as we all try to live in superlatives”
    I may write that one on the wall somewhere. In public…

  9. I love Pete n’ Dud. Seminal.
    They’re quite passionate about Greta Garbo, too. Or was it Greta was passionate about them?

  10. One can only hope that with passion comes an ingrained ability to fulfill that passion. Then again, that’s why we have so many media whores indicating they have “passion” for something they have no ability to do.

  11. Eha says:

    Slightly on a tangent: reading all above made me sidestep to my favourite food blog and this morning’s comments: ‘overjoyed’, ‘fantastic’, ‘glorious’, ‘superb’, most delightful’ ‘exquisite’, ‘unsurpassable’ etc all appear. Have I been guilty: yes, more than once – somehow one feels the need to make certain the writer knows s/he has done a good ‘job’ which you appreciate, and, oft in an abysmal hurry one does not step back and think of how to state the same without the ever-repeated superlatives! You have made me think, and not for the first time 🙂 ! But I can be ‘passionate’ about quite a few matters too 😀 !

  12. Tandy says:

    My friend Jane-Anne says the word passionate should be reserved for reading books and taking your knickers off!

  13. Pingback: Magnolia’s Iced Ginger Cookies | Barbara Bamber

  14. Kenneth Hope says:

    I am sick and tired of the word awesome !!

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