Passion is a self-directed initiative to learn more about, engage in, and influence others toward interests and issues even when sacrifice is required. This process of self-directed learning, engaging, influencing, and sacrificing can be visually explained in the Passion Pyramid.
At the base of the passion pyramid is self-directed motivation to learn more about an interest or issue. Often this begins with curiosity that motivates exploration through an article, video, book or other source of information. The second level in the passion pyramid is participatory engagement. We continue our learning by some form of doing. We engage in activities that we believe will meet a need, right a wrong, solve a problem or promote a cause.
The third level in the passion pyramid is influencing others toward the interest or issue. As we learn more about and begin to engage in our passions, we can’t help but enlist others to join us. Passion is contagious. At the top of the passion pyramid is a willingness to learn, engage and influence even when it requires us to sacrifice time, energy, money, or personal convenience.
The river of passion flows from self-directed sources of motivation. If you are truly passionate about something, you won’t need others to drive you to pursue it. Talk to someone who is passionate about homelessness or sex trafficking or clean water, just to give a few examples, and you will discover somewhere in their journey, one or more meaningful experience that unearthed a heightened level of empathy, the headwaters of a stream of issue-based passion.
I call this a passion story.
William Carey’s Passion Story
William Carey developed a passion for languages, anthropology, education, and motivated by his deep faith, improving the lives of others as a minister. He was born in 1761 outside of London in Northamptonshire. In 1793, Carey and his young family sailed for India where he devoted his life to the service of others in pursuit of his life passions. If you met William Carey in India and asked for his passion story, he’d probably share something like this.
Level 1: Learning
I developed a curiosity for other cultures by learning about explorers like Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook. As a child, I remember standing on a stump answering questions from my friends about Columbus. I found a book in my uncle’s library that had symbols representing another language. I was fascinated by the thought these symbols were words for people who could speak that language. That curiosity opened a door for language learning. I ended up teaching myself Latin.
Level 2: Engaging
In my early teens I worked as an apprentice shoemaker. I used leather to make a map of the world that I posted at my workbench. I later fashioned the leather into a globe, marking the countries of the world as best I could. My knowledge of geography deepened to the point I was able to teach night classes on the subject.
Level 3: Influencing
My deep personal faith and knowledge of the world converged to form a passion to serve others in places of great need. My heart was drawn to the needs of India as England had a colonial stake in this great land. I began to advocate for the formation of an organization to support people like me who were willing to go. I spoke about this to whoever would listen and wrote my ideas into a booklet that was circulated widely.
Level 4: Sacrificing
Life in India was difficult. My son Peter died not long after we arrived, and my wife had a nervous breakdown from which she never really recovered. I buried her in India as well. We faced many challenges and difficulties. I struggled to find the balance between caring for my family and building the work we came to India to do. Thankfully we were able to persevere long enough for others to join us and together I believe we made a difference.
What’s Your Passion Story?
Obviously, these are my words, not William Carey’s. He knew nothing of the Passion Pyramid, and I’ve oversimplified his life story. But the information is true and illustrative of how curiosity opens the door for learning, engaging, and influencing even when sacrifice is required. That’s what makes a passion story.
It is easier to see a passion story in hindsight, when all the chapters are written. But it’s a valuable exercise to reflect on your journey using the lens of the Passion Pyramid as a guide. If you found this blog helpful and are curious to learn more, check out this month’s Learning @the Speed of Life vlog, The5 Most Common Questions About Passion.