No, you can’t be passionate about armadillos

I do not like being around “passionate people”. I can’t look at a job ad, a website, or a LinkedIn profile without seeing the word “passion” overused.

With cooking shows on every hour of the day and everyone striving to be a foodie, artist, or connoisseur, everyone wants a little piece of the passion pie. Sure, Gordon Ramsay is passionate about food — he’s always talking about it, he’s been working with it for years, he has books and shows and is working all the time. I’d give him a gold star in passion.

Other people, however, are not passionate. Big companies in America are pushing people to think they’re passionate about things, though.

“Our customers are passionate about good coffee.” — Starbucks

“Our customers are passionate about great food.” — Chipotle

“Our customers are passionate about beautiful products.” — Apple

I don’t know if any of those are directly quotable to those companies. I just made them up. But if they haven’t been said by them, I’d be shocked. You could just as well rephrase those to say:

“Our customers are passionate about waking up in the morning.” — Starbucks

“Our customers are passionate about salt.” — Chipotle

“Our customers are passionate about not losing their iTunes library.” — Apple

You are not passionate about Starbucks, or coffee, or beans. You just want a cup of coffee. There’s probably about 1,000 in the whole country that could rightfully be considered “passionate about coffee”. The rest are just drinking it to wake up, or pouring it so they can get through art school so they can become “passionate about armadillo sculptures”.

It’s not just the consumer side that’s being plagued by passion. HR sunk their teeth into it a long time ago:

“Must be passionate about serving customers.”

“Ideal candidates are passionate about obtaining excellence.”

“This job requires a passion for helping people.”

I bet it wouldn’t take long to find a job ad for a school lunch lady that used the phrase, “Must be passionate about serving nutritious meals to students”. I’m just too terrified to go in search of it.

Just like the art student passionate about armadillo sculptures, you do not get to be passionate about answering the phone and spreadsheets, okay?

Could it be that most everything is just average? That you just have a job? That nothing is really all that exciting?

Exciting is a great rock concert, jumping off a cliff, or stealing Matt Damon’s underwear. You’re just drinking a milkshake disguised as a European beverage and reading a blog post about the cliche that is passion. You don’t get to be on the President’s cabinet because of it.

Passion has lost its power and I have two guesses why:

  1. “Passion” is now HR speak for “must work all day every day for little pay and no benefits”.
  2. Companies are trying to subtly filter out old people. There isn’t a startup or a tech company in this country that’s willing to hire a 50 year old dude (god forbid it be a 50 year old woman). There’s no money to go around so they’re attracting low-salaried people who don’t want a job, they must have a career. These are people entitled to be passionate about what they do. These are the same people who’ll “like” Olive Garden on Facebook in exchange for a free slice of week-old key lime pie.

Most people in the course of human history never found their passion. They lived because evolution made them live. Then somewhere someone realized you could pump the world full of listicles and infographics on “how to do your passion” and now look where we are. It’s worth pursuing, but we can’t all be the Prom Queen.

About the author

Justin Harter

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