Passion and Innovation. Interview with 2016 CCC Keynoter Richard Chang

by Amy Harbison


Why is passion so important today?

Passion has always been important and what makes it especially important today – in a world filled with excessive social media stimulation, a wide range of traditional and emerging career paths, and endless ways to absorb personal time with virtual interaction and relationships – is discovering and understanding how leveraging your true passion can help you prioritize how, where, and with whom you spend most of your time in order to live in an energized, engaging, and purposeful way.

You lay out a plan to pursue passions.  How does someone “design his/her passions?”

People don’t actually “design their personal passions”, instead they discover what their true passions are in order to develop a plan that helps them transition to increased opportunities. This could be through work, personal relationships, hobbies/activities, volunteering, and so on.

What if you are coaching corporate clients that are not connected to their passions and feel resistant to “go there” or who see passions as kind of a “soft” skill to develop?

This is a big question with lots of potential “if/then” intervention and coaching strategies.  A couple of general examples that can illustrate a way to work with a client include:

  1. Work with the client to ensure that their “true” passion is defined/identified.  One of the biggest challenging to defining a true passion is to differentiate between “when they are truly experiencing excitement, enthrallment, engagement, etc. in a natural way” vs. “what they may happen to be good or talented at doing – or even keep experiencing/doing because its become easy and/or safe.”
  2. Attempt to uncover what is “really” keeping them from pursuing their true passion.  Resistance like claiming it’s “soft” and/or “emotional” are typically smoke screens that cover up the underlying reality of why they are resisting. Maybe the true obstacle is the fear of pursuing their passion and potentially failing to make something of their passion.  Or maybe they are using other family members, friends, bills, etc. to keep them from really trying to pursue their passion.
  3. Coach them through 7-step Passion Plan Model in order to define their true passion, as well as develop a personal plan to integrate that passion into their personal and professional lives.  This may mean transitioning their role/job and/or career path.  But the Plan needs to be established with the appropriate scope, intensity, and pace.

Building a company is so hard that “if you don’t have a passion, you’ll give up,” said Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc, in a 2000 Fortune article. What is the connection between passion and innovation?

In terms of relationship between passion and innovation, I would consider/classify innovation as a “passion.”  For example, those who have a core passion for innovation tend to be more excited, enthralled, and inspired when they are involved with something that is innovative or draws on their innovation.  This might be represented through work like “starting up a new business,” “developing a new product or service,” “creating a social experience that those in attendance have not really experienced before,” etc.

The thing about passion, is that once it’s not being tapped/experienced through what you are experiencing, then it no longer inspires, excites, or keeps you as engaged as when it was present.  Take the example of “developing a new product or service,” – it is the stage where you are designing/developing/introducing the new product or service where your innovation passion is being tapped quite regularly.  However, if you down the road become the product/service manager with the role of overseeing the distribution of that product or service, then that experience now becomes more of a “maintaining/managing” vs. creating the product or service (which taps innovation). When regularly tapping the “innovation passion,” your performance/behavior experiences more natural excitement, engagement, etc.  In other words, when your true passion is being tapped, it’s easy to lose track of time.

How does passion relate to purpose?

The way they relate (in terms of how I’ve described it in the Passion Plan book) is that once you can define your personal (or organization’s) purpose(s) in life, you can leverage your passion and the energy/focus it brings towards a plan that helps you carry out your personal (or organizational) purpose.  Purpose denotes focus and direction.  Passion fuels the energy to help you pursue and fulfill that purpose over time.

How is it possible for people to sustain their passions when they are executives, leaders or, like our conference audience, coaches who spend much of their time in service to others?

In reality, the overall intent of living your passion is to integrate it into your work role(s), personal life, and relationships, etc.  By doing so – and assuming their executive job, leadership role, and/or coach role is tapping in to their passion — then sustaining the passion isn’t an issue.  For example, if your passion is “developing others” then if your leadership role affords you plenty of opportunity to help develop your team/employees, the “developing others” passion is being tapped regularly so it should continue to be sustained.

How does passion improve performance in organizations?

Similar to a key talent development principle – job/role matching – you can use passion to help improve performance by ensuring that employees in the organization are working in jobs/roles that align with their personal passion.  For example, if someone has a core passion of “competition,” then one job/role that could continually tap his/her competitive spirit could be a sales job.  Highly competitive-driven people (e.g., athletes) are often successful at sales jobs since selling involves maintaining a competitive and position edge over the key competitors to what you are selling, as well as getting across the finish line (closing a sale).  In many occasions, someone that has a very strong competition passion will make a more successful sales person, rather than a sales manager.

Is it realistic for people facing the very real practical realities like needing employment for people to follow their passions?  How can you reconcile passion with the practical “musts” of living?

The concept of “needing employment” becomes another one of those personal obstacles people believe in order to not face the true underlying obstacles they may be dealing with like “fear of failure,” “no having real clarity about what their passion is,” etc.  Live your passion and over time money will follow. That said, there is a reality of having enough money to support your personal lifestyle and family if there is family to support.  Following a refined life/career path to pursue your passion may involve defining your plan and considering scope, intensity, and pace.

For example, maybe you want to transition from Job A (higher paying now) to Job B (starts out with lower pay but could eventually lead to more depending on how your leverage the experience from Job B).  Your Passion Plan not only needs to clarify any potential role/job shifts over time (maybe it will take three to five years) but also  the action plans to implement to help support that transition.  The actions may include working a second job for a while and saving up the extra funds to help fund your “transition” to Job B till the new job starts to increase the pay side of the equation.  Possibly have a defined period of time to reduce out all “extra/non-mandatory” spending in order to lower the financial “cost of living” budget you operate on, to ease the  financial burden when first transitioning to new Job B.  Finally, you may need to ask your spouse, other family/friends, etc. to help enable you to make the transition you are working on.  This may mean them not tempting you to spend or do something that pulls you off track, etc.

How can coaches tap into their passion if they are feeling like they are getting in a rut with their work?  How can they turn passion to profit?

Honestly, if anyone is getting into a rut with their regular work/role, then it’s time to take a hard look at the work/role you’re in to determine:

(a) Did the work/role gradually shift such that you are engaging in activities/environments through that work/role that really are no longer tapping your true passion?

(b) If so, then what will you do about decreasing those “passion-draining” elements/components from the work/role?

(c) What is your plan of action to increase the “passion-driving/tapping” elements/components back into your work/role?

For example, maybe when you first got in to coaching it was because you had a strong passion for helping others “problem solve” things they were experiencing in life that prevented them from doing things they really had a passion to do.  Then gradually over time, your client-base shifted to people that weren’t facing life situations where you could help them “problem solve”, then act to eliminate the problem(s).  Your primary client base gradually became the people that really weren’t committed to problem solving and taking action to eliminate their problem(s) – but were wealthy clients that just wanted someone to “chit chat” with.  The chit chatting no longer was tapping in to the original “passion” that started you into the Coaching profession.

According to my work through The Passion Plan, profit doesn’t necessarily represent financial gain. Profit needs to be defined in terms of “how” you want to profit in life from your passion.  Once you define your “Key Profit Areas” (e.g., education, family, community service, etc.), then you can develop a plan for how you leverage and experience your passion in ways that move you towards successes within your defined Key Profit Areas of your life/work.

What’s next for you?

Some parts of my own Passion Plan can’t be shared 🙂  A few things that are next would include getting back into some part-time graduate and undergraduate teaching (tapping in to my learning and development of others passion) and increasing my volunteer leadership involvement with organizations that have a defined mission/focus that taps in to one or more of my core passions.