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Passionate Passion

April 22, 2018

Today I want to talk about passion. What is the definition of passion?

Before I go to the dictionary definitions, let me share some two stories that will contextualize passion for you.

A story is told that a dispassionate young man approached the Greek philosopher Socrates and casually stated, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge".

The philosopher took the young man down to the sea, waded in with him, and then dunked him under the water for thirty seconds. When he let the young man up for air, Socrates asked him to repeat what he wanted.

“Knowledge, only O great one,"he sputtered. Socrates put him under the water again, only that this time it was a little longer. 

After repeated dunking and similar responses from the young man, the philosopher dunked him one more time longer than all the other times, then finally asked him, "what do you want"?The young man finally gasped, "Air; I want air!"

"Good,"answered Socrates. "Now, when you want knowledge as much as you wanted air, you shall have it."

The one instant lesson you get from the above story is this: unless you want something desperately like you need air to survive, then you will never really get it. If you want anything badly enough, then and only then will you find the willpower to achieve it. The only way to have that kind of desire and willpower is to develop passion for what you want to achieve.

This second story clearly paints that picture for us. Read on.

A young violin prodigy was walking down the street one day trying to decide whether or not to pursue a life in music when he came upon the most famous violin teacher in the world. Scarcely believing his luck, he stopped the great teacher and asked if he could play for him, thinking he would abandon his dream of a career in music if the great teacher told him he was wasting his time.

The greater teacher nodded silently for him to begin. So he played, beads of sweat soon appearing on his forehead, and when he finished, he was certain he’d given his finest performance. But the great maestro only shook his head sadly and said, “You lack the fire.”

The young musician was devastated. Nevertheless, he returned home and announced his intention to abandon the violin. Instead, he entered the world of business and turned out to have such a talent for it that in a few short years he found himself richer than he’d ever imagined possible.

Almost a decade later he found himself walking down another street in another city when he happened to spot the great teacher again. He rushed over to him. “I’m so sorry to bother you,”he said, “and I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I stopped you on the street years ago to play my violin for you, and I just want to thank you. Because of your advice, I abandoned my greatest love, the violin, painful as it was, and became a businessman and today enjoy great success, which I owe all to you. But one thing you must tell me: how did you know I didn’t have what it takes? How did you know all those years ago I lacked the fire?”

The great teacher shook his head sadly and said only, “You don’t understand. I tell everyone who plays for me they lack the fire. If you had the fire, you wouldn’t have listened.


Did you hear the pin drop? I think I did. The silence after the great teacher said those words must have been deafening. But there are many lessons to learn from this story.

For instance, it is clear that the young man was undecided, and that is why he was walking down the street wondering WHETHER OR NOT he should take up “violin-ing”. Friends, you will never achieve anything in life if you get into it with a divided mind. Like the famous African proverb says, “njia mbili zilimshinda fisi i.e. two roads overcame the hyena.” Choose your path and be passionate enough to see it to through to the end.  

Something else we can learn is that according to the teacher, he has a habit of telling EVERYONE who plays for him that they lack fire. This is regardless of whether one has the talent or not. He uses that statement to actually sift those who really are passionate about playing the violin from those who are not passionate about it, irrespective of whether they know how to play or not. According to the teacher, it is not about how good you play but how passionate you are about playing the violin.  When you are passionate, you will do what it takes to get to where you need to in order to achieve what you need to achieve. This goes to prove what John Maxwell says about Talent-Plus people in his book “Beyond Talent”.

So what is passion? 

According to the dictionary, it is “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. It is a thing that arouses great enthusiasm.” It is an intense feeling that creates a certain hunger, fire, yearning, longing and craving for something. It is what makes people go to extremes in order to achieve what others may consider crazy. When going after their dreams, passion brings out the best in people. 

DisclaimerI need to put a disclaimer here and say that I am only referring to non-sexual passion. Sexual passion is known to stir the worst (demons) in people especially if the carrier of that passion has no self-control.  So as I talk about passion, let’s focus on clean, non-sexual and lust-filled passion.

So as I was saying, passion is the one thing that brings out the best in people. It causes people who were indisciplined to suddenly crave for discipline because they now understand that without discipline they cannot achieve what they are passionate about. 

It causes people who have always thought they know it all to suddenly realize that there is always something new to learn daily, and from the least expected sources. This causes them to have a desire to become teachable people.

Passion causes people to do crazy, unthinkable things like leaving jobs that were paying them top-dollar in order for them to follow their purpose. I guess this is what the great Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius meant when he said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. In quick succession, Oprah Winfrey also said, “Do what you love and the money will follow.

But why passion? What is so important about it that without it success becomes a wish instead of a reality? This is where the first story we read in this article comes into place. 

Remember how Socrates dunked the young man in water until he finally begged for air? Well, passion is the air you need in order to keep going after your dream. As I was reading this story, it is like I was feeling the pain he was feeling because I once had a near-drowning experience myself.

I am not a very good swimmer but I do swim, though in all honesty I dread swimming. I don’t dread the activity itself, but the environment (lots of water) in which the activity happens is what makes me uncomfortable. I guess this is because when I was learning how to swim (about 10 years ago, thanks to my son who challenged me), my first experience was not very nice. Water got into my nose and the pain I felt is as vivid today as it was then. 

So it is with this painful experience in my mind that I read the story about Socrates dunking the young man in water! I can tell you on his behalf that it must have been a very painful experience, regardless of how good a swimmer he might have been. Being forced to stay under water against your own will is not a laughing matter.

Coming back to what Socrates did to this young man, I believe he was not doing it to humiliate him or because he felt he was a nobody. No. I believe he did this to him so as to let him know that unless he can forget all else around him and just focus on the MAIN thing at that particular time, then he will not be able to achieve what he wants to achieve. Human beings talk a lot, but there should come a time in life when talking stops and only actions matter. I believe this is one of the lessons Socrates was teaching the young man.


The other lesson that clearly comes out of this scenario is a lesson in resilience. Unless it is something you desperately need, unless it is something you feel you cannot do without, then when the going gets tough you will drop it and move on to the next thing. I guess that is why someone said that your dream has to be bigger than your fears if you ever want to achieve it. Why? Because if your dream is not big enough, if your dream does not FORCE you to stay awake when you should be sleeping, or if it does not force you to search for knowledge when you should be relaxing at Coco Beach with your friends and family, if your dream does not force you to make different choices that make you the odd one out, then when the first sign of trouble comes you will forget that dream and run. 

Your passion for your dream is what will make you keep following it even after everyone else tries to convince you not to. It is what will keep you going after your dream, even when it seems futile to continue with it. The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville are a true testament of this. In 1901 someone told them to stop trying to fly because there was no way any human being could survive in such a fast moving vessel. Exactly two years later, in 1903, the Wright brothers proved those naysayers wrong by flying the first airplane that was able to go close to 1,000 ft above the ground. What made them do the impossible? Passion.

What are you passionate about today?  Do you wake up every morning to do what you are passionate about or do you dread waking up every morning when you consider what you will spend your day doing? Are you retrogressing from bad to worse or are you progressing from good to better every day?

Speaking of good to better, this week’s book recommendation in the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018Book Reading Challenge is a great book by the late Zig Ziglar, Better Than Good. Unless you are completely dead, this book will ignite some serious fire in your bones to go after your purpose.

I’m also delighted to say it will be my book number 21 in this ongoing challenge. I know this is not a competition but I want to challenge you by asking you this question, how many books have you read so far since the year begun? 

In concluding this article today I would like to leave you with a quote from this book:

In the achieving of your goals, it’s not what others believe you can do; it’s what you believe you can do”.

Question, do you have enough passion to do what you believe you can do?


Be ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.



PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 22nd of April, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".





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