Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is Your Passion? Why Do You Do the Work You Do?

Before my grandmother died, she told me that the time that she felt most alive in her life was during the Civil Rights Movement.  I was surprised by this statement.  After all, she had four amazing daughters and five amazing grandchildren in her lifetime (including me!).  Yet, it was helping to end American Apartheid that moved her to the core.  That ignited her passion.

My grandmother was an amazing woman but her longings and desire to connect to something bigger than herself are quite ordinary. 

According to Jim Collins in The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, once we satisfy our need for food, clothing and shelter, one of the deepest desires we have as human beings is to be connected to something larger.
"No matter how much the world changes, people still have a fundamental need for guiding values and sense of purpose that give their life and work meaning.  They have a fundamental need for connection to other people, sharing with them the common bond of beliefs and aspirations.  They have a desperate need for a guiding philosophy, a beacon on the hill to keep in sight during dark and disruptive times.  More than any time in the past, people...demand that the organizations of which they are a part stand for something."
Look around and you will see this desire expressed in many ways.  Some people attend churches or mosques or temples.  Others take drugs.  All you have to do is witness our cultural obsession with American Idol to understand our collective longing to "touch the stars" and experience largess.

As nonprofit leaders and movement builders we have an amazing privilege and opportunity to help people connect to this powerful, yet basic human desire.  We can be that vehicle for our volunteers, donors, employees, board members and clients to connect to greatness.  We can help them "make history."

The problem is we can't do this if we spend all of our time focused on the minutiae of running our organizations.  While budgets must be managed, programs must be evaluated, and people must be hired and fired, we must also set aside time for the organization and it's constituents to DREAM.

I'm doing a workshop in a few weeks on this topic and I can't wait because helping people to THINK BIG is one of my favorite things to do.  If you too need help remembering or (re)envisioning WHY you do the work you do, use the questions below to spark a conversation with your team.

Do it now.  Push yourself to move beyond the daily drudgery of work and reconnect with your mission.

The world is full of deeply complex problems that won't be solved by management alone.  We need to become more than pencil pushers.  We ALL need to become visionaries and transformational leaders who find and ignite our own passion and then inspire others to greatness.

Live Big.
  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • If you left your job/organization today, what would be your best memory?
  • What is your biggest organizational accomplishment to date and why?
  • Who and what organizations do you most admire most and why?
  • When you think about the work that you do, what gets your juices flowing?  What ignites your passion?
  • If you left your job/organization today, what would you miss most?

1 comment:

Mazarine said...

Dear Jocelyn,

Thanks for writing this post.

We do need to connect to our missions.

My mission is to empower women. That's why I'm creating a video game to teach people how to fundraise. You can find more info on it here: