A few weeks ago I realized I was boring. Not boring to other people (or not more than usual), but boring to myself.
A friend asked me as I rode shotgun in his car through Kampala if I was excited about my upcoming travels—from Uganda to the USA and back. I told him that I was glad to make them, but not excited, really. This answer, honest as it was, unsettled me.
Later that day, still unsettled, I thought back over the last year. Often when someone asked me, “What are you up to lately?” or “What’s going on with you these days?”, I had nothing to tell them that I was excited about. My life wasn’t exciting to me.
Which is stupid.
There are things I’ve believed deeply in that, when I started actually working on them, just weren’t exciting to me.
I don’t much care if my life is exciting to other people. But to spend my hours on things that aren’t even exciting to me is a waste.
The next day, on a layover in transit to the US, I sat in Ethiopia’s international airport and started writing. What would 2013 look like if I filled it with things that I was excited about?
Excitement and passion are closely tied. We’re excited to do the things we’re passionate about. Everything else eventually becomes tedium. Being a pretty cerebral person I had long thought that passion just meant really strong belief. Like if I just really believed in an idea or a cause then I would, de facto, be passionate about it, and so would be excited to spend my hours, days, and years on it.
But this hasn’t turned out to be true. There are things I’ve believed deeply in that, when I started actually working on them, just weren’t exciting to me.
There in the airport in Addis Abababa I realized that belief wasn’t enough, that there is something more to passion. That missing piece, I think, is best called Love.
We just like them because we like them; we can’t give our reasons. Our love of them is defenselessly true, down to the bones.
Love in this sense is that deep, reasonless affinity we feel for certain things and activities and people, and not for others. Like preferring tennis over golf, or liking one friend’s sense of humor more than most, or the joy I find in writing that I don’t find in 100 other types of work.
We don’t like these things because we believe in them or have reasoned them out. We just like them because we like them; we can’t give our reasons. Our love of them is defenselessly true, down to the bones.
This sort of reasonless love mixed with deep belief makes passion. Or for the mathematically minded: Passion = Belief + Love. The overlap of belief and love, I think, is where we find the sort of sustaining passion that will keep us excited about our lives day after week after month after year.
At least that’s what I’m hoping. I hope that in 2013 every time someone asks me what’s happening in my life I have something exciting to tell them. Not exciting to them, necessarily. Exciting to me.