Creating a passionate...you
If you want to turn someone on, ask them about something they're passionate about and watch what happens. This is also a great recipe for cheering someone up. People love talking about their passions. (Which is one of the reasons that creating passionate users means you don't have to rely on traditional marketing... passionate people talk.)
But what about you? When someone asks you what you're passionate about, does it have anything to do with your work? Did it ever? If you used to be passionate about what you do, but now have trouble maintaining it, that's a problem. You can't expect to inspire passion if you're not feeling it yourself.
But it's tough to do. I remember sitting around at Virgin once, on a tight deadline, with several other members of the team, and we were all stressed, snapping at one another, just having a typical Bad Work Day. Finally one of the young QA guys who'd been testing a game in the corner stood up, looked at all of us, and said (with tons of attitude), "Are you HEARING yourselves? You guys are whining about making games?"
Okay, that shut us up. We were all doing exactly what we loved doing, but we had somehow stopped being mindful and slid into Work Attitude. From politics to policy, we were cranky about everything. Yet the artists were doing art. I was programming (which I love). Even the producer was doing what he loved--managing a large creative team and bringing a commercial product to market. But still, we were whining. "The deadline is too short." "The manager is an ass." "Marketing doesn't care about us." "The only time Richard Branson came to party with us, he was too drunk to notice." "We're the forgotten stepchild at Virgin... Virgin Games gets all the glory."
Now, that doesn't mean we should have just been thrilled with everything that was happening. But when we all took a step back, most of us knew that there was a time when we all would have killed for this job, and the chance to work at something we genuinely enjoyed, and most importantly--were genuinely good at. So why is it so hard to remember that sometimes? And what can you do about it?
I talked earlier about this notion of keeping your work fresh and inspired, as opposed to reaching the phone-it-in stage.
If you're working in a field you hate, at a job you hate... I don't know what to say except get out as soon as you can. But I'm really addressing this to those of us who actually are doing what we at least once really loved, but are having trouble keeping that early magic. I'd love to hear what other people do, but here I'll give you my own personal approach:
1) Find a way to be around others who are passionate about the work you do.
Passion is infectious. Even if it's just an online user group (although there are reasons why face-to-face is more effective).
Actually, just being around people who are passionate about anything is still good for you. (And conversely, stay away from the people you don't want to turn into, or those who judge and criticize you.)
2) Attend conferences.
This automatically takes care of tip #1, but it goes beyond that. I try to go to at least three conferences a year, sometimes double that. I can usually live on the motivation I come home with for months, not to mention that virtually all of my better ideas have come from conferences and trade shows.
My two top favorites:
Game Developers Conference (bummer -- it's next week and I can't go this year because I'm preparing for eTech). Honestly, this conference is good for ANY developer, regardless of whether you are or ever plan to create games. Just being around that much enthsiasm and brain power... you'll be energized and full of ideas.
Siggraph I can't even explain this one if you haven't been there. Anyone remotely interested in art or technology will walk away changed. You don't even have to attend the actual conference sessions. Just pay for the exposition pass, and you'll be amazed. If you're looking for The Next Big Thing, there's a good chance it's lurking around Siggraph a few years ahead of time. And it's incredibly fun.
I encourage you to attend conferences both in--and out--of your field. Almost every year I try to attend at least one show that has little to do with what I'm working on... just to see if there are lessons learned in their domain that I can apply. I find that anything related to entertainment, advertising/marketing, or training can apply to virtually anything.
3) Ask yourself, "What did I used to really love about this?" Remind yourself why you wanted to do this!
It doesn't mean you don't change your mind, or outgrow it, or evolve, or whatever... but you won't know whether it's time to move on or whether you just lost your perspective unless you truly answer that question. Ask yourself, "assuming I do NOT win the lottery, what else would I rather be doing for work right now?"
You don't have to be passionate about the company you work for in order to be passionate about what you do. You don't have to love the company in order to love users.
4) Learn something new.
It doesn't even matter what it is, although if it's something new and cool related to what you do, that can help reinfuse your work. Remember, learning turns the brain on. If you ask people what they're passionate about, you'll almost always discover that this thing involves ongoing learning and improving.
Of course if you hate the company you work for, and/or you hate what you're doing, you're not likely to create passionate users. In that case, I hope you're simply on short-timer mode, and you're reading this blog because you're planning for the time when you can do something you really can love : )
Most importantly, don't let anyone stand in your way. Passionate people are often threatening (although I have no idea why) to those who aren't so happy, and the threatened types can really f*** things up for you. It took me a long time to learn that lesson, especially because the threatened ones can often be the "wolf in sheep's clothing", offering you advice "out of concern" or trying to "not get your hopes up." I try to be realistic, and know there are no guarantees, but for gods sakes, I intend to keep my hopes up. I'm certainly going to do better that way than if I have my hopes down, and it makes the journey a lot more exciting.
Posted by Kathy on March 2, 2005 | Permalink
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» Professional health and well-being from Random Thoughts
Once again I find myself reading and very much liking what I read over at Creating Passionate Users. Kathy Sierra has a reminder for us all on the need to stay passionate (or enthusiastic, if you prefer, Aaron!) about what we do. She gives four tips ... [Read More]
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I always find meaninful things here and I learn.
Posted by: Shirazi | Mar 2, 2005 9:13:07 PM
Oh, it's so true. Someimtes work in a field I loved would blow away my passions earily. Another interesting thing is when the things don't have money involed, it is great.
I'm so happy I found really meaningful goody here.
Posted by: Leonore | Mar 3, 2005 12:26:01 AM
That last paragraph hits home. It seems like that thing of people wanting to damper your enthusiam is one of the constants in the universe. I read about this in old diaries from when I was a teenager, and now at 35 this is still something I have to deal with. I wrote a long email about this to Hugh at gapingvoid, maybe I'll forward it to you. In fact, fuck "maybe", I'll fire that off right now.
Posted by: AcouSvnt | Mar 3, 2005 7:45:05 PM
Very well said indeed! I would like to thank you for this post. I am a programmer who used to love his job until I suddenly found out that programmers are not exactly paid enough compared to other morons out there. Your post has reinforced my belief that some sane humans still roam on this planet!
Posted by: Raj | Mar 4, 2005 9:35:51 AM
I just recently discovered the Head First books, and through them WickedlySmart.com, Javaranch and this site. Can I say, Kathy and Bert are like the kind of teachers I wish I'd had when I was at college doing my A-levels. I've always loved computing and IT (been programming since '81, and working in IT since '97) but back then I actually flunked my computer studies A-level because it was the most boring thing ever - like the Exam boards had taken this thing I loved and turned it into this awful chore, just reams and reams of facts about computer systems that were obsolete when the exam was first thought of.
In contrast, I find working through the examples and exercises in Head First Java actually puts the fun back into learning. I find myself reading stuff Kathy and Bert have written when I'm relaxing after work, and grinning in agreement with a lot of the ideas.
You've once again hit the nail on the head with this article, too - sometimes self-motivation is the most crucial thing. Working in a post Y2K multinational IT outsourcing company, we get a lot of jaded Eeyores, embittered by their careers underperforming compared to where they'd wanted to be by now, but once you get together with some real enthusiasts at a convention, you can get the old spark rekindled.
Can I also recommend joining local groups - I don't think there exist many locally organised Java clubs but maybe this would be a good idea. I've come to Java via a circuitous route that took in a brief stint using perl, and my local perlmongers group are awesome - you can feel the buzz of excitement as much at the tech meetings as at the socials. Maybe we should see about forming a sort of Javamongers type of thing, where programmers from each city get together every so often to swap ideas?
Posted by: Matt | Mar 8, 2005 3:51:45 PM
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