Passion for…. Anything? Everything? Something!?

Passion, desire, enthusiasm, excitement, zeal, and fervor……

These words describe more than just a passing interest or modest caring for something. They describe a level of devotion and dedication that surpasses the “normal”. They so poignantly portray an artist lost in her instrument, an athlete at his peak output during an event, an evangelical preacher reaching the climax of his sermon, a writer furiously transferring her thoughts to prose, and a designer becoming “one with his design”. They also describe some of us engineers as we dive into the unending ways to solve our technical, mechanical, and electrical puzzles and problems.

I recently had a few opportunities to visit with some of the “best of breed” in their respective industries and see passion displayed in very different ways.

In Silicon Valley, I attended an engineering summit with some of the brightest networking minds in my industry. Unlike many other work get-togethers, this one centered on emerging technologies and products instead of alcohol and socialization. Of course there were a few boring powerpoints and “dry topics”, but our conversations around the offices, seating areas, and dinner tables inevitably centered around design, implementation, and innovation within our fields of routing, switching, and security.

Each person I spoke with had their own unique specialization within the industry and you could feel the “fire inside” when the conversation turned toward their specialization. We stayed up late each night talking out our struggles to find solutions to complex and evolving networks with clients and customers. There were more than a few bar napkins and empty glasses used to visualize networks. At one point I remember getting into a heated argument with a particular ONF founding member about the role SDN will play in the future of networks. Some may call us nerds or geeks and that’s fine, but you can’t deny the people at that summit all shared a passion for engineering.

I had another fantastic opportunity to witness passion on display when I went to the “Il Virtuousi” music festival in Recife Brazil earlier this year. Definitely not as a participant, but as a behind the scenes viewer. I am by no means a proficient musician, I play around on the guitar and took a couple of years of violin in school, but I do appreciate music immensely. I’ve always really enjoyed listening to virtuosic musicians in any genre from classical (Tchaikovsky violinists), to country (Brad Paisley’s guitar), to metal (Metallica’s orchestration), and electronic/dub-step (Lindsey Stirling).

I was able to spend the week in Brazil with several amazing musicians considered to be “masters of their instruments”. There were two concert pianists, a soprano vocalist, a double bassist, a saxophonist (did you know there were multiple saxophones?!), a classical guitar duo, a violinist, and a trio of strings from Sao Paulo. Witnessing their astounding virtuosic performances was one thing, but it was really just like watching my engineering friends work through a complex issue or a passionate sculptor manipulate his clay. You were witnessing experts in their field put together years of work and study into a finished product.

Where their passion really shone was after their concerts. When they sat around the table and spoke as masters to other masters the conversation bordered absurdly genius at times. It was such a rare privilege to peer into the souls of the passionate in another industry. To realize that, like me, these people do not do what they do “for money”, but they do it to pursue perfection in their field. They want to better themselves, their specialization, their audience, and the world with their passion. They spoke of their instruments not as inanimate objects, but as extensions of their souls and bodies, much as I feel when designing a secure data center. The great divide between science and art was eliminated when their passion was on display.

So, my questions to you today are: “What are you passionate about?” and “How are you bettering the world through your pursuit of your passion?”.

Your career field may not be as glamorous as an artist’s or musician’s, nerdy as an engineer’s, or the center of attention like a public speaker’s, but you still have the opportunity to advance your field and better the world by diving into your passion headfirst and intensity discovering the depths of your speciality.

Is your career a means to an end? Is that end your true passion? Are you sharing your passion with others? How are you bettering the world each day?

If you live near a university, I suggest you go watch a visiting scientist/engineering lecturer or attend a musical recital. 99% of the time, both are free and you will experience someone’s passion. You may not care about a Russian composer or understand the newly developed artificial intelligence algorithm, but you can’t help but feel inspired to pursue your interests with reignited passions. If you can’t reach a university, go watch one of the thousands of online TED talks.

Passion is all around you. Immerse yourself, be inspired, and in turn inspire others.

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