Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: What Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Teaches Us About Passion
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” -George Eliot
The small group of us, normally slouched over our desks in ripped jeans and stained hoodies, were sitting up straight in our seats, decked out in our Sunday best. We were one semester shy of graduation. That year the economy stunk. No one was recruiting. Most slunk home dispirited, heavily in debt and facing a bleak future of “McJobs,” the termed popularized by writer Douglas Coupland.
But what college graduates always have plenty of, is free advice. Thanks to our journalism professor, local journalists often dropped in to give us their take on the “real world” and dispensed with advice about breaking into the business. These we ate up like manna from heaven.
On this particular day, it was a local male anchor. When he strode into the room, I watched the eager faces of my classmates and saw the unmistakable gleam in their eyes. A roomful of young Cassius, not even trying to hide “their lean and hungry look.” The poor anchor was Caesar, all too aware of his admiring audience’s lack of any real reservation to unseat him.
As an ice-breaker, the anchor asked the class members, “What do you want to be doing in news?”
The brash young Cassius sitting next to me answered without hesitation.
“I want your job.”
When was the last time you were this hungry?
If you recall William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you know I’m not talking about an empty belly. I’m talking about ambition. And behind every ambition is a person with deep passion and commitment to a dream.
When it comes to the topic of passion as it relates to vocation, the viewpoints appeared evenly divided between two camps. One camp regards passion with reverence while the other with equal disdain.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon: “You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”
Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address has also become somewhat of an anthem for those needing courage to follow the road less traveled. Jobs ended his now famous speech with a call to action, a rallying cry to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
On the other hand, the latter camp believes that discipline trumps passion any day. Writer Stephen King have been known to say:
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
And here, the Author of The War of Art, Steven Pressfield:
“This is the other secret that real artists know, and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves.”
Certainly, discipline and perspiration (hard work) will always trump inspiration alone. Part of being an adult is doing things we don’t like because they are important to our growth.
That said, you should never rule out passion.
Discipline alone cannot sustain you. Think about your lean college years surviving on Ramen noodles. You were fed. But try eating them, day in and day out.
Passion creates desire to take action and gives voice to your intentions. In her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Author Sue Monk Kidd stated that saying your intention out loud allows the Divine to hear.
Until your dreams are fulfilled, you need to stay hungry. If you remain hungry, there is little risk of complacency and mediocrity.
So now, are you ready to take on the world?
Before you spring into action, here are some questions to test the merits of your passion.
1. If there is a strong chance that I won’t make money from it, am I still motivated to do this?
2. If no one recognizes my work, would I still want to pursue this?
3. If others whose opinions I care about see this to be lacking practicality, am I still committed to doing this?
4. If I commit the time and money to doing this, and it does not yield the results I wanted, would I still want to do it?
If you answered “yes” to the above, and accepted risks that come with your decision, then it is for certain. You must do it.
Bottom line: cultivate your passions but do not follow blindly. Know that success requires passion, discipline, ability, opportunity, hard work and a host of variables that don’t fit neatly on a T-shirt or make for a catchy slogan.
My posts in March focuses on the theme of “Spring into Action.” For more on taking action, you might enjoy, “4 Baby Steps to Help You Push Your Limits.”
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