Growing up, we are told to embrace our differences and to just “be ourselves”. Unfortunately, most children and teenagers soon realize that being different is not the best social strategy, and most soon conform to certain standards of appearance and behaviour. High school is where some youth find out what they identify with, and others discover this in university. This includes what crowd you fit into, where your true interests lie, and what people you enjoy being around; however, this is a process that is predicated on stereotypes and conforming to them. In other words, this is how cliques are formed.
I believe cliques form and persist due to a lack of passion and social courage among the members within them. This is normal in high school, as most kids that age lack the life experience and self-awareness to recognize what they are passionate about, let alone act on it. In university, life experience starts to trickle into people’s lives, and cliques are not as apparent, but they still dominate the social fabric of campus. It is only when passion starts to integrate itself into people’s lives do stereotypical conformities start to dissolve in place of a stronger, more individual identity that was shaped as a result of someone acting on what activities or interests they hold dear.
What does all of this have to do with being boring or basic? Humans are a highly socialized species, and most of us dream about being famous in some form or another. In fact, today it is easier than ever to become famous thanks to social media and the internet. There are numerous cases of seemingly average people who became famous because they posted a video of themselves on YouTube. There are normal girls who are famous because they post attractive pictures of themselves on Instagram. Countless more examples exist, but we are truly living in the golden age of self-promotion. Because of this, it is more important than ever to be passionate. We are all competing for attention with one another, but in order to win out, you have to be passionate to stand out from the crowd.
When defining passion, we must first differentiate between internal and external validation. Being passionate about something means that you are not motivated by external validation; you do it because you enjoy it, regardless of what other people think of you. This also means that you enjoy the entire process of it, not just the glamourous end result. Remember, just because you enjoy something, doesn’t mean you’re passionate about it. Let’s pick on both genders to help illustrate my point.
Girls: Usually when I ask a girl what she is passionate about, the top three answers are: food (this includes wine), traveling, and fashion.
Who doesn’t like food? If you had have said cooking, then that would make sense; cooking is an art, but going to a nice restaurant and paying for a nice meal or Instagramming a boat full of sushi is not being “passionate” about food, it’s enjoying a basic biological function and seeking external validation for it.
Traveling is in the same boat (or plane or train or whatever): traveling is an almost universally attractive thing, and it’s largely the result of simply paying for it. Many people enjoy traveling, but remember, enjoying something and being passionate about it are two different things. If you were truly passionate about traveling, you would be going to countries most people have never even heard of, interacting with locals, learning the language, getting off the beaten path, and coming back with a story.
When a girl tells me that she’s passionate about fashion, I usually laugh a little on the inside, and then get her to name her 5 favourite designers. If one of them is Coach, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, or the like, I equate her being passionate about fashion to desiring ownership of expensive designer goods and the external validation that comes with them, but certainly not an appreciation for design, silhouette, textures, and fabrics. Most people who are “passionate” about fashion usually end up looking the same, and if you’re really passionate about it, people shouldn’t have to ask; they’ll know.
Guys: With guys, we tend to be passionate about sports, cars, and technology (especially video games).
Sports are a pretty universally attractive thing, but unfortunately, sports are becoming diluted with casual fans. The Air Canada Centre is infamous for how many of the “fans” sitting in the best seats in the house are always in suits sending emails the entire game, clueless about what’s going on. Blue Jays games are also guilty of this, and while there’s nothing wrong with going out and enjoying an afternoon ball game while crushing a few beers and dummying a hot dog, I find it a little weird when people start rocking Jays hats when they have, at best, a basic working knowledge of the lineup and starting pitching rotation. The reason people wear these hats is the same reason they Instagram their sushi: external validation, which detracts from your true identity. I don’t think it’s wrong to wear a Jays hat if you’re not a passionate fan, but what I am saying is that you should be honest with yourself and find a better alternative.
Cars are a whole other story, and perhaps the worst case of external validation we have in today’s world. It pains many passionate automotive fans to see guys without an ounce of taste driving around a car that they bought simply to get attention. There are plenty of affluent men in the world who choose to drive non-attention seeking vehicles because they are in tune with what their passions are, and cars aren’t on their list.
Technology is a very external validation driven field, with many guys guilty of shelling out insane amounts of cash for a huge TV and an amazing hi-fi stereo, yet they know nothing about what they just got themselves into. However, if you walk into the home of someone who is truly passionate about technology, it’s breathtaking to see how they pour their passion into their toys in order to achieve the maximum output of their resources.
The key message is that just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Being passionate is one of the most fundamental principles of respect in our world. I have infinitely more respect for an awkward nerdy guy who is clearly in love with his work in the lab than some guy ripping around in a BMW who has all the toys money could buy, but when you speak to him, he clearly hasn’t taken the time to develop any internal validation. He has spent all of this time trying to prove himself to the world, that he has lost the definition of who he is and what he truly enjoys. Wanting to make money and spend it is not a passion – it is a path towards dependence on external validation. Instead, become passionate about your work or business and delivering value and good service to your clients; the money will come.
Try this out: if someone were to do an impression of you, what would they do? How easily could they formulate an accurate impression? If someone can’t easily do an impression of you, then you are probably not passionate enough about the things you enjoy. Start embracing the key pillars of own your individuality, and start broadcasting to the world what about you is so special. If you can’t think of anything worth broadcasting to the world, start small. Pick a few things, or even one thing, you enjoy and build on that. Read about them more. Interact with others who share your passions to learn more. Above all, do not live your life based on a series of external validations; it is ok to share your passions with the world, but make sure that you are internally validated before you seek external validation, and not the other way around. Those who have passion will always be remembered over those who don’t. Quit hiding, stop being basic and boring, and start shaping your life around what you’re passionate about.