What People Teach Us: Lady Gaga And The Discipline For Passion

Leadership Lesson: Make sure you truly understand what goes into making your passion work for you, taking into consideration your circumstances and resources alongside your desires, before either pursuing it fully or walking away.

What does passion mean to you? How does your passion manifest itself? Is your passion guiding you to step out of your comfort zone and take something new and bigger on?

How is that working out?

Let me tell you why I ask.

A few years ago I read a book that I guess could fall under the self-development genre and which walked the reader though how to be so memorable that everyone would have to remember who they are.

In the course of making its case for how to develop oneself effectively, the book warned how dangerous passion can be. I mean, it REALLY tried to make the case against passion, spending about three chapters’ worth of time, pages, and attention on the matter.

That book was my first realization of how disputed (not sure if that’s the best work, but I’ll roll with it) the value of passion is when it comes to its effectiveness. With growing regularity, there are more articles and conversations in which passion is dismissed as if it’s a paralyzing pipe dream or a fleeting fantasy, a desire that just doesn’t deliver.

I wondered at the time Why would anyone have anything against passion?

And the answer quickly made itself evident as I read that book. The author provided an example of a man who was so enamored with the Zen Buddhist culture, lifestyle, and beliefs, and was so consumed with it throughout his life, that he gave up on it. Meaning his life. He left his life behind to stay at a Zen Buddhist Monastery. And a year into his stay, he realized how unhappy he was because it wasn’t what he expected.

And this – THIS – is the type of example people provide when they laugh in the face, or at the mention, of passion as a driver or motivator.

Related: To The Future Leaders: Make Sure You Recognize Your Drivers and Motivators

But that’s the most extreme case you can use — someone upending their life completely, leaving everything behind, to reconcile their life to what they believe their passion is. Yes, the aforementioned almost-monk studied the culture from afar, but he then jumped into the monastery by beginning a two-year stay. A TWO-YEAR STAY! In his story, there are no measured, tempered, graduated, or incremental steps to test the waters.

Nevertheless, this is the example the author provides. He argues this is why living and/or following your passion is ridiculous.

People can be pretty snide in those criticisms.

In the commonplace criticism of passion today, you’d swear the naysayers picture people waiting to be carried off by doves to some faraway land of enchantment when that person says they want to follow their passion in life.

People seem to get categorically shut down. And that dismissal is just another example of how oftentimes there’s no moderation in life. It’s either this or that, but there’s no in-between.

So don’t follow your passion, because if you do, you’re an idiot.


I mean, I get both sides. I see the side that is so passionate about something, they want to pursue it at any cost. And I also can understand the detractors who highlight the dangers of blindly following your passion, like the almost-monk did.

Notice what I said there, though:….blindly following your passion.

Not everyone is blind when it comes to pursuing their passion. That’s where there’s room in the middle of this debate. There’s an option somewhere in there for people to do their due diligence when it comes to what they’re passionate about. And that diligence is what provides the balance between giving into what makes us emotional (the passion), without being blinded by that emotion (like almost-monk).

Related: Before We Can Find Balance With Others, We Need To Keep Ourselves In Check (Part 1)

It’s not ignoring what you want. And it’s not giving up on it completely.

And this binary of “follow your passion”/”don’t follow your passion” was a bit disrupted this past week in the most unlikely of places: a quick comment by Lady Gaga when she accepted the award for Best Original Song at the 91st Academy Awards.

Stop rolling your eyes. Hear me out.

Within the standard Follow your dreams!, You can do this!, You can be up here! speech she gives below, there’s a great piece of advice. It’s a quick utterance that can help me make my case and continue a great conversation about how we can blend the schools of thought on passion.

Check out the video. The specific portion I want you to hear starts at :28.

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When she gets to the message for the people at home, she’s still understandably emotional, and you can almost see all the emotions, thoughts, and words swirling around and through her head as she tries to catch, arrange, and share them.

At one point she says, “…there’s a discipline for passion.”

That’s what I want to echo. Passion gets a bad rap because of the stereotype (let’s call it what it is) people hold of it – that someone is blindly following their emotion without any control.

(You have to wonder how many people haven’t — and don’t — follow some semblance of their passion because they’ve given in to that advice, thinking others may know what’s better for them and what they want.)

But, again, keep in mind: “….there’s a discipline for passion…”

Preparation. Diligence. Readiness. That’s what’s needed.

Related Newsletter: How Disciplined Are You In Keeping To Your Plans?

Whether that’s what she intended to say or not, the message is powerful: There needs to be a plan for what you desire and dream.

Many people want, desire, and long for things, but they’re not ready to put in the work. Others are.

Where do you fall?

So my belief is people shouldn’t say passion is stupid. Everyone is different. They approach life differently. They have different objectives and goals, surrounded by different circumstances and partners, and are willing to give different levels of commitment, through different forms of grit.

But I also don’t believe in telling someone they should go for what they want and their dreams, following their passion, without providing a caveat. That caveat is this: They need to be prepared for how they pursue those paths.

That preparation and clarity of mind is a perfect example of emotional intelligence. You’re pausing the emotion, to prepare and monitor a logical response.

Related: Emotional Intelligence: This Is What It’s Like To Break The 4th Wall

If you can’t do that for yourself, who might you have in your corner who will allow you to follow what you really want but keep you fully accountable and awake to the reality and results?

And hey, this is all my own opinion. It’s my advice. And everyone has an opinion. Everyone has advice.

But, advice really is a shitshow — isn’t it?

Everyone out there has a different feed of guidance and approach than the next person. In the book I originally referenced, the author’s take was that you find your passion after you’re successful at something. That you can grow into it.

That’s absolutely a possibility, yes.

And others say you can know your passion before you get started. And that can work as well.

Each person is served differently by each of those paths. You have to figure out which one is best and most realistic for you, out of all the possible paths.

Advice should not be cookie-cutter. You should pick and choose what works for your personal, individual circumstances and customize your attack plan accordingly — and realistically.

But always do your due diligence.

If not, the only one who truly suffers if you don’t is you.

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