What Does Passion for Work Look and Feel Like?

How do you know that you are passionate about something?

Seems like a strange question to ask, doesn't it? I expect that a lot of people think that passion is something that is self-evident when you are in it.

One might argue: "If you have to ask, you're probably not passionate". But I think this may be a flawed notion because I suspect that passion and pain come together.

I've started reading "The Dip" by Seth Godin and he says, pretty much categorically, that anything worth getting good at is going to include a dip. And he defines a dip as the hard slog that you have to push through in order to become world class at something. This is a kind of pain, yeah?

I'm experiencing a kind of pain at work right now.

I do infrastructure automation. How do you go from empty data center to racks of servers ready to take work? I solve a part of this problem. And it's a big problem.

We've done a good job of coding through the work of cable validation and initial configuration for a rack of compute and network devices. But now that we know which servers need work, we're stuck on the next problem of how to triage and dispatch repairs. And, frankly we've taken steps back, since the vendor recently shipped with different firmware which is incompatible against the code we wrote to employ their auto-provisioning mechanisms.

"The nature of work is inherently unremarkable," says Godin in Poke the Box, which I have read enough to get the gist of it. This sentence is profound to me right now because I have chosen this path and I'm in this slog and I'm wondering if it's something I really want to become world-class at doing.

And so we come back to the question I started with. Am I really passionate about this thing that I am doing? How do I know whether I am or not?

I have tended to measure passion by tirelessness:

  • I don't notice time while doing the work
  • I tend to think about the problems when I'm not working

These can, of course, also indicate that I merely have an obsessive personality.

It's hard to tell but I am clearly in a Dip and I am really deeply wondering if there is something that I should quit. Maybe not the coding... maybe just the infrastructure bit where I work with factory-fresh and us configured hardware... Where I have to work with The Vendor to solve problems.

I suspect there will always be someone else... maybe not a Vendor, but some other group, whose work I will have to depend on. In this case, it happens to be a manufacturer of hardware... In another case, it might be software. Is this sort of dependency with long resolution times ultimately avoidable? Maybe if I worked for a smaller outfit doing a smaller thing.

I haven't quit any aspect of what I am doing though my attitude has wavered. For now, I am leaning in and seeing what impact I can make. This is my default course of action.

I don't love the way the story looks right now. Maybe that's how it is when you're in Act 2 of a 3-Act play.