By Ross Enamait – Published in 2009
In past articles, I’ve discussed important attributes such as patience, perseverance, diligence, and intensity. Clearly, these are significant variables that must be considered when working towards any meaningful goal. Yet without passion, each variable is limited. How much patience will you exhibit without passion? How much intensity will you put forth? What about perseverance or diligence? When it comes to maximizing potential, passion is an absolute must.
Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel summed up the significance of passion with his words below,
“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.”
Merriam-Webster defines passion as a strong liking or desire for, or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Passion is a driving force. It is the spark that ignites the flame. It illuminates the path on your road to success. Without passion, the road will eventually darken. You’ll lack direction, focus, and desire.
The Power of Passion
Passion often defines the individual. It isn’t something you can fake. You either have it or you don’t. For example, consider the young fighter who literally fights his way out of poverty. His passion steers him through adversity, propelling him towards a successful career. But what happens when the fountain of passion runs dry? Perhaps the fighter experiences the taste of money and loses the fire that once burned within. All of the natural talent and prior years of training cannot make up for a lack of passion.
Many professional athletes become victim to their own fame. They find a life that they never knew existed. They are no longer fighting to better their lives, as they are now surrounded by fame and wealth. During these times, they must follow the advice of Abbe Yeux-verdi,
“Renew your passions daily.”
A perfect example of this concept comes from legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins. Earlier in his career, I’m sure he was passionate about bettering his life (financially) and that of his family. This is no longer the case however as he’s already earned millions. Yet his passion still runs strong, even into his 40’s. Hopkins is not distracted by money. He remains passionate about winning and cementing his own legacy.
Therefore, you don’t need to choose a single passion today that you must then live with forever. There is a good chance that your interests will change over time. You are free to seek out new passions. Using myself as an example, my passion has certainly changed over the years. I renew my passions regularly. Passion for a day is never enough. You cannot ride the coattails of past passion and expect to find future success.
I have not competed in many years. I am happy in my role as a trainer and coach. I am obviously passionate about improving my athletes, but I still must find my own passion for training. I cannot live through my athletes. I must come alive on my own.
What I do in the gym is for me and only me. I don’t train with my athletes. We often do entirely different things. I need to chase down my own goals. No one can pick these goals for me. I decide for myself. The fact that I train fighters doesn’t mean that I still train as a fighter. My passion has changed significantly over the years, and I’m sure that it will continue to change into the future.
Understanding the significance of passion isn’t enough. We must take it a step further and bring passion to our training. Do not falsely assume that passion is exclusive to competitive athletes. We are all entitled to passion. We can all use it to our advantage. I have not competed in many years, but am as passionate as I’ve ever been about training.
Unfortunately, many fitness establishments fail to elicit passion among their participants. They go about it all wrong. These establishments often fall into one of two flawed categories.
I. Guilty By Association – The first group tries to guilt you into training. They use scare tactics regarding health and longevity in hopes that they’ll scare you into changing your habits. Their message often translates to something such as, “Join our group or face a life of pain and misery!”
II. Pick Our Passion – The next group tries to pick your passion. They tell you what to be passionate about. It is their way or the highway. Their message often translates to something such as,
“Train our way as we have exactly what YOU need to function in this world!”
Both models are flawed. No one should be tricked into training, and no one can pick your passion for you. Exercise is not a punishment, and it isn’t something that you should be forced to do. I thoroughly enjoy my time in the gym. I am passionate about training. I don’t get paid to train. I make my living training others. They don’t care what I do in my free time. My training time is my time. I have my own passions that I pursue each day in the gym. It isn’t work to me. It is something that I crave.
The fact that exercise offers health benefits is an added bonus. It isn’t why I train. I’m not running from death or trying to postpone the inevitable. I embrace each day and live life to the fullest. Passion is what drives me, not fear of death or poor health. I am never more alive than when I’m busting my ass in the gym.
In the picture above, it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside. This picture was taken from my garage gym. I had run out of propane for the heater the day before. I don’t know what the exact temperature was inside the garage, but it was cold! I honestly didn’t care. Sure, I refilled the propane tank soon after, but not before putting in a few hardcore workouts in the cold garage. I am too passionate about my training to miss a day because of cold weather. I come alive when testing my limits and seeing just how far I can go.
I often receive emails from readers of the site who have watched video of me training. A week doesn’t pass without someone asking where I find my motivation. It is as if they think I’m crazy for training so hard. They cannot comprehend it. Meanwhile, I am the one who is truly puzzled. I cannot imagine training without passion. I cannot imagine putting forth a half-assed effort. My mindset is very simple. Go hard or go home. It’s an easy choice that I make each day.
And please do not be confused. I’m not writing this article to tell you what to do and why to do it. I hope to help you find YOUR passion.
In the words of Dr. Howard Thurman,
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
A Useful Analogy
When discussing passion in regards to training, I like to use a career vs. job analogy.
Job - A job is an activity that you perform for money. Your primary reason for working a job is to earn a paycheck. Some jobs are better than others, but most of us have had jobs that we dreaded. We weren’t there to pursue a lifelong ambition. We were there to get paid. I had a work-study job back in college that was as exciting as watching paint dry. Boring is an understatement.
Now consider your time in the gym. Does it feel like a job? Do you dread the work? Are you working aimlessly with no real direction? If you answered yes, it is time for a change.
Career – I’m now fortunate to have a career that I truly enjoy. A career involves pursuing lifelong ambitions. I don’t consider my career to be a job. I love my work. I don’t have a job where I check the clock every few moments to see how much closer I am to my next break. There is never enough time in the day, and I’m always eager to get started the next morning. I work very hard, but the work is something that I welcome. I enjoy it. I am passionate about my profession. I am also fortunate to be passionate about my time in the gym. I don’t approach my training with a job-like mentality. It is something that I truly enjoy.
Now consider your time in the gym. Are you working towards specific goals? Are you eager to overcome your next challenge? Are you excited about hitting a new personal record in the gym this week? If you answered yes, you bring passion to the gym. You welcome the hard work, as it brings you closer to your next goal.
In the words of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,
“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”
Wilhelm’s words ring loud and clear for me. I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to stand out. I want to excel. I am passionate about everything that I do. I will never settle for anything but my personal best.
To make the most of your training, you must bring passion to the gym. Passion is more important than even the most sophisticated forms of periodization, program creation, restoration, and supplementation. If you are not passionate, you are indifferent and lost in a job-like mentality. Indifference means that you don’t care one way or another. If you are indifferent about your training, don’t expect anything but nothing.
Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to find something that you can be passionate about. You are free to choose whatever you enjoy. No one can pick for you. Regardless of what some may say, you are not defined by the activity that you choose. You are defined by how you attack the activity. A passionate powerlifter is no better than a passionate ultra-marathon runner. He is different. Different is different. Different is not better or worse.
There was a time in my life when I was passionate about running. It wasn’t uncommon for me to run several miles every day of the month. I ran in several road races and loved every minute of it. My interests changed over time however. Eventually, the running bug left me and I moved on to something else. In fact, I regularly shift gears in terms of passion and goals. I get bored easily. If I no longer enjoy an exercise or activity, I will move on to another challenge. Whoever said that variety is the spice of life was certainly on to something.
When I do shift gears, I remain the same person. Take for example my running craze. It was still me. I’m not better than I was 15 years ago simply because my passion has changed. Today’s passion is different. It isn’t better or worse. When I ran regularly, I put forth my best effort. When I trained this morning, I also put forth my best effort. I gave it everything that I had. The only difference between now and then is that the direction of my effort has changed.
Over the years, I’ve trained extensively with bodyweight exercise, free weights, odd objects, and just about everything else that is remotely related to exercise. I am not defined based on what I’m using for a particular month or year. I am who I am based on the effort that I put forth each day. Unfortunately, many fail to realize this simple fact. There are groups that will judge you based on how you train. These elitists feel that they are better than you if you don’t do what they are doing. They are blinded by their own ignorance. They’ve actually convinced themselves that they are the only people in the world who understand the meaning of hard work.
Take for example the trash talk that often is seen on large message boards between different training groups. I often see bodybuilders dissed by others. Personally, bodybuilding is not my cup of tea, but that does not mean I don’t respect those bodybuilders who bust their ass in the gym. I’ve met many bodybuilders over the years who work as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. Their dedication to training and diet surpasses many of the professional athletes that I’ve trained. These bodybuilders are working just as hard as you. Perhaps their work is different, but that doesn’t mean they are not putting forth a 100 percent effort. It isn’t as if the bodybuilder approaches the bar and decides to only put forth a partial effort simply because he is a bodybuilder. Once again, you are not defined by the activities you choose. You are defined by how you attack the activity. I don’t respect athletes for what they do. I respect athletes for how they do it.
In the words of T. Alan Armstong,
“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen for you, to you and because of you.”
Where To Look
I can’t tell you what to be passionate about. It isn’t for me to decide. You must find something that you enjoy. Your work will be exponentially more effective if you find an activity or sport that you truly enjoy. Do not let anyone choose for you. Find out for yourself. Get your hands dirty and see what lights your fire.
I also suggest charting progress and working towards defined goals. When I ran regularly, I always tried to run faster. When I lift weights, I try to lift heavier weights. When I work with bodyweight exercise, I try to work with more challenging variations. I’m always working towards a new goal, regardless of the training style. I’m don’t train aimlessly. I am training for something specific. You don’t need to train for a sport to have precise training goals. And even if your sole focus is to improve aesthetically, I still suggest working towards precise goals. Performance based goals can be quantified. Your body will come along for the ride by adapting to the demands imposed upon it. Professional athletes offer the perfect example to this concept. These athletes train specifically for their events. They are not training to look good, but it isn’t uncommon for this to happen, simply based on the work that is put forth in pursuit of their goals. It’s a win-win situation, and you are able to chart legitimate improvements in performance. Perhaps you are lifting 10 more pounds than you were last month, or perhaps you’ve gone from 5 reps on the pull-up bar to 10. These are quantifiable improvements that you can track over time, as opposed to staring into the mirror and guessing whether you look 5.3 or 7.4 percent better than you did last month.
And even if you are training solely for looks, what happens when you are finally happy with your appearance? For example, suppose a woman decides that she wants to fit into her old bikini. She busts her ass for 4 months before summer and achieves her goal. What does she do now? Does she enter a 15 year maintenance period without any defined goals? The visual goal has already been realized, so what else can she look forward to? Without a measurable goal, it is common for the individual to lose passion. When passion fades, expect results to fade as well.
When you focus on performance based goals however, you will never run into this problem. I am always finding new ways to challenge myself. Each challenge provides a unique outlet for my passion. I don’t know what I’ll be doing this time next year, but I do know that I’ll be working hard on whatever the goal may be.
Once you determine the power of passion, it isn’t something that you’ll ever want to lose. My passion towards life drives me forward. It is a burning desire to constantly improve. Great things are fueled by passion so why settle for anything less?
If you want to stand out in life, you’d better be passionate. Find your passion and pursue it relentlessly.