Published:  12:00 AM, 20 January 2017

How passion feeds you

Everyone wants a happy, joyful, successful life, and there are a lot of ways to approach the goal. In my view, the key is to find something you care about deeply that drives your pursuit-a passion that makes you shoot out of bed in the morning and will rally people to your side to help you achieve all that you want.

There's a short story I love that illustrates this point: A long time ago, in a tiny medieval village, a farmer spotted three soldiers on the edge of town. Knowing what would likely happen next, he ran into the marketplace shouting a warning: "Quick, close the doors! Lock the windows! There are hungry soldiers coming, and they'll take away all of our food."  The soldiers are in fact hungry. When they enter the village, they start knocking on doors, asking for something to eat. The first villager tells them that his cupboards were bare. At the next, the second villager tells them the same. The next door doesn't even open.

Finally one of the starving soldiers says, "I have an idea. Let's make stone soup." With that he knocks on yet another door. "Excuse me," he says to the villager with glee, "do you have a cauldron and some firewood? We would like to make some stone soup." The villager, thinking there's no risk, says, "Soup from stones? This I've got to see. Sure, I'll help." So he gives them a cauldron and some firewood while another soldier gets some water.
They bring the water to a boil and place three large stones in the pot. News spreads around the town and the villagers begin to gather. "Soup from stones," they say. "This we have to see. I had no idea you can make soup from stones," says one villager. Eventually, tired of standing around, another villager asks, "Can I help?" "Perhaps," says a soldier, "if you had a few potatoes to spare, that would make the stone soup even better." The villager quickly fetches some potatoes and adds them to the pot of simmering stones. Another asks, "How can I help?"

"Well, a dozen carrots would sure make the soup even better." The villager fetches some carrots. Soon others are adding poultry, barley, garlic and leeks. After a while one of the soldiers calls out, "It's done," and shares the soup with everyone to taste and enjoy. I've come to believe that making stone soup is the only way you can succeed at the big and bold. The stones are, of course, your passion, your labor and your big bold idea; the contributions of the villagers are the support offered by the people around you. Everyone who adds a small amount to your stone soup, is in fact, helping to make your dream of happiness and success come true.

Most important in making stone soup work is your passion. People love passion. People love to contribute to passion. And you can't fake it. The human B.S. detector is great at spotting the inauthentic player: the used car salesman, the carnival barker and the disingenuous politician always rub us the wrong way.

Passion is a trickier subject than most assume, but there is a certain type of passion that works quite well. John Hagel, co-founder of Deloitte's Center for the Edge, calls it the passion of the true believer. "People who pursue their passions inevitably create beacons that attract others who share their vision," Hagel says. "Few of these beacons are consciously created; they are byproducts of pursuing one's passion. Passionate people share their creations widely, leaving tracks for others to find them." That's how your passion drives the happiness and success that sustains not only you, but everyone you meet.

The writer is Executive Chairman of the X Prize Foundation

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