Disciplined passion

Image credit - http://www.asianefficiency.com/

Image credit - http://www.asianefficiency.com/

The word passion and it's many adjectives are overused today. Just browse through any job board today and recruiters want passionate coders, programmers driven by passion and what not... driven by passion of course. What the hell does this mean anyway?

Passion is defined as an intense emotion compelling, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. It is often referred to in a sexual context, but philosopher George Bernard Shaw's believes that intellectual passions are greater than sexual ones. He famously said - 'intellectual passion, mathematical passion, passion for discovery and exploration: the mightiest of all passions'.

Research also suggests that passion is a big factor in motivation towards work. In a paper by Burke & Fiksenbaum, on work motivations, they observe that when an individual is passionate about their occupation they tend to be less obsessive about their behaviour while on their job, resulting in more work being done and more work satisfaction. In fact, these same individuals have higher levels of psychological well-being.

But the converse is also true. Being overly passionate about your job also causes workaholism. However, passion induced workaholism didn't induce stress. The same research paper suggests that, workaholics, who enjoy their work, perform better at work, trust their colleagues and are much more creative that workaholics that are born out of external pressure. The only problem with workaholism is a messed up work life balance. So yes, a passionate employee is good for the company. But I have a deeper question..

Note that there is no mention of continuity. How long is one passionate about anything? Is passion eternal? Do workaholics remain workaholics for all their lives? The answer is no. Hell, even sex grows old!

The point is, very few passions are constant, and of the few that do, it is very likely that it will be a professional passion.

From a recruiter standpoint, a long term passion isn't of great importance for them. But for you, as a professional, it is. Imagine getting bored of the thing that you were always passionate about? How awful would that be?

I found the answer to this in the Indian scriptures. All pursuits of human life leads to detachment - where there is no emotion attached to anything. There's just work, in all it's perfection. A person who is capable of this is known as the Karmayogi - a person who executes perfection in action. There is no passion or pressure here; just work. According to Indian philosophy, all pursuits of life should lead to it.

So is being passionate bad? Absolutely not! The benefits of being passionate are great and if you're passionate about something, you shouldn't curb it either. However, being passionate should not be the end game.

Now, being a Karmayogi is also not easy. Maybe there is a middle ground between the two?

I'd like to think of it as a disciplined passion. You can marvel at the beauty of the work that you're doing, but treat it with a sense of discipline. Musicians do this very well. Playing great music is a very beautiful thing, but to get there, it requires a lot of practice. And at least with music, you cannot approach practice and learning with passion. It has to be treated like a discipline and good, unfashionable work has to be put into it.

Just like a football player focusses on fitness to play football better, just like a writer writes at least a 1000 words every day, to be able to write better quality work, could there be place where programmers treat coding like a discipline? Practice it on a daily basis, make it a part of your lifestyle, so you can code better? You can always be passionate about it, but with discipline.

Practice your coding here. 

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.