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Ascend Life Blog #7: Talents Plus Passion Equals Strengths

Daniel Gant

What do you think of when you hear the word passion? Specifically, I am talking about passion as it relates to work. Doing work you are passionate about. It seems almost theoretical right? It sounds nice, it sounds freeing, like if we can find our passion then everything will work out for us in life. Enjoyable work, purpose, meaning, significance; all these are promised if you can just figure out what your passions are and then do them.

“Don’t follow your passion, but always bring it with you” - Mike Rowe

You may be familiar with Mike Rowe and some of his excellent talks about work. He is a great proponent of looking for opportunities instead of following your passions. He talks about finding opportunities, learning the skills needed, and then becoming passionate about what you are doing.

You see, the danger is that you can be “passionate” about something that you are not good at. Maybe it is something you can become good at, but maybe not. Don’t base all of your career on this and don’t base a 4-year degree on something like this either.

I totally agree with what Mike Rowe is saying, but I think there is a bit more that should be added to this. I think passion does have a vital role to play and I don’t think this contradicts what Mike Rowe is saying either.

Rowe is talking about finding an opportunity where you can use your gifts and talents. This builds nicely on what we talked about in the last Ascend Life Blog post which is the idea that each of us has unique talents that come more naturally for us. Skills that we can excel at.

At this point I think it is time to introduce a new term: Strength.

I really like the definition that Marcus Buckingham uses in his interview in the EntreLeadership podcast episode #167. Buckingham, a former senior researcher at Gallup, talks about the concept of strengths and weaknesses. He talks about passion as being almost synonymous with strength. He defines a strength as anything that strengthens or builds you up and gives you energy. And a weakness as anything that weakens you or takes energy away from you.

I feel that this definition of strength encompasses both passion and talents.

Think about your strengths, the activities that energize you and build you up. Isn’t a talent involved? Isn’t passion also involved? Isn’t this like finding an opportunity to use your talents while bringing your passion along for the ride?

One of the activities that strengthens me is building and flying model airplanes. I get to use my talents of design, building, and flying all while being very passionate about the wonder of flight itself. I get excited about coming up with a new idea for a plane. I just can’t wait to build it and see how it flies. The whole process is exciting and I get a great sense of accomplishment when one flies well!
(This is a plane I built and took to Flite Fest 2017 in Ohio with my wife and son)
(Check out the video of it flying)

On the flip side, I feel there are things we can be very good at, but if passion isn’t involved at all it becomes a weakness instead of a strength.

I am quite good at using my hands. This translates into being good at working on cars, and motorcycles. My mechanical background also serves me well in this way, but there is something missing. Passion. I can’t stand working on cars. It is a struggle for me. I mean there are times that I do enjoy it, but that is only the case if friends are involved and the vehicle doesn’t need to be running in the morning just so I can make it to work.

This is a great example of a weakness of mine. This is something that de-energizes me. It saps my strength and joy. I have friends, on the other hand, who thrive on this exact activity. They love working on a vehicle and making it run as smoothly as possible. Me, I would rather mow the lawn with a pair of scissors.

There is one exception to this rule for me. If I am designing and building a vehicle, it amazingly changes from a weakness to a strength. If you think about it though, the only thing different between this and the strength I described above with model airplanes is the absence of flight. So maybe this points to the strength being even deeper and even more closely tied to my talents. In this case my talent of creating something new and exciting.

If you embrace your natural God given talents you will find that the things you tend to apply them to are your strengths and you will also find that you are passionate about doing these things.

So, go on, follow your passion, just make sure that your passion is following your strengths.

God Bless,


P.S. I would love to hear what some of your strengths are. If you would like to share please do so on the Ascend FaceBook page.