A “Mission” Statement (sort of)

I had an interview two weeks ago that still bothers me today.  Check that, it made me dumbstruck.   I sat down, as I have several times in the past and the process began.

The first question out of his mouth:  “What is your passion?”

Oh, hell no.

Sitting there stammering and stuttering for 3 minutes trying to spit out a passion is like taking an one-way trip to the depths of hell with Osama Bin Laden.

Why ask me that question?  No matter what answer I give about a passion, it’ll never be the right answer in that person’s eyes. 

I’m starting to hate that word…passion.  But, according to so few people, “passion”  is the only way that they’ll accept me for who I am, and what I have accomplished.  It sounds unfair, but that’s what the interviewer pretty much said.

I’m so screwed.

Fast forward to a long discussion my Mom and I had on Sunday.  Initially, she was upset that I was thrown a curveball.  To her, you interview and hire people based on their skills and aptitude, not on what their passions and dreams are. 

Passion is a foreign word to around my family.  It was mentally drilled into our heads that if we want to succeed, we have to go to school, graduate, and land a job.  Those were the three tools we needed in order to “survive”and advance in the real world.  Passion wasn’t one of them. 

I’ve said in the past that “passion” is something I don’t have an answer for, and yet that’s all what anyone wants to know from me.  “What is your passion?”  “What are you passionate about?”  Hearing those questions grates on me.  Mom and my opinion is that passion is nothing more than something that successful people talk about having…once they have become successful.  Lori Day of FocusFirst said “passion alone doesn’t pay the bills.”

And yet, being pressed to offer an answer, I don’t have one.  My passion is to work.

Work is a function to sustain a living, either it’s meager to extravangant.  Work gives you a sense of identity and pride.  Passion, in its initial stages, is a dream, until it blossoms into an opportunity that’s sitting in your lap. 

As we talked, Mom and I discussed what I’m good at and what I enjoy doing.  For the sake of our discussion, the term “passion” was stricken from the record.  That word was driving us crazy.

  1. I’m proficient in writing
  2. Working within a structured environment (“structured” is like cubicle kryponite to many).  To me, “structured” is “what are the parameters and procedures to do this job”; “if a problem arises, who do I go to/what do I do”, etc.)
  3. I like gathering and dispersing information that would benefit individuals who deem it as important to them.
  4. I like volunteering for because there is a purpose and a service to the community that is or needs to be filled.
  5. Despite being a natural introvert, I enjoy working as part of a team.  I’ve played in sports all of my life, and it’s important that everyone has a role in what they are doing and we work together (despite differences) toward accomplishing a task. 

A light bulb went off in my Mom’s head.  “Why did Wartburg nominated you to serve on their alumni board?”  “How did you get involved with American Diabetes (Assn.)?”  “What about Art Noir and the Art Center?” 

The light bulb went off in my head. 

…dedicated to challenging and nurturing students for lives of leadership and service as a spirited expression of their faith and learning.

The line isn’t a quote.  It’s a statement. 

The Wartburg College mission statement. 

The four years I spent at Wartburg, I learned what it means to be of service to others.  It’s not a religious statement per se, though Wartburg is an ELCA school, but it applies to every student that walks through the campus mall.  I serve on the alumni board because I’m loyal to my alma mater and I adhere to the principles of what it means to be a Knight.

I serve on the American Diabetes Association board and work as a volunteer because I’m dedicated to teaching people what it means to live with diabetes (nearly 17 years now) and not being afraid to talk about it in the open.  I volunteer for the Des Moines Art Center because I have a deep appreciation for the arts (I can’t tell between modernism and expressionism, but if it looks interesting, I’ll listen). 

In some sort of way, I am dedicated to challenging and nurturing myself for a life of leadership and service as a expression of my faith in the community and learning. 

That’s as close of a “passion” statement I’ll get, for now. 

The interviewer may not get his “right answer”, but he’ll have to accept my response if I had to do the interview again.  Whether or not anyone else in the future will interview or hire me based on my “mission” statement, I can’t worry about that. 

I’m sticking to my guns on what I’m…well you get the picture. 

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