While reading a magazine at a dentist’s office in Paris, Philippe Petit became engrossed in an article about the Twin Towers in New York. As an 18-year old street performer, Petit was constantly on the lookout for venues for his high wire balancing acts. Studying an artist’s rendition of the World Trade Center, Petit came up with a vision of walking a tightrope between the two towers.
Over the next six years, Petit focused exclusively on his seemingly preposterous dream. He collected any information he could find on the architecture of the Twin Towers, practiced his high wire act endlessly, and saved money for a flight to America. Upon arrival to the United States, he wasted no time in scouting the World Trade Center. Under a variety of guises, Petit and friends surveyed the towers.
On a Tuesday night, Petit and company ascended the towers with equipment in tow. Using a bow and arrow, they fired a line from the north to south tower, and spent the remainder of the evening feverishly rigging a one-inch steel cable between the towers. Early Wednesday morning, with the bustle of Wall Street having just begun, Petit mounted the high wire to perform. As amazed onlookers marveled at the sight, local authorities gathered to apprehend the illegal tightrope walker. As a consummate showman, Petit focused on his act, refusing to be swayed by policemen shouting at him to stop. After eight trips back and forth between the tower, Petit finally turned himself in.
Petit could have let distractions dissuade him from his dream. Raising money for the scheme, eluding security to scout the towers, and stretching a cable between the skyscrapers all seemed like impossible tasks. However, the magnitude of Petit’s passion to accomplish his vision dwarfed the obstacles to his plan.
Key Points about Passion
1) A person’s inner fire propels him or her to excel. Put simply, desire determines destiny. As a rule, leaders attain influence proportionate to the size of the blaze burning within them.
2) Passion supplies leaders with an extra edge over the competition. After a championship contest, sports commentators occasionally observe how the winning side “wanted it more.” All else being equal, the more passionate team typically prevails.
3) Passion makes the impossible possible. People are wired so that when their souls ignite, they no longer shrink before the barriers in front of them. That’s what makes a passionate leader particularly effective. He or she conceives of possibilities and opportunities for progress whereas dispassionate persons only see roadblocks and reasons why a vision can’t be achieved.
Application: Take Your Temperature
Consult three people (such as a spouse, mentor, or trusted co-worker) to give you an honest assessment about the level of passion they see you exhibit toward your job. Inquire about the ways in which your passion manifests itself most evidently. If they consider your passion to be low, then do some soul-searching to recapture enthusiasm for your work. Why did you enter your present profession? What once excited you about work that no longer may be a source of inspiration? In light of your answers to these questions, ponder ways to ratchet up your passion.