We have been looking for our “passion” since high school. Our counselors said things like, “follow your heart,” “what do you think will make you happy,” or the ever favorite “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” If you were like me, you changed your major three times, ended up majoring in history, and learned more about what your passion was by the leadership positions you took, clubs you joined, and the people you met along the way.
That is where your passion collided with reality. I had the pleasure of collaborating on an internship with Tanya Cole, Director of Annual Giving at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Tanya told us interns that working in nonprofit tends to be a happy accident: something very few people intend on going into but end up using their skills, finding a passion, and making a career out of it.
I couldn’t agree more.
At the recent Breakfast of Champions with Lisa Lane, CEO of Tolerance in Motion, it was innately clear that she felt the same way, and I was hearing her version of why passion and nonprofit work go hand-in-hand. She started off with where she began, and how she (similar to me) earned a degree for something that she ended up not using. She reminded all of us that “you can’t be in a nonprofit unless you’re passionate about a topic.” Lisa exuded passion for Tolerance in Motion. It was so enlightening to hear her speak about how she started as a stay at home mom looking to volunteer, and ended up contributing to an innovative experience for people from all walks of life to understand a push button topic like bigotry.
She went on to compare Millennials and nonprofits, and how she feels Millennials act a lot like a nonprofit should. To be successful in your career, it takes the “never say die” passion combined with the tendency to yearn for instant gratification, which she described as “emblematic of hunger.” Talking about how she thrives to be more like Millennials in her life, Lisa stated that “if you can never lose those traits, then really nothing can stand in your way because you simply will not take no for an answer.”
I felt empowered when she brought up the fact that “knowledge is worth money, so don’t give away what you can gain from.” There tends to be this stigma that if you work in a nonprofit and follow your passion for a cause, you probably aren’t going to be rich. Now that may be true, but you shouldn’t get so wrapped up in your passion that you’re lying down and giving people your ideas. Your ideas are just that – yours – and you should be properly compensated for them.
I also had a eureka moment when Lisa said, “Even when an experience isn’t a great experience, it is a wonderful experience because you can figure out and catalog what you don’t want to do or what kind of leader you don’t want to be.” This is obviously just as important to success as having an amazing experience, and a necessary mantra for rough times in your career.
For me, the most profound point Lisa made was passion equals job stability. This is where your dreams can meet reality. I don’t know if Lisa intended the underlying topic of her talk to be about passion, but to me I couldn’t help but feel passion resonate with every word. Lisa Lane knows passion and she taught me a little bit more about my passion.