The poky little puppy’s take on passion

by | October 17, 2016

This would have been cooler to say had I won lots of amazing awards in my life.

I haven’t, yet.

But if I were to win something, like say, a Nobel Prize, I can promise you that I wouldn’t cherish even that as much as I cherish the silly little thing that sits behind a glass cupboard in my office.

It rests just beneath my replica of the Statue of Responsibility, gifted to me for writing the manifesto for the project — one of the greatest honors of my life. (I say this because I want you to understand how important this is to me, which you may not believe after hearing what it is.)

It’s an old children’s book entitled The Poky Little Puppy.

pokylittlepuppycupboard

Do you remember it? It starts out, “Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world…”

They zipped through the meadow, rushed down the road, barreled over the bridge and up the hill. But when they got to the top of the hill, one puppy was missing. They looked down and at “the bottom of the hill, there he was, running round and round, his nose to the ground.”

It was the Poky Little Puppy.

Legendary ad writer, author, and one of my mentors Roy H. Williams writes of him,

“He just pokes along and looks at the trees. He looks at the flowers and he looks at the bees. With a smile on his face he says, ‘Haste makes waste. You’ve got to stop, look, and learn as you go!’ That’s the Poky Little Puppy, and he’s the smartest little puppy I know.”

I mention Roy because he gave me the book.

“The Poky Little Puppy Award” is given in each of Roy’s famed “Magical World of Communication” classes to reward the most curious in the class. I was the proud recipient of the award in 2008, and I treasure it.

If I had to attribute any success I’ve experienced to just one quality, it wouldn’t be passion, discipline, tenacity, or perseverance. It wouldn’t be natural talent, vision, or positive thinking. It wouldn’t be any of these “Top 10 Qualities of Highly Successful People” listed by Inc. magazine.

It would be simply this: curiosity.

The Poky Little Puppy and I are kindred spirits. My nose is always to the ground, my ears are never unperked. It’s why I’ve read a minimum of a book per week on a vast range of topics since I was a teenager.

I’m utterly fascinated with learning. I’ve “never let schooling interfere with [my] education,” to quote Mark Twain.

I ask questions. Constantly. Even and especially when they feel like stupid questions; my love of learning far outweighs my aversion to embarrassment. I poke and probe, I study and scrutinize.

But this is not about me.

This is about you.

Specifically, this is for anyone who relates with one of my readers who, after reading this recent article about the importance of finding your passion, wrote to me,

“I always have a hard time with the word, ‘passion.’ I feel like most of the time there must be something wrong with me because I’m just not super passionate about anything for more than a short while.”

She then mentioned the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she found a comforting concept that alleviates her concern with passion.

Naturally, I bought and read the book. Gilbert, I discovered, is right on the money. (Thanks, Angela!)

The secret to a life well lived, she says, isn’t passion, but rather curiosity. She writes,

“Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times — a distant tower of flame accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity.

“The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion. Passion makes you get divorced and sell all your possessions and shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.

“In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?’”

When you find something that interests you, “no matter how mundane or small,” you sniff around like the Poky Little Puppy until you find a trail of a scent. And you follow that trail to see where it leads. That scent will lead to another, and another, and another.

Gilbert explains,

“Following that scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places. It may even eventually lead you to your passion — albeit through a strange, untraceable passageway of back alleys, underground caves, and secret doors.”

Of course, it might also lead you nowhere. But even in that case, you’ll have the satisfaction that comes from being devoted to the “noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.”

But here’s the thing about curiosity: for it to work its magic, it must be a committed curiosity, not a tickling fancy.

“Commitment,” like “passion,” can be a scary word for people — it feels like a huge, well, commitment. What if what we choose to commit to is too hard? And what if we commit to the wrong thing and don’t find out until it’s too late?

Look, I’m not talking about scary commitment — I’m simply talking about the commitment to follow your interest to see where it leads. Just because you’re interested in or curious about something doesn’t mean you have to start a business, write a book, or run for office.

But if you want any sparks to fly or doors to open, you have to at least follow the trail.

You don’t need the blazing fire of passion to succeed. But the glimmering light of curiosity is absolutely indispensable.

If you don’t know where your passion lies, stop trying to find passion. Instead, simply sniff around for something that interests you, then follow the scent wherever it leads…

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