Saturday, July 29, 2006

Passion V Professionalism

Passion: 1.A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.

Ardent love.
Strong sexual desire; lust.
The object of such love or desire.

2. Boundless enthusiasm: His skills as a player don't quite match his passion for the game.
The object of such enthusiasm: Soccer is her passion.
An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger: He's been known to fly into a passion without warning.

Professionalism: n.
Professional status, methods, character, or standards.
The use of professional performers, as in athletics or in the arts.

These are two different things and I was involved in a short space of time with two very different programs each based on one of the above qualities and both under the category of leadership and more importantly self leadership.
Now the program that largely involved Passion was a program called RYLA and one of the outcomes of that program was in fact this blog. I think. I actually think I decided to do this at my river, I'm not sure but I certainly had never been exposed to Johari before.
The other program was RMIT's Professional Skills Program (PSP) a program that dramatically changed my life, got me my job and has defined me largely as a professional and also in put me in touch with a lot of my aspirations.
So you may have guessed I am going to compare and possibly judge the two programs from the title based on Passion Vs Professionalism.
I do so at the risk of getting blacklisted and condemned and possibly even have my blog abandoned by a large proportion of my Audiance.
But let me explain: On Saturday I went to FLN to sit in largely to learn about strategic planning as you can guess how often the board at my work invites me to do so. Mark was chairing the meeting and his core business is strategic planning and it was a fascinating insight into the process even though it took 4 hours to achieve a short list of dot points, it was thorough, concise and thoughtful. I was extremely impressed by how it all came together and it will help a lot in planning my future.
But Mark at one point raised the subject of when he sat down to do a strategic plan with an environmental organisation in Victoria.
One of their stated company values was to be passionate about the environment, when the question was posed 'Do employees necessarily have to be passionate about the environment' the answer the board concluded on was 'no' all they really wanted was for the employees to do their job. It had infact become detrimental as incompetent employees could justify their existence by just being passionate about the environment whether they were helping the cause or not.
Infact you often here 'yeah but he is really passionate about x' x being whatever the fuck 'he' is supposed to do as an apology for someone who is no good at their job.
Competence is not nearly so often a value.
This got me thinking.
The other part of it was I recently met a bizarre person who has been to every school I ever went to and knows almost everyone I know but I had never ever met before and as such had also done RYLA, she raised an issue that the program had 'an expectation' on it, in that she felt an assimilate urge.
In the spirit of disclosure of my own opinion I have to agree. Now I went to RYLA with goals, I felt I needed it and literally had no idea what to expect. Which I don't know why the fuck that is, I mean when I look back on it I easily could have been given the itinarary a month before hand I don't think it would have detracted from the experience at all. But my attitude was alined that I would participate and I had learnt from my time in college and the PSP program that not utilising everything on offer is really cheating yourself. That being said I think I was old enough and mature enough to get a lot out of the program, and I did there was a diverse range of speakers, interesting and wonderful people to interact with and an artificially supportive environment.
I feel I may have to qualify that last statement, I got shitcanned at the camp for saying something to that effect but it was a sentiment amongst other participants I talked to during the week. At RYLA everything anyone says gets a clap, Personal attacks and criticism are by unspoken rule not welcome, everything you reveal about yourself is accepted. This is because for the most part everyone there are strangers. A bond forms, friendships begin but the environment nonetheless cannot be carried on into the real world, you have to stand up for yourself.
For those that recognise this RYLA is and was for me a great place to get everything onto the table. The theme is self discovery and self leadership as well as disclosure, like getting stoned you fix all the problems of the world and have fun too.
PSP was a twelve week program starting with an induction, Terry tells you what it is all about the moment you sign up for it and there's no strings attatched. You show up for orientation which lasts the first week. You get to know yourself and the others and do all sorts of activities, to pick up on the issue with RYLA the difference being none of the activities may push people out of their comfort zone in terms of how they interact.
Much of the material covered in the orientation was the same as RYLA, we also did MYER's BRIGGS psyche test and others the results of all I can give to you later. PSP also looked at the Native American Medicine Wheel Leadership model, identifying historic leadership role models and what they indicated about us, a personal development portfolio and how to go about it and a work placement 2 days a week at a company working on a project for them.
On top of this was the Executive lecture series which was pure stimulation, hearing from researches in marketing macro environment and demographic changes, the global economic situation and some CEO's. It was diverse and was something to mull over and take away from.
On top of that the Business Policy Game put everything into context by simulating running a company, strategising, learning and working as a team.
It was intense and I made some friends through it that I will have for life. My brother Jerry from China got so much out of it he talked to me for a day and a half about how it changed his life.
I have to admit PSP was gruelling but it equipped me so well for life in one semester that I can attribute most of who I am today to my participation in the program and was easily the best time in my entire life.
Ironically the skills I picked up in PSP are possibly what enabled me to survive and get the most out of RYLA down the track.
So the reason I fear I am already off the RYLA Alumni invite list and possibly to be injected with polio by Rotary is I have to say PSP - Professionalism wins.
Infact almost every experience in my life reinforces it.
Namely there was a girl the sister of my brothers friend who I had to debate against in high school. She was shit. She was shit at debating because she would bring herself to tears in her speech about the insensitivity of my arguements. She would not provide any substantiation or arguements but was passionate about it. Needless to say that even though it took my dream team several years to make it, she never got anywhere with this approach. Because passion can be a wholly alienating and offputting thing to observe, like the girl in Tasmania who read about how sickening homosexuality was when they decriminalised it.
That being said we all have our passions but they are something that sadly are unreliable, at the end of the day they are merely something we feel strongly about.
My friend one of the faciliatators described RYLA as a cult, I don't know if she was kidding or not but I would have to take her seriously. RYLA actually advocates a 2-week rule. That is make no dramatic decisions until two weeks after RYLA. Thats because your mind gets knocked in and out and shaken all about by what goes on their, what you discover about the world and yourself and peoples innermost, innermosts.
I mean some people after a while you just get sick of hearing from, some people never speak up, and some people blow you away.
That being said to me I enjoyed the RYLA program a lot but it's effects subsided and happily I am left with some handy seminar notes on leadership, communication and change management and have some lasting friendships out of it but my recovery didn't take two weeks or even 10 minutes, once I was headed home I felt level headed.
Being an intravert I guess I am lucky because social interaction for 12 hours a day for 6 days leaves me completely exhausted, so possibly unlike some people I didn't have the sudden clash of going from a completely energising experience into an unreceptive real world.
I'd also probably been approaching the camp as an ending rather than a beginning as it was my plan to go to the camp which would be the last time I'd ever see my ex- it neatly delineated my old life and new life and after the week I was ready to start living again.
What I needed to do was filter out and seperate the learning activities from the highly emotional and emotionally charged parts of RYLA. They are two distinct and seperate things and I'd be interested to hear any opinions on how the combination of the seminars and other practical activities might have been changed as an experience by the hyped up emotions of the week - which I presume I was not alone in experiencing, and I refer to the general atmosphere and not my specific circumstances either, I was well past grieving at that stage.

PSP is getting axed, and I could almost cry thinking about it, RMIT is not known for doing much right in the past years but PSP is just one of those trgically brilliant products that is poorly marketed.
That being said when it was announced almost every student wrote extensive letters to the RMIT Business board demanding an explanation. I wrote one that became a phone book sized pile of angry letters that I'm sure were never read.
PSP has probably put through less people than the RYLA program, unlike RYLA PSP explicitely grades people and I duxed the program which is my proudest achievement in life. Paul and Terry changed my life and what I want to live for. The program allowed me to build dreams and express myself in the real world. It built my esteem up. Jerry who had poor broken english and got placed at an unglamorous auto wreckers with no marketing experience what so ever got his proposals accepted and got a near perfect score for his presentation, he quit smoking too, felt respected by westerners for the second time in his life and proved his shit.
Don my friend from PSP that I have to thank for a fixation on Alicia Keys didn't get a job out of it and wasn't anywhere near dux like I was yet he and his girlfriend both lobbied to save the program. Our efforts bought it another 6 months, which may not seem like much but if another 60 kids get to do it then thats another 60 who'se lives will change for the better.
And it boiled down to Mark's point about the environmental organisation: being able to do it, to know how to approach it, to learn from the attempt and redifine it is much more important for achieving your dreams than being passionate about it.
You may say passion is the chicken that lays the egg. But when I think about it my worst performances are my most emotional ones in anything I do, I get my best emotions from my best performances, the ones where I'm focused on competently doing the task.
Cynics too often dismiss my view point but I'd turn it around and say you are the ones being cynical. There are almost no instances where being emotionally involved yields a better result. Passionate people too often dismiss professionalism as a distraction or detractor from a cause, it is concieved as as a cold hard ideal versus the warm and fuzzy-ness, the sickly sweetness of being passionate. Yet look at the most inspiring speakers, the wordsmiths that move you to tears, they captivate the imaginations by crafting arguements and imagery together to 'make people feel the feelings that make them think the thoughts that will lead to the decisions I want them to make' I have heard it said.
Arundhati Roy, Marcos, Noam Chomsky they all make people think and through that feel. Passion can be validating because it's a collection of feelings, but ironically at RYLA one of the speakers said 'People don't realise that they can make feelings happen'
Passion is a way to exclude people, knowing your passions is certainly part of self discovery but needn't be glorified, as was pointed out a lot of companies value their employees being passionate about the product or industry very few actually bother to specify competence. It can be alienating and frightening in the hands of a fanatic. It is ultimately why we do things, but once known should be recognised so it doesn't cloud our judgement, and remove us from mindfully and consciously living a life and achieving a dream.
If I had to redesign RYLA I would probably just replace 'Passion' with 'Dream' or 'Vision' and restructure the activities so you know everyone is comfortable with them, I mean RYLA will never get as many mainland chinese and indonesians as PSP does but I see her point. I mean I can smell pretty bad.

No comments: