Know Your Assets for Significance – Part Three: Your Greatest Passions

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series

Volume 14, Issue No. 5b

September 15, 2015

By Dan Coughlin



It’s my belief that any person can make a significant difference in an organization. In order for that to happen, the person needs to know his or her assets for making a significant difference. In this article, my focus is on your passions. While your passions are intangible, they are a very real and critically important part of your ability to truly matter at work. I don’t think you can consistently make a significant difference in your work life unless you find a way to pour your passions into your work.

Your passions are what sustain you. They fuel you and energize you. You’re not going to consistently make a significant difference without having something that motivates you.

However, what drives one person to significance is far different than for another person. The key is for you to understand your three greatest passions. I’m going to explain thirteen passions that I have seen motivate some of the best performers I’ve worked with or studied. They are rewards, results, the journey, the dream, the purpose, creating something extraordinary, being a part of a team, leading a team, behind the scenes difference-maker, out-in-front leader, responsibility for others, sense of accomplishment, and contribution.

After you consider each of them I want you to be honest with yourself and write down your three greatest passions. The key going forward is to make sure your passions are being fed on a regular basis. If your passions are different than these thirteen, then write down your unique passions.


If rewards are your fuel, then you are passionate about your paycheck and the ways you can reward yourself with it. You want the nicest house and the fanciest car and a vacation home. You want the biggest title and the nicest office and the best recognition your company has to offer. These are what motivate you, and you’re not at all embarrassed to admit it. You like showing off your new boat or the monster tv you just purchased. You’ve earned them, and you want to enjoy them.


Results trip your trigger if you love to look back on the past quarter and feel the deep sense of satisfaction in what has been achieved. You measure your progress every day toward the objective you are trying to meet. When the actual results roll in, you get emotionally involved. You either party or you get depressed if the results aren’t what you want. The next day you are driven again by the desire to deliver better numbers on the next score card.

The Journey

The journey is your driver if what wakes you up in the morning is the actual doing of the work. You love what you do in good times and in bad times, and you can’t imagine doing anything else.

The Dream

You have a vision in your mind that you want to achieve in your lifetime, and that dream keeps you going day after day. The results can be good or bad, and you’re not thinking about the short-term rewards. Your focus is on the dream. Is there an ultimate result for your career that spurs you on every day?

The Purpose

Is there an underlying purpose that drives you every day? Is there something specific that you have dedicated your life to that makes you want to do your very best every day? Is there a purpose beyond making money where you feel part of something bigger than just yourself? Is that what’s driving you?

Creating Something Extraordinary

Do you want to make something truly amazing? Something that is completely breathtaking? Something that will change the future for lots of people? Is that what wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going all day?

Being a Part of a Team

Is your favorite thing to be a part of a great team where everyone is working together to support one another toward fulfilling a meaningful purpose or achieving a meaningful objective? Do you love being a team member as opposed to the manager of the team? Is your passion to play a significant role as a part of a greater whole?

Leading a Team

Perhaps your ideal role is to lead a team, to go out and identify the talents and attitudes you want on your team, to recruit those people, and to build an extraordinary work group for the long term.

Behind the Scenes Difference-Maker

Maybe what really gets you going is to create magic behind the scenes where no one knows the role you played in generating incredible success, except those few people who worked side-by-side with you. You love the feeling of being able to move from project to project in almost an invisible way where no one interferes with your work, and the results of that work speak for itself.

Out-In-Front Leader

If your passion is to be the out-in-front leader, then you are driven to lead an entire organization where you become the face and the voice of the organization, and where everyone from customers to shareholders to the media know that you are the person running the show. This desire to lead an entire company is what fuels you to keep working long, hard hours.

Responsibility for Others

You see your responsibility to your spouse, your children, your parents, and your community as the most important aspects of your life. You work hard at work to be able to provide for other people. You’re not focused on your title or material goods. You are driven to make sure that your aging parents are well taken care of and that your kids get a great education. You are willing to invest your time and energy into your community because you feel a sense of duty to others.

Sense of Accomplishment

The best feeling for you is to lay in bed at night and know that meaningful stuff got done that day. You hate the feeling of spinning your wheels and feeling that nothing worthwhile was actually achieved that day. You love to move projects forward, and you hate listening to whining and complaining and a victim mentality. What’s driving you is the belief that something really good will be accomplished today.


What matters to you is feeling that you mattered today. You have to feel that you contributed in some way at a meeting or in a private conversation or in an email or at a volunteer event. It drives you crazy to sit in a meeting for two hours and to have contributed nothing. You gain energy when you sense that you are actually adding value to other people in some way.

Identify Your Three Greatest Passions

That’s thirteen passions people get energized by. No one gets fuel from all of them. What I want you to do is to review the list and identify your three greatest passions. This will help you in the future to place your time and effort in a way where you will have the energy to make a significant difference for your organization. Here are the passions to choose from:

  • Rewards
  • Results
  • The Journey
  • The Dream
  • The Purpose
  • Creating Something Extraordinary
  • Being a Part of a Team
  • Leading a Team
  • Behind the Scenes Difference-Maker
  • Out-In-Front Leader
  • Responsibility for Others
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Contribution

What three greatest passions for yourself did you come up with? Write those down. If your passions are not on this list, then write in your unique passions. This is another important part of your assets for significance.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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