What do Passion and Suffering have in Common?

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I love when I get to “geek out” on you for a second, so here’s one for your “wow, I never would have guessed that but it makes sense” files:


Q: What do passion and suffering have in common?

A: They are actually synonyms, sharing the same (etymological) root:


  • “Passion” is from the Latin pati – meaning ‘to endure’ – 1,000 years ago
  • It came to mean suffering, pain, and even martyrdom in the 13th century.
  • It also is the root of the Greek pathos – “feeling, emotion or suffering” (yes, the same pathos in the ethos-logos-pathos triangle of persuasion and rhetoric, in case that rang a bell)
  • The more romantic/intimate sense of “passion” came about in the late 1500s
  • And our current sense of “I’m passionate about (Topic X)”, related to hobbies, careers and the like finally rolled around in the 1600-1700s.


Yet when you think about it, they’re still connected deep down.


Beyond lip service and something that looks good on a LinkedIn profile summary, if you’re truly passionate about something, there’s a deep yearning for it; an ache.


For me, a few things I’m passionate about, in different ways, include public speaking, coaching, children/families and helping children in the foster care system get adopted, and cooking/hosting big family gatherings.


The joy I feel with each of those definitely has an “ache” of some sort at the root.


  • I want my clients and audiences to have a powerful experience – my joy is dependent upon knowing I have helped them find theirs.
  • It breaks my heart to know so many children lack the safety and security of unconditional love in a permanent family (Special thanks to The O’Connor Group for selecting The Adoption Center as winner for their generous $2,500 donation!)
  • The amount of time, planning and energy I put into preparing holiday dinners is absolutely influenced by wanting to share the power of an incredible culinary experience that people both look forward to and remember.


How about you? Maybe you’re passionate about:


  • Diversity, equity, access and inclusion
  • The environment
  • Access to healthcare or justice
  • Helping people get out of debt and plan for their future
  • Mentoring
  • Animals
  • Children and families


When you think about what drives you to dedicate your professional or personal efforts to that issue, isn’t it because something about the idea of people NOT having it actually hurts deep down?


The need to help others, even in the most difficult circumstances, is a beautiful driving force deep down in each of us.


That’s why I’m honored that my guest on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence is retired FDNY Battalion Chief John LaBarbera of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.


John’s opening comment wins the award for the understatement of the year: “There is no better feeling than to make a difference in someone's life.”


All positive differences matter, but the differences the Foundation makes are utterly life changing:


  • Paying off mortgages for surviving families with young children of first responders and military service people who were killed in the line of duty
  • Building “smart homes” for veterans catastrophically wounded in battle (e.g. imagine what life would be like if you were wheelchair bound having lost three – or more – limbs)
  • Ending veteran homelessness in the US (did you know that 1:3 homeless people in most major cities is a veteran?!)


And who deserves it more than those whose passion to serve and protect led to such incomparable and selfless sacrifice?


In our conversation, John shares his insights on communication necessities in contexts that are literally life-and-death, as well as those that aren’t but may feel like it in the moment. For example he revealed:


  • How an unchecked assumption almost led to the death of multiple crewmembers
  • His best tactic to overcome challenges with non-responsive audiences
  • How to turn that conversation around and win your audience over
  • The critical value of an “after-action” report, often referred to as a debriefing, or (metaphorically) a “post-mortem”


and more. Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here .



FYI, the Foundation was started in the memory of Stephen Siller, a New York firefighter who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on 9/11 with 60 Lbs of gear on his back from Brooklyn to the Twin Towers in Manhattan (hence Tunnel to Towers) to save others before ultimately losing his own life that day.


If nothing else, I hope you’ll be inspired by one of Stephen’s favorite quotes by Saint Francis of Assisi: “While we have time, let us do good.”


Where will your passion lead you to do more good in the world?

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