June 2, 2012


French sculptor Victor Nicolas (1950)
There's a joy in meeting people who have a calling. They exude passion which spreads and inspires. In recent weeks, I’ve seen two excellent examples: Guillermo del Toro and Neil Hetherington.


Guillermo Del Toro conducted four Hitchcock Master Classes at TIFF. He spoke before and after each film. Guillermo has directed films like Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone and Hellboy. He was to direct the long-awaited prequel to The Lord Of The Rings but left after two years (see How the Wall Street crisis hit The Hobbit, LA Times). He’s been in Toronto filming Pacific Rim (2013).

Guillermo taught a film class for five years and loves teaching. He said he said he'd be happy to teach every day of his life. This is easy to believe. His passion showed as he shared insights about Hitchcock. He's even written a book in Spanish about Hitchcock and may be updating it (English this time?).

Here's part of the Master Class on Shadow Of A Doubt (TIFF link).

This format isn’t the best for showing passion.


Neil Hetherington has been the CEO of Habitat For Humanity Toronto (website) since age 26 --- and he’s hardly old now. He spoke at the final event in the Alumni Western lecture series.

Habitat For Humanity helps low income families build and buy affordable homes with help from volunteers. Neil described what he does as his calling. That's easy to believe. He probably wields a hammer in his limited "spare" time.

I saw Neil at TEDxToronto in 2010, the only year I could get a ticket. Here's the teaser video.

Here is the full talk.


Passion shows when speakers answer questions. Not just a few and "I'm outta here" but many and with thoughtful responses.

Guillermo was gracious even when answering ignorant questions. He'd probe to find a real question to help the asker escape with grace. He took responsibility for not understanding rather than chiding the questioner. It's easy to imagine someone with an ego giving a curt, dismissive or flippant answer.

Neil also answered many questions and stayed behind for more. There was no sense of feeling rushed or that we were wasting his time. The number and quality of questions is a measure of how engaging the speaker was. Neil excelled.

There was no pressure to buy anything or a today-only, one-time-only special offer or plea. You can thank Guillermo by buying tickets to his movies (which is hardly punishment). You can thank Neil by donating time or money to Habitat For Humanity wherever you live in the world.

Fake Passion

In the world of sales, you may sense more passion in the selling than serving clients.
Multilevel Marketers
I’ve seen too many multilevel marketers this year (hence this post on the perils | podcast 160). They are enthusiastic ... but how passionate can they really get about the stuff they sell? Can pushing cheaper phone service or better detergent really be a calling?

The passion seems to be about making money for themselves. Isn't that closer to greed? It's interesting to watch them try to hook new recruits using money as the primary lure and measure of success. There really is more to life than what you own.
Some people with billions (or maybe just millions) want to share their secrets with you ... for a price. Take Donald Trump for example (see Too Good To Be True). How much must they have before they're willing to share for free? That's the way to make a real difference.
The financial world has zealots too. You're more likely to find them in the world of living benefits (income replacement insurance or critical illness insurance). They often have had personal experience with disability or a dread disease like cancer. You know the ending: insurance provided the money which made the difference. Otherwise the afflicted might have needed a home from Habitat For Humanity.

Now the speakers are evangelists spreading the word. That sounds great but there's a common flaw: a close-to-invisible digital tapestry. Where are their YouTube videos? Where are their ongoing blog posts or tweets? If the real goal is to educate, that's easy to do freely or for free.

There may be a conflict of interest if  they sell the solutions they promote or get paid by a vendor. There's nothing wrong with earning money but the source of revenue influences what’s said and --- more important --- what’s omitted.

For life insurance, we have the tales of Leslie Bibb and Lamar Odom. We also know how Steve Jobs "buttoned up" in his final years.

Your Passions

The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude.
--- Albert Camus
Let’s hope that’s not true. What are you passionate about? What do you do about your passions?


Podcast 171

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PS Do you surround yourself with passionate people?

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