It’s Not About Passion, It’s About Hunger

820C3ABDED

We’ve all heard so much about “passion.” People want to be passionate about their work, so they search for a career or calling they can feel passionate about. However, I’m not a big “passion” person because passion is transitory, temporary, and often shallow. It has too many ups and downs. Passion is great, but it simply won’t get you very far. So what do I recommend? 

Hunger.  When it comes to your career or calling, my advice is this:

Your “passion” is what you want.
Your “hunger” is what you can’t live without.

Passion too often gets confused with what people enjoy, what they find easy to do, or what seems trendy at the moment. That’s a big reason I get so many scripts mailed to me with cover letters telling me how passionate the writer is about writing. But the problem is, you don’t need to read many pages before you realize they’re simply terrible writers. That’s why I encourage you instead to search for your deep hunger.

Passion is something you can live without, but hunger is what you need to survive.

For instance, if writing is your passion, you may enjoy it, but when that passion subsides, you’ll move to something else. But if writing is a hunger, then you can’t live without it. You’ll write everyday, you’ll write no matter how many critics, and you’ll write without getting paid.

You write, because you can’t not write.

That idea is why I wrote the book “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do“.  The bottom line is that in today’s demanding, hyper-competitive world, hunger is fierce and unrelenting, and will eat passion for lunch.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ejody

    Very important insights. I too have seen far too many people who have a passion for something but no God-given giftings to accomplish it, and certainly no mandate from Him. That’s called a waste of life. Poor stewardship.

    Finding what God has created you for is The Big Thing, and living your life with any other purpose, regardless of how noble, is The Big Waste. Frankly, I believe Satan revels in that.

    The entertainment business is cutthroat, even among many Christians (I use that term instead of “followers of Christ.”) Unless you are well-equipped, trained, possess the fearlessness of Daniel in the lion’s den, own the “failure is not an option” mindset of a Navy SEAL, and are fulfilling God’s revealed plan for you, this business will eat you alive. It may eat you alive anyway.

    “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
    Psalm 107:9

    Be desperate for God, hungry to fulfill His plan for you, and watch what He will do.
    Those with only passion will stare in amazement.

    • Excellent thoughts Jody. Thanks for posting that!

  • David S. Baker, JD

    This is right on.

    Passion is influenced by context. Change the context, and you can cultivate new passion. We do this all the time when we change churches, move to a new city, or volunteer for or support a new charity. We can develop passion for a whole host of new things. When you move on, i.e. change your context, your passion will wane.

    Hunger is a different matter. Hunger is personal. When you have an appetite, you have to feed it regardless of context. Change your context, and you still have the same hunger. Hunger is daily.

    • Brilliant way to put it. Honestly, I never thought about it in terms of “context” but you’re exactly right…

  • Like the distinction phil. i talk a lot about passion (as do many). Maybe I need to rethink and start talking more about hunger.

  • L Kiser

    Hunger is good as long as its kept in perspective of being full as the ultimate goal. Bruce Lee said something like “Becoming is the enemy of being.” Too many Christians think hunger is the end all, be all but in fact the Apostle Paul prays for fullness. More need to arrive in fullness. If it takes hunger, then so be it!

    • Great point. There’s no question “hunger” isn’t the end point. But neither is “passion.” It’s about what that hunger produces. And I feel it’s a much stronger driver. And the result could be a lot of things from a book, to a movie, a college degree, a new business launch, or the fruit of the spirit.

  • brbird

    Great post. I believe you definitely need both passion and hunger to build a career in whatever you’ve been called to do. To me, passion is what you want your life to be about. It’s the premise for your work and the product of your hands, the meta-messages you are hoping to communicate to the world, the legacy you want to leave. Hunger is all about your work habits, discipline, gumption, ambition to not only feed your family, but battle to get a career started and keep it going. Carving out a successful path in any worthwhile field is not for the feint of heart or for hobbyists. It’s a war and you need all the weapons, tools, skills you can carry.

    • It is indeed a war out there. Thanks for the prod Brian!

    • vincenta123

      Hmnn a very interesting way of looking at the two – they compliment each other. Hunger is innate/inborn, passion, in a sense is realised and can be groomed/cultivated.

      I think the two feed each other with hunger being foundational and passion experiential.

  • Maryjo Petersen Castro

    I never thought about the defining difference in the two words but you’re right on. I also like David S. Baker’s comments about the subject. I think hunger is directly linked to purpose in one’s life, passion is not. We can be passionate about a lot of things but hungry for one basic desire- our life’s purpose and fulfilling that purpose. It’s linked to man’s search for the meaning and fulfillment of life. Once we find that, passion always follows.

    • Correct Maryjo. In my mind, passion is temporary, and hunger is about discovering your purpose in life and pursuing it with everything you’ve got.

  • Truett

    All I’m really sure about after this discussion is that I am ready for lunch.

  • hah- I get that. I’m on my tenth feature script since 1999 wiithout a sale. I still write all the time and only in 2015 did I get a paid job as a writer, (not counting a few hundred to polish scripts or coverage, there and there) -after decades of writing. Last year I got a second writing job for a start up website where they dont pay me. I do it anyway. Yesterday we had a long convo w the Dad of a 30 year old A-list female star about a feature film I co-wrote. Things take time. I’m so hungry I could rip apart a Gazelle with my bare hands.

    • You could teach some young writers a good lesson…

  • Trista Sue Kragh

    This is very interesting – as I teach people HOW to find their passion/purpose with 12 questions so they can discover it for themselves. I also am also very specific as to what passion is and what it isn’t. (its not a hobby, private ambition or passing interest.) I was intrigued by this post, so I did a little research in the greek when Jesus used the word ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’ when describing our quest for righteousness. In his context it was ‘insatiable desire; seek with eager desire’. To me is the same as true passion and you also see the word passion listed under both hunger & thirst as a synonym. I think perhaps some people are confused to what true passion truly is and think its “oh I love scuba diving / traveling,etc… – this must be my passion”. I also think we are so limited by the English language – whereas Greek adds so much more depth and understanding (like the 4 types of love). Then I also noticed under the definition of passion it listed “Passion of the Christ” ;-) Thanks Phil for making me think and bring clarity to this when I teach…..

    • Excellent thought Trista Sue. Love the look at the Greek translation, and you’re right – Theologian RC Sproul has said many times that Greek has SO many more nuances than English…
      Thanks for posting!

  • I couldn’t agree more Phil. 2015 was a year of clarity for my career (if you can call it that anymore, since that term is outdated, I think it should be replaced with “multiple income streams from various sources”). I have been on a mission over the last 15+ years to discover what I “drives” and “energizes” me and consider myself fortunate to have started intentionally chasing that at a young age. After many smaller steps toward uncovering the unique (and weird) wiring God gave me (who has a Music Composition degree and an MBA), I have finally admitted that I am an artist (author, musician, composer, speaker) and growth-minded entrepreneur, and senior executive leader.

    I have poured more hours than I care to admit over the last 3+ years in pursuit of authoring 2 nonfiction books (Why Leadership Sucks & Becoming Generation Flux), creating more sophisticated long-form blog posts, creating 2 video courses, recording and self-publishing my own audiobooks on Audible, and finishing books 3 and 4 right now all while succeeding at a high level (37% growth last year) at my day job and spending quality time with my wife and kids. It has meant many long days with very little pay for the stuff that drives and energizes me, but I CAN’T and WON’T stop doing it. I was bitten by the creative production spider after I completed my first book (motivated by my wife to stop talking and start doing), and I will NOT allow that Spiderman experience to fade away…ever…period!

    Passion is a short-term, fast, cheap substitute (and distraction) from the legitimate, slow burn of insatiable hunger!

    Here’s to the hunger Phil!

    • i love that your wife pushed you to “stop talking and start doing.” You’re a workhorse, that’s for sure. Thanks for the kick in the pants Miles!

  • Ashish Joy

    Passion may help you to start but definitely hunger is something that should keep one going. Good thought to start my day with.

  • Steve Bickley

    Very thought provoking piece. Passions can come and go, even subside. Yet hunger, an insatiable hunger which I believe your are referring to, will wake you in the middle of the night and drive you to new levels of creativity to satisfy it, if even only temporarily. I may give up pursuing my passions but I could never abandon attempting to satisfy my hunger.

    • “I may give up pursuing my passions but I could never abandon attempting to satisfy my hunger.’ Love that line Steve. Well put. And you make a great point that if it’s not waking you up in the middle of the night, then maybe it’s not that important.

      Thanks for posting!

  • Writing about going beyond church as usual and into God’s ekklesia is my hunger. I just can’t stop no matter what critics say and so far, I’ve never been paid for it although I’ve blogged about it for many years.

  • Jim Covell

    Great point Phil! Passion is nothing
    without the hunger to go and get it. The desire to work towards fulfilling your
    career passion requires go old fashioned chutzpah. Some are born with it…some
    will never have it….many desire it…and the wealthy may try and purchase it. But
    alas, it is illusive, and if you’re in the creative field it is probably more
    important than raw talent itself. And now a verse from Hebrews chapter 10: So
    do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to
    maintain your CHUTZPAH so that when you have done the will of God, you will
    receive what He has promised.

    • It’s a great point that Christians don’t talk about CHUTZPAH as much as we should. The Bible talks about meekness, but it also talks about confidence, and I think too many get them confused. Thanks for the comment!

  • Ron Cram

    I loved this line you wrote: “You write, because you can’t not write.” That’s exactly how I feel.

  • Great thought Phil. “Hunger is what you need to survive” – This line says it all, how willing are you find a career that fulfills you on all levels. When you find it, the hunger to be better never goes away.