Friday, March 23, 2012

The Difference Between Intensity and Passion!

During the mid to late 1980s I went through something of a mid-career crisis.  I loved community-destination marketing, especially for mid-sized communities and I was good at it but circumstances at the time gave me reason to reassess and reaffirm.

I was drawing unsolicited attention from larger communities along with requests to see my resume.  At the same time I wondered if I was meant to stay on that career path just because I was successful and if so, would larger communities be as engaging and fulfilling?

My resume at the time was 10-15 years out of date so I sought advice from a friend who headed a very cutting-edge search firm and who had profiled me at one time as a template for communities seeking DMO execs. He started fresh by asking me to jot down a list of personal descriptors – and I still have a copy of that list today.

One term I listed was “intense” which he later crossed out and replaced with “passionate” a term I would come to hear used frequently during the last two decades of my now-concluded career in community-destination marketing.  I remember asking the late Don Clifton to tell me the difference.

He explained to me that the communities I had represented to that point in my career definitely knew the difference.  He described the difference much the same way Steve Moore, a fellow blogger, did a few weeks ago when he wrote that:

    • “Intensity communicates, ‘I really want you to believe this.’ Passion communicates, ‘I really believe this.’
    • Intensity is marked mostly by emotion; passion is marked mostly by conviction.
    • Intensity is often packaged with hype; passion comes with authenticity.
    • Intensity comes across as superficial; passion comes across as natural.
    • Intensity is communicated by talking loudly; passion is communicated by talking plainly.
    • There’s a place for intensity in leadership, but its no substitute for passion.”

Any success attributed to me, especially during my tenure in Durham, NC where I still live, is most often credited to being passionate.  But I also know that it was because I tapped into the deep vein of passion that runs through residents of this community and merely gave it voice and vision.

As measured through scientific polling, Durham residents are passionate about their community by a ratio of 15 to 1 compared to the national and North Carolina benchmark of 1 to 1.

Moore, who also writes about passion-fueled purpose in his book entitled Who Is My Neighbor?: Being a Good Samaritan in a Connected World, explains the power of the passion in Durham and in my leadership style as a weave of the threads of interest-based and issue-based passion (coming) together to form an incarnational passion.”

My passion for Durham was disguised for many people by logic and data both because that is my dominate decision-making style and because, let’s face it, passion alone as a trigger can frighten many people, particularly those in business and government.

But in the words of semantic researcher Dr. Frank Luntz, “Passion sustains us…passion turns ordinary businesspeople into extraordinary fighters for a better future.”

In retirement I indulge a number of interest-based passions, some more intense than others, such as photography and motorcycles and reading and English Bulldogs and family and I still dabble in community sense of place and marketing.

But I have fused the latter two into an issue-based passion to preserve and promote the scenic character of my community and my adopted home state of North Carolina through Scenic North Carolina against threats such as outdoor billboards, above ground utility lines and other forms of scenic blight to public property.

These are powerful special interests but Luntz reminds us that “With enough money, you can buy almost anything—information and influence, access and acclaim. Yet without passion, you will not win no matter how much of anything you have.”

To add your passion to this struggle, email

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