Passion vs. Self-Discipline

How important is passion as a success factor?

Some people believe it’s the single most important factor, painting passion as the fuel that drives success.

I disagree.

Passion is simply an emotional state, and a temporary and unstable one at that. The reason passion gets so much credit is that it helps motivate action. And action is what generates results.

Look at it this way:

P = Passion
A = Action
R = Results


P causes A
A causes R


P causes R

No problem there. That’s logically correct.

R requires P

Nope. You can’t infer this to be true from the givens.

But what if you also know this?

S causes A
S is not P

Now you can say that the statement “R requires P” is definitely false.

S = Self-Discipline

Are you dizzy yet? Here’s what I’m saying in English:

  • Results come from actions (no action, no results)
  • Passion can lead to action and therefore generate results
  • Self-discipline can also lead to action and therefore generate results
  • So passion is NOT required for results

Passion is nonessential for success.

Which is better though: passion or self-discipline? I’ll argue that self-discipline is the better fuel.

Like any emotional state, passion waxes and wanes. Sometimes you’re highly motivated. Sometimes you aren’t. Passion has its peaks and valleys, so if you base your actions on your level of passion, your results will depend on your emotions. Feeling passionate? Great actions, great results. Feeling dispassionate? Weak actions, mediocre results.

Using passion as your only fuel will no more assure you of success than being in love will ensure a successful long-term relationship.

Self-discipline is far more important than passion, especially in business. In fact, if you develop the quality of self-discipline to a high degree, it will put passion to shame.

Self-discipline allows you take action and therefore get results no matter what your emotional state. Where passion is erratic, self-discipline provides steadiness and stability. And because your emotions aren’t in the way, your decisions are more likely to succeed because they’ll be made from a state of disciplined intellect rather than from emotional peaks and valleys.

Which would you bet on if your life depended on it?

If you were to undergo open heart surgery, would you want a disciplined, dispassionate surgeon or an undisciplined, passionate one?

If you were being tried for murder, would you want a disciplined, dispassionate defense team or a an undisciplined, passionate one?

If you were flying in the Space Shuttle, would you want the ground controllers to be disciplined and dispassionate or undisciplined and passionate?

Passion is great, but it’s icing. It needs self-discipline to back it up.

Self-discipline is quieter though. Passion gets more attention these days because it makes more noise.