If passion can be defined as a deep, overwhelming and powerful emotion one possesses for someone or something, then compassion might be defined as the ability to impart the best of it with someone else. The feeling they experience might even be different, leaving those touched mesmerized by their passion even if they don't adopt the same fervor. But the results are the same.
It's something not all communicators consider — and yet it is the foundation that sets so many campaigns and causes apart from one another. We rally around certain brands not so much because we're soda pop loyalists, airlines aficionados, or whatnot, but because the people behind the product have an uncanny passion for it that we can't quite understand, especially so if it is something as simple as three-ply toilet paper.
Of course, this particular post has nothing to do with something as commonplace as wipes. It's about a man who became a doctor, not so much for the profit his generation assumed it would bring but with an intense passion for the people who needed his help.
Dr. Patch Adams and his uncanny ability to transform passion into compassion.
I co-wrote an article about the International Day Of Compassion this weekend, but held off on adding something here because I thought the topic deserved a different angle. Instead of being informative, the life work of Dr. Patch Adams might be used as a teaching tool for a purpose one-off from medicine and more closely aligned with humanitarianism.
Since 1991 (and before), I've been honored to have donated my time to more than 60 different nonprofit organizations at one time or another. Some still leave me with a sense of pride today and others left me disenchanted, distressed or even disenfranchised. The difference, which can easily be applied to the private sector, is where people place their passion.
Those that make me smile for the honor of service, always managed to keep their focus on whatever cause they generally supported — teaching someone to read for the first time, rehabilitating homeless veterans, helping an orphan smile, or ensuring a parent could stay in the city where their child received medical attention. There are hundreds of examples.
And then there are those that slowly drift away from the cause or sense of purpose, pouring their passion into internal or even state politics, executive and staff paycheck protection, or just wanting to be right more often than they ever do the right thing. There are a few dozens of those, thankfully not as many as the former.
Dr. Adams is an exemplary model. Even when his expectations were proven wrong, he ignored any setbacks and persisted in sharing his passion, changing the world in sometimes small and sometimes extraordinary ways. And what makes his successes so uncanny is that he seldom asks for donations or volunteers but gets them anyway — even if it takes longer than he sometimes hopes.
He doesn't have to make direct asks or sales pitches or follow policies. Instead, he asks people who cross his path to share his passion — spreading humor and compassion whenever and wherever possible. He does it in a unique way too, making people want to support his dream and pursue some dreams of their own. You can see it firsthand by learning more about the Gesundheit! Institute.
But even more than that, Adams does something that few people ever do. Even if they don't make a donation, volunteer, or help him in another way, he still has made the world a better place by sharing his passion for compassion. And it still spreads.
Passion and compassion apply to communicators in the private sector.
It's the fundamental difference between social media programs that work and don't work (traditional campaigns too). Profit-driven (or deadline-driven or volume-driven) programs tend to deliver flatter campaigns, even if the short-term ROI is high.
Have you ever wondered why? The great unequalizer is often underpinned by passion for the product and compassion for the people who might buy it or have an experience. Or, in other words, I've never met someone who is successful peddling products they consider "boring" (passion) or unconcerned with each individual customer's experience (compassion). At least, no one successful in the long run.
Or, in yet other words, if you cannot communicate with passion and have the intent of compassion, then don't. People can tell. Sooner or later.