It takes a lot of different kinds of people to put together a big project. Some are very strong orators, others are meticulous planners, and still others have their strong suit in physical work. I’m not entirely sure where in that spectrum I fit just yet, but there are a great number of places where I do fit.
The thing is, though, it doesn’t matter how well your core competences are covered across your organization if the people involved do not share one particular trait without exception: passion. Every member of the group must, to the last one, be so committed to the project’s success that they would be willing to sacrifice every last ounce of enjoyment they get out of the project in order to ensure its successful completion. Passion is defined, in its purest sense, as the triumph of sentience over circumstance: the willingness to accept temporary pain to assure long-term success. Without passion, the slightest setback kills the whole thing.
There is a drawback to having passionate people on a task, though, and that is the fact that sufficient passion can cause a blurring between the work and the self. When genuinely constructive criticism is offered, someone overly invested in the project can take that as a personal attack. That creates friction that reduces the cohesion of the group, accelerating failure. Emotional investment is good, don’t get me wrong. But emotional OVERinvestment is irresponsibly malignant and inevitably fatal, just as surely as underinvestment does.
It can be very hard to draw the line as to where people are in over their depth. Everyone’s capability for responsible passion is different, after all, and it’s not like you can just pull out your personal character sheet and see you put X number of points in “emotional control”. But when that line is crossed– either intentionally or unintentionally– that’s when things start to get out of control.
I am immeasurably lucky, pleased, and blessed to work with a group of people who are extremely emotionally invested in our volunteer project. They are a constant reminder to me that people are still capable of creating great works of light in the darkness, and on more than one occasion they have been the light that I needed in order to keep going. Whether they know it or not, they are.
The troubles we’re having aren’t insurmountable. In all honesty, they’re rather trivial; they’re nothing we haven’t overcome before. But they look so incredibly huge because we’re so close to them. At times like this, you need to pull back, get your bearings straight, and reapproach the problem with a clear focus and a sharp mind.
……..I’m sure that those of you who know me closely can appreciate the abyss of irony that is involved in my making a speech like that.