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December 13, 2006


Inside Out

Please forgive me for being out of sync with the date of your post. I just ran across your site today! You mention this is an 'age-old dilemma'. It is definitely a contemporary dilemma, but I'm not certain it's 'age-old'. I don't think that humanity has adjusted to our modern society yet. It wasn't that long ago that our biggest worry was likely the weather, if we could manage to keep food on the table, and if we could survive past 30. I doubt we had the time to worry much about anything but survival. I also think that the whole 'what should I do with my life' thing often relates to those who have not had children of their own. Children have a way of giving your life purpose and meaning even if you are a waitress or laborer.

Good luck in all your endeavors, Jennifer.

David St Lawrence


Good to see that you are still working toward the goal of meaningful work.

You already know that money is not enough, because compromising your ideals and your integrity is a sure road to personal disaster and poor health.

There are no easy choices, but having left still another organization rather than compromise with my sense of what is right, I find once again that clients show up magically when my mind is free of the conflicts that come with working in a dysfunctional organization.

You have a track record of grasping the truth of situations rapidly. Now you just have to trust yourself and use your talents only in those situations where the purpose is worthwhile and the exchange is fully in.

Have a great year... :)



Eric Weaver

Holy shit, this is exactly the same quandary I've been struggling with for the past six months! Gotta pay the bills, but at what cost? At what point does helping brand another software startup, for example, become one more meaningless exercise? What am I giving back?

Glad to see others in the biz are pondering the same question. :)


Good article, tough question - that of passion and the workplace. I recently returned from the Peace Corp, an organization that allows you to pursue your unique passions as they relate to human needs. It's an amazing thing to live to serve and serve to live - but maybe not always practical? Howard Thurman says: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs - ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Those are the folks that leave the deepest impressions on me - those Kerouacian characters who live fully alive.
Frederick Buechner says it this way: "God calls you to work at the place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet." Best of luck to you.

Anthony Kleanthous

It's great to see people coming to these conclusions independently. I spend half my life as a Senior Policy Adviser at WWF (the charity, not the mulleted wrestlers) and the other half running a sustainable branding and communications consultancy with my partner, Diana Verde Nieto, called Clownfish. Together, these two jobs are a great vehicle for me to evangelise the following message: that socially and environmentally responsible business practice actively builds brand value, especially if based on the right values, used to drive innovation, and communicated in the right ways. Check out (with free pdf downloads of the summary and the full report) and to see how we apply our philosophy.

David Taylor (brandgym)

Welcome back!

I know exactly what you mean...the companies with passion and purpose often don't need a brand consultant, as they are living the brand day-to-day, even if they don't know it. Often they have a "brand CEO" as I call them, who is the living, breathing embodiment of the brand.

One area you mention that I do think is really interesting, and where I'd like to do more work is smaller companies who would benefit from what I call "bottling the magic". In other words, capture, structure and bring to life what is often in the head and heart of a founder/CEO. This way it can be shared and amplified by others.

Also, I do believe in the advice given by uber-Guru Charles Handy to a fellow author/consultant. He said you had to split your time between pleasure (stuff you really love) and "paying the bills" (stuff you do for the money). If you can combine great paying consulting on stuff you love, this is ideal. In reality you may have to split them. For example, my fave. project of 2006 was for Top Gear, the driving programme/magazine. It was new, challeging and loads of fun. But they had no budget, and so I had to do it on a shoestring.

Stephen Macklin

I don't think it is remotely possible to have any impact on the culture of the corporation i work for. It is an old school consumer products company that makes disposable plastic products. The people in the company who actually seem to have passion about what we make and sell quite frankly scare me!

I have resigned myself to caring about my work but in the end, I could have the same level of emotional commitment at any other company who's products didn't inspire me.

I am working doing the next best thing - leaving.

Matthew Healey

Perhaps someone can suggest a good German word ;-)


Yes, I agree that "passion" is overused. I've been thinking about "worthwhile" as it seems to encapsulate this idea well (and there hasn't been much written about it.) I was disappointed to see that Worthwhile magazine changed its name to Motto.

Ben Rowe

Great post, you have read my mind.

Some people make this look really easy, but it is a hard thing to do.

It's great if you can work on projects with meaning, on brands that are worth believing, and products that actually contribute to society. It's about Karma too.

Look forward to your next posts

Matthew Healey

Ahh, Jennifer's back. That by itself is wonderful news.

Jennifer, this is a terrific post. You are absolutely correct. We spend so long laboring under the misimpression that certain things are unworthy, and we don't realize that it's only the way those things are done 80% of the time that's unworthy - the things themselves are fine.

I see a lot of great brands around me - brands with a passion and a commitment to a cause - but do they embrace the idea of being a brand? No, they disdain the very notion. "Branding is crass," they sniff. "Branding is out. Branding is dead."

Stuff and nonsense, replies Jennifer. And right she is.

There are brands with a passion: Product (RED), Dr. Martens, The New York Times... there are plenty of them. The only problem is, "passion" is a term as worn-out and profane as "brand" (and don't try to Google "passionate brand," or you'll want to scream).

The best response, I think, is to keep on doing what you know is right... and hope that at least 20% of the time, you will be applauded for it by those who share your passion.


Robert Paterson

OOOH Jennifer - Bullseye for me - Exactly where I am right now tonight - something weird is going on - so much synchronisity

Kevin Behringer

Absolutely brilliant post! I may be a bit biased because I am in the exact same rut right now. Looking at what I do and trying to find a way to be passionate about it...and who I do it for and coming up short.

I read other people's blogs, listen to podcasts, etc etc and hear or read the passion with which they live each day. I find myself being envious of it because I either don't know what I'm passionate about or don't know how to pursue it.

Thank you for putting my thoughts to words and making me realize that there are others struggling with some of the same things I am.

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