The monk and the riddle … Randy Komisar on finding your passion, living a more integrated life, and how to pursue it

January 22, 2019

Randy Komisar wrote one of my favourite books, The Monk and The Riddle.

In 2003, having just taken on the role of CEO of a mid size organisation, I wanted to give my 350 managers some food for thought. Yes we could do new strategies and organisation change, but firstly I wanted them to think bigger, about the future, and what we could be, and they themselves could be. I gave each of them a copy of the book.

“Passion and drive are not the same at all. Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do. If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference. Once you gain a modicum of self-knowledge, you can express your passion…..It’s not about jumping through someone else’s hoops. That’s drive.”

Komisar is a Silicon Valley technology legend and now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He thinks you should not look for your one passion.

“Passion pulls you. It’s the sense of connection you feel when the work you do expresses who you are. Only passion will get you through the tough times.”

That search will paralyze you. Instead think of a portfolio of passions and use those passions to guide you. You don’t have to choose just one. He also suggests that you don’t try to define your end-goal, or your horizon, but rather define your values, or your north-south-east-west as he calls it. This lowers the pressure on you to get it right. It allows you to move into action now. You don’t have to have a clear vision of the future you want, but just have to know that you want to go north or south.

 

While Plan A may begin the backbone on which an entrepreneurial idea is hinged, succinct data gathering and constant market evaluation more often lead to profit with the next idea in line. The tech sector breeds innovation

 

“In theory, the risk of business failure can be reduced to a number, the probability of failure multiplied by the cost of failure. Sure, this turns out to be a subjective analysis, but in the process your own attitudes toward financial risk and reward are revealed.

By contrast, personal risk usually defies quantification. It’s a matter of values and priorities, an expression of who you are. “Playing it safe” may simply mean you do not weigh heavily the compromises inherent in the status quo. The financial rewards of the moment may fully compensate you for the loss of time and fulfillment. Or maybe you just don’t think about it. On the other hand, if time and satisfaction are precious, truly priceless, you will find the cost of business failure, so long as it does not put in peril the well-being of you or your family, pales in comparison with the personal risks of no trying to live the life you want today.

Considering personal risk forces us to define personal success. We may well discover that the business failure we avoid and the business success we strive for do not lead us to personal success at all. Most of us have inherited notions of “success” from someone else or have arrived at these notions by facing a seemingly endless line of hurdles extending from grade school through college and into our careers. We constantly judge ourselves against criteria that others have set and rank ourselves against others in their game. Personal goals, on the other hand, leave us on our own, without this habit of useless measurement and comparison.

Only the Whole Life Plan leads to personal success. It has the greatest chance of providing satisfaction and contentment that one can take to the grave, tomorrow. In the Deferred Life Plan there will always be another prize to covet, another distraction, a new hunger to sate. You will forever come up short.”