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Do You Need Passion — “Fire in the Belly” — to be a Creative Success?

The blaze that burns within


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Melissa Gouty

2 years ago | 4 min read

“White-Hot and Passionate…”

It’s a quote I keep pinned in front of my desk where I can look at it daily:

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all, become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” — Roald Dahl

I am not a flashy, boisterous, rabble-rousing person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have passion, that “fire in my belly” that drives me.

The blaze is within, ravishing me daily, burning me at both ends, heating my mind, and fueling my creative fumes. Each morning, I wake ignited with inspiration and smoldering with hope.

Is Success Dependent on Fire-in-the-Belly?

Successful people, no matter what their individual personalities, burn on the inside, “white-hot and passionate.”

Think about it. Have you ever known a truly successful person who wasn’t passionate about their work? Have you ever known someone at the top of their game who was only lukewarm about what they were doing?

Without that fire — that burn that keeps you going — you can’t possibly make it in a world with distractions, disappointments, disillusionment, and discrimination. Only the passionate push past obstacles, often producing works that light the world with their fire.

Fredrick Douglass, the American abolitionist, author, and orator, used a weather analogy to proclaim the belief that we need extremes of emotion to succeed:

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Setting Yourself on Fire is a Necessity

Success isn’t instantaneous. It’s the result of hard work, belief in yourself, and a never-give-up attitude. It’s also the result of being able to kick-start your creativity and self-motivate your life. As Arnold Glasow, a famous American businessman said,

Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.

On those mornings when it’s hard to get going, bear in mind that if you can sit your butt in a chair, strike a match to motivate yourself, and fire up your creativity, you are doing more than most people can. ..In fact, you may — according to John Foster — be a genius.

“One of the strongest characteristics of genius is the power of lighting its own fire.”

Why “Fire” Matters

Many experts believe that passion for your work, that “fire” within, is essential to success. You’ve heard the old saying attributed to Confucious, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”? The belief that internal passion will make you happier and more successful is widespread.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, the visionary who brought personal computers to the world, said,

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

If you have that “fire in your belly” that makes you love what you do, you’ll work at it longer and harder than people without passion. More hours and more focus produce better work. Better work moves you ahead.

If you are passionate about your work, you’ll be more inspired and more enthusiastic than others. You’ll spend time thinking about angles, solutions, and outcomes, far more than people who aren’t on fire for their work. The time spent thinking about your work results in increased problem solving and innovation.

If you burn with fervor for your work, you’ll be more conscientious, unwilling to put out an inferior product, putting you light-years (pun intended) ahead of your co-workers.

Fire Attracts People to You

People who glow with the heat of the fire draw people to them. They ignite sparks in others. They become torches, leading others through the darkness.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once said,

Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.

Nothing is more compelling than someone who burns with passion because

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” — Ferdinand Foch

The Debate Over Fire

Marc Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur, says that “one of the great lies in life is to follow your passion.” He thinks passion is overrated. Ben Horowitz, another entrepreneur and investor, gave a commencement address in 2015 that downplayed the importance of passion. He preached that it could

“lead you down the wrong path. Passion is an elusive emotion that changes over time and may not be the best indicator of your unique talents, skills set, and potential. In other words, it’s not the most reliable predictor of long-term professional success or even happiness.”

I beg to differ.

I admit that the old proverb, “Fire is never a gentle master,” may be true, but I believe that internal fire — that passion to produce work of value — is essential to success. (How could I create art if I didn’t care deeply about it?)

I’m in the camp of Richard Branson who said,

“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that serves the world and you.”

Do Creative Pursuits Require More “Fire” Than Others?

Maybe those of us with creative souls are different from other people. Perhaps the artistic enterprises of writing, painting, sculpting, dancing, and music require more internal fire to produce than other careers.

But I doubt it. I’ve met nurses and accountants, teachers and scientists, plumbers and contractors who burn with fire for their work…and that passion is exactly what makes them great at what they do.

I don’t know how that fire in the belly starts burning. I don’t know what ignites passion or why it keeps blazing in some people year after year, decade after decade. I don’t know if internal fire is fueled by genetics, by practice, or by some mysterious endowment of gifts.

But I know that for me, the fire that burns within makes me believe that anything is possible.

“Man is so made that whenever anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.” — Jean de la Fontaine

“Go Light the World”

One of my favorite songs has a line that goes, “Take Your Candle. Go Light the World.”

Use your passion to illuminate truths and spread joy. Warm the world with words, art and music. Heat the hearts and minds of others with your service and your unique offerings.

Feed it. Protect it. Kindle the fire in your soul.

Your success is dependent on it.

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” — Rumi

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Melissa Gouty

Award-winning teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Marketing manager in the HVAC and Plumbing industries. Author of The Magic of Ordinary, a memoir of a "Daddy," his daughters, and the power of one good man to change the world.


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