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research by Jerry Porras, Steward Emery, Mark Thompson

Sample Selection
  • The people we were interested in interviewing were individuals whose traditional successes had lasted for decades, including many Nobel Laureates, government and community service leaders, teachers, scientists, and Olympians, as well as Pulitzer, Grammy, Peabody, and Academy Award winners and the CEOs of large and small organizations.
  • 2 decades of impact in a certain endeavor
  • ultimately interviewed 200 people between 1996 and 2006
Alignment is essential: This IdeaMap research survey confirmed that people as individuals tend to resonate most strongly with one of the three circles (of meaning, thought, or action). Whereas many of us agonize over “balance” as society defines it, what is clear from this research study and our interviews is that the essential balance that we seek is likely to be an issue of alignmentof the three circles—over what matters to us (meaning), how we think about those things and allocate our time to our passions (thought), and then how we proceed to get them done (action). The balance that we are seeking is to find our own personally
defined portfolio of passions that we feel is meaningful—that fuel our creative thoughtsand drive us to take action to manifest them.


  • Successful people also said that “loving what you do” is a necessary condition for success. Indeed, Chapter 2, “Love It or Lose—Passions and the Quest for
    Meaning,” reviews the dangers of not doing what you love because people who have that passion can outlast and eventually outrun you in the task. In a global economy, for every person who is half-hearted in a job, there are dozens of others who are passionately waiting to take that job from them. Passion for what you do is not just a creative imperative—it is a competitive necessity.
  • They understand their unique passions and allocate their view of the right amount of time to each (not equal or balanced portions, but rather their own individually chosen preference
  • Setbacks don’t make me ABANDON my passions or causes”
  • successful people are more concerned with doing what they love than being loved. They don’t treat their passions like a trivial pursuit or low-priority item. Successful people focus on being good at what is meaningful to them, and do that, not “whatever” comes along.
  • “People who count support me in following my passions”
  • The key distinguishing characteristic is a strong interest in recognizing what their true passions are and acting in a manner that addresses these various passions in the right proportion.
  • “Pursuing many different passions increases my effectiveness and creativity”
Download the research here


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My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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