The Difference Between Talent and Passion


Image: Bob Knorpp

A friend told me a story last night. Over drinks we talked and she said, “I was a dancer once. And I was damned good.”

This admission didn’t surprise me. My friend is tall and willowy and glides about a room with grace and flair. Her personality is sparkly as well, so typical of those in the performing arts. And when she said she was a dancer who was once offered a scholarship to Juilliard, I knew there was no exaggeration. She was a dancer.

But that wasn’t who she is now.

My friend is a marketer. She is a damn good marketer. One of the best. She is focused and driven and independent and she is among the best marketing minds I’ve ever come across. She speaks all over the world and is brought in by many of the top brands to give seminars and private training sessions.

And she is happy.

“Dancing wasn’t my passion,” she said, followed by a sip of wine. “Luckily, though, I was also good at something else. And that just happened to be what I really loved.”

Too often in my life I have been distracted by things that I was really good at. I was really good at playing guitar and singing. So I wasted years playing up that talent to audiences. I was really good at acting. So I mis-focused my entire college career on being in plays and learning performance. I was really good at solving technical problems. So I wasted hours and hours pulling apart devices and tinkering.

I think there’s nothing wrong with having talents and expressing them. I also think there’s nothing wrong with the occasional distraction in life. Hobbies are a good thing. But I now also know that unless I find my true passion and never compromise it, I can never truly be happy.

Talent alone is a fleeting pacifier. It gives me satisfaction to express it, but without passion to back it up it becomes a chore over time. And if I allow too many of these talents to distract me, it even diminishes the joy of what my passion really is.

My friend told me of a dinner with friends and how all of them, talented as they were in their respective professions, had now moved to autopilot. Their hearts weren’t in their talents anymore and they had begun their coast toward retirement before they had even reached 35.

I can see a little of that in myself. As responsibilities set in, passion can too often take a back seat to fiscal concerns and physical comfort. And let’s not forget fear. “What if my passion turns my world upside down?” It’s a question that lingers in the back of my mind always.

And yet, I am coming to realize that unless I wholeheartedly and fearlessly pursue the things I am passionate about, I’m only living half a life. It’s a life of what-ifs and questions, when I could be living a bold statement of vibrant, living excitement.

There is a difference between expressing a talent and living a passion. The key is being honest enough with myself to find that passion, cling to it and never let it go.

Robert Knorpp
Robert Knorpp is host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast at and is President of The Cool Beans Group, a marketing strategy consultancy based in New York City. He likes laughing even more than breathing. You can follow the madness on Twitter at
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2 Responses to The Difference Between Talent and Passion

  1. Judea i Lawton July 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    You must live life to the fullest, and yes, at times it can get a bit frightening. G-d is love, and will sustain those who fill there hearts with love. He is not the source of fear. If you love something you should move with confidence towards it, knowing that G-d will provide for you. Recently, I went to Philadelphia for the July 4th, 2011 festivities, and did not want to come right back home, but I could not afford to stay in a hotel. I stayed outside all night on the first night, and then I went to the Salvation Army, and asked if they knew of somewhere I could stay at night, until I was ready to go home. A woman at the front desk made a phone call for me. She spoke to someone who told her to send me to them. I took the address, and phone number, and I read that it was a “walk in shelter”. I had reservations about going there. My reservations left as I realized that I truly wanted to be in Philadelphia , and I really wanted to learn more about my Founding Fathers. The tours in Philadelphia are free of charge. I decided to be courageous, and go to this shelter. It was absolutely “no frills”. All I got was a mat, and a place to sleep on the floor with about 50 other people. The experience was a good one. I got over my fear of shelters, and I realized that most of the people there just wanted a free place to stay for the night. Nothing bad happened. I stayed there until Friday, and I enjoyed my visit to Philadelphia. I went on all the free tours, and on Friday gathered with others outside Independence Hall to hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Had I let fear rule me, I would have missed being where I wanted to be, and doing what I wanted to do. I came back to Washington, DC with a renewed sense of purpose. I also discovered that the Founding Fathers wanted a Government that had an emphasis on “Happiness.” I am a Docent at the Library of Congress, and I have been leading tours there of 3 years. The Charters of Freedom, Our Nations Documents, in their rough drafts are viewed during my tours, and I can now provide a clearer prospective about the kind of world our Founding Fathers wanted for the citizens of this country. They wanted us to be free, and happy. They are gone now, It is up to us to finish this work of building a country where EVERYONE can have the opportunity to realize their dreams.

  2. Nikhil November 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Bob…Read your piece…Awesome! Liked that line about Talent alone is a fleeting pacifier! So if its passion one needs to be after, how do I identify what my passion is?

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