The world seems to be split into roughly three different types of people: Those who have a passion for nothing, those who have a passion for one thing and those who have a passion for everything. This way of categorizing is not to cast a value judgement onto any particular group. My informal observation is that aspects such as intelligence, courage, moral fibre and wisdom seem roughly evenly distributed across all three of these groups although it may initially not seem that way. It’s always difficult trying to describe a group with an insider’s perspective if you’re not an insider but I’m going to give it a try:

People with a passion with nothing are the ones who are content to lead an ordinary life. They are the ones who can grow up, go to school, get married, get a good job, buy a house in the suburbs, raise children and grandchildren and die utterly content with their lives.

People with a passion for one thing are those who have found some calling in life and live and breathe that calling. These people may have multiple “one things” for which they are passionate about but they are interested primarily in the thing itself. These are the people who have dreams about thier passion, who spend idle moments of their day thinking about it and who possess a sense of manifest destiny and purpose once they discover their calling.

People with a passion for everything are not interested in things themselves, they’re interested in interest. To them, the actual objects of study are actually incidental, what’s fascinating to them is the more abstract layers in which everything is interconnected. This is not to say that these people are equally interested in everything or even that there are large areas of human experience are completely alien and boring to them(sport gets cited as aΒ common example). But these people are voracious and indiscriminate readers. They’ll be able to converse knowledgably about a huge range of topics and often know surprisingly huge amounts of trivia. If you’ve ever met someone who is a massive fan of TED talks, this is someone who is fascinated by everything. At the same time, for these people, their lives are constantly wracked by a guilt and longing that there is simply never enough time in the world to truly accomplish what they hope to accomplish or master what there needs to be mastered.

It’s no surprise to people who are reading my blog that I place myself firmly into the 3rd category. As a result, it’s been interesting but difficult for me to really peer into the minds of the other two groups of people. But what I’ve noticed in the process of doing so is how radical communication differences arise between members of different groups. If you’re not aware of these very different styles of thought, then you implicitly assume that other people think roughly like you with slightly tweaked parameters.

When a person who is passionate about one thing meets a person who is passionate about nothing, they feel extreme sadness that this person has not yet found their calling. To them, their life is so infused with purpose from their calling that they assume everyone else without a calling feels the same hollow emptiness inside them that they do. They are horrified with the prospect of living an utterly normal, undistinguished life.

When a person who is passionate about one thing meets a person who is passionate about everything, they just assume that this person is passionate about many “one things”. They understand how you could be passionate about two things or five things so they naturally assume the person they’re meeting must be on the far right end of the bell curve and interested in like… a dozen things or maybe twenty things. Widespread passion is mistaken for intelligence because they assume people who are passionate about everything manage their passions in the same way that people who are passionate about one thing do. What they fail to realise is that the passion is not thing-centric.

When a person who is passionate about nothing meets a person who is passionate about one thing or everything, there is a sense of otherworldliness to it, that those people possess some kind of mutant gene which compels them to action. To these people, passion is an utterly mysterious process which they can only reverse engineer from the outside. To them, it’s like thinking of love as really, really, really liking someone.

When a person who is passionate about everything meets a person who is passionate about one thing, they just assume that this is a person who has settled. Every person who is passionate about everything ultimately faces the dilemma about how to focus their attentions. In order to be successful, they need to settle on something to be “their thing”; They need to become a software engineer or a journalist or a academic. Settling one one thing can, on the surface, looking like being passionate about one thing.

But what people who are passionate about everything fail to grasp is that others could be passionate about something without being passionate about your things. It’s a grave affront to people passionate about everything that you cannot convince someone else that something is worth being passionate about. You can’t convert someone into being passionate about your things but you can at least give them a sense of why your thing is worth being passionate about. It’s an utterly alien mindset that someone could be passionate about A, B & C *only* and care not one whit about the things you’re passionate about.

When a person who is passionate about everything meets a person who is passionate about nothing, the lack of curiosity is mistaken for unintelligence or a lack of opportunity. If only they were smarter or if only they had been exposed to a brilliant teacher in school like I had, they would be infused with the same sense of wonder with the world that I have. I think this is one of the more insidious miscommunications that exists because it imposes a subtle form of prejudice and judgement.

Β So much of the rancourous debates and misunderstandings I see in the world can be boiled down to a conflict between these basic personality types. Debates about education, about hope, about destiny and about ideals ultimately don’t boil down to the issues at all, they boil down to these three very radically different ways of thinking about the world. Each one is legitimate and each one is valuable and can act as a complement to each other.

The realisation that others have a system of values so shocking different that it seemed almost alien at first was one that enabled me to really connent with many people in a way which I had not previously been able to.

  • blackdeath88012

    I’m the 3rd type πŸ˜€ thanks for writing this.

  • blackdeath88012

    I’m the 3rd type πŸ˜€ thanks for writing this.

  • http://rega.in/ kaa

    a very subjective issue has been awesomely analyzed. hats off!

  • djc

    I'm curious what inspiration it would take to enroll someone in “hunting for passion”. I suspect it is possible for passion to infect someone, rising from zero passions, to one or more passions, to all-encompassing passion.

  • http://raamdev.com/ Raam Dev

    Wow, what a fantastic analysis. I'm definitely of the third type and have always found it difficult to focus myself on one interest — I have so many! I “picked” technology as a field to enter after highschool even though I was equally passionate about dozens of other fields. Now I'm transitioning into a nomadc lifestyle and headed to India next month to start a journey of self-exploration, living with only what's on my back.

    How do you suggest those of us in the third category express ourselves or explain our seemingly chaotic, unstructured, and unfocused lives to those in the other two?

    Thanks for the post! I've added you to my RSS reader. πŸ™‚

  • Hang

    I don't know what it would take to switch people from one type to another or if this is even possible. I would argue that 90% of this is set through a combination of genetics and strong childhood influences.

  • Hang

    I would say exploit the unique advantages of your position to live in the boundary worlds. Make associations between fields that never would have occurred to someone not spanning both. Help people from different fields talk to each other by translating their language & modes of thought to something comprehensible.

    At least, that's what I'm trying to do.

  • http://tek-that.blogspot.com/ sankalp

    Awesome article. Amazing analysis of different passion-types and their interaction. I am definitely the third type. I guess one can tell that after reading my blog πŸ™‚

  • http://www.lightelements.com/ Joachim

    very nice article…. the first time I found me “catalogued” so interestingly (3rd category, too) πŸ™‚
    > As a result, it’s been interesting but difficult for me to really peer into the minds of
    > the other two groups of people.
    maybe it's easyer than for the other 2 to peer into them mind of the 3rd… having interest in “all” and in interconnection, maybe there's a deeper interest also in investigating all kinds of human behaviors and the awareness that the biggest mistake is thinking other people are thinking with our kind of thinking…

  • http://www.adrijusg.com/ Adrijus Guscia

    Wow..this is great post. Makes me think about this topic again. And this comment about connecting seemingly unconnected things is what I kinda been doing a bit… I can't put a finger on that though.. I'm still young and learning about myself.

    But what if you are wrong in sense that people don't just have multiple passions, but they have a “theme” they are passionate about. One could be passionate about “Creation”, other about “Evolving” etc. And if you are passionate about creation you can express yourself in either programming, music, graphic art, even a business vision.. That's how I was justifying my multiple passions.. πŸ™‚ Still, probably not all of them fit under this description..

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  • Passionate about one thing

    People that are passionate about one thing often think that those with a passion for “everything” are annoying because they can lack focus. Teams full of people passionate about everything are often outperformed by teams full of people passionate about nothing (as long as there are enough people passionate about one thing to lead the charge)

  • Passionate about one thing

    People that are passionate about one thing often think that those with a passion for “everything” are annoying because they can lack focus. Teams full of people passionate about everything are often outperformed by teams full of people passionate about nothing (as long as there are enough people passionate about one thing to lead the charge)

  • cryptoromantic

    “I think this is one of the more insidious miscommunications that exists because it imposes a subtle form of prejudice and judgement.”

    So people passionate about nothing should read this blog post…

  • Hang

    Most people who are “passionate about everything” still have things which totally bore them. Sports is a pretty common example that I've come across. But if they meet someone who's passionate about sports, they'll still listen to them because it's the passion itself that most interests them.

  • Hang

    This is a very important point and I thank you for making it. Having a lot of passions isn't always a good thing. When dealing with people like that, they so often want to go off onto tangents and it's hard work to rein them in.

  • http://twitter.com/DonCarlitos Charlie McHenry

    Google “Too Many Aptitudes.” Type 3 is the archetypal TMA. The interest in everything, it turns out, comes from a wiring glitch that results in more than the average number of aptitudes. Think about that. Type 3's are “Renaissance” sorts, easily distracted, hyper-curious and effusive. The condition is as much a burden as a gift, as you probably are aware.

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  • http://www.adrijusg.com/ Adrijus Guscia

    I LOVE sports! How can someone not like them??? πŸ™‚ Anyway, interesting topic, would be nice to see you writing more about it πŸ˜‰

    • http://hempprotein101.com Hemp Protein

      Yeah I totally agree with you. I can’t live without sport either πŸ™‚

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  • http://obsessions-grossly-mistaken.blogspot.com/ gayathri

    Awestruck!

  • AJ

    an awesome and a lot of “content” write… this can be nothing other than the truth. I have observed life in a manner I know and I couldn't agree more with these thoughts.

    Thanks,
    AJ

  • Hang

    Thanks for the reference Charlie, very interesting & relevant stuff.

  • anand

    What we call adulthood is converting a person passionate about everything to a person passionate about nothing.

  • Arun

    What an awesome article! Fantastic analysis.

  • http://aniruddhasblog.wordpress.com/ Aniruddha

    Wow, simply amazing analysis. It actually gave me a new look towards Life. Couldn't resist referring this one on my blog – http://aniruddhasblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/
    I am indeed the 3rd Category and very much proud about it. And yes, now I can tell people that I am very much focused in Life, but towards many things. πŸ˜‰

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  • http://khalilsawant.blogspot.com/ Khalil Sawant

    Thanx for this πŸ™‚
    Its all about matching enthusiasm (passion)
    I am Cat-3, now I need find out how to concentrate πŸ™‚

  • Gauri

    When I look at the comments here, I realize that there's a bit of prejudice we all subscribe to. No one admits to being the first type:)

  • http://twitter.com/raamdev Raam Dev

    This same thought occurred to me when I noticed the high number of people who said they were of Type 3.

    But then I realized that it makes total sense. Here's why:

    Type 1: “Those who have a passion for nothing” are unlikely to read a post on “Three types of passion”.

    Type 2: “Those who have a passion for one thing” are not as likely to be interested in an article on “three types of passion” and are less likely to find such an article.

    Type 3: “Those who have a passion for everything” are most likely to be searching for some type of order — some type of understanding about why they're passionate about so many things. They would probably find an article titled “three types of passion” quite intriguing. These types are also most likely to be on Twitter and other social networking sites searching for information and reading things that may only be of passing interest, thereby increasing their chances of finding this article.

    • Ladolcevita

      Type 1: “Those who have a passion for nothing” are unlikely to read a post on “Three types of passion”.

      Not true. I stumbled upon this post not because of my passion for reading blogs and discussing various topics, but because of some random surfing. I see myself as a Type 1 most times, and as a Type 2, sometimes, considering that I have been passionate about a lot of things, only they happened to be periodic. It could be because I lack the patience to see it through, or because I bore easily. But I don’t let it bother me, because I prefer it this way.
      And about the bit where a Type 1 or 2 is unlikely to read this post- well, you may want to consider this – please who read posts and reflect on certain thoughts may not always want to start a conversation or discuss it to understand it better. They are happy with their takeaway πŸ™‚

  • http://ananthsreflections.blogspot.com thisisananth

    superb post.. ofcourse i am third type

  • Onetimer

    very interesting….but my opinion on this…..i think most people would put themselves in the third category…..even looking at the comments below most seem firmly rooted in category 3….

  • Hang

    Hi Onetimer,

    Raam earlier in the comments has he right answer I think. This is a blog post that Type 3 people are more likely to find and so there is the illusion that there are more type 3 people out there. As a guess, I would say in real life, it's probably 60% type 1, 30% type 2 & 10% type 3.

    • John Wilkinson

      Probably many of these commenters are type 1’s in disguise. Most type 1’s would say that their simple pleasures like helping their friends, watching tv, earning for their family, etc are all things that they are passionate about and that drive them. Few people would readily admit that they have no hobbies and passions aside from fleeting emotional sways.

  • Ana

    WOW great post! A bit late to the party I know, only stumbled across now. I think I'm a type 3 who's always been very frustrated thinking I'm a type 1 because I don't have a specific interest and thinking that the only reason I'm not like others types 1 is because I happen to be smart. It's quite interesting this view, need to revisit my thoughts and maybe just embrace that my interests are all scattered around.Cheers!

  • Tierrasimbolica

    Sometimes people do have multiple passions (I’m one of them). Their paradigm would probably best fit your description of the 2nd type, rather than the 3rd, but someone following your guide here would probably mistake them for the 3rd type. Overall an interesting and thorough assessment, and I like the idea of reaching across paradigms to establish common ground. But I think there are probably more than these 3 basic types. At least 4, if you count someone who has multiple passions.

    • John Wilkinson

      I think the distinction was 2 is someone who likes to focus and narrow, 3 is someone who likes to broaden and expand… I guess that means 1 is someone who is happy where they are.

  • Yoshemitzu47

    I disagree that having a passion for nothing is legitimate and valuable, at least as far as you describe this mindset. People who are content to live their lives, get married, grow old, and basically contribute nothing other to society than a fleshy body and offspring actually ARE doing a disservice to society because they’re feeding the mindless population explosion that will eventually kill us all.

    If you have a passion for nothing, and you want to do something good for society, please DON’T have kids. I know that sounds cruel, but google “human population curve” and click the first image result. Then tell me that mindless breeding with no passion for changing the world is a “valuable” and helpful mindset to have.

    • poeinthegutter

      To live simply, quietly, and humbly, experiencing the strangeness and beauty of life is every person’s right. One does not have to earn their right to live by being vocal or advancing society in some way.

    • poeinthegutter

      To live simply, quietly, and humbly, experiencing the strangeness and beauty of life is every person’s right. One does not have to earn their right to live by being vocal or advancing society in some way.

      • poeinthegutter

        I feel that one could argue that actively engaging in the “strangeness and beauty of life” is, in itself, being passionate – perhaps moreso a type 3 person. Let me clarify: a type 1 person, as I see it, experiences the world on its own terms, viscerally, emotionally. All the thoughts and obsessions of a type 3 person are contained in those simple, connotative emotions. If a type 3 person could argue, as you have, that a type 1 person is far too simple – even worthless – then a type 1 person could criticize that you spend too much time in your head and are detached from the raw present of life. They wouldn’t even bother to say it, though, because they don’t give a shit about your neurosis. Me being a three in a family of ones – this is my argument for their general worth.

      • poeinthegutter

        I feel that one could argue that actively engaging in the “strangeness and beauty of life” is, in itself, being passionate – perhaps moreso a type 3 person. Let me clarify: a type 1 person, as I see it, experiences the world on its own terms, viscerally, emotionally. All the thoughts and obsessions of a type 3 person are contained in those simple, connotative emotions. If a type 3 person could argue, as you have, that a type 1 person is far too simple – even worthless – then a type 1 person could criticize that you spend too much time in your head and are detached from the raw present of life. They wouldn’t even bother to say it, though, because they don’t give a shit about your neurosis. Me being a three in a family of ones – this is my argument for their general worth.

    • Asrobinette

      I believe a mindset such as you have is what is dangerous to society.Β  Each human being has the potential for greatness.

  • John Wilkinson

    I’m definitely very much so a 2nd category, and definitely find myself judging type 1’s as unmotivated/uninspired/wasteful and type 3’s as scattered/JoaTMoN/undisciplined. I recognize this though and just happen to be a happily judgmental person πŸ˜› From an objective stance though, I recognize them as simply different brains good at different things… Just extremely difficult to relate to. Also, being a type 2 makes conversations hard as I have to keep stabbing in the dark until I find one of my just-a-few interests that overlap.

  • Rock & Roll Face

    3rd type reporting in. Fantastic work.

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  • Starflower37

    This is interesting for me because I feel I am halfway between the 1st and third category…I am interested in a lot of things and frequently marvel at how wonderful the world is, but I would not say I am really passionate about any of my interests. In fact, I sometimes worry about my lack of passion!

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  • Occam

    Within your analysis, I do not see much of a difference between the first and third category. It seems to me that the third category is a special case of the first category where passion itself is the “thing” you speak of.

    I also think that your conclusion at the end is far to simplistic. I cannot help but wonder about adding in things like Confirmation Bias and the like.

    Otherwise, your article is good food for thought!

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  • Alexander

    I just realised I’m not alone. Thanks

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