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During an interview for entrance into an MBA program, an interviewer surmised that I was not passionate enough to be a part of their program. I was told they were looking for someone who “wore their passion on their sleeve.”

Flying home from the interview, I had plenty of time to think and reflect. While I wanted to complain about the experience, the interviewer, and why he was wrong, I did something more productive instead.

I started to write a follow-up letter thanking the interviewer for the experience, the feedback, and the opportunity to demonstrate through the letter why I indeed had a strong passion and why I belonged at their school. Let’s just say I put a lot of passion into that letter.

Whatever I passionately scribbled down that day worked because the school accepted me into their program. Although I ultimately decided to take my passion to another institution, it was a defining lesson for me about what passion is, how it’s demonstrated to others, and how different people perceive passion.

Passion is an interesting word. It can connote various feelings, from strong affection to even anger. For me, the definition of passion revolves around strength, sustaining dedication, enthusiasm, and a need for a mission. I agree with the interviewer that you have to have a passion for being in it for the long haul and surviving the ups and downs of your journey.
Having passion isn’t enough, however. You must also know how to share it with others, such as your team, clients, partners, investors, or MBA interviewer. I would argue that there isn’t just one way to “wear it on your sleeve,” but you must have a passion to make it.

4 ways of wearing passion on your sleeve

Although I may not have initially aced the “passion” test during my interview, I’ve learned much about passion and how to show it and share it. Passion doesn’t look the same for everyone, and how it is purposely and unintentionally demonstrated to the world around you can vary daily. From that interview, I have found that these four concepts have helped me proudly wear the badge of passion on my sleeve, transforming passion into a vital tool for continued success.

Share it

This may sound simple, but how will others see that you’re passionate if you don’t talk about it? Showing others that you’re passionate through action or storytelling can be far more impactful than saying, “I’m passionate about this.” Share your story, contribute to meaningful conversations, and express your journey’s how and why. Give examples of your passion-fueled perspective so that you vividly show others through storytelling how your passion has developed and why it remains so strong. If you do it right, you won’t need to use the word at all.

Go into details

When you’re sharing your story, don’t skim the surface! Staying at surface level isn’t going to cut it. Go deep and tell a story about a time when you were pushed to your limits, with your passion being the driving force to continue forward. Don’t edit out your emotions at the time, and don’t skip over the nitty-gritty. It doesn’t have to be all “rainbows and sunshine” to resonate with your audience. Talking about a difficult time and how you overcame specific obstacles can be moving. It can help you connect with others deeper, where your passion naturally shines.

Don’t throw it around

Many times, passion is a word that gets thrown around when in fact, it’s another word that you are looking for or describing. Telling someone you’re passionate about your work and then describing a time when you were committed will ignite confusion and doubt in those around you. Passion should not be a backup word, but it should be used with intention so that it’s received and believed. Using the word “passionate” as a cover for lack of experience or throwing it out there when you can’t find a better word will not impress. Please don’t use it as a buzzword or trending topic. It will drown out you’re meaning, and you will sound insincere.

Change your focus

Altering your mindset away from an internally-focused perspective can dramatically enhance how you demonstrate your passion. Although it might seem challenging to share a personal story without focusing on yourself, passion is all about the world around you. Think about how your passion affects others rather than how it affects you. Reflect on the problem you are trying to solve, the solutions you work toward daily, or the individuals at the heart of your mission. This will help you redefine your perspective so that you don’t come off as me, me, me.

No matter how passionate you are on the inside, if it’s not shared with others with the same exuberance and dedication as you experience it, it will get lost in the shuffle and take a backseat behind your other attributes and skills.

Revealing passion is not a sign of weakness. It’s a confirmation that vulnerability is powerful and a testament to your success. Notice that everyone has a different way of showing their passion. I look for it more in their heart than on their sleeve. What’s your definition of passion? How will you show others that you’re passionate today?