Message from the Chair

This was first published by CSAE Trillium in their FORUM newsletter on March 11, 2019. Constance Wrigley-Thomas, CAE was Chair of CSAE Trillium from October 2017 to October 2018


Passion isn’t something that lives way up in the sky, in abstract dreams and hopes. It lives at ground level, in the specific details of what you’re actually doing every day.  —Marcus Buckingham

Many years ago, more than I care to count, I discovered my life upon the stage.

I sang. I acted. I danced. And while I was not exactly a triple threat, I was enthralled with the idea of doing something that ended in applause. A couple of years later I was accepted into Dalhousie’s theatre program and began my education in what I imagined would be my life’s work. I had found my passion.

The thing is, my passion was being on the stage, not the journey to get there. Nobody told me that I would have to spend up to 1,000 hours building sets or laundering costumes as part of my apprenticeship. How could I find my passion if I were not upon the stage? As it turns out I was missing the point.

Many theatrical productions later, including some wonderful roles and a short-lived professional career in the theatre in the early 80’s, it was becoming very apparent that my passion wouldn’t pay the bills or put food in my fridge. So instead of being a waitress aspiring to be an actress, I became an actress really enjoying being a waitress because at least I made decent money.

Why do we tell young people to go find their passion as if it will define one’s life or circumstance? Finding your passion is not a yardstick of success or commitment. Saying you are passionate doesn’t tell people who you are.

And let’s be honest, passion is not a plan or something to be pursued. Passion is a feeling that is the result of doing something well or developing a useful skill or talent after hours of practice.

But as parents and teachers and employers, we perpetuate this myth that if you follow your passion you will be successful and that if you aren’t passionate about what you do, you are not successful. It places too much pressure on young people and has the potential to create unrealistic expectations.

The message instead should be, “don’t wait for passion to show up” or “start doing and failing and learning so that you can discover your passion.” In other words, don’t let passion define you but rather, allow deeds, actions and results convey who you really are.

In my opinion, that is how you grow and expand your capacity to be a passionate person. By cultivating your interests and your talents you are creating space for passion to inhabit your life.

I recently read an article that quoted Carol S. Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Dweck has done studies on mindset, particularly on how it influences success. Mindsets can be viewed as either fixed or growth. The fixed theory of interests suggests the idea that core interests are there from birth, just waiting to be discovered. Growth theory posits the idea that interests are something anyone can cultivate over time.

Growth theory rationalizes a more protracted and challenging path to attain passion but I suspect that the journey is far more satisfying.

As a busy entrepreneur with a thriving association management company I discover passion in the most surprising ways. Mastery of technology can send a thrill through me like nothing else. Like solving a puzzle I enjoy the challenge and the knowledge that this boomer (baby) still has it.

And as a care giver, creating a system that enables my mother to exist in dignity and comfort, my passion is doing the simple things that help to enhance her daily life.

I discover passion in the most mundane of situations, and sometimes the ridiculous because I let go of trying to find my passion and instead, have allowed my passion to find me.

Constance Wrigley-Thomas, CAE is the Owner/CEO of Essentient Association Management, a boutique AMC based in Burlington, Ontario and is the co-founder of Mentorship Rocket, an in-the-cloud solution that enables associations to have their own mentorship programs. Constance is the Immediate Past Chair of CSAE Trillium, the current Chair of the AMC Institute Canadian Chapter and is the Canadian representative to the AMC Institute Board of Directors in the U.S. More recently she was appointed to the Board of Directors for Meetings Mean Business Canada.

Constance can be reached as follows:
Twitter: @conniewrigley or @EssentientAMC and