A while ago I received an email from a listener to my radio show Logical Soul Talk. During the show I discussed motivation, and a concept I call “branding from the soul,” or a way of finding your passion for success in business. The email went something like this . . .

“Hi, Michael - I listened in to [your show] yesterday which had me totally intrigued, enough to go back and listen to other podcasts. Such a rich resource there, really! But I have a question: When defining ‘passion’ you asked the question, ‘Is it something you are willing to die for?’

"I am passionate about encouraging and coaching other artists to find their authentic creative paths but I am not willing to die for it. Similarly, I am passionate about my own art and developing web presences for others, but not so much that I would die for it. I have businesses related to both and am marketing them with increasing success.

"Were you speaking metaphorically? As in ‘death to a life without success’ surrounding your passion? Or about lack of life energy or loss of joy if you couldn’t participate in what you are passionate about?”

This listener's question brought up an interesting dilemma in me, and my answer to this listener was summarized from the material found in the rest of this article.

My original statement on the radio show was based on a particular Will Smith interview where he basically said he was willing to “die for the truth.” In other words, this actor was willing to lay down his life for what he believes in or commits to. The first time I heard this, it opened my eyes; hence the topic for the show.

Will Smith is very successful. Tony Robbins is successful. John Travolta, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Mohamed Ali are successful. What do they all have in common? They all share the same quality of total commitment that can only bring success . . . or failure and even annihilation. Looking to history, you find this quality present mostly in the movers and shakers of their era: General George Patton, Mahatma Ghandi, Harriet Tubman, Alexander the Great, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others like them. All of these great ones played the same high-stakes game of “do or die.”

What sets each of these people apart from 99% of humanity is that they do NOT compromise when it comes to their deepest values . . . even if it means their physical death! When they focus on something, it gets done. Period. Their passion drives them towards success. Nothing else matters.

If you can look at your career or life goals with the same conviction, you will succeed. It’s that simple. If not, you will always have an “out.” If you are not willing to burn your bridges, your chances for lasting success are reduced, and often eliminated.

The fact is, very few of your options (unless you are committed to extreme sports like sky-diving) will lead to physical death. That’s the good news. The bad news is: there is a part of your brain that can’t tell the difference, and will continue to fight to keep you “safe.”

Does this mean you can’t have a measure of success? No. What it DOES mean, however, is that you will NOT be playing the same game on the same world stage as the super-achievers.

If that’s not important to you, I understand. Your passion is for survival, as it is for most of us. This is not wrong; it’s just the way things are. You can still achieve your own measure of success and happiness, so long as you know this is the game you are playing . . . so play it all out! “Death” to you might mean something like public speaking, cold call selling, or doing something you believe in that risks criticism. So do something that invites personal transformation.

This “passion for survival” I mentioned earlier can understood as part of our evolution as a species. Even if we no longer have to face daily threats like invading tribes and saber-toothed tigers, we still carry that awareness of threat within us. Facing danger in the past meant annihilation. Therefore, your ability to commit to any perceived suicide – real or imagined – has essentially been bred out of you over many generations.

Fears of death – whether it be to the body, emotions, ego, or even basic beliefs – all appear to you as equally frightening, and part of your brain that makes this ultimate “passion decision” is very old. The limbic system - usually oversimplified as your “animal brain” – is programmed to help you survive at all costs.

In ancient times, when saber-toothed tigers roamed the earth, this meant either learning to fight the tiger (a sure-fire way to get killed), or flee from the tiger for greater survival odds. This “fight-or-flight” reaction, coined by Walter B. Cannon in the 1920′s, has also created a type of human schizophrenia.

While you may WANT success, you HAVE TO survive! Your “passion thermostat,” therefore, is set for low. In our society, only the Alpha Males (and Females) actually attempt to kill the saber-tooth . . . or die trying. They become our leaders, or our deceased heroes. The rest of us are ruled by “common sense” the code of survival we’ve passed down to our descendants for millions of years.

So what does all this mean for you? One of two things:

1. You live according to the evolutionary cards
you were dealt, or
2. You change your survival decision setting.

Believe it or not, there is a way to change your evolutionary survival setting . . . but it takes time and a commitment to personal transformation. You must be willing to give up many of the time-honored “truths” you have held for most of your life, and be able to embrace a feeling of the unknown, or emptiness - at least for a short time. This vacuum – coupled with a deep intent towards success – will invite that transformation.

For some, this might mean quitting your job to pursue your passion – a kind of “death” that still implies danger to your limbic system. Some make it; some don’t. Only by truly embracing your real passion can this work out. If you quit your job to pursue the IDEA of what you THINK is your passion, you will fail. The good news is that you will probably still be alive and can regroup and try again later.

There are ways to actually LINK the passion for survival with a strong desire to succeed in a given field of endeavor. So yes, “success or death” is always present in your subconscious; you just want to make sure that you consciously understand your hidden motivation. Without a firm (and deep) commitment, “passion” will remain just a word.

Author's Bio: 

Author Dr. Michael Craig is a former chiropractor, a “coach’s coach,” and author of several books including The Logical Soul®, The Money Matrix Method, and The Six Figure Coach. He is a pioneer in the field of “Motivational Cybernetics,” and developed a method for getting access to – and changing - hidden subconscious decisions that rule our lives. He is a coach trainer and provides resources and coach training at http://mycoachtraining.com.