The River of Passionate Work

The River is a beautifully flowing stream of water. Constantly flowing in one direction forever finding its path towards its ultimate destination – the Sea.


Two days ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine. It was a rather prolonged conversation we had after a significant amount of time. As we were speaking about the passion of our lives and where we were in terms of following it and achieving its potential, this particular thought about the River struck me.

Situation 1: Imagine Raghu, 25 year young man, all energetic and enthusiastic. His passion in life: to be a chef at a restaurant of his own located somewhere in the hills. Pretty much like that IIN commercial! What he is actually doing… working with an MNC spending most part of his day working on computer codes, coming home tired in the evening, watching television, partying with friends, sleeping only to get ready for yet another day at the office. I call this the ‘Upstream Problem’.

Situation 2: Imagine Sushant, 28 years old, working with a government undertaking. His aim in life: To become an IAS officer. Reason: To serve the country in the best possible way that he can while living a good respectable life for his own self. Although he is giving the exams for getting towards the coveted positions, he is unable to crack it thoroughly. As an interim, he is working with a government undertaking to at least contribute in his own way towards the betterment of the country. This gives him some comforting factor, but not to the extent that it would otherwise if he cracks the exam. This I called as the ‘Downstream Problem’.

The River of Passionate Work

I am of the belief that there are limited things in life which can give us real happiness. Working towards what one is passionate about at any point in time is one such thing. Working hard on anything else leads to frustration and ultimately giving up on the thing one started.

Imagine a river with water flowing in full strength over a thousand miles. At times the water takes turns, at times it goes straight. At times it is turbulent, at times silent. At times it goes haywire and jumps through falls, at times it is calm and breezes smoothly. At all times, it follows one particular direction and ultimately finds its path as it goes along to reach all the way to the sea. This is the River of Passionate Work.

Every time I am flowing on this River of Passionate Work, I am producing something from a deeper sense of understanding and love leading to a deeper level of beauty in my work.

Now imagine a small stream of water running almost parallel to the river but its water flowing in the opposite direction. Although the stream wants to merge and flow with the river, that is where the yearning is, it is still unable to find the correct path to meet the river. It is as if the direction of the stream of work one is doing in their life is in one direction and the River of Passionate Work in the exact opposite. There is a direct mismatch of thoughts in this particular case as in Situation 1 from above example. While the thought wants to flow with the River of Passionate Work, the actual life is going upstream, hence the Upstream Problem.

Next, let’s imagine another small stream of water running almost parallel to the river (at a small angle towards the river), this time the water flowing is in the same direction as the river itself. Again, the forever yearning of the stream is to merge with the river itself. However, this stream is also unable to find the correct path to meet the river. Besides, since it is flowing in the same direction as the river, the stream has a sense of satisfaction that even though it is not totally merged with the river, it is still better because it is flowing in the same direction as the river itself. That it will eventually merge with the river. There is a mismatch of thoughts in this particular case too as in Situation 2 above, but with a sense of satisfaction. This makes it difficult for the downward stream too to meet the river, hence the Downstream Problem.

The Way Out

I do not advocate that there is only one thing every man/woman is born to do. I am however a believer of the fact that there are a few things or directions in life that, if followed, will give any man/woman more happiness as compared to many others. As to what exactly the work would be in that particular direction would totally depend on the situation and time.

Take the example of Raghu, our chef friend. He wants to cook, that is the direction. As to whether he owns a restaurant, works as a chef at a hotel or any other place would be a factor or time, experience and a lot of other situations in life. Therefore comes the important aspects of turbulence, of falls and rises, of slowness and fastness of the river.

What is assured is, because the man/woman is on the River of Passionate Work, they will be happy even in the middle of the turbulence because the thoughts are aligned to the particular work direction and are therefore not wavering to quit and try out other situations for instant gratification.

The Upstream Problem: The Upstream Problem arises when one is actually working on something which seems totally opposite of what one thinks one is passionate about. As more and more time passes by, the stream goes farther and farther away from the River and the more and more difficult it gets to catch up to the River and meet the River. This happens in life when in the race of working for other factors, the talent or the direction of inclination is left untouched for too long, so long that when life is getting over and when the body has given up, it gets extremely difficult to relive the talent back and let its full potential flow.

The best way to take care of the Upstream Problem is to create intentional dead ends to the upwards stream before one such dead end is created by the universal powers. Dead ends such as death, giving up after an old age, or a life-changing incident forcing the man/woman to change the entire direction of life are some possible outcomes inflicted by the universal powers to shift the upward stream towards the main River.

The Downstream Problem: The Downstream Problem arises when one is working on something which is a close match to what they want but not exactly the same. In this case, although the man/woman wants to do certain things in life, however because of lack of opportunity or because of fear of failure, they are choosing the next best thing, the closest safest substitute with the hope of reaching towards a happier overall existence.

Situation 1 is an example of this. While this approach sounds good, the problem here is that the man/woman who follows this approach of the next-best thing will eventually get bored of the next-best thing itself and will then eventually continue to yearn for the River. Further, since the sense of satisfaction is significant in this case of downward stream flow, it takes even longer for the person to reach to the River. This is because running on the periphery is easier than jumping in the river!

In case of the Downstream Flow, the best way is again to create intentional dead ends. Intentional breaks and detours to begin to work passionately towards the area of interest.

Think-it-over: Which part of the River of Passionate Work would you call yourself to be at this point in time? Where would you rather be? If you think there’s another place of existence besides the three of these, do let me know!

Alignment in thoughts can be created or can be had only when there is a complete 100% focus on achieving any particular goal. This means flowing within the River of Passionate Work. Any deviation from this, on any of the streams – upstream or downstream, is only going to add more and more distractions within the mind of the individual, creating confusion, tension of body and mind muscles, and hence taking away one’s happiness.