I was recently in Austin, TX for SXSWi, and probably the best thing I saw was 20x2, which wasn't actually part of SXSW. The gist is this: ask a question, in this case, "What's the difference?" And then, give 20 people 2 minutes each to answer the question. Got that? Twenty speakers. One question. Two minutes each.
While it's interesting to compare and contrast the different approaches to the question, there is undoubtedly an underlying competition that takes place, even if unspoken. The content, the performance, the delivery, the passion; they all come into play, and in my mind, there was one clear winner.
My friend and colleague, Simon Batistoni (of Flickr ilk) was invited to be one of the 20, and what follows was his answer to, "What's the difference?"
Simon, if you happen to read this, you totally rocked it, and inspired me and everyone else in the room. Hopefully you've stopped shaking by this point...
The difference, in a word, is passion.
In all our pursuits and endeavours, it is passion which leads to the creation of the genuinely great, or the superlative experience.
Think about it - who do you most associate with passion; Steve Jobs and his irritatingly exquisite products, painstakingly put together by folks who care about the minutest details or… well… Bill Gates?
I've seen the effects of passion in the panels I've attended here at South by Southwest. All of the best panels have been hosted by people with a genuine passion for what they're talking about.
In all honesty, some of them have had so little real content that they've actually subtracted from the sum of human knowledge.
But when that nebulous non-content is delivered with infectious passion, it still has value. The raw emotion itself inspires, leading us to new insights and ideas.
The greatest music ever produced, from the snarl of the Sex Pistols to the intricate scales of Rachmaninov, is fired through with deep, passionate enthusiasm and dedication. And the same is true for every other creative field:
The writing of Dickens or Ginsberg or Phillip Pullman; the art of Rothko or Monet; superlative graphic design or exquisitely prepared food by chefs like Thomas Keller - passion informs all of these things.
Life… is better with passion. It crackles with electricity a little more; sings a little more.
So my plea to all of you is this: let go of all those other influences on the things you do. Shut out the shareholders, investors, editors or producers; ignore the spreadsheets, monthly growth charts and budgets. Whatever it is you do in life; however you do it, feed your creativity with your passions, be they kittens or cushions, candles or cattle-prods, cocktails or cave-paintings.
Channel that energy into everything you do. It's the easiest, most fulfilling way to truly make a difference.