Fire in the Belly

In such a highly developed humanity as the present one, each man by nature has access to many talents. Each has inborn talent, but only a few have inherited and cultivated such a degree of toughness, endurance, and energy that they really become a talent, become what they are – that is, release it in works and actions. – Human, All Too Human, Part I by Friedrich Nietzsche

When I was young, before, during, and even after college, I was highly concerned with some day finding a job that aligned with my passions. Even in college, I pursued what I was interested in: writing, speaking, debate, and politics, hoping they would somehow lead to a passion-inducing career.

“Do what makes you happy” and “find your passion” were common phrases that rang in my ear, and why not? It made sense after all. Find something you are passionate about, and you will be passionate about doing that thing. Right?

Fast forward to present time. I am not a politician, author, philanthropist, journalist, Soldier, minister, lobbyist, lawyer, or any of the other “meaningful” career labels that would have aligned with my passions since becoming an adult. In fact, quite the contrary, my work in the corporate world is much less exciting by standard terms. Like most business jobs, mine is difficult to explain to my parents and to strangers, and a majority of the work revolves around sitting at a desk answering emails. In addition, I am certainly not saving the world or creating mass cultural change like the careers that would have been “my passion” would have done.

Yet, amongst this contrast of my seemingly “normal” corporate office job, I am very passionate about what I do. I am passionate about showing up and giving 100% effort. Passionate about working with my colleagues, customers, and leadership. Passionate about striving towards excellence. Passionate about doing whatever I do and doing it well.

During my short tenure in the business world I have come to realize somewhat of an epiphany, that not everyone is passionate about what they do. Woah. Deep, huh? However, to be fare to these people, I reason that they are possibly still searching for “what makes them happy” and are trying to “find their passion,” and until they do, they simply will not be passionate about what they do.

In The Virgin Way, Sir Richard Branson tells about those who “are not in the least bit passionate about what they are doing with their lives.” He tells us that certain individuals’ lives are, sadly, “about ‘making a living’ as opposed to making every living moment count.”

What these people are missing is a fire in their belly. It is something I have (or like to think that I have), and it influences how I work and how I play.

Fire in the belly is a term used for people who possess a passion to do everything to the fullest of their abilities. Branson says, “you are either a hundred per cent behind the quest for excellence a hundred per cent of the time or you aren’t really a player.”

Fire in the belly means passion burns inside of you while you work, rather than trying to find work that makes you burn with passion. It refers to the flame that makes someone happy doing anything, simply for the sake of doing it with a flame of passion.

Nietzche believed that everyone had natural inborn talents, but it was only those who cultivated their talents who would release them. Similarly, I argue that everyone is born with passion, and it is a switch that is either flipped on or off, evidenced not by if your work is fulfilling your passions, but rather, if your passions are fulfilling your work.

This quality is very important in hiring and building teams. Answering “does she have fire in her belly?” is more important than “is she qualified?” Qualifications and skills will fade in anyone who is searching for work that will make them “passionate about their work,” but those who bring their passion to their work can grow to be not only qualified and skilled, but exemplary team members, dedicated producers, and valued leaders. See more on Hiring for Passion, Not Experience on

In terms of professional success, I once heard of a snap-judgment measuring-stick that is placed on a person to gauge his or her likelihood of success. The assessment seeks to answer the “likelihood of imminent success” of the person. I believe that when we ask that question we are really wondering more about the person’s inherent and exercised passion than we are their ability to perform. We look at another and wonder “will this person be successful in any challenge, setting, scenario, career, position?” But what we are really asking is “does he have fire in his belly?”

This is also important in choosing friends and who to spend your time with. If we are “most similar to the five people we spend the most time with,” as the folklore states, then I propose that in order to exercise our passion we must surround ourselves with passionate people – those with a fire lit deep down inside their interesting little bellies. Passionate people are interesting people.

Ask yourself right now, “Am I passionate about life and do I bring that passion to everything I do?” OR “Am I using the type of work I do as an excuse, always waiting to give 100% once I ‘finally find my passion?’”

Fire in the belly is about bringing passion to everything you do. It is about having a personal standard of high success in every venture and every challenge, seeking excellence for the sake of excellence, and trying to improve a little bit each day. Living life with fire in the belly is rewarding. Do you have it?

fire belly

Fun Fact: The Bombina, aka “European Fire Bellied Toad,” fends off predators with her poisonous underbelly. She is extraordinarily aggressive and can survive years beyond the lifespan of the Common Toad.



2 thoughts on “Fire in the Belly

  1. Great post.

    I like your explanation of this concept and agree with it wholeheartedly. Especially when it comes to finding friends. It is so important to surround yourself with people who are equally motivated for greatness.



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