How often do you work on your passion project?

Today is June 8 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you work on your passion project?” By definition, a passion project is something that takes you a long-time, 10 or more years, to complete. Many who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well often stumble upon their passion project while working on something else. Having a project was actually the best career advice best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell ever received.

In a May 22, 2021, interview Gladwell said, “A friend once gave me what I now consider the best piece of career advice – ‘Always have a project.’ And what he meant was, don't let your job dictate 100% of what you do. Always have something that you're pursuing for your own reasons, that satisfies you in a different way, that you're the boss of, and that you have control over. If your job doesn't allow for that, then you need to go off and do something on the side. You're often a better judge of what is the best and most productive use of your time than your manager or superior.”

Examples of those who spent many years working on their project include French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement Victor Hugo who began planning a major novel about social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but a full 17 years were needed for Les Misérables to be realized and finally published in 1862. Additionally, Jonathan Larson lived in poverty, waited tables, and worked seven years to bring his rock opera Rent to the stage. Author J.R.R. Tolkien took seven years to write The Hobbit and 16 years to write the sequel The Lord of the Rings. Film directors Todd Robinson and Edward North are two other examples of individuals who both worked on passion projects for extended periods of time.

The Last Full Measure is a 2019 American war drama film written and directed by Todd Robinson. It stars Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irvine and Peter Fonda, in his final film role.

The film tells the story of William H. Pitsenbarger, a United States Air Force Pararescueman who flew rescue missions during the Vietnam War to aid downed soldiers and pilots, and the 34-year quest to have him awarded the Medal of Honor. Pitsenbarger was killed in the Battle of Xa Cam My aiding and defending a unit of soldiers pinned down by an enemy assault. Before his death he helped save over 60 men in the battle.

It took 34 years to get A1C William H. Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross upgraded to a Medal of Honor—one of only a few ever bestowed upon an enlisted airman. And the struggle to tell that Vietnam War story in a movie took nearly 20 years more. Now, more than five decades after Pitsenbarger gave his life for the sake of his fellow service members, his story is about to make the big screen. Todd Robinson first learned about the pararescue jumper's (PJ) story while doing research for another movie in 1999. Robinson was visiting Air Force training schools to learn how PJs are made, and he kept hearing one name evoked to express their ethos.

Motherless Brooklyn is a 2019 American neo-noir crime film written, produced, and directed by Edward Norton, based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem. Set in New York City in 1957, the film follows a private investigator with Tourette syndrome, who is determined to solve the murder of his mentor. Along with Norton, the film also stars Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

A passion project of Norton's ever since he read Lethem's novel in 1999, the film took nearly 20 years to go into production. Although the book is set in contemporary times, Norton felt the plot and dialogue lent themselves more to a noir setting — moving it to the 1950s, with many added plot points inspired by The Power Broker. Other members of the cast joined by February 2018, and principal photography began that same month.

The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019, and was released in the United States on November 1, 2019, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for Norton's performance and the film's ideas, but criticism for its length, and was a box office failure, grossing $18 million on its $26 million budget. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, the film received a nomination for Best Original Score.

Billionaire Warren Buffet, who started investing in his teens observed “Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Your passion project should be like that tree. What are you doing little by little each day that can help you or someone else many years in the future?

As you go about your day reflect upon your passion project. Do you have one? If not, would you like to start one? Do you have the endurance to work on it for over 10 to 20 years or more? Can you return to your passion project while completing other work?