Going rogue: Running a pop up 20k passion 3000 miles from home

It was a sunny, November day in San Jose, California. Standing on a street corner in downtown with an entire afternoon to kill, we had a crazy idea. San Jose State University was a few blocks up the street. We could check out the campus and start asking people about their passions.

We had sticky notes and a small piece of cardboard, the only missing ingredient was the daring to approach a stranger in an unfamiliar place. We deliberated. Sitting on a bench nervously waiting for someone to walk by.

“What are you passionate about?” Matt Criscuolo, my partner in wild ideas, asked a student.

No response.

Sometimes a small failure feels just as a good as a success. They’re both progress. With that one under our belt, we were off to the races and the moments were amazing.

With an emphasis on personal connections, we refined the interaction. Instead of settling for just a passion, we asked follow up questions. Asking for examples of what their passions look like in action.

It got deep fast.

One student’s passion was “seeing past the surface.” When prompted, the student began talking about how society perceives addicts. How very few people are able to see past the surface and find the human being. He explained that he knows how it feels to be viewed in this way.

We appreciated his vulnerability. We hugged. And we wished each other well.

My mind was blown. Realizing how a simple question “what are you passionate about?” could spark such a powerful moment. We came to this campus as strangers, and we left having shared experiences more personal than I’ve shared with people I’ve known for years.

We met passionate teachers, first year students excited to return home for Thanksgiving and athletes recovering from injury. We heard from a woman who wished she could spend the holiday with her husband who was traveling. And again our hearts were touched after a student wrote the passion “friends and family” and it felt like he had more to say. So we asked. He shared that a friend recently passed away and he went to the services and now he’s determined to spend more time with the people who matter.

The moment hung in the air. We felt the vulnerability. The honesty. That’s what it’s about.

All we have are moments. What more could we wish for?