How to Reignite Passion at Work: The Business Romantic

Originally written January 30, 2015, this piece was updated on February 16, 2016.

The office is usually not the place for romance…it’s a place of numbers, deliverables, goals and annual reviews. But we all spend so much of our time in the office, we know if we’re not passionate about what we do it’s simply not worth it in the long run. So we jump from job to job, searching for that magic formula.

Nearly a year ago, we brought Tim Leberecht out to our space to talk about his new book the Business Romantic, which talks about a fresh approach to being in the office. Tim’s the founder of Leberecht and Partners and the former CMO of mega-consultancy Frog Design.

tweet-graphic-4Reignite passion at work with these three simple tools: Sentimentality , Vulnerability, and Reimagining


There are three basic lessons from the book that we wanted to share with you. It really all boils down to being vulnerable, tapping into your own authentic sentimentality and continuously reimagining what you think is possible.

1. Sentimentality

Tim mentions in an article he wrote for fast company that

Most of the time business is a powerful tool for fighting sentimentality, and our fear thereof. It strives to be devoid of double meaning; it is, at best and at worst, explicit, unambiguous, and literal. “Business-like” behavior is the very opposite of sentimentality, and sentimentality is the antidote to “professionalism.” For good reason: We don’t want an airplane pilot to be sentimental, or a lawyer, or a prison warden.

Yet something is missing in our work lives. “From a professional viewpoint, unfortunately, I had to make the decision to let you go.” There is little sentimentality, little sweetness in these lines; and HR departments will always advise you to keep it that way: “no sugarcoating”—”no pity please”—”stick with the facts.” “We maintain this brand merely for sentimental reasons,” also is a familiar line. In our fiercely competitive markets, clearly, too much love will kill you.

But design thinking requires design feeling, and, in that sense, sentimentality is the lubricant for ideation. In fact, any big idea has a sentimental cause: real passion for something. Allowing ourselves to feel that passion and to share it authentically with others is how real change happens.

2. Vulnerability

Your team and your company won’t go far if there is no trust. Trust means you believe in the other person’s ability to care for your needs. Think about it…I trust my neighbor to keep my keys until I need them. I trust my team with actions and goals I can’t do myself…and they know I need them done right. If we give people responsibility without trust, without the vulnerability of letting them do what we have trusted them to do, we can never expand past our own two hands. So trust is the product of vulnerability. You can’t trust someone with your interests or your responsibilities unless you share these parts of yourselves with them. The more you share, the more you are vulnerable and the more you can trust them. Being vulnerable at work can transform how you engage with your team.

3. Reimagine

Work can become…well, work. Routine, fixed, all too clear. And while that clarity can be comfortable, it’s good to get a bit uncomfortable and to push past what we know and think. In an interview in Inc, Tim says,

“constantly try to reimagine your role in an organization and reinvigorate your attachment to it…Finding the thrill and the adventure in commitment is a beautiful idea.”

Regularly asking what rules your working with that can be bent, broken or ignored, asking what assumptions you’re working with that are no longer true can be helpful in the process of reimagining what’s possible.


Daniel Stillman
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