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find your passion

Shine - A Passion Celebration (May Edition)


Shine - A Passion Celebration (May Edition)

THE PASSION CO. community gathered together for an elegant and inspiring Shine celebration last week, honoring the passion projects of a new group of 15 people, who recently completed our 5 week program.

The evening was a huge success and it was wonderful to see so many new and familiar faces turn up to socialize, engage and support those who made a commitment to push themselves out of their comfort zones and reconnect with their dreams.

Maya Katherine joined the program to help her complete her debut documentary, Hasa Film, about her extraordinary journey to meet her birth mother in Bengal after being adopted by an American family as a baby.

She said: 

I loved being held accountable because it really put a fire under me and that’s exactly what I needed.

“I was terrified and having panic attacks all week, but being able to show the trailer to such a supportive and kind community makes me feel very confident to move forward and show it to the rest of the world.


She added: 

I would absolutely recommend the program. Everyone was super caring and kind; they were my biggest cheerleaders.

Initially uncertain about what passion project she wanted to pursue, Emily Ostendorf opted to flex her adventurous muscles in her own backyard by exploring Bay Area towns she only ever passed through on her daily BART commute, like Richmond and Millbrae.

She said: 

I just wanted to do something fun and not feel under pressure to do something that had a bigger purpose.”

“For me the unexpected thing about the program and what I loved was being able to give other people ideas about their projects. It just felt good to be in the community, share and help them achieve.

Designer Damian Madray signed up to help him reignite his passion project, an organization called TheGlint that hosts gatherings for creative individuals to share ideas and get involved in conversations that promote positive change within their communities.

He said: 

I think it’s great being around people who are doing. It’s also cool seeing people chase their passions; it’s really inspiring and motivating.

Entrepreneur and life coach Lucy Keoni’s project saw her explore her dream of spearheading a social innovation collective.

She said: 

I think the program spoke to this dormant piece of me. I always wanted to change the world, but life took a toll so I never really got around to doing what I wanted to do.

I broke a pattern that was keeping me from excelling in a lot of areas of my life. Now I feel there are infinite possibilities in front of me and as long as I’m connected to my passion and my desire to serve humanity, there is no failing.

More than 400 people have taken the leap and completed our empowering program to date, pursuing passion projects in everything from writing a book and making a documentary, to designing an innovative app.

If you want to discover or reconnect with your passion, join our next Find Your Passion Program.

Beginning on June 2, the upcoming session will be led by esteemed counselor and life coach Carla Bagdonas, who helps people answer important questions and believes there is no better time than the present to start living the life you've been waiting for.

Places are extremely limited so click here to sign up now and check out our Facebook page to see more pictures from our most recent event!

Written By: Aoife Anderson

Photo Credit: Ellen Wildhagen



4 Lessons on Passion from Paul Graham


4 Lessons on Passion from Paul Graham

Photo Credit

Last Wednesday, I took a peek into the OpenAir conference, to watch Paul Graham speak. He is one of my heroes for many reasons, including founding one of the world's best incubators that helped spawn Airbnb, Reddit and Dropbox amongst others. What is even more fascinating about Graham is that he is not just another investor, programmer, entrepreneur. Paul is a multidimensional thought leader. He lives his passion for painting and writing, he actually studied the art at RISD and in Florence and keeps a popular blog, where he writes thought provoking pieces with candidness as well as simplicity.

As Paul Graham was talking at the conference, it hit me that all the advice he was sharing applies not only to tech startups, but to anyone embarking on a journey to pursue what their heart desires.

Applying his words to passion, 4 main lessons came up.

1- Work on whatever interests you

Some people come to me worried that if what they desire is opening a coffee shop, it will not scale, they will not make it on techcrunch, and therefore won’t be “successful.” In Paul’s view, don’t do something just because it is hot, or because it can be big. Start with what really interests you. After all, pulling all-nighters and dedicating most of your time to something will require a passion and a big interest to keep you going and help you achieve true success, which is doing something that brings you joy. Another way of putting it: "Do something that does not scale."



2- Increase demand by focusing on your product

When asked how to increase demand in a marketplace, the answer was simple: build a product people want. Whether it is a blog you are writing and you are concerned that you do not have enough visitors, a tea brand you started and it is not selling enough, a yoga class you began teaching and you are not getting the class to fill up, this advice is for you: talk to those who are using the product or service and find out how you can make what you are doing even more desirable. There is nothing more effective than word of mouth.



3- Stop ideating and start doing

Ideation is a misleading term, said Graham. Before I started The Passion Company, I was very tempted to take the “consulting” route, brainstorm market opportunities, put together a business plan, build a presentation and basically spend months "strategizing."

Most successful startups were started on the side, or out of need. For example, Airbnb's founders needed to pay their rent, so they started a website to rent out their couch and air bed.

The point is stop thinking and start doing. You want to be the best selling writer? Start a blog now. You want to create an app for dating? Prototype your idea in real life today. You want to be a painter, sign up for a painting class this second.


4- If you are scared of your idea, you are in a good place

“The best ideas are things so freaky that you yourself don't believe them.” Be audacious. Don’t let fear stop you. Fear takes so many forms that go like that: it’s impossible, it’s a crazy idea, how come no one had done it before, who am I to do it. Learn how to recognize that voice when it comes up. I used to be embarrassed to tell people that my company is focused on passion. I could not find companies to compare it to, and it was not an app based product. It was scary. The truth is, a year later, having proven that what we do is relevant to many, and that we have a customer base and relevance, the same people converted to believers.



In conclusion

Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy it. It is easy to get caught up with what’s cool, what’s trending, what everyone is into. The reality is, you will only make a difference when you are:

1- Doing something truly unique, that solves a problem.

2- Doing something that gives you meaning and fulfills your soul. 

Ending with one of Graham’s favorite quote:

The qualities that made for success in a fighter-pilot seemed to be just those sturdy qualities that made for success in other professions; observation, initiative, determination, courage, including the courage to run away. In course of time it appeared that men who had a private axe to grind beyond the public axe of the King’s enemies were especially successful.
— - Jim Bailey, The Sky Suspended

Interested in finding your passion? Check out our programs.


Shine - A Passion Celebration (April Edition)


Shine - A Passion Celebration (April Edition)

THE PASSION CO. hosted a magical event on Wednesday evening, honoring a new group of 15 inspiring individuals who committed to our month-long program and kick-started their own passion projects.

More than 200 members of our community gathered to toast their success, learn about their unique journeys and watch them Shine after reconnecting with their dreams.

Ellie Thiele had no idea what her passion was when she started the program, but rediscovered her love of painting.

She explained: “When I signed up I had no idea, which was the coolest part, and during the exercises it just kind of came to me.”

She reached out and spoke to a small number of her “creative idols” and produced four works of art based on their processes.

“We’re paired with a buddy to make sure we stayed on task and followed through,” she said. “My buddy ended up being my neighbor so I made a friend out of it too, which is so fun and cheesy."

“I learned that I had absolutely missed painting, creating and connecting with creative people outside my immediate circle. I came home from meeting with the whole group on a high. I was just so excited and happy to start on my project. I spent every Saturday working on this and they were the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.”

Guests enjoyed Spring-flavored cocktails by Sigh Sonoma and sweet treats by the Three Babes Bake Shop and Dandelion Chocolate.

Jenny Molyneaux presented her findings after interviewing people impacted by the gentrification of the Mission district, while ‘Girls’ fan Isabel Campanelli realized her goal to share her raw experiences as a twenty-something single girl in San Francisco, on a blog called

She said: “It was a great experience. I really trust Jessica; she’s a great mentor and friend. The program really helped me to hone in on what my passion is and how to realistically get it done."

“At the end of 30 days I wanted to have something to present so badly, and I’ve learned that following my dream and really listening to my gut is the most important thing."

“If you have a dream, a passion or something you want to try or do, why not do it with this amazing group of people. It really feels like a family, and, if I was going to start anything I’m scared of, I’d rather have a team of people behind me than no one.”

Vanessa Sabarese showcased an interactive exhibit using animal and mythical characters to spark old memories, dreams and help visitors tap into their unconscious, while Birute Maknyte opened up about ditching her vices for a month before leading a short session of the ancient Chinese healing practice of Qi Gong.

Kaley Isabella performed a freestyle dance after exploring self-expression in movement and sound, and Tyler Pugliese provided some thought provoking entertainment as he shared his slam poetry piece about his frustrations with the Government, its policies and his role as a freedom-loving citizen.

Other speakers included our wonderful Passion Stories muse and author Adam Poswolsky.

The event was a huge success and THE PASSION CO. founder Jessica Semaan said: “Thank you for everyone who showed up shared their dreams, talked about them, supported others in theirs. We are able to be, and make change in the world because of this community of believers and dreamers. THE PASSION CO. team is forever grateful.”

If you would like to find your passion, check out details for our next program here

Go to our Facebook page to see more pictures from this event!

Written By: Aoife Anderson

Photo Credit: Nina Menconi


5 things a heartbreak and 100 days of romantic abstinence taught me


5 things a heartbreak and 100 days of romantic abstinence taught me

 It was a cold December day when I chose the comfort of my bed over the hype of another Silicon Valley Christmas party. I spent the evening browsing the catalogue of men on Tinder, wondering if my soulmate could actually be a finger swipe away. When M’s profile came up my heart skipped a beat. I remembered meeting him last year, and falling for his big brown eyes. So I swiped right and he did too.

We talked for hours over text, agreed to go to a Sufi festival in India together and promised to meet when he was back from NYC, a month later. Fueled by distance, longing for love and two intense personalities, our story escalated fast and by week 3 he dropped the love bomb.

I told my family, friends and anyone who wanted to hear that I found “The One.”

This is not a happily ever after story. When the day came to meet in person, things changed. M was not the sweet loving man he was through the screen. He distanced himself and within a week it was over.

I was officially heart broken.. and embarrassed, and turning 29. I could try to get over it and find another man, or pause, for once, and reconsider my approach to romantic relationships.

And so I decided to focus as part of the January Find your Passion Class on a passion project of a different kind: Revisit my beliefs on love, and write an article about my discoveries and submit it to the NYTimes. I took 100 days of romantic abstinence, researched relationships by talking to 9 couples who “work,” hired a relationship coach, read three books, attended two workshops and learned a thing or two.  

1- The story is a story

I often fell in love with the fairytale story, not with what I was actually experiencing. Our society and culture, since we are kids, bring to the forefront the concept of “happily ever after.” Unless you are the 1% who is happily married to your high-school sweetheart, you are probably not going to have a Cinderella story.

Coming into a relationship with unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disaster, I came to find out. Seeking intensity in the dream of getting married, having kids and jetting off to the Maldives in reality is tempting. However, working with my coach, I learned that intensity is everywhere. I began looking for it in the present, in that first touch, the accomplice smile, the deliciousness of the first meal we cook together. What also helps in detaching from the fairytale stories, is identifying them when they arise, feeling your body, the vehicle to the here and now.

2- What you need is not what others need

I learned to find out what I really needed from a partner, not what my mom or friends need. For a long time, success was on the top of my list. The truth is, I could not care less if my partner was successful when compared to whether he was loving. I quickly came to realize that I was more concerned with what others thought than with how I wanted to feel.

In taking the time, and reflecting on what Jessica needs, I came up with these 3 characteristics: Kind, loving and curious. Funny would be a bonus. A tool I learned, at the dating by design workshop, is to write down the 20 things that you want in a partner, and circle the ones that are not influenced by others, then drill them down to 3, and come up with ways you can identify them in a person on the first date.

3- Romance is not love

And you can’t milk the romanticism of relationship too long as you become more conscious. It’s more interesting than that. It really is. And people want to romanticize their lives all the time. It’s part of the culture. But the awakening process starts to show you the emptiness of that forum. And you start to go for something deeper.
— Ram Dass on "The idea of Soul Mates"

Love is not in the Facebook photos, the big ring, the eternal promises and poetic statements. Love is in the details of every day. It is in the boredom of our lives. It is when you wake up with a stomach pain and your partner rubs it for you, it is when problems arise and how you respond to them, it is in the honesty and truth you live by every day. Love is acceptance of someone’s messiness. The details take time to be seen, and so does love. It takes time to build up.

Joe and Amy, a couple who has been happily together for 22 years, mentioned: ”For us love is the everyday little things. Yes flowers are nice, but what makes it work is how we sit with nothing to say or do for hours, and still be content.”

4- It’s not him it’s you

After the honeymoon is over — it’s after the desire systems that were dormant in the relationship that have the attraction in it pass and all of it passes — then you are left with the work to do. And it’s the same work. When you trade in one partner for another, you still have the same work.
— Ram Dass on ‘The Idea of Soul Mates’


Relationships put your issues on the table, and there is no escape from them unless you choose to see them, acknowledge them and get to work on them. I had, for the longest time, blamed my failures in relationships on not finding the right person, or on a deficit in my partner. I had the choice to repeat the cycle with my latest heartbreak; call him an asshole and move on. Instead, this time I chose to understand why I attracted someone like him.

It turns out, my thirst for love and attention leads me over and over to desire intensity and immediacy. Identifying this issue makes me aware of when I do it, and helps me be open about it when I meet someone. 

5- Virtual is not real

It is easy to hide behind a screen and engage in romantic relationships. You can sign off chat when the conversation gets uncomfortable, you can tell someone you love them over text and walk away from it the next day by blocking them. Depending on the means of using online dating, I learned that pursuing a relationship virtually for an extended amount of time sets you for a quasi failure. If you are single and tempted to get these dopamine boosts virtually, think again.

The New York Times' ‘Modern Love’ columnist, Daniel Jones says about relationships developing online: 

We’re trying to bypass the awkwardness and bypass the vulnerability, and go straight to the good relationship.
— Daniel Jones

In summary

One my biggest fears was not meeting the love of my life. After my passion project, I came to truly value the journey so far and being single. It has been a time where I have become self-aware, preparing me for a healthier relationship and hopefully a lasting one. Most importantly, I now know the real secret: You always have a choice, whether you are single or in a relationship, to blame the other for the difficulties and issues, or look within, and continuously work to accept, learn, grow and repeat. The truth is, you is the only thing you have control over. So next time you hit a roadblock, remember two things: 1) You have a choice, 2)  Hollywood and Disney are lying.

Photos by Elle Wildhagen: