Finding your passion

March 30, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm for something (or someone). Finding it isn’t always easy but, when you do, it’s great to hone in on the elements that really fan the flames.

If I look at myself I quickly identify two major passions: learning how things work and building solutions.

From as far back as I can remember, I had to know how everything worked: why the sky is blue, what are rainbows, how a button and a switch work, a synthesizer, a phono stage, a vacuum tube, a traffic light. When I interact with the physical world there’s not a lot around me I don’t understand.

Faced with a problem or presented with a challenge, I am inspired to build a solution. When I was unhappy with the sound of the first CD players from Magnavox I figured out how they worked, determined what I could and could not affect, and built one of the first outboard DACs to solve the problem. When I was unhappy with my stereo’s dynamics I added side-firing drivers activated by a log amplifier to extend the system’s dynamic range.

Not everything is understandable to me. Not everything is fixable to me.

That was never the point.

The point is to identify and then follow one’s passion even if it means failure.

What’s your passion?

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24 comments on “Finding your passion”

  1. Passions for me vary as much as the way the wind blows. Today and for the foreseeable future it will revolve around a new Black Lab puppy. Then later about the laser problem of the day. The never ending quest to shoot a better golf score. Maintaining and landscaping a yard to approach a park like look. Gardening as the weather improves. Remodeling a house or barn. A long canoe trip. A five day hike on the Appalachian trail. The list goes on forever. The need and desire to understand how things work and then improve upon them doesn’t top the list too often. The practicality of understanding enough to know when fixing them is within my capabilities, and then when it’s beyond those capabilities, to leave it to someone else. That is not a passion but is realistic.

    When it it comes to home audio, the passion to enjoy the results, because of someone else’s vision and passion. In the scheme of life the passion revolves around enjoying moments with those closest.

    1. Cue up Bohemian Rhapsody: “Any way the wind blows . . .”

      Labrador (and all) puppies are cute. My brother-in-law is on his third Yellow Lab: Lady, Lacy, and now Layla (she qualifies as a platinum blonde, like on the Derek and the Dominos album cover). Sweeties all.

      1. Steven,
        I’ve been a LAB lover / dog lover since I can remember. I get a little more occasional ‘sas’ from the pups than from the audio, but tons of satisfaction from both. This may sound stupid, but when the tunes are “right” the dog clan all show up in the music room and hang. When things aren’t right there they leave and watch the boob tube.

  2. ^ 😉

    My passion? It is 100% serious and concentrated music listening. If I’m allowed time to myself I put the headphones on and go to work baby! 😉
    I’ve got a busy schedule these days, especially with my work and having a 2 year old son, so whenever I’m allowed to have a good stretch of time to myself, music is always my go to. The excitement that washes over me is nuts. Music also recharges me psychologically, so in a way music is my passion but also acts as my holistic healer as well.

    Paul. Your passion is amazing and the way you go hand in hand with the tech behind the music is always so bloody interesting to me and of course I’ve learned a lot from you as well learning about why my music sounds so damn good or how it can sound better. I will never take it for granted.

    So yeah fellas. Music is #1 with me. My family is my greatest love and music with all its other attachments is my passion, healer and special interest. I’d be a miserable f*%%#k without it. 😉

  3. I’d for now put the focus on the point, that the concomitant circumstance of the things I have passion for (may it be sports, hobby, people, creativity, culture, arts etc.) is that I can’t avoid having to do it with a certain (for many unusual) depth and aspiration to a certain point as well as open mind. This often leads to get to know experts in their own field and having really interesting exchange up to my limits, but it can also limit common wavelength with differently minded people. So it’s maybe a passion to do the for me important things with a certain depth or not at all.

  4. This is exactly what fine tuning a hifi system needs. I don’t think we understand everything about sound production in a system and therefore we need to explore to get the best sound out of it.

  5. Simple question at the end of today’s post, simple answer for me.
    I found my passion when I was about 16,17 years old (young). Audio.
    It really is as simple as that.

  6. My job of 25 yrs is working with imported scandinavian furniture.  When I assemble a chair I take the time to honor all the planning and perfect craftsmanship that has already gone into the individual parts.   Considering the many many years it will be a trouble free piece of architecture makes me proud.

  7. Sadly, the world is divided into two parts: the “haves” and the “have nots”. Exactly how you draw the line between the two is a matter of debate, but I think we all understand what the difference is between the two. For the have nots the main concern of each day is often ” where can I find some free food” or “where can I find a safe place to sleep tonight” or “will I survive when it gets cold”. Some of these people may have passions such as “how does an electric alarm clock work” but they probably do not get to pursue that passion the same way they could if they were a have. I hope that those of us who have had the opportunity to pursue our passion(s) in life are grateful for how fortunate we have been.

  8. Before the age of five, my parents had to hide all the pliers and screwdrivers in the house to keep me from disassembling every appliance in the house. I suffered from an insatiable passion to understand the mysteries of how things work.

    At age six, the elderly lady across the street asked me “What do want to be when you grow up?” I responded “An Engineer!” To which she replied “Well not every boy can still play with trains when they grow up”.

    My dad was not mechanically inclined, but he enjoyed mail order from Sears and Spiegel catalogs. At age eight my job was to assemble and set up all mail order deliveries.

    At age ten I did a book report on my favorite book, “How Things Work”.

    At age fourteen I bought my first car and rebuilt the engine.

    At seventeen I went to college to study Mechanical engineering, and by nineteen I was interning at General Motors in the engine development lab.

    I was never a great student, but my passion for engineering and design pulled me through. Graduating from college my GPA was just OK. But engineering recruiters recognized that work and life experiences were often more important. So at twenty one I was working at McDonnell Douglas designing parts for fighter planes.

    At age 60+ and 65 patents later, I am still the five year old kid with an insatiable passion to understand the mysteries of how things work.

      1. Thank you ladderman. I was very lucky to be the first generation American son of loving immigrant parents. Parents who emphasized books over a big house or new car.

  9. My passion is collecting as much affordable vintage audio equipment and parts as I possible can. Restoring what I can if it needs restoration. Listening to music while I age as gracefully as I can and hopefully my passion for music contributes to good health so I can enjoy many more years with my loved ones. Passing my passion onto my son so he appreciates my collection and carries on with it after I’m gone and he enjoys this hobby as much as I do.

  10. Paul I love the first Magnavox CD players. I have a stock CDB582, and a modified CDB582 using a Philips TDA1541A S1 Crown DAC, a stock Magnavox FD-2041 which is a very early model and was the very first CD player I ever purchased around 1984. It had the 14 bit DAC. I also have a Philips FD-2041 player extensively modified by Conrad Johnson. And I have an extensively modified Philips 1 bit CD player by Conrad Johnson in my collection of CD players. All made in Belgium Germany. They all have great transports, better than the Japanese models. The early Magnavox and Philips CD players always had great reviews from Stereophile and made it into their cheapskate recommended components, even the ones not modified.

    1. It looks like there are at least three of us old geezers that had a Magnavox as our first CD player. I cannot remember the model number, but compared to the Sony players back then it was a bargain.

  11. In 2006, I was told that I have heart failure after being rushed to the hospital. In 2018 I had emergency surgery and had an LVAD pump installed inside my heart and I am currently listed for heart transplant. The pump gave me a second chance at life. That’s how bad it got for me. I’m doing well. At my last appointment, my doctor told me that because I’m doing so well, it will be a while before they transplant me, however I’m at the top of the list for the latest device that’s coming out and it is a technical marvel in his words. It’s much smaller then the one I have now. I’m back to work where most LVAD patients go on disability. I’m in that 1% of good health heart patients. I’m doing all of the things I was doing before, I just have this pump attached to me for now. So that being said, Passion for me is enjoying all the little things in life. Driving my convertible, working in my yard, spending time with my kids and grandsons, sharing special moments with my Administrator who has never left my side. And last but certainly not least, my stereo system and my music! Getting a new component or a new piece of vinyl at a record shop or in the mail. My listening sessions that I now regularly schedule. I left my eyeglass wipe in the AV room and as I was picking it up, I turned and looked at what I built in my system and it gave me pure joy this morning just before I left for work. Thank you Paul for this opportunity to simply say what I feel. To read what my fellow Audiophile and Audio Enthusiast think and feel about our shared love of music reproduction. Ok that’s enough for now.

    Keep listening all 🙂
    Happy Audio Guy 🙂

  12. At 13 my grandfather brought home an AM/FM cassette receiver (Toshiba? York?) from the dump for me to ‘play with’. After some fiddling I deduced the power transformer was not working. I disassembled the tin case and found a dead thermistor in the first few windings and with some (pre-internet) reading, took the risk of bypassing it. My folks were so delighted (shocked?) I fixed it they rewarded me with a pair of Radio Shack 2 way bass reflex speakers. Thus it all began. Somewhere I found a 10″ woofer & jigsawed a larger hole replaced the original 8″ woofer in one speaker expecting thundering bass improvement! The confusing, disappointing hideous result then forced me to learn (the hard way) about VAS, vb & QTs and tuned ports. When I eventually killed the receiver, I removed the clock from it (the old black flip down panels type) and added a couple relays & contact switches (collected from numerous disassembled donor gear) and a Radio Shack metal project box and made my own audio timer. I now sit here in my work shop surrounded by a 18 pairs of speakers, 5 prs of Magnepans, several amps, tuners, DBXs, Heathkits, dozens of raw drivers, crossovers… ranging from 1951 to mid 90s. And the bulk of the hoardings are at home…. 🙂 . Hey, I know a guy who collects & restores AXES… he has hundreds. And knows the history & every detail about each one. From Axes to Zu Audio, everyone has SOMETHING….

  13. My passion is studying the diversity of human nature. I love to just watch people, listen to them and read their alternative points of view. The world is filled with billions of people, all living in their own worlds peeking out through their personal viewfinders. This post site is an example. I get a kick out of the variety of responses, on and off subject, as people share their personal opinions and experiences about what they perceive as truth.

  14. Re: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

    “Really, Doctor McCoy. You must learn to govern your passions. They will be your undoing.”
    — Spock

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