A life lived without passion is no life at all.

Passion is what sets apart the mediocre and excellent Foreign Service Officers.  This is true also in business, schooling, and indeed life.  How you do things has an impact on what you do and how well you do it.

I once had a boss in the Foreign Service who played favorites, picked on staff members he didn’t like and had serious anger issues.  It was a horrible time for me and for the Mission team.  But I did learn something from him.  First, obviously, that a good manager – open, trusting and honest — will get a better performance from his staff than a nasty, self-serving screamer.  And this boss was a screamer.

But he once said, “I’d rather have an officer with weak drafting and language skills but who was eager and passionate for his work than the brilliant officer who had little interest and excitement about his job.

“I can teach the former how to write better, how to speak the language with more fluency, how to develop networks of contacts, how to analyze the political situation, etc.  But managing the former is so much more difficult, even if he is the best Officer in the Foreign Service, because I can’t teach someone to be passionate and excited.”

Remember this as you take the Foreign Service Officer Exam, especially in your Personal Narrative.  Equally important, the FSOs administering the Oral Exam, especially the group exercise, are looking for professionalism, teamwork and smarts.  But they are also looking for the spark of passion.  This will set you apart.



  1. Maria Meneses says

    Excellent post! know this too well. I teach this to my students that I coach at the Unversity all the time. Passion! You gotta have it in life and if you don’t, you better get it quickly!

    It can make or break an interview in a matter of seconds.

    Don’t I know it too well.

    • Maria–

      Yes, passion is what it’s all about. Even after 24 years, I still feel excited and proud about the State Department’s efforts, especially overseas. I haven’t worked with a sharper, funnier group of people anywhere.

      Still, 24 years is a long time, and I’m eager to start the next part of my life. And, yes, I’ll be working on issues in Sub-Saharan Africa! Yes, another passion of mine.

      Cheers, Bill

      • Very cool! Keep us updated on the next chapter, Bill. Let us know what is going on with you in Africa (if you have to start a separate blog, then so be it!).

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