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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Tadross

Leaders of "Meta" Might Put Passion Before Principle

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

“Never Put Passion Before Principle” - Daniel LaRusso

This is a quote by Daniel LaRusso, the former “Karate Kid” and now father and sensei in the spinoff Netflix series Cobra Kai.

Mr. LaRusso made this comment before his students' karate tournament, advocating that his former student, Robby, follow the self-controlled, self-defense method of karate rather than doing "whatever it takes" to win. Daniel believes winning has no value if it is not done in the “right way.” He is an Enneagram 1, the Perfectionist, a person of high moral standards who believes there is one right way to do things.

But, by the end of this episode, he was advocating that his daughter use the aggressive fighting style of his arch-nemesis in order to defeat Cobra Kai, a team notorious for engaging in an aggressive, “no mercy” fighting style. Because, if she didn't win, it could mean their dojo closing, enabling Cobra Kai to spread their values of aggression and ruthlessness to more students. Daniel realized that sometimes you need to put passion before principle in order to perpetuate your principles in the long-run.

Some people act out of passion. These people are sure of themselves and act quickly, overlooking morals and doubts, to succeed (typically Enneagram 8s, the Protector, and 3s, the Performer). Others hold themselves to high principles. Because there is only one right way to do things, they look for high levels of certainty in their life path, with the tradeoff of acting more slowly and potentially being less successful (typically Enneagram 1s - the Perfectionist, 5s - the Observer, and 6s - the Questioner). 8s and 3s may go for the internship at a top company even if they don't know if their work is 100% ethical or will give them long-term fulfillment. 1s, 5s, and 6s may spend all day rationally debating their principles, consequently taking longer to set their eyes on a goal. Taking longer to identify a goal naturally delays its achievement (possibly indefinitely). Passion means occasionally putting emotion before logic to avoid analysis paralysis and get done what needs to get done.

So, putting passion before principle can sometimes help you to achieve a principle in the long-run. Consider Sheryl Sandberg, who (although I think she is an Enneagram 1), has succeeded by learning to accept imperfection in her work. She joined Meta when it was a start-up, and advocated for the company through various data leaks and privacy complaints. Although these were moral imperfections, Sandberg arguably achieved more than most people critiquing her. Accepting imperfection gave her the leverage to launch Lean In and Option B, two major organizations championing women in the workplace and families struggling with loss, respectively. She put passion before principle to spread her principles throughout the world in the long-run.

Note, however, that it is not definitive which personality types put passion or principle first. You should observe your own behaviors to identify whether you lean toward passion or principle, and how this may be helping or hurting you.

More importantly, if I am correct that Sandberg is a 1, self-awareness may have allowed her to resist her personality type’s unhealthy tendency toward perfection at all costs. As a result, she exercised the strong moral leadership and attention to detail of an Enneagram 1 without the costs of risk-aversion that sometimes hold back her personality type. Understanding and addressing her weakness may have been instrumental in Sandberg outperforming her peers in the business world.

Likewise (SPOILER ALERT), Mr. LaRusso’s student engaged in a partially aggressive (and morally imperfect) fighting style to triumph over one that was much worse. He unleashed his passion to perpetuate in the world a principle he believes in.

Opponents to this view argue that diluting your ethics along the way dilutes your long-term goals. I am not advocating taking the low road or demeaning your opponents, but, rather, setting aside some of the moral uncertainty and uncertainty in yourself that delays you from pursuing and achieving goals. Uncertainty and adherence to principles can be an asset when it means thinking through your actions to ensure you are striving toward the right goals. But, if you pay too much attention to slightly imperfect ethics or the potential for mistakes, you may never strive for goals that could give you a platform to achieve a greater good. If you worry too much about your morals, about your abilities, and about perfection, you may be paralyzed from acting.

Most of us struggle with delaying to act, and this tendency holds back some personality types more than others. To succeed and spread our principles throughout the world, we may need to unleash our passion - by overlooking rational principles at times and striving to be great in ways that are imperfect. For those whom this is not comfortable, going against your natural tendencies may complement your existing strengths, enhancing your life and your impact on the world.

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