A few years back, preparing for a talk on “How to Give Exciting and Engaging Presentations,” I asked myself a fundamental question: what are the essential qualities that I bring to a speaking program? In general, my goal is to help people become more FIT, that is, how can attendees have “Fun” while engaging with exercises and ideas that are “Interactive” and “Thought-Provoking?” Two seemingly opposite dimensions quickly jumped out: as a presenter I want to be both thoughtful and emotional and also serious and humorous. The first pairing challenged me to blend head and heart (i.e., the information processing mode) while the second polarity grappled with the energy and mood to be generated and shared. I conveyed head and heart with the terms “Cognitive” and “Affective” and serious and humorous with “Gravitas” and “Comedia.” (Living in the DC area I was inspired by a weighty term that captures the depth of issues, not to mention the size of those Washington egos. “Comedia” worked as it implies a range of expression from the silly to the sharply satirical.)

Relating the two polar dimensions yielded four interactive “mode-mood” pairs that generated four substance and style presentational concepts:
1) ”cognitive-gravitas” … being “Purposeful”
2) ”cognitive-comedia” … being “Provocative”
3) ”affective-gravitas” … being “Passionate”
4) ”affective-comedia” … being “Playful”

And in turn, these concepts comprise my “Four ‘P’s of Passion Power Model.” The model’s bottom-line message: whenever you can integrate and express being “Purposeful-Provocative-Passionate-Playful” you bring intensity and an intention that motivates and often captures the imagination of the people with whom you are engaged. You are communicating and leading with “Passion Power.”

From “Powerful Presentation” to “Passion Power”: The Four “P” Model
A)Deep – “Light” Mood:

Gravitas (Purposeful and Passionate)
Comedia (Provocative and Playful)

B)Head - Heart Mode:

Cognitive (Purposeful and Provocative)
Affective (Passionate and Playful)

And as a 2x2 Matrix:



Based on personal experience as well as audience feedback from a variety of motivational programs (not just ones on public speaking), when you bring “Passion Power” to your myriad interpersonal and group encounters all kinds of social-learning-work interactions become enriched, enlivened and enlightened. Of course, it’s not easy simultaneously firing-up all four cylinders. In fact, I suspect most people are not totally confident and comfortable being “Four ‘P’” in most settings. People tend to have a dominant and shadow side, for example, some strongly “Purposeful” individuals have a harder time getting into a “Playful” mind-mood set or vice versa. And then there are real world restrictions: while government, business and industry encourage being “Purposeful,” the other “P”-words often get mixed receptions.

So the challenge here is to present and illustrate these Four “P” terms so that they can be effectively blended and utilized in a variety of personal and professional arenas. Let’s Develop Your “Passion Power”:

1. "Cognitive-Gravitas" Box - Being Purposeful. For me, a sense of “purpose” goes beyond being goal-oriented, though having a short- and long-term focus and keeping an eye on the finish line, is often essential to survival if not success. However, too rigid a goal focus and you’re often pursuing “egoals,” that is you are motivated less by rational goals and objectives and more by prideful, ego-driven concerns if not fear of failure-based compulsions. And when egoal-bound it’s hard to appreciate “flexible intentionality” as an enriched notion of being “Purposeful.” Consider these paradoxically purposeful perspectives:
a) Strive high and embrace failure. For the head of a law firm, no matter the project, his goal was a 100% success rate, yet he understood this ideal was frequently elusive. His mantra exalted concerted effort and bold persistence along with learning from mistakes over the illusion of perfection; battle-tested insight was prized over “one right way” shortcuts and seductive yet short-lived control.
b) I don’t know where I’m going…I just think I know how to get there. This Stress Doc aphorism suggests that for achieving an uncommon goal or reaching a key destination, there is value in meandering purposefully. That is, new insight or opportunity for learning and discovery may require “letting go” of the familiar or getting off the beaten path and taking time for exploration or for just “letting (things) come” up from the psychic depths. Of course, this mindset requires a tolerance for some uncertainty and a good deal of patience, as well as (men…pay attention here) knowing when to ask for directions. In fact, viewing error less as a sign of failure and more as an opportunity for grappling with confusion, learning and growth defines “enlightened purpose.”

And Jonas Salk would likely agree, especially supporting the notion that the journey is often as vital as the destination. Actually, the famed mid-20th century scientific pioneer embraced both purposeful determination and the acceptance of imperfection believing that, “Evolution is about getting up one more time than you fall down, being courageous one more time than you are fearful, and being trusting just one more time than you are anxious.”

Finally, these quotes do not simply illustrate “evolutionary purpose”; they illuminate the distinction between having knowledge and possessing heartfelt understanding if not hard-earned wisdom.

2. “Cognitive-Comedia” Box – Being Provocative. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you read the word “provocative?” Is it someone who is sensually enticing or, perhaps, someone who is intentionally irritating? Reasonable responses, but let’s look at the half full side of this semantic equation. Did you know that “provocative” is derived from the French word provocare – “to call forth”? For example, to be an effective leader or educator, colleague or parent you often stimulate and draw out, confront and excite a variety of thoughts and emotions, motives and actions. You want to “arouse curiosity” if not generate “discussion or controversy.” Such a conscious communicator believes in harnessing the “Five Provocative or Performance Arousing ‘A’s”:
1) Attention – awakening or focusing an individual or an audience, that is, quickly getting people to “stop, look and listen.”
2) Anticipation – having participants both engaged in the present and starting to wonder, “What’s next?” or “Where is this edgy or, perhaps, cutting edge leader headed?”
3) Animation – challenging conventional beliefs, firing the spirit and imagination while motivating a desire to pursue a common (team-or community-oriented) and uncommon (demanding, adventurous or original) task or mission. Also, a provocative communicator attempts to connect with a person’s “anima” – his or her more genuine Self – along with head and heart aspirations and not just with the surface “persona.”
4) Activation – providing individual participants and teams with the training and tools for generating objectives and plans, taking creative and collaborative action steps, while gathering feedback for reworking targets and resources and cultivating goals and dreams.
5) Actualization – when individuals and groups on a consistent basis are: a) tapping into their authentic, holistic and risk-taking essence and energy, b) expressing passionately their substance and style, and c) bringing spirited play and purposeful problem solving to the challenge or conflict at hand, then a process of self and team-actualization is underway.

3. Affective-Gravitas Box – Being Passionate. People are often surprised to learn that the “s”-word for passion has less to do with sex (or “soap opera”) and more directly connects to its Latin root relating to “suffering,” as in “The Passion Play” – the sufferings of Jesus or more generically the sufferings of a martyr. So for developing your “Passion Power,” what’s the connection between “suffering,” “passion” and being a powerful communicator or motivator? Let me share a story. I recently met a man in his late 20s who has been dabbling in a public performance mix of lecture and group hypnosis that wanted to hear about my journey as a speaker. (Coincidentally, on Public Television, I just heard financial guru, Warren Buffet, avow that public speaking was one of the essential skills for all young professionals.) Having joined the local speakers association, he was impressed (sort of) by the rapid-fire delivery or verbosity witnessed, yet something felt hollow and superficial. My spontaneous diagnosis: the presenters were not connecting head and heart. Alas, Carly Simon’s words were being taken too literally; these speakers weren’t taking “time for the pain!” My mentee’s response: “Whew, that’s deep.”

Developing “Passion Power” means blending strength and suffering, means expressing style and substance. Awareness of one’s own trials and errors (if not terrors) often instills a greater empathy. Not only can you walk in another’s shoes…you often can feel their bunions. And sometimes the greatest act of courage and inspiration wellspring is simply facing your own depths, especially your psychic pain. For acclaimed 20th century English author, John Fowles (The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, etc.) engaging his emotional memories helped forge fire and focus. Charged memories were his “electric current,” and Fowles needed to be plugged into this historical and metaphorical power source. (What about journaling for capturing, elaborating and preserving your mind and mood prints?)

Remember, people are touched by and often embrace your pain, energy and courage. As Francois La Rouchefoucald, the 17th century French classical writer, observed (quoted in Kay Redfield Jamison’s Exuberance: The Passion For Life, Random House, 2004), “Passions are the only orators which always persuade. They are like an act of nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man (or woman) who has some passion persuades better than the most eloquent who has none.”

4. Affective-Comedia Box – Being Playful. More than just being a light-hearted or freewheeling pursuit, throughout the evolutionary history of the animal kingdom play has been one of the greatest enterprises for exploring, inventing, pretending, rehearsing, improvising, bonding, stratifying, collaborating and unifying. Of course, play can also turn into an aggressive “winner take all” or “win at any cost” pursuit or obsession. (Think steroid use in a variety of athletic arenas). The “playground” starts morphing into a “battleground” (or an adversarial attitude attacks in-house).

Yet it is the multifaceted semantic nature of play that I find most compelling. Despite an intuitive understanding of the word, it never truly registered how many common expressions involve the word “play.” Nor could I imagine how the varieties of expressions with their different connotations speak to the skills and strategies of the versatile communicator, motivator and performer. Consider these examples: “play upon” (words or another’s emotions), “play a role” or “role-play,” “play it by ear” (that is, having a capacity for improvisation or, for example, by truly listening for others’ needs, concerns and aspirations), and “play the fool” (often knowingly and for strategic advantage). I especially like this usage: “play a trick on.” Based on my experience, being “mischievous” or a tad “devilish” – two of Roget’s synonyms for “playful” – can be very engaging qualities that, ultimately, spark or tickle others out of their comfort zones. A little “playful provocation” anyone?

Certainly, a “passion power” player gives “full play” to his or her mind and emotions – whether play involves “range, liberty, license or freedom” within, hopefully, some common sense and sensitivity limits. And even the phenomenon of the “play of light and shadow” can be an analogy for the ebb and flow within and between our two basic dimensions – “cognitive–affective” and especially “gravitas–comedia.” Perhaps film pioneer, Charlie Chaplin, has best captured the yin-yang like nature of the serious and the comedic; for even in the most somber, fragile and painful moments, humor and laughter may come out and play:

A paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy.

So harness and share your pain and passion and embark on that lifelong, purposeful and playful journey of self-definition, self-doubt and self-discovery. Not only will the “Four ‘P’” path help preserve your sanity, but what better time than now to…Practice Safe Stress!

Author's Bio: 

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both major corporations and government agencies. Currently the Doc is leading Stress, Team Building and Humor programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).