I was sitting in the Graphic Design Corner chat room over at chat.stackexchange.com with Dyana, my fiancé, last night where we talked with a professional graphic designer. He said something that I had heard before, in fact something I had heard quite a bit from a variety of sources. Here's what he said:
Alan Gilbertson said:
A passion for the subject is the most important prerequisite, because that's what motivates you to become really, really good, and will push you to exceed your own standards all the time. That's how great designers happen.
If you'd like, you can read over the entire transcript.
I think that Alan's quote is absolutely great and you could replace the word designers with just about any career or profession of your choice. It certainly applies to programming; even the great Jon Skeet answered a question on programmers.stackexchange that passion can be an indicator of a good programmer.
Passion in and of itself is not what makes you great, though. Rather, it is what that passion drives you to do. I consider myself a passionate programmer. This doesn't mean that I'm just passionate about writing code, though. I'm passionate about programming; documenting code, writing unit tests, planning an application's groundwork and architecture, ensuring my coding standards are consistently implemented, having wiki and man page documents complete and correct, tracking my issues and completing them, garnering advice from other developers, submitting my code to code reviews and making the user experience the best possible. I'm passionate about all of these things, not just the fun bits. Its important to realize that passion isn't just about having fun, but instead a force that drives you to be better.
wrapping it up
I will leave you with an anecdote I heard on the radio one day.
A pro-golfer and his buddy were at the driving range hitting some golf balls. The buddy was watching this pro-golfer hit beautiful, straight shots that landed perfectly on the fairway everytime.
The buddy said, "I would do anything to have your swing."
The golfer turned around and said, "No, you wouldn't. You wouldn't come to the range every day and hit 200 balls, then hit 200 more. You wouldn't practice your swing until the blisters on your hands bleed. You wouldn't do what needs to be done to get my swing because you would have done it already."