Sunday, March 21, 2010

Being In The Zone - Passion For What You Are Doing

I have been thinking a lot what makes me excited about my work. It will soon be a year since I got laid-off and launched on my own path. I said good-bye to a corporate job and have not looked back. I have had a great time this past year, and feel that I am making progress toward building a sustainable career as an entrepreneur speaker along with helping start a publishing company and speakers bureau.

I am not alone in this venture. I have a business partner in New Year Publishing who navigates most of the choppiest waters. I work with a group of motivated professional speakers in NYP Speakers who are committed to developing a community of peers. My wife has been on board, and continues to support the business and unpredictable travel schedule (as well as running the Children's Division of New Year Publishing). And my kids seem to understand the process of being self-employed... with the sacrifices and rewards that come with the journey (they don't like my travel, but like that I can drive them to school, gymnastics and karate more often!).

The other day I told my wife I had never been this happy in my entire career. She reminded me of two jobs where I had this much passion. I was excited to go to work everyday and I was in the zone - making things happen and living success. In both of those jobs I had bosses who gave me the goal, a budget, and then got out of my way. I was allowed to oversee my marketing / business development programs without micro-management. In the end I was happy, and I delivered more than expected by my employers.

I did not always have this level of autonomy and trust in every job that I had. Most of my career I felt adrift. I was trying hard (and still getting things done), but could not get the "flow" going. A person can fake it all along the way, but they have to look at themselves in the mirror everyday. No passion sucks, and it makes your job suck too!

I see the connection now between my love for what I am doing now and those two jobs were I was on fire. It was when I was allowed to be an entrepreneur (or intrepreneur, as the case may be) that I was able to kick butt. When you are slaying dragons and winning battles there is nothing that can stop your attitude from souring to the top.

The more I coach and consult with professionals I discover that many people are stuck in jobs for which they have no passion at all. They feel trapped by the paycheck and yet have no idea what else they would do but work for a company.

A recruiter told me recently that it is predicted that as much as 25% (or more) of all employees would welcome the opportunity to change jobs. However, the economy has kept most people in the same place for a long time. Once the job market opens up it is predicted that it will not be the unemployed who will take the first wave of open jobs, but those who already have jobs that are desperate to move on.

Think about that if you own a company. Over 1/4 of your employees are hoping to leave as soon as they see a shiny object out the window. This domino effect will surprise many companies, leaving important holes in their roster.

I wonder if most bosses can cultivate the necessary passion inside the hearts of their employees? It is hard. There are so many competing priorities inside a business. The boss and the employee do not always have the same goals. It is so easy, regardless of if you work for yourself or if you work for someone else, to get caught in the daily routine and lose sight of way passion matters in the first place.

I read a blog post by Andy Sack (a venture capitalist in Seattle) where he wrote about why passion is vital in a start up. His five points were:

  1. The ability to continually motivate and re-invent: By definition, founder's don't have all the answers. They are in a learning mode. They are learning what customers wants, how they're going to charge, how they'll scale, etc. They are often crude implementations of what they aspire to be and as such, founders inevitably will have to overcome rough patches and patches where they don't know what the right answer is. Enter passion. Passion makes overcoming this lack of answers possible and fun.
  2. The willingness to work longer hours than the average person.
  3. The energy to sell customers, employees, and investors possible. It allows you to overcome all the "no's" you'll hear day in and day out.
  4. The will to take feedback on limitations of yourself and your corporation and actually do something about it.
  5. The desire to persevere and persist when the going gets tough.
He concluded with the following thought:
"In a nutshell, passion is the word people use to attach to all the emotional aspects of founding a team that require energy, inventiveness, and fun to overcome."
That is where I find myself. Even after attending a five day industry conference, giving eight presentations in two weeks, traveling all over the country, and trying to keep up with all the emails and other projects.... I still look forward to waking up tomorrow (Monday) and hitting the ground running looking for new opportunities, promoting the NYP Speakers and Authors, and finding a way to contribute to all that I encounter.

Have A Great Day.


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Anonymous said...

I'm just curious, do you know a lot of people who genuinely admit they are not passionate about what they do?

I know a lot of people (probably myself included) who are forced by outside influences to do some things they are not passionate about, but to say that you are completely void of any passion in the things you are doing is akin, in my mind, to saying you pratically have no pulse at all.

I'd love to know how people actually get along in life without having some passion about something.

Brandon Eley said...

@getify I know a lot of people who are really NOT passionate about what they do. There are a lot of people out there who just have a J.O.B. It's a means to an end... a paycheck. They clock in, go to work, and at the end of the day, they clock out.

I think that's really sad, but I see it time and time again. Even in industries like web development and marketing, I see people who, although talented, are definitely not doing what they love.

I think a big part of the problem with this is people have come to expect "work" to suck. They just expect to have to slave away Monday through Friday 8-5 to earn their keep.

I, like Thom, am really passionate about what I do. I love my work, I love traveling and speaking, and I love writing about the industry. I love it so much that sometimes I work too much and have to take a step back and give myself a break so I can enjoy the other things I love like my family and friends.

I wish everyone was as fortunate but, like Thom said, most people who aren't truly happy don't think they can really make a move right now so they're just "biding their time." Sad.

thomsinger said...


thanks for the comment. I do meet a lot of people who are not passionate for what they do for a living. That does not mean the hate it or that they are without a pulse. They just wish that they could be doing something else to earn a living, feel trapped, feel held back by micro-manager, or a series of other things that keep them from just being excited as all heck about their career.

I consult with some folks who are just going through the motions because the job market is tight or they do not think they can make the same money someplace else. That is not to say the are miserable, just not passionate.

Have been on both sides of the passion fence, it is just better to be "on fire" about work.