Love what you do because passion drives excellence

As annoying as some airplane passengers we wind up sitting next to can be, particularly on long flights, when all you want to do is sleep, and all they want to do is wake you up to talk about… NOTHING, it’s important to remember that every person has a story to tell, and sometimes that story can be fascinating.

Last week I was flying back to Miami from meetings in Cleveland, and found myself sitting next to a young man in his late 20s, arms completely covered in tattoos, reading (of all things) a book titled Cold-Calling Technique. He was visibly nervous, so I decided to break the ice and, pointing at his book asked him, “Are you in sales…?” (In case you were wondering, “cold-calling” is a sales technique whereby prospective customers are contacted unexpectedly — hence the word “cold.” Often referred to as “telemarketing” — which most people can’t stand — cold-calling is actually something I happen to have an appreciation for because I did it early on in my career, and the techniques I learned along the way continue to serve me well to this day.)

He shared with me that he had been working in sales for the last several years representing a construction equipment supplier, but that things weren’t turning out as he had expected. Being in the construction industry myself, I tried to reassure him by confirming that the industry at large has struggled greatly because of the recent recession, but that things were finally starting to turn around and perhaps he could expect for his own business to improve. But there was more...

He said that he felt as though he had what it took to be successful despite the challenges of the recession, but he finally came to the realization that he was struggling at his job because he didn’t exactly feel a connection to it. Selling construction equipment was just another job to him and he wanted much more out of life. He felt as though he needed to wipe the slate clean and start over — which was why he was sitting next to me on the plane.

A friend of his in West Palm Beach offered him a place to stay if he ever wanted to move down and look for work. And that’s exactly what he was doing — picking up, moving out and moving on with a whole new life. The only problem was that he had no idea what he was going to do, nor did he have any prospects except for an offer to work as a telemarketer for, of all things, a project management software program for the construction industry. So much for looking before you leap…

“A change of scenery may be just the spark you need,” I told him, “but the real issue is understanding what you enjoy doing. What are you passionate about?” He smirked and said that what he really enjoy doing was anything having to do with the Internet and designing websites for people, but the online industry was extremely competitive and so he gave up on that dream years ago because he thought he would have a better chance doing something else. I looked at him intently and said, “There are plenty of disengaged workers in the world today, but you don’t have to be one of them. Passion is the key to excellence — and if you’re going to be as successful as I think you want to be, then nothing short of excellence will do. And the only way to accomplish excellence is through hard work, so you might as well enjoy what you’re doing in the process.”

We talked throughout the flight (maybe I was the annoying passenger) and I recommended some books for him to read that helped me in my career, including Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay and How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I also shared with him some quotes about passion which I keep on my phone as reminders to help me stay focused throughout the day. My favorite is the last one:

“Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made that commitment, your blood has that particular ‘thing’ in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you.” – Bill Cosby

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” – E. M. Forster

“Chase your passion, not your pension.” – Denis Waitley

“Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing.” – Donald Trump

“You can never achieve success unless you like what you are doing.” – Dale Carnegie

“I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.” – Walter Cronkite

The Veronica Factor: “Passion has nothing to do with the meaning you find at work. Passion has everything to do with the meaning you bring to work.” – Manny García-Tuñón

Manny García-Tuñón is president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm in Miami.

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