Don’t Call HR Just Yet
“Everybody dies, but not everyone lives,” I said, standing on the altar of the Rollins College chapel as I looked into a sea of people as I began to eulogize my best friend who had left an imprint on each one of the audience members in her short 36 years.
She was a “carpe diem” kind of woman who spoke several languages, had lived in various countries, achieved great success in her career, loved deeply, made a significant impact on her community, and was an incredible friend and inspiration.
She really lived in the short time she was given. She was the kind of person you remembered after meeting because of the passion she applied to each aspect of her life. She was someone you wanted to be around because she was invigorating and after being with her, you were inspired and energized.
What would be said about you, if you weren’t promised tomorrow? Would you be considered a good boss, employee, spouse, parent, and friend? Do encounters with you make others better?
Think about your last few days of interactions. When someone asked you “How are you? How did you respond? Did you routinely respond, “Fine,” “Busy,” or “Good?”
Today we too often see the ubiquity of what Henry David Thoreau so eloquently expressed as “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Where is your song? Is it still in you or are you singing it every day? If you were singing the song in your heart, would you just be “fine,” or “busy” or even just “good?”
Would you want your marketing department promoting your products or services as “fine” or “good?” Then why are we doing it to ourselves? Would we appreciate it if our boss gave us “busy work?” Then why do we tell everyone we’re “so busy.”
Why are we tolerant of espousing our mediocrity on a daily basis, yet expecting our boss to see us as “outstanding” in our year-end evaluation? Do we want supervisors, subordinates or partners who are sufficient (“fine”), or would we rather have them be exemplary? When we represent a company, a family, ourselves, we are standing on the shoulders of great men and women who worked hard to ensure the brand we represent stands for something. Why would we dilute a brand others and we, have worked so hard to build, cultivate, and protect? Why would we not respect it enough to represent it to the best of our ability?
Many companies are long-lasting institutions and we are simply temporary custodians in their history. We have an opportunity to be fine, be good, be great, be excellent, or to be outstanding at what we do in the position and for the organization. What pushes us past good? How can we be excellent or even outstanding?
Competency can only take us so far. Organizations today are looking for those who innovate. What is the genesis of innovation? It is said that, “necessity is the mother of invention.” I contend that passion is the mother of innovation and it births unparalleled results.
Passion is that inexplicable drive to risk failure because you so believe in the possibility of creating something extraordinary. Seldom are people willing to go to extraordinary lengths when there is no passion. And why would they? The rational, practical thing to do would be to not take on the risk or to quit once you see there will be a significant, stressful uphill battle.
However, that’s not how the passionate work. They will expend enormous energy, lose sleep, and continuously drive to ensure success. Many of you reading this are nodding in agreement right now, saying, “Yes, of course, I’ve been there, I know that feeling.” Others are saying “What? You want me to:
- Forgo sleep?
- Drive toward the impossible, when the reality is it’s probably going to fail?
- Undertake something so massive that I can’t even provide a strategic plan that will identify what bottom-line results will be attained?
- Fail and lose face in my organization were I’m currently seen as successful?”
Are you currently in your comfort zone? How do you expect to grow? Poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran says, “The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.”
We’ve probably all experienced or witnessed projects, programs, products, and services that have failed due to a lack of passion and those that have excelled due to passion. Not everyone will have passion for what they are doing. However, if you are lucky enough to have an employee or boss who brings passion to all they do, realize that complacency is not in their vocabulary and be prepared for an adventure.
We all know that unless we do something more than we have mastered, we will not grow. In our society, we venerate people who learned this lesson early and practiced it continuously – sports figures, successful business people, and world leaders. When we admire someone for where they are, we need to realize that they passionately worked outside their comfort zone to master their skillset – leading the organization, delivering the sensational speech, and winning the race. They realize they must sacrifice who and what they are today for who and what they will become tomorrow.
Passionate people eschew comfort because they are too busy pursuing their dreams to slow down and stop to experience comfort. They know that the more they risk, the more opportunity they have to reach a great goal. However, they also know that the more they fail, the more they learn. The passionate realize that adversity is simply a gift to enable them to become stronger and better.
Steve Jobs was a brilliant man, but it was his passion to continuously improve that produced the multiple Apple devices we use today. His passion enabled him to push the limits of convention, imagination, and technology. Look at those who are leaders in their respective fields today, Orlando’s very own soccer phenomenon Kaká, Oprah Winfrey, and GM’s CEO Mary Barra. They are not there because they are just good at what they do, they are passionate and have risked, failed, grown, and because of that, they succeed and society and history deems them significant and worth adoration.
The dictionary defines passion as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” That emotion will cause one to supersede reason and persevere based on faith. Passion, however, need not be exclusive or elusive.
If your passion isn’t visceral, if it doesn’t wake you up in the morning, chances are you haven’t devoted enough time to cultivating it. “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we do it every day,” quipped Zig Ziglar. Practicing passion is no different. Here are four simple steps for cultivating it daily.
1. Don’t be too grown up to not approach life with child-like wonder. The marriage of curiosity and mindfulness is a powerful combination.
2. I have always found that the most interesting people are the most interested people. Inquire, engage, and learn daily.
“Curiosity is the lust of the mind.” – Thomas Hobbes
1. Practicing gratitude is essential. If you’re not thankful for what you have, you won’t be thankful for what you want. If you aren’t expressing gratitude before your feet hit the floor in the morning, try it. It resets your brain and creates a better outlook and attitude for your day.
2. What you think, what you say, and what you do, determines your success. You must think it before you act on it. Remove all negative language you think about yourself (mind chatter) as well as negativity you think about others. When you stop thinking it, you can stop saying it, and stop hurting yourself and others.
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
1. Show up! You are responsible for the energy you bring to any interaction and place. Make a declaration that you will be fully present in the moment. If you plan to go to the gym in the morning, don’t wait to see how you feel, how much you’ve slept, just choose to do it. You’ll rarely regret what you did; you’ll regret what you didn’t.
2. Choose to be better than “fine;” better than “good.” Choose to be healthy, to eat right, to be patient, to be peaceful, to be strong, to challenge yourself and grow. See life, work, friends, and family as gifts – and choose to cherish those gifts.
“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” -Wayne Dyer
1. Execute on your intentions and declarations. Have you pushed past your comfort zone: physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, vocationally, and spiritually today?
2. Are you reading books, taking professional development classes, exercising, eating right, being mentored, volunteering? Will you awaken tomorrow, a better, smarter, healthier, kinder, more patient person than you were today?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
You might be wondering, “Shannon, who died and made you the authority on passion?” I would say, everyone that dies in our life provides a wake-up call for us to live.
The job we have is a privilege and if we’re not grateful and being our absolute best at it, at our companies, with our families, it’s time we wake-up, because one day, we won’t. Will your friends, colleagues, and family be able to expound on your extraordinary life or are you leaving them little to say?
“There is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you’re capable of living,” says Nelson Mandela.
I believe passion is the key to unlocking your true potential. Commit to liberating your passion and to start really living.
Shannon Rogner is the Executive Director of the Management and Executive Education Center for Crummer Graduate School at Rollins College, specializing in professional development programs. For more information, visit Rollins.edu/management-executive-education/