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Who Cares? Why Passion is the Most Critical Component to Performance and Personal Satisfaction.

What determines the quality of service that you receive? Is it the provider’s IQ? Their work ethic or the people they can put you in touch with? From my observation, the answer to this question is simple. It is how much the person you have right in front of you cares – that very person’s passion for what they do.

Think about it, we have all encountered people carrying out jobs they clearly dislike, have no passion for and are miserable doing. It becomes apparent about 20 seconds into the interaction. And what kind of outcomes do you receive from these folks? Poor ones because it is clear they don’t want to be there and you and your problem are just another impediment to them getting off of work and on to whatever they would prefer to be doing.

In several recent studies of job satisfaction it was found that job satisfaction is at an all-time low. I find this tragic because TIME IS THE MOST PRECIOUS AND FLEETING RESOURCE ON EARTH. A person who toils away the majority of their waking hours at an activity that creates dissatisfaction, regardless of compensation, is literally wasting their life.

But why is there so much misery and how can it be avoided? I believe it starts with the method of career selection. Here is what I have observed as a typical experience in the first 15 years of adult life. We enter the working world with an after-school job in high school. This is typically a menial position to afford us transportation to and from school and work as well as some fun money for the weekend. Then we graduate from high school and if we are lucky enough to go to college get another menial job there. This period of time is marked by mild deprivation -a lack of $$- the result of which is that we can’t wait to graduate so we can earn some “real money” to afford the things we feel we are being deprived of. Then we graduate to the realization that paying the entirety of our own bills is a daunting task so we take the first opportunity offered to us paying that “real money” with hopes it eventually leads to something related to the major we so carefully (read sarcasm for most) chose.

Sadly, this “nearest real opportunity” method seems to be how most of the folks I know “chose” a profession. Once on the job they learn the ropes and hopefully some transferrable skills while earning the money for the more expensive car and doing the activities they couldn’t afford in college until these new found spoils lose their novelty. Boredom sets between two to five years on the job (depending on the person) at which point they are likely to move to another similar job in the same industry with slightly more responsibility for slightly more money because moving up is what they are supposed to do. It becomes increasingly obvious at this point how hard it is to transition between industries due in large part to how specialized the economy has become. Inertia, the most powerful force in the universe, takes over and most people continue this progression of making incremental steps on the ladder to nowhere until they retire.

In short, we decide our career, perhaps the most important life decision we make aside from choosing our partner, based on the opportunity we are able to find to fill our income need when we leave school. Talk about doing things for the wrong reason. And we wonder why we receive poor service from the mid-career professional we so desperately need help from to solve whatever vexing problem we are encountering at the time we happen upon them? And this is an important point, regardless of how great a company’s reputation is or how great their processes are, the outcome of your situation is going to most directly depend on how much the person you’ve chosen to call cares. More directly, how passionate that person is about what they do and helping you solve your problem.

So how should the system work so that when we arrive at this particular person with our problem, they feel a vested interest and particular satisfaction in getting us the best possible outcome? We have to change the process.

Time itself must be invested (this is an investment with the highest rate of return possible) by the individual in identifying their own unique talents – their unique skills that when applied to an activity give them a particular satisfaction. It was once explained to me as a battery; the things that give us satisfaction charge our battery no matter how tired we may be, while the things that go against our natural grain are a drain on our battery’s charge and can sap every bit of our energy in no time flat. Not every job can consist 100% of activities that charge our respective batteries as even the “best” jobs have their high and low points, but the key is to find a profession that makes that ratio as high as possible.

There are other benefits of finding a job that aligns with our passion. The people who are truly happy (not to mention often times wealthy) are those who have the joy and unfortunately rare privilege of applying their unique skills and talents on a daily basis working in a profession they are truly passionate about. Brett Farve for example loved his work so much he quit only to come back (numerous times) because he missed it so much. Michael Jordan did the same thing. Can you imagine missing your job? If not, stay tuned. Warren Buffet in his 80’s says he enjoys his work so much that he “tap dances to work every day.” Who wouldn't like to look forward to going to work each morning?

Sean White, Tiger Woods, Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk and Chip Foose to name a few found their unique talents early and as a result elevated what they do to unparalleled levels through their passion and dedication to its application. These are extreme examples, but the principle is just as applicable to the person who has to see every number in it’s place become an accountant or the neat freak who sees extreme satisfaction in a spotless floor become a janitor. Oh, and before you commit to the idea of an unworthy profession, in this country a person can be richly rewarded for being exceptional at almost anything. The steps to getting there are (1) taking the time to figure out what you are exceptional at, (2) figuring out how to make those things your life’s work then (3) making a plan to make the transition.

The first step; “figuring out what you are good at” seems easy enough, but it is a skill to be developed just like any other. If you are in a job that you have no passion for, here are a few resources to get you started in identifying your unique skills and talents:

- Strength Finder 2.0 - Tom Rath - First Break All The Rules - Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman - 48 Days To The Work You Love - Dan Miller

For steps number two and three give me a call. I would be glad to talk it over, share my career transition experiences and help you make a plan that allows you to maximize your unique talents.

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