For entrepreneurs and small business professionals, passion fuels success over the long run. Without a deep passion for what you do, you'll find it very hard to sustain the enormous energy required to transform ideas into reality.
When I prepare entrepreneurs and CEOs for speeches and presentations, I tell them that I can teach anyone how to structure and deliver a presentation, but I can't teach passion. And passion is what turns a good presentation into a great one.
I spend a lot of time helping people identify what they are truly passionate about. For inspiration, I often look to people who have made their calling into their careers. This year I've read two New York Times bestsellers that can help. One is written by a famous actor, the other is written by a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
In Greenlights, actor Matthew McConaughey turns his personal stories and experiences into insights to help readers "catch more yeses in a world of nos." McConaughey says it's important to pursue a task, project, or job where you find joy in the process of doing it. Describing people like himself, McConaughey writes: "We aren't thinking of the finish line, we're not looking at the clock, we're not watching ourselves on the Jumbotron performing. We are performing in real-time, where the approach is the destination, and there is no goal line. We are never finished."
McConaughey's observation reminds me of flow, a state of mind defined by the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
When I write a new book, like I've been doing for the past six months, I'm in flow. I can spend hours a day researching, interviewing, writing, and re-writing. I can't wait to wake up and start again. On the day I sent the finished book to my publisher, my mind wandered to a potential topic for another book. The joy was not in turning in the manuscript; the joy was in the process. If you find joy on the journey and not just at the finish line, you can be sure you're following your bliss.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl also shares stories and insights in his new book, The Storyteller. He acknowledges that there was a time when music was just sound to him, "melodies and rhythms that never completely took hold of my heart."
And then one day, everything changed. Grohl loved the sound of drums and music became "the air that [he] breathed." When Grohl describes what it feels like to create music, it's one of the best definitions of passion I've ever read.
When your heart, mind, and soul cannot control or refuse the desire to create a sound, or lyric, or rhythm, and you are helpless against the burning impulse to purge these inner demons, you are forever committed to a lifetime of chasing the next song. By the time music got its hooks in me, I became hopelessly preoccupied with every aspect of its construction, throwing all other childhood interests out the window. Nothing else fascinated and stimulated my mind as much as the composition and arrangement of a song, and every waking hour was spent unraveling this mystery.
If you're so consumed with an idea that you spend every waking hour unraveling its mystery, then you know you're following a passion. It may or may not lead to a money-making venture, but you'd be foolish to ignore its calling.
A friend once asked me, "Don't you ever take time off from work?" He made the mistake of thinking my job--writing, speaking, and communication coaching--is work. Even during vacation or on the weekends, I'll start early before my kids wake up to read a book on the subject. Why? I'm consumed with "unraveling the mystery."
In the absence of genuine enthusiasm for what you do, it becomes nearly impossible to inspire people to invest in your company, back your idea, join your team, or buy your product. Find what drives you and follow the call.