Over the years as a personal coach and recruiter I have been asked countless times what it is that separates the special few, those truly “successful” people from those who just never quite separate from the pack. Ironically, it is often a simple matter of who is truly doing what they love, what they are passionate about, vice those who are grinding away in the day-to-day battles of modern life.
Now of course success is a term open to a host of definitions. I always leave that definition at the discretion of the individual – only you can determine what success means to you – it is an extremely personal issue. What I do believe we all can agree on regarding success, is that it does include an overall level of personal happiness, including professional success, health, fitness, and family.
Before you read any further, I have to ask that you put your possible college football biases aside, at least for the next few minutes. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no vested interest in either Notre Dame or USC football, the respective universities, or their head football coaches. I do not know either man and am not commenting on anything beyond the context of on field results of late, and specifically comments made during recent interviews conducted of both coaches by 60 Minutes. Whew – that was painful.
The role that attitude, that passion for one’s career plays was yet again reinforced while I was watching an interview just this Sunday with Pete Carroll, the head football coach of USC. Not only was his raw enthusiasm and love of his job, his university, his players and community on display, but the contract drawn by one simple question from the reporter; absolutely incredible. Of course, the fact the USC has been on a dramatic upswing while Notre Dame’s struggles on the field brings things into sharper focus. Again – just a statement of fact – nothing more.
The following is the exchange that really struck me:
“One of your rivals, Charlie Weis, the coach of Notre Dame, said on this program, on 60 Minutes that all coaches are miserable. You miserable?” Pitts asked.
“No. I never have been miserable,” Carroll replied. “I keep thinking day-to-day, that somethin’ good’s just about happen, you know. And so, that mentality, whether I’m in a game or coachin’ in the midst of the season, I don’t know how to think otherwise. And that doesn’t take you to misery.”
As I mentioned earlier, I have no vested interest in either program. Truth be told, I am a proud alumni of the University of Illinois. I had the unique privilege to witness the fruits of Pete Carroll’s passion and love for his career as USC absolutely rolled the Illini in the Rose Bowl last year. That said, after seeing and hearing his passion as a coach, especially when compared to the views of Charlie Weis – it is no wonder USC is such a successful program.
It is then I realized that yet again, success is often determined by combining one’s passion and love with one’s career or other goals. Successful people love what they do.
The passion one holds for their career surely plays a role in the level of deep-seated happiness and success one enjoys. Grinding through the day-to-day activities required in our highly competitive world will more than likely result in professional success – promotion, financial reward, and recognition. However, true personal fulfillment and happiness AND professional success comes when one is able to combine their passion and their career.
In almost every case when one meets highly successful people – in sports, business, public service, the arts – they all seem to share a genuine love for their chosen field. They exude an enthusiasm that infects those around them. They have energy, a confidence that seems to make everyone better. Truly great leaders have a passion for their organization, for the mission, and above all for their team. They draw people to them, instill a sense of confidence, and impart a common vision that produces a level of power far greater than the individual members of the team possess alone.
I have yet to ever think of one example of a highly accomplished person who has said they hated, or even disliked what they did; that they have “gutted it out all of these years”. Yes, there are tough patches, there are facets of every career that are less than fun, but on the whole, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Clearly, hard work and dedication were critical, but they all share that genuine passion and love of their chosen path.
Just as it is important in our professional life, passion is just as critical in one’s pursuit of fitness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is certainly not an accident that those who are committed to fitness and health always seem to “find a way” to exercise and eat right, to rest and relax, while those who are often “too busy” just never quite change their behaviors.
Clearly we live in a world grounded in reality, or at least we should. Passion alone is not an enabler. It must be coupled with ability, education, talent, drive, dedication and a relentless work ethic. However, all of the above traits and behaviors less a personal level of passionate attachment might allow one to achieve a goal, but it will not truly bring a deep sense of personal fulfillment and happiness.
As the above quotes illustrate, and the relative current success of each program reinforces, there are two clear paths, that of misery and that of passion. The question is, what is it you are passionate about, and are you pursuing that passion?