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Love it or Lose -- Passions and the Quest for Meaning
Listen up -- here's some really bad news: It's dangerous not to do what you love. The harsh truth is that if you don't love what you're doing, you'll lose to someone who does! For every person who is half-hearted about their work or relationships, there is someone else who loves what they're half-hearted about. This person will work harder and longer. They will outrun you. Although it might feel safer to hang onto an old role, you'll find your energy is depleted and, miraculously, you'll be the first in line for the layoffs when they come.
All You Have Is Your Personal Capital
You may have noticed that we now live in a global economy where job security is a contradiction in terms. All you have is your personal capital, and we're not talking about your money. It's your talents, skills, relationships, and enthusiasm. Making success last takes a level of tenacity and passion only love can sustain. Without it, you'll collapse under the weight of the hardship or long-lasting adversity that you are bound to encounter.
Making a life is as important as making a living. This is not an either-or decision. Builders do both. You will hear this from most everyone who has enjoyed lasting success: entrepreneurs, government and religious leaders, artists and educators, single parents, social workers, Academy Award winners, carpenters, store managers, and billionaires.
You will hear it from the most hard-boiled military generals and tough business guys like Larry Bossidy, author of a warm-and-fuzzy-sounding book called Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. Bossidy has never been accused of being touchy feely.
On a bitter cold, clear day in Connecticut, we huddled in the tough-minded retired CEO's home office built in a converted barn near a frozen pond, where we talked for hours about success and leadership. When we threw the "L" word at him, the steely eyed former CEO didn't flinch.
"It's a competitive imperative," he insisted. "Only by loving what you do will you actually do more and do it better than the person sitting next to you. If you don't, well then, we'll find someone who does."
Yep, fear is a big motivator, too, but you'll find that love lasts longer. You can run a marathon at gunpoint, but you probably won't win the race.
"You can survive without loving it, but you will be second-rate," said Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, Ret. "To spend any part of your career not knowing why you're there will take your power away." It's dangerous not to be fully engaged. If you want to have success that outlasts any job you have, then only love will find the way.
It's Like Saving Up Sex for Old Age
Warren Buffett loved his work long before he had two pennies to rub together. Today, he is one of the richest men on Earth.
"You know, they say that success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get," he said. "Well, I don't know which one applies in this case. But I do know that I wouldn't be doing anything else. I always worry about people who say, 'You know, I'm going to do this for ten years. I really don't like it very well, but I'll do ten more years of this and . . .' I mean, that's a little like saving up sex for your old age. Not a very good idea," Buffett laughed.
"I tap dance to work and I get down there and I think I'm supposed to lie on my back and paint the ceiling, or something, like Michelangelo, I mean, that's the way I feel. And it doesn't diminish. It's tremendous fun."
The research libraries are filled with studies that confirm that love is not just a warm and fuzzy topic; we're talking about your survival in the competitive marketplace out there, with lots of people who want your job more passionately than you may.
Passionate people spend twice as much time thinking about what they've accomplished, how doable the task ahead is, and how capable they are of it. Your coworkers or competitors who love their work try harder, try more things, move faster, come up with more great ideas, and, frankly, get better opportunities to move up and contribute more than people who only do things for a living.
"The job of leadership today is not just to make money, it's to make meaning," said John Seely Brown, who presided over research for two decades at Xerox Park. "Talented people are looking for organizations that offer not only money, but . . . spiritual goals that energize . . . (that) resonate with the personal values of the people who work there, the kind of mission that offers people a chance to do work that makes a difference."
Be warned: The relentless irritation of not loving what you do makes you a pain to be around and has been clinically proven to chip away at your health.
"We spend our health building our wealth," said author and financial advisor Robert T. Kiyosaki, paraphrasing the old proverb. "Then we desperately spend our wealth to hang onto our remaining health." After several successful, but unrelated, entrepreneurial stints, Kiyosaki changed careers again at nearly age 50 to write his first book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which has sold more than 17 million copies. Wouldn't it be "better to do what we love in the first place so we don't bankrupt our well-being" in a vain attempt to earn our way to freedom?
The Secret of Life
There is a good chance you feel there is something missing in life -- or you are on an incessant search for meaning -- until you make one simple choice. Those uncertainties can dog you in a never-ending but noble quest until you just go out and serve somebody. Builders from all over the world shared this recurring theme with us.
Frances Hesselbein, chairman and founding president of the Leader to Leader Institute, formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation, is best known for her leadership work with large organizations, universities, the U.S. military, and her 13 years as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. She led the transformation of that vast nonprofit organization, which today has about 236,000 troops and almost a million volunteers. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- America's highest civilian honor -- in 1998, and was the first recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Security Series Award in 2002.
Hesselbein, like most Builders, believes that there is "a powerful synergy when you combine service to others with passion for your own mission, your own work."
"We are called to do what we do, and when we respond to that invitation, it is never a job. When we are called to serve and we respond, it is joy and fulfillment," she noted. "The key to fulfillment is service and the key to leadership is not how to do, but rather how to be. Serving others is part of the 'how to be' character of a great leader."
Leadership author Ken Blanchard calls this Servant Leadership, wherein the goal of the leader is to promote not herself, but the goals of the organization and careers of the people she leads. It's all about alignment of what's inside your heart and what the world needs. It's about finding what you love and doing that to serve others.
© 2008 Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson
Aritlce by the authors of Success Built to Last
Jerry Porras coauthored (with Jim Collins) Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, which has been translated into twenty-five languages and sold more than one million copies. He is Stanford Graduate School of Business Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change, Emeritus, and directed the School's Executive Program on Leading and Managing Change for sixteen years. He has also lectured on visionary companies before senior management audiences worldwide.
Stewart Emery is considered one of the fathers of the Human Potential Movement. He served as the first CEO of est, cofounded Actualizations, led seminars in dozens of countries, and has coached over 12,000 people in the last three decades. He is the bestselling author of the books Actualizations: You Don't Have to Rehearse to Be Yourself and The Owner's Manual For Your Life. As a consultant, he asked questions that led MasterCard to its legendary "Priceless" campaign.
Mark Thompson captured the insightful stories that formed the foundation for Success Built to Last from hundreds of personal interviews with enduringly successful people around the world. He is an executive coach, advisor to senior management teams, award-winning audio book producer, and former executive producer of Schwab.com. Forbes Magazine listed him as one of America's top venture investors with the "Midas" touch.
For more information, visit www.successbuilttolast.com