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progress + passion [why developing a love for what you do is so important]

Last week I found myself in a deep discussion with one of my good friends about college. While I have graduated and entered the workforce, he still has two semesters left. He mentioned something that seemed to resonate with me, “I don’t know if I really want to go into the business field. College has taught me that my interests may be in another industry even though I know I have a passion for business.”

His sentence got my mind boiling with analysis. How can someone have a passion for an industry, yet not want to do it for a living? After pondering about this statement even more, I came to the conclusion that perhaps my friend just does not comprehend the definition of passion. Passion derives from a root word that means, “to suffer.” Yes to suffer. Too many times when we hear passion we associate it with everything that makes us happy and complete. However, what passion really means is you have found something to fully devote yourself to and be willing to encounter those times of suffering to get to the ultimate finish line. The most successful people understand there is only one thing money cannot buy – time. We have such a minuscule period of time to be alive and put out our best work, that any great work you do on Earth will cost you something. The idea that my friend perceived passion as a task that only makes him happy, and is easy, disturbed me. That’s not passion, that’s choosing a scapegoat to get to a finish line quicker. When you choose or develop a passion it is because you are obsessed with the finish line. It doesn’t matter what stands in your way or how long it takes to get there, you will never stop on your journey because it is your passion.

After I explained this to my friend, he almost didn’t have anything else to say but “Yea, I mean, I guess you’re right.” We chatted about other things after that topic that were more relaxing and enjoyable and managed to muster up multiple laughs. When he left and we parted ways, I sat on my porch and began to think about my passions and how that translates into my daily routine. As much as I may have been able to shed light on my friend’s obscure analysis, you must practice what you preach.

I was able to tie passion into the word progress. Progress is what we do everyday, some people make more daily progress than others. The whole connection with passion and progress is- why do you make progress? Do you go to work everyday, or do your daily routine because you love it? Or is it what you have to do to pay the bills? Maybe it pays the bills, but you really love the attention and accolades from it and that’s why you do it everyday. Either way, we are all motivated by a category of three things: Revenue, Recognition and Progress. If you evaluate your daily routine and find that your motivation to do what you do is more to bring in revenue or get recognition, there is a great chance you have artificial or no passion for it at all. You must fall in love with the progress of your daily routine. Sure, we all must eat and keep a roof over our heads, but the day that revenue and recognition become more important then progress and passion, is the day we are acting for a different cause than what we love.

One of the best examples I can think of, someone who worked because they fell in love with their progress is Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. Martin had a rough upbringing as a kid and turned to football as an outlet to get away from problems at home. He quickly realized that not only did football keep his mind off his family problems, but also he was quite good – really good. Curtis went to college at the University of Pittsburgh where he continued to flourish as one of the nations’ best college running backs. When the NFL Draft Day came around, Curtis sat at his house with his family patiently waiting for the phone to ring. Soon it did, and on the other end was the Head Coach of the New England Patriots at the time, Bill Parcels. Parcels said “Curtis we want you to be a New England Patriot!” Martin accepted Parcels offer and said he couldn’t wait to be a part of his organization. As soon as Curtis hung up the phone he turned around to his family, who was jumping for joy thinking about brighter days ahead, and said these words: “Oh my God, I don’t want to play football.”

After all the long and grueling practices and hard work Curtis had put in to be drafted by an NFL team it all hit him at once when he got that phone call – he had only been playing football to escape family issues at home, it wasn’t his passion! Knowing that his true passion was to give back to his community and children going through rough times at home just like he did, one of Martin’s friends who was present at his house during the Bill Parcel’s call pulled him aside and said this, “Curtis, I know you may not want to play football, but maybe this is your chance. Your chance to be a leader and role model for those kids who are in need of someone to look up to and are going through what you did at home, looking for an outlet. You can be their hero Curtis.”

From that moment forward Curtis Martin was regarded as one of the hardest working players in the league. First one in and last one out everyday, always studying and practicing to get better. Every time he stepped on a football field Curtis wasn’t worried about his paycheck or his stats – all he cared about was setting a great example for those children watching him and looking up to his character. Curtis Martin was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

The conversation with my friend and Curtis Martin’s story have burned an distinct lesson in my mind to always follow your passion and make sure you are in love with your progress. Do I yell at drivers on I-95 on my way to work because their crappy driving is potentially making me late? Yes. Do I sit at my desk sometimes and take a deep breath and just wish I could curl back up into bed for 5 hours? Yes. Do I get overwhelmed sometimes when I already have a full schedule and 10 other things pop up that day that I know will make this week even longer? Yes. But who cares. Marketing is a passion of mine. And with passion comes that suffering. Are you willing to overcome these moments and keep your eyes on that finish line? Do you love what you do enough to say “I don’t care how bad these drivers are, or how much extra work I get today, I’m still going to get it done and make today the best possible day I can?” If not, you should consider re-evaluating your priorities and channel them into progress and passion.

Our time on Earth is so finite it seems pointless to be driven by materialistic things that make our pockets larger or head bigger. Do what you love because you love the road you travel to get to a final product. Love the progress of your work, and in the end you will have found your true passion.

Thinkfully,

Chuck Forbes

Hall of Fame Running Back Curtis Martin during his tenure with the New York Jets

Hall of Fame Running Back Curtis Martin during his tenure with the New York Jets

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