Passion = Power
Of all the things I have learnt from studying successful people from every field there is one quality, one single distinction that I believe trumps all the others in terms of rising to the top of your profession. I believe it is the primary force that exists within every single person who has ever achieved something of significance, especially in those who have created a lasting impact - people like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali and more recently Steve Jobs.
You can search high and wide from sport to business and I believe you will find this one quality burning strong within every leader in every field.
This quality, this force, this one attribute I believe is passion.
Find me a person who has achieved something of signifiance and you will find a person who has met with disappointment, setbacks, trials and tribulations and odds stacked way against them but in the end triumphed despite all of this, in the face of all the odds, they succeeded anyway.
Why is that?
What is it that keeps them going no matter what, that keeps driving them to pick themselves up off the floor time and time again until they eventually just cannot be stopped? The difference is that they passionately desire the thing they are chasing. It becomes an obsession.
It's not a case of them having to force themselves out of bed in the morning to do something they just do not want to do, it is not a case of working hard admirably in a job that they hate, it is a much stronger force than that. When somebody is truly passionate about something, it makes them come alive. It propels them forwards. It gives them energy rather than requiring energy. Passion is the ultimate fuel that drives action.
Fear is the most common barrier in the way of people's success. Everybody has fears, limiting beliefs and habits that they must overcome to achieve their goals and desires, there is no getting away from that, but when your passion for something is stronger than your fears, you will ultimately find a way. Passion will override your fears.
Some people see passion as a fluffy term. Well the passion I am talking about is certainly not fluffy. It's admirable, it's contagious, it's transformational. Passion is a force so strong that it will blow every fear opposing you right out of the way.
I typed passion into Google and I liked the description from Wikipedia:"Passion is an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something".
Passion manifests itself in many different ways. It doesn't mean that it's the loudest person in the room waving their arms about in an elaborate manner. Passion can manifest itself through a quiet steely determination to persist. Nelson Mandela was most definitely a passionate man and at the same time seemed to be a very calm, assured and determined individual. So please do not mistake passion for noise or other equally demonstrable tendencies.
Steve Jobs told the graduate class at Stanford University in his famous speech:
"I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle".
Passion drives the persistence that Steve Jobs is referring to in himself. A love of what you do certainly helps to cultivate that passion. People will attribute many other factors to their success, things such as hard work, being around great people, education, knowledge, skills. But passion is the driver of all of these things. It is the force that keeps you awake at night working on your ideas, putting in the hours, learning whatever it is you need to know, finding solutions, seeking new strategies and never giving up.
Whenever I get asked about improving your public speaking I have always maintained that far and above everything else the one quality that stands you out as a speaker is how passionate you are about your topic.
My own story of becoming a speaker accentuates this very point. When I first walked into my first ever public speaking group I was absolutely terrified. I don't think I have felt fear like that before in my entire life. Totally irrational but it was there. So what drove me to do it instead of just putting it off? I had a vision and I was so passionate about making that vision a reality, I faced my fear and did it regardless. Nothing was going to stop me let alone my own fears!
When I arrived at my first few meetings I watched and listened to speakers who had been speaking for over 25 years. They were brilliant. I was impressed, inspired and worried at the same time. Worried that I would never be at their level.
The first few times I spoke I remember feeling terrified but also hugely passionate at the same time and I transformed that nervous energy into my talks. The feedback was fantastic. My confidence grew. A speech contest came up after only a handful or so of meetings and I entered. I shouldn't really have had a chance given the quality of the other speakers. I won.
I don't care how good your content is as a speaker. I don't care how brilliant your slides look. I don't care if you pause for effect and use great hand gestures. If you are not passionate about what you are talking about then it will show and your message will not stick. You have to stir the juices of your audience.
It shines through so powerfully that the gestures and all the other small details will come naturally. Of course you need to know your stuff but when you are passionate, you do know your stuff.
I think it's similar in sales. The best people in sales I've ever met have a passion for what they are selling, they believe in their product - this shines through in every aspect of the interaction with them. Whether it's an email, a phone call or a face to face meeting. The energy this creates directly impacts how much influence they have in their sales interactions. It gives them more leverage to influence.
I believe it is the same in leadership. The best leaders in every field are passionate. How are you going to rally the troops if you don't really care about the result? Your energy, your enthusiasm becomes contagious.
Quite regularly I get asked for advice from graduates on how to get into a career in sports psychology. How do they get the experience? Where will they find the opportunities? I explain to all of them that I never took the conventional route after leaving university but eventually I found my own way. The passion I had for the subject drove me to find a way to achieve my ambitions, I was going to find a way whichever way that was.
It was difficult, there was lots of competition, there were plenty of setbacks, I had to overcome many things such as my fear of public speaking for a start. But equipped with an intense desire for making it happen, I was going to find a way. And that's what I tell them. You might be the most skilled psychology graduate in the whole of the UK, you might have the best grades, but the factor that is going to determine whether you find the right opportunity or not is going to come down to how much you want it.
I don't know how you would articulate passion on your CV but that is going to do more for you than your grades ever will. I am by no means saying grades are not important because they are, the knowledge and skills to execute your craft well are essential but they will not knock down the doors for you.
Growing up I witnessed that many of the best talents in sport never make it to a level where they belonged. Why?
They didn't want it badly enough. Simple as that.
Passion - an intense desire for something - will do that for you.
So how do you cultivate it?
I think there are two routes. The most talked about method is discovering your passion, your purpose. What is it that really gets your juices flowing? What gets you excited? If you could do anything in the World, what would it be?
I don't believe this is the only way however. The majority of people do not grow up knowing exactly what they want to do in their lives. They may not have a particular outstanding talent to pursue. But passion also comes from dedication. It comes from throwing yourself into something. The more you learn about a topic, the more you hone your expertise, the better you become and the more confidence and passion you gain as a result.
There is a great book I read many years ago about an ex-baseball player called Frank Bettger. He was talented but lazy. He got dropped from his team and his coach told him he was too lazy, he needed to inject some life and enthusiasm into his game. He decided when he found himself a new team that he was going to become the most enthusiastic person he knew. In the beginning he didn't feel that enthusiastic because he had spent his life feeling and acting in another way.
So he faked it to start with. And guess what? Eventually it just became his natural way of being. He became the best player on his team. He more than trebled his earnings. His energy rubbed off on his team mates.
After his career ended through injury he then took this same principle into a sales career. After struggling at first he decided he needed to double his enthusiasm! Pretty soon after he doubled his sales. He went on to become the companies top sales person for 20 years.
In his book 'How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling" he explains that in order to feel enthusiastic you have to act enthusiastic even if at first you do not feel that way.
His idea is based on the science of how our physiology affects how we feel. The way we think and the way we use our body affects our emotional state and our emotional state is what drives our behaviour. You will do things very differently when you are feeling passionate compared with when you are feeling bored.
So there are two options you have to tap into the power of passion. The first is to find out what makes you come alive and then spend your life doing that. The second is to throw yourself into what you do now, start acting enthusiastically about what you do and just see what happens.
How long does this take?
Well how long do you want it to take? You choose. Turn up to work tomorrow and be more enthusiastic, more passionate, more engaged in what you are doing than you ever have been and you will see how long it takes.