Passion On Purpose
Real estate developer, business magnate, and TV personality Donald Trump once said, "Without passion, you don't have energy; without energy, you have nothing. Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.''
What is this thing called passion? It's more than just a sense of eagerness or desire for a goal. It's more than enthusiasm. Passion is an intense and compelling emotional drive. To be passionate is to have intense, driving, motivating feelings. If you want to achieve your dreams and live an exciting life, then follow your passions – don't follow the pack. That's the advice a young Eileen Collins received from her Irish immigrant father — and she followed that advice all the way to the stars.
Eileen Collins is an American astronaut and a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force. She is the first woman commander of a space shuttle, and she has logged thirty-eight days, eight hours, and ten minutes in orbit. Does that mean that she has missed out on life here on Earth? Not at all. Eileen Collins is happily married and the mother of two children.
She became the first woman space shuttle pilot in 1995 when she piloted Discovery through a complex maneuver around the Russian space station, Mir. In all, she has flown four shuttle missions, once each on Columbia and Atlantis, and twice aboard Discovery. She commanded the mission in 1999 that deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory satellite, which has greatly expanded our understanding of the universe.
In 1997, her achievements were recognized with the prestigious Harmon Trophy, which is awarded to outstanding aviators and aeronauts. She retired from NASA in 2006 and now lends her expertise to television coverage of space shuttle launches and landings.
When Fortune magazine asked Colonel Collins to recall the best advice she ever got in life, she replied, "When I was a young child and teenager, my father drilled one thing into my head over and over again: … Don't follow the pack. That's tough advice for a teenager, but it's what made me take flying lessons when I was nineteen. No one gave me advice to go fly. No one. I just did it because I wanted to. And those flying lessons are what got me interested in the air force. I've never really wondered what my father's motivation was.
I think he didn't want me to be a follower. He wanted me to be a leader. I do know that he was astonished that I went into the military to fly airplanes and became an astronaut.'' That is excellent advice for any endeavor, whether you dream of being an actor, an author, or an astronaut. Follow your passion – don't follow the pack.
I once had a speaking engagement in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The event was hosted by an Arkansas bank founded by the Walton family (of Walmart fame). I delivered a talk on teamwork to members of the banking community. After my talk, I went to the back of the room and sat down. A man approached me, dressed in khaki pants and a golf shirt. "Nice job!" he said. "I'm Jim Walton."
It was Sam Walton's son, one of scions of the Walmart empire. We chatted for a few moments, then Jim said, "Why don't you join me for lunch?"
I said, "That would be great!" I imagined that the Walton family lunched in grand style – pheasant under glass, caviar, souffle Rothschild … ! Well, it was turkey on rye, and it was very good. That's the way they do things in northwest Arkansas.
So as Jim Walton and I sat at the table, I said, "Jim, tell me something about your dad. What was Sam Walton's greatest strength as a leader?"
He said, "You know, it's interesting, I've never been asked that. His greatest strength? It would have to be his passion, He was passionate about life, and he was passionate about the merchandise. He loved to travel around and see the latest things he could sell in his stores. He was always trying to get the best price on the best merchandise, so he could pass the savings on to his customers. He was absolutely passionate about the merchandise."
I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt that day. (The reason I like Hawaiian shirts is simple: have you ever seen anyone wearing a Hawaiian shirt who was having a bad day?)
Jim pointed to my shirt and said, "Dad would have been by your shirt. He would have wanted to touch it and examine the weave of the material. He would have wanted to know where it came from, and he would have turned the sleeve inside out and looked at the stitching. Dad was simply passionate about the merchandise."
"Jim," I said, "I can see why Walmart did so well. If the founder would have been passionate about the stitching on the sleeve of my shirt, I think that company just might experience some success along the way." Passion can take many forms. We can express our passion for success in our tone of voice, our facial expressions, and we can even wear our passion on our skin.
I had dinner with Jay Bilas at an NBA function a few years back. Jay is an ESPN college basketball analyst. He was in Mike Krzyzewski's first big recruiting class at Duke in the early 1980s.
I asked him, "Jay, what's your most vivid memory of playing for Coach K?"
He said, "My freshman year, we were practicing for a big game the next night. As we finished up practice, Coach talked to us about the upcoming game. He had on his blue Duke coaching shorts and a golf shirt. And as he talked about the game in that impassioned way he has, wanting to fire us all up, I noticed he had goose bumps on the skin of his legs, along his arms, and down his neck. Everywhere you saw skin, he had goose bumps."
I thought, Isn't that amazing? That was twenty-five years ago – yet Jay vividly remembered his coach having goose bumps as he talked to his players about the big game. When you are passionate about what you do, you get goose bumps – and so do the people around you. Your passion elevates the emotions of the entire team, and that's the kind of passion that turns dreams into reality. To learn more, you can check out Passion On Purpose.
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