Leadership, Our Blog

The Secret Ingredient for Success

by Tasha M. Troy

When I was young, my mother was an elementary school teacher.  I watched how hard that woman worked, and I decided that kind of work was not for me.

Life has a funny way of turning the tables on you. By the time I finished college, I was headed towards a career in teaching English as a second language and interpersonal communication skills.

I taught children for one year, and the truth is, part of my suspicion was correct – teaching elementary-aged children was NOT for me! One year was enough to see that. But I can’t imagine spending my life doing anything other than what I have been doing for the last 15 to 20 years.

I have discovered a passion for working with adults to improve their communication skills.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, once told John Maxwell that there are three elements necessary for transformation, and one of those key elements is passion (Intentional Living, p. 12).

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell says, “In all my years of observing people, I have yet to meet an individual who reached his potential but didn’t possess passion.” He spends a whole chapter on finding your passion because, if you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.


Why We Need Passion in Order to Succeed

In the chapter from Leadership Gold, John Maxwell talks about a few elements that are often related to success, but without passion, these things are not enough.

Talent: John Maxwell says talent is never enough to enable us to reach our potential. Every year, I have super bright and talented students come into my classroom. Sometimes they have a hunger to learn, but just as often they are comfortable where they are and don’t put in the effort to improve.  As a result, by the end of the course, they are at the back of the class, not the front, and they fail to live up to their potential.  If you depend only on your talent alone, you won’t go very far.  Passion is what motivates us to develop our talents to a higher level.

Opportunity: John Maxwell says, “Opportunity will never get us to the top by itself.”  How many opportunities have you watched passed by in your life? I’ve let a lot slip by. So an opportunity by itself is not enough to take us where we need to go. Passion is the driver that pushes us to grasp that opportunity and pursue it.

Knowledge:  John Maxwell says knowledge can be a great asset but it won’t make us all we can be. In the book, he gives the example. Some of our most highly educated presidents in the United States have been less effective and yet one of the presidents we all respect and admire, Abraham Lincoln, had very little formal education. What are you doing with that knowledge? It is passion that drives you to put that knowledge to good use.

Teamwork: And finally, a great team is not enough. We need a great team to be successful, but John says, a great team can fall short. If the leadership is not able to provide a clear vision, a working ethic, and motivation, that team is going to fall short.

These things are important for success but they’re not enough. You have to have passion.


Pursuing Your Passion

So, how much passion do you have for what you are doing today? How much passion do you have for your current work?

John Maxwell separated that into 4 different levels. Think about this.

If you’re at 90% passion for what you are doing or above, you’re in your sweet spot. You get to celebrate. I have been fortunate to find work I love.  Most of the time, I am in my passion zone!

If you’re at the next level, the 75 to 89 percent passion level, you need to make some minor adjustments to align with your passion, but it is not out of reach. Sometimes, this might just be a matter of attitude, of perspective.

If you are at the 50 to 74 percent passion level, you need to make some major adjustments. You might need to change departments, or you might need to take couple extra classes so that you can pursue more meaningful work.

If it appears that you have 49% or less passion for the work you are currently doing, you need a job or career change. There is some significant change that needs to happen so that you can move into that sweet spot, because if you are working in the field of your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.


Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.

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