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Success or Failure? You decide.

Success or Failure? You decide.

May 28, 2009

The Passion Wizard

Try these exercises to help you uncover your true passions so you can leverage them in your business.

1. Close your eyes and imagine you're thinking of a time in your life when you felt unstoppable; some call it a 'paradise moment' (not that kind of paradise moment!).

2. When you breathe in deeply, imagine what your body looks like at that moment. How were you standing or walking? How were you using your hands? What were you thinking when you literally felt on top of the world?

3. What activity were you doing? What were you involved in?

4. Write down the skills and traits you needed to have mastered to achieve that state of nirvana?

5. Those skills and traits are things that come easily to you. They are part of your genetic make-up and are what make you unique. How can you use them more often in your work life? How about your home life? Or your social life?

As I was talking with a friend recently about a career change that he was about to make that was radically different than anything he'd ever done before and was in fact a bit scary, I was reminded of the story of Kurt Timken.

Timken was born into a successful family business and was groomed to continue in the ways of his father, his grandfather and his great-great grandfather who started a carriage business, according to the story told by one of my authors Po Bronson in his book, What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question.

But Kurt had other ideas in mind for himself, and did not go the path that had been laid out for him to follow. Some say that was a mistake. I'll let you be the judge.

Kurt started his career, as his parents guided him to, going to the right business schools, getting management training experience, and continuing at Harvard Business School. He was making all the right moves, and doing them very well, as his father was training him to become his successor as CEO of Timkin Bearings. Kurt was on the path to success, with a great business future ahead of him.

But Kurt realized after a while that he was not happy with himself or the life he was living. After his marriage fell apart, he started questioning if he was really doing what he wanted with his life. He thought about it for a while, and realized that his true calling was in law enforcement. He didn't even know why, but that was something that he had always wanted to do, and that was something he was going to do. Kurt was determined to take control of his life, and accomplish what he really wanted to do.

Despite having learned the Monkey Law at Harvard, to never let go of the vine you are holding onto until you have a firm grip on a new one, Kurt quit his management position, without having a clear vision of what he would do next. He applied for job after job, and only received rejection letters. Everyone he contacted was not convinced or did not understand what he was trying to do, and thus they weren't sure they could rely on him for a job. These rejections frustrated Kurt greatly, but he was determined to continue. Surprisingly, his father who had been quite neutral throughout the whole process was a great source of comfort to him at this time.

The truth is, though, that Kurt really did take pride in his ancestors, and he really was following in their footsteps. As Kurt was struggling through some of his most difficult times, and was caught up with feelings of despair, he would always take out from his wallet a worn, copied piece of paper that his great-grandfather had given to his great-great-grandfather. It said, 'Dear Father, I hate to think we are putting troubles on your shoulders. We'll hang in there like grim and death. We've got grit if we don't have any sense.' This is what gave him the strength and the courage to go on, despite his lack of success at achieving his goals.

Kurt spent an entire year trying unsuccessfully to get any job in law enforcement that he could, finally going through Rio Honda's Police Academy training, which still did not yield him a job. Only due to the persuasion of some guys he went to the academy with, did the chief in El Monte give Kurt a chance. He told Kurt that if he volunteered for a year with the Community Relations Anti-Gang Unit, they would offer him a job afterwards with the force. Kurt accepted, despite having to go for another whole year without a paying job, and after a very productive year landed the job promised him.

Kurt now works the most dangerous neighborhood in all of Los Angeles, doing an extremely difficult job. He works 12-hour shifts in neighborhoods known for high levels of drug use, prostitution, and crimes of violence. This is what he really was looking to do all his life: To make a difference. He learned this in business school, but is much happier doing it in law enforcement than he ever was doing so at the corporate level.

He still applies a lot of the thinking and strategizing he learned at Harvard and from his business experience, but now he is doing it in a different way. Instead of applying concepts to the improvement and efficiency of a business, Kurt now has to analyze and outthink criminals and shady characters in his day-to-day involvement with them.

Kurt Timken is successful; he's happy, more than he ever would have been were he to have stayed on the career path laid out before him at Timken Bearings. It took a great deal of courage and commitment to make the career change, especially to overcome the initial challenges and blocks in his way, but Kurt overcame them, and now works a career he is proud of, changing peoples' lives for the better.

Are you following your passion? Are you doing what you enjoy most? Are you pursuing the things that give you the greatest satisfaction? Try the Passion Wizard to see if you really are pursuing your passion.