As a recent college graduate on the dreaded job hunt, I’ve been seeking out the key to professional success. Many humble role models have told me that it’s perseverance. Others, determination. A few credit success simply to a strong work ethic. But, there is one said key to success that struck a chord with me more so than these reasonable claims. It links to every instance of success in the history of mankind. It has nothing to do with inheritance or any other form of wealth. It has nothing to do with natural talent. It’s not luck (for after all, we control our own fate). It is something simpler than that.
I’m not necessarily talking about passion in the modern day sense, the kind we associate with love. And cheap romance novels. Love and passion are different. According to Denis de Rougemont, indelible passion expert and Swiss author of Love in the Western World, passion is an intense “obsession of the imagination by a single image,” an all consuming power that drives the mind to achieve something it so desperately strives to obtain. Although this definition may veritably apply to the need to make your latest crush something romantically permanent, it also applies to the pursuit of a professional career. It’s that yearning inside of you, that vested interest and desire to pursue a goal. It’s motivation. It’s a love for what you’re doing or aiming to achieve. Best of all, it’s an inherent trait that we can tap into.
There’s at least one thing that each of us is passionate about. An architect’s desire to build the latest groundbreaking structure. A businessman’s determination to conquer the stock market. A writer’s avid tenacity to scribble down a captivating story. As many business professionals in the Orlando and south Florida area have shared with me, talent is important when delving into the working world, but passion is what makes brilliance. You may have natural talent. Sure, you can make millions with just that, if you’re lucky. The combination of talent and passion, however, is invaluable. Determine exactly what it is you are passionate about and use it to drive you toward your professional goal.
Speaking more concretely, let’s look at one of the most renowned success stories out there. J.K. Rowling didn’t make it big with Harry Potter because she liked to write on a rainy day every now and then. She spent years living in a car, refusing to succumb to mundane 9-to-5 jobs she had no interest in. Instead, she did what she’s clearly passionate about: writing children’s stories, even when under extreme pressure. Harry Potter would be nothing without that passion she channeled when writing. Although it’s abstract, you don’t have to look too closely at the pages to see this in the books. Not only is it present in the eternally famous characters and mystical school of witchcraft and wizardry, but in the very writing itself. Every connection immaculately crafted, every thought purposefully transcribed. Rowling endured the rejection of several publishers before her wizard got a first date with an editor. She clearly loves to write, so she sucked it up, stuck at it, gave it her all and made it happen. Let this be an inspiration to us all, aspiring writers or not.
The point is, you may have a natural gift, but you can take that gift to the next level by channeling your passionate side. It beats talent every time. Whether you’re a writer trying to convey your pure genius and enthusiasm in between the lines, a businesswoman looking to buy out New York City or an aspiring chef of a five-star restaurant, let that passion run fluidly through your veins, consume your entire being and guide you to the finish line. It’ll undoubtedly show in your work.
I’m learning that it’s not just about where you begin or where you end up. Most importantly, it’s about how you get there. Sure, we may start at the bottom of the food chain, working desk jobs at an agency where we’d much rather a shot at a CD position. Same goes for that aspiring chef, for example, starting as a line cook before getting up to the sous- and head chef status. Flipping pancakes and writing memos might not be the best but, if it’s a step toward your bigger picture, go there, invest all the passion and determination you have in it, and watch it take flight. With your eye on the prize and the passion pumping in your system, nothing can stop you.