Fewer Choices = Greater Results

Confused by Too Many Choices Arrow Street SignsThis week I did the unthinkable and took a business trip using an airline OTHER than my beloved Southwest.

Now if you know me, you know I’m a raving fan of Southwest and have been since 1992. It’s a few-frills, ultra-dependable, friendly experience that I partake in at least twice a month.

This client provided airfare and since it was a site near DFW, I flew American. And I liked it.

Well I actually liked about 10% of it. The other 90% sucked. What was the 10%? Boarding.

Southwest has a unique system of boarding. You don’t have assigned seats. Frequent fliers like me board first so we generally get overhead bins and something other than the dreaded middle seat. It works for me.

But my challenge is then getting boarded quickly so we can take off on time. This is where the trouble starts. With the choice of ANY available seat, it’s hard to decide which one to take.

On an American flight, you go know exactly where your seat is so you just move quickly in, find a spot for your carry-on and sit.  Both my to and return trips seemed to board very quickly and efficiently.  In fact the only negative experience was the fat guy in the next row with really bad B.O.

On a Southwest flight, you board, look around like a confused American tourist in China, and then try to choose not only a place for your bag, but for your ass as well. It takes too long.

I don’t fault Southwest and I’ll be loyal till the end, but it’s something to consider – when you can choose ANYTHING, you find it hard to choose SOMETHING.

Veterans or military retirees fall into the same trap. They’ve been successful in their careers being a jack-of-all-trades, master of most. By the time they hit the 20-year mark, they have served in numerous jobs, both as a primary duty and collateral duty and anxiously await their new civilian job.

Then they make a huge mistake. They build a resume listing off of those many skills, certifications, experiences, and awards expecting to dazzle prospective employers. It doesn’t work. An employer has one opening that requires just one or a few skills. They look at the resume with all the choices and get discouraged. When you can choose ANYTHING, you’ll find it hard to choose SOMETHING.

Finally if you sell products or services, your busy brochure, catalog website, or jumbo-sized email might do more damage to your potential sales than a very basic piece that highlights just a couple of products or services. A prospect that can choose ANYTHING finds it difficult to choose SOMETHING.

This week, look at what you do, promote, produce, or sell. How are you trying to reach others? If you tend to offer too much, do some research on what your customer, employer, or client really wants and just offer that one thing. Your chance of success goes up considerably.

Are You a Political Wuss?

Office Politics Scandal Rumors Lies Gossip - Sticky NotesIt’s time to play the game…
Time to play the game! Ha ha

 It’s all about the game and how you play it.
All about control and if you can take it.
All about your debt and if you can pay it.
It’s all about pain and who’s gonna make it.

The Game by Motorhead

Organizational politics permeate most medium to large size organizations. If you’ve ever found yourself on the short end of a decision, you’ve probably blamed part of it on politics.

I define organizational politics as the informal channel that runs as an undercurrent through most organizations. It involves the use of power and influence to add an edge for those who need to get what they need to be successful.

It that’s true, then politics exist everywhere. You don’t have to like it, but you need to at least consider it. The key to successfully navigating around organizational politics is to know:

  1. Why they exist
  2. How to maximize your ability to succeed within them.

What causes organizational politics?

The more your organization has these conditions, the higher the politically-charged climate:

  • Centralized power
  • Ambiguous decision-making processes
  • Subjective performance reviews
  • Competition for resources
  • Fixed-pie reward systems

Each of these involves a certain closed-off process for decisions. In the absence of information, people fill in the gaps. If this happens, you can bet people will jockey and try to leverage whatever they can to get ahead.

And by the way, the two most politically-charged types of organizations are hospitals and universities. That’s from personal experience!

How to I succeed at organizational politics?

First of all, decide to play the game. You may not like the idea of politics and believe there is a true meritocracy but trust me, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t be a political wuss.

Second, keep in mind that you possess a certain amount of power and influence. Identify these and maximize them:

Power

  • Position power – based on my title
  • Expertise power – based on what I know
  • Proxy power – based on WHO I know.
  • Personal power – based on how well-liked I am
  • Charisma – based on how charming I am (not everyone has this by the way)
  • Information power – based on what and how much I know and have

Influence

  • Logical persuasion – using facts, figures, and logic to convince someone
  • Common vision – to position your ideas to show the greater good
  • Impact management –to use shocking statements to get attention
  • Relationship building – to gain personal power by building rapport with others
  • Interpersonal awareness – build rapport
  • Organizational awareness – knowing who’s who so you can build proxy power
  • Bargaining – exchanging different types of currencies and favors

Think of power and influence as your tools to successfully play the game.

…and

organizational politics is really a game…one you must win if you want to succeed.

Take the time now to school yourself in how to identify, navigate, and participate so you can win and get what you need and what your team needs to be successful.

How Full is Your Litter Box?

cat litter boxOne of the challenging parts of owning cats is the annoying task of emptying the litter box. Litter boxes can be deceiving as it’s usually not obvious they’re full. Cats have an interesting instinct to bury their waste and smooth it out. The only time you’ll know it’s too full is when they scratch into it, kicking little bits of cat crap all over your porch.

In a way, political correctness is a lot like a litter box. Individuals feel very strongly about a topic and yet when trying to express it outwardly, stumble awkwardly and excuse it by saying something to the effect of “let me say this in the most politically-correct way I know how.”

Political correctness has done more to squelch open, honest dialog than anything else. It prevents good conversations and understanding to ever happen. We talk, yet nothing is ever really said. When the conversation’s over, we run back into our corners and let our anger smolder.

Why does this happen? Here’s my theory.

All of us are born as a clean slate and yet as we grow, we’re bombarded with all sorts of environmental stimuli. This, combined with our upbringing tends to establish values, or operating norms, that we’re comfortable with. We tend to surround ourselves by others who share these values and then look at those outside our circle as, well, outsiders.

This is normal. Here’s where it gets ugly.

Without the willingness or ability to mix with others who are different than us, we start to look at them and their differing viewpoints as adversarial or threatening. If we do try to converse, we carefully choose our words, not willing to share anything beyond normal conversation. If we want to go deeper, we then begin to wrestle with saying things politically correct.

While this is unfortunate, here’s what leads to the train wreck.

We believe everything is a zero-sum game. If you don’t support same-sex marriage, you’re a homophobe. If you’re pro-choice, you don’t value human life. If you’re pro-life, you hate women. If you don’t denounce the Confederate flag, you’re a racist. If an American Muslim doesn’t go on record saying that ISIS and terrorist attacks don’t represent peaceful Islam, then they must support terrorism. (Although it’s interesting to note that I’ve never seen a bible-thumping Baptist come out vehemently opposed to the insensitive funeral-protesting practices of the Westboro Baptist Church as “not representing true Baptist-ism).

This either/or mentality either causes some individuals to act boldly. In the weeks following the flap (bad pun) over the Confederate battle flag, I’ve seen numerous folks here in Middle Tennessee driving around with full size Confederate flags mounted on their pickup trucks in defiant protest.   Some folks take their strong protests to their social media. It’s interesting to see some of my friend’s Facebook posts being very conservative.   Some contain memes of liberal and democratic celebrities and politicians portrayed negatively. Contrast that with my Dad’s family’s liberal leanings and their memes similarly done to conservative celebrities and politicians.

Most of the time though, it simply shuts down communication altogether. Sometimes that’s the end of it

But sometimes it doesn’t. The next move is to look for a surrogate to run our viewpoint to the forefront.

We find an external person or entity who believes the way we do and thrown our support behind them. One reason perhaps for Donald Trump’s surge to the top of the Republican poles is his penchant for speaking his mind. When Trump speaks his mind, and his mind matches a group of unhappy voters, you have some unity. Then, this unity somehow legitimizes the viewpoint.

It happens everywhere. Someone once told me to watch Bill O’Reilly because he “tells it like it is.” Of course “like it is” really means “like I believe.” Individuals flock to quasi-news networks like FOX and MSNBC because somehow news reporters represent legitimacy. In the end though, does Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or Keith Olbermann really represent TRUTH, or just a doctrine, viewpoint, or perspective that lines up with what you believe?

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen more divisiveness in this country than I can ever remember from before. It shuts down communication, drives wedges between friends and families, and prevents any sort of meaningful dialog from happening.

Yet it seems normal. Kind of like that litter box on the front porch. From a distance, it looks as though all is well. Get closer though and you quickly tell that it’s not. The only way to fix it is to get a plastic bag and slotted shovel and scoop out all the cat crap and clumped-up pee. Only then will the box be truly clean.

So this week, take some time and examine your own litter box. What are you holding to and holding onto? What attempts have you made to open your eyes, ears, and heart to others? Until all of us take the time to do this, nothing will ever change in this country.

 

 

 

Why You Need a “Bucket List”

bucket listLast Saturday I re-watched one of my favorite movies.  It was The Bucket List starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  If you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the ending for you, but it involves two guys who both get the news they’re dying of cancer and have just a few months to live.  They put together a list of the things they want to accomplish before they die and because Nicholson’s character is quite wealthy, they have the resources they need and set off on their quest.  The rest of the story is funny and a little sad, ending as you might imagine, with…well I won’t ruin the ending if you haven’t seen it.

Today I’m thinking about my own bucket list – things I’d like to do before having to answer the final bell.  Here are some of them (and this list keeps growing):

  • See Michelangelo’s mural on the Sistine Chapel.
  • Tour every battlefield from the Pacific theater of WWII.
  • Fight in a UFC mixed-martial arts event.
  • Get full “sleeve” tattoos on each arm.
  • Have lunch with Gene Simmons, Gordon Ramsay, John Tapper, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (but not all at once).
  • Open a BBQ restaurant (Mad Mack’s Famous BBQ – I already picked the name out!)
  • Win the Kingsford Pit Master BBQ challenge.
  • Run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
  • Shake hands with the President.
  • Climb Ayers Rock.
  • Sit on the 50-yard line in the Super Bowl.
  • Speak in front of a crowd of 100,000.
  • Have my own TV show.

Now I know it may seem a little morbid to put a list like this together.  It’s also impossible to know when your time may finally be up.

Who cares?

If you knew exactly when you were going to die, you’d probably make the list.  Since we don’t know that, why not treat every day like it may be the last?  That means working hard on important relationships, mending ones that are broken.  It means doing things that will create lasting memories.  Leaving a legacy.  Dreaming big dreams and taking steps to realize them.

This week, why not put a Bucket List together?  At a minimum, it will help you reveal long time dreams.  At best, it will be a great roadmap to help you navigate each day and allow you to give your very best to the people you care about the most.

 

 

Why You Should be Told that “You Suck”

Poor RatingThis weekend I watched my first-ever high school volleyball tournament. It was pre-season and my daughter’s JV team was getting in some valuable game experience.

While it was fun to watch my daughter competing again (she played youth soccer and lacrosse when we lived in Maryland), it brought back that dilemma all parents face: when to tell their kids or their kids’ team that they’re really not very good.

Today’s parents seem to be of the mindset that constant encouragement is the best way to build self-esteem, which will translate to better performance in the classroom or the athletic field. I rode this bandwagon throughout both of my kids’ youth athletic careers and was right there with all the other parents, yelling out the obligatory “Good Try!” cheer.

Which brings us back to the volleyball tournament.

My daughter’s team, to be blunt, is terrible. She’s not very good either. So I’m torn between the “Good Try” (which is what my heart tells me to say) and the “You guys suck” (which is what my brain tells me to say). But in all honesty, one is useless and one, done properly, is what’s needed.

So when she asked me what I thought, I told her:

“Honestly, you guys need a lot of work.”

“How do you think I did?”

“Well, I liked the fact that two of your serves went over the net and were Aces. I think you need to spend some time really working on getting those serves over, maybe make it a goal to hit 100 serves in a row.” (Mind you this is volleyball coaching from someone who never played a legitimate game other than jungle-ball at the Navy Command picnic).

She agreed. I think her coach also would agree. And we all would agree the team needs lots of work. It’s still the pre-season which means there is time to get the skills and teamwork improved.

But none of this would happen if we all deceived ourselves by thinking the team and each player was great. Platitudes don’t translate into performance.

For all of us non-athletes, the same rule applies.

  • Don’t tell poor performers that their effort is a “Good Try.”
  • Don’t believe that your half-baked presentation was a “Good Try.”
  • Don’t deceive yourself by thinking your half-assed workout was a “Good Try.”

In fact, let’s all agree to remove that phrase from our vocabulary. Maybe replace it with “Try Harder.”

And remember:

  • Criticize with the intent to improve performance, not break the spirit.
  • Critique with the goal of improving performance, not displaying your superiority.
  • Evaluate with the intent of improving the RIGHT things that make a difference, not nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

Our goal should be consistent improvement, not accepted mediocrity. Let’s seek and give the proper feedback to reach that goal.

Breaking Through the “Red Zone”

American FootballAs we near the halfway point of the year, many of us are thinking about the time we have left in 2015 and some of the goals and aspirations we want to accomplish.  I’m also sure many of you (and me included) are lamenting the fact some stuff we wanted to accomplish hasn’t been done.

Most people I know start out a year with some short and long term goals and then get busy, pretty quickly, getting them done.  Personally I’ve often noticed that most goals are easy to achieve up to a point.  Then for some reason, I get ground to a halt.  This seems a lot like the American football phenomenon of the red zone defense.

One of the biggest challenges a football team faces is when they get down into their opponent’s “red zone.”  This is the area between the 20-yard line and the end zone.  Of course the goal of the offense is to move through the 20 yards and score, but these are often the toughest yards to get for the following reasons:

  • The defense has to spread less – there isn’t as much field to cover
  • With the thread of the immanent score, defenses tend to tighten up
  • If the defense is playing at home, it’s hard for the offense to hear the signals of the quarterback due to the crowd noise
  • Protecting your own turf is a basic human survival skill

With all this stacked against an offense, they have to work extra hard.  The best defensive teams have a remarkable ability to really lock down the red zone and thus get scored on very little.

Now this is a bunch of football speak and if you’re not a fan, I’ve probably lost you by now but let’s liken this to our own quest to score on achieving some of our goals.

Setting goals and making early progress is pretty easy.  I’ve worked with plenty of coaching clients who swear they’re ready to write that book, get that job, or achieve that dream.  Most do pretty well to a point.  Then, as success is almost realized, they freeze.  Of the dozens of folks I coached on writing a book, only a few managed to get it done, including: Pat Kastner, author of Caring to Change, Teresa Rome, author of MindOverGolfBall.com, Scott Matheny, author of What Great Leaders Do, and Bonnie Burnett, author of Halfway to the Moon.  How do you explain?

  • Success means you have to set new goals.  There is a potential letdown.
  • Success means you open yourself up to criticism.  Everyone is excited when you say you’re writing a book.  When you write a book, people then feel compelled to criticize it.  I know from experience!
  • Success may not live up to the expectations you thought as you get close to reaching it.

In other words, the red zone defense tightens up on you!

What should you do?  How about putting in more effort as you near the finish line?  Realize that early success doesn’t guarantee and easy finish.  The final stages of your quest may be the toughest, but keep in mind you’re almost there!

I’m excited for some big breakthroughs in the remaining half of this year.  Knowing the red zone will be there later will help me formulate a winning strategy.  How will you break through the red zone?

Making the Most of the Dog Days of Summer

Old stray sleeping dogIt’s official.  Summer is moving into its final month we’re getting close to the first part of the work year.  The Dog Days of Summer are here.

That’s an interesting term isn’t it?

Most people believe the phrase is in reference to the conspicuous laziness of domesticated dogs (who are in danger of overheating with too much exercise) during the hottest days of the summer. When speaking of Dog Days there seems to be a connotation of lying or “dogging” around, or being “dog tired” on these hot and humid days.

Interestingly enough, the origins of Dog Days originally came from the ancient Greeks and Romans.  They were the days when Sirius, the Dog Star, rose just before or at the same time as sunrise.  The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium.

I’d like you to consider these Dog Days of Summer. Yes the legends paint a bleak picture, but why not put the “boiling seas” and “mad dog” mentality into your work ethic?  Maybe it’s time we all turn up the heat on our own goals and objectives.

This next four months presents a wide range of opportunities if you simply look for them.  Think about these four months as harvest time (if you pushed yourself during the summer) and if not, think of them now as four months of sowing.  This means it’s time to get busy!  Here are some suggestions:

  • Refocus that business plan.
  • Develop that business plan.
  • Turn off the TV (there’s nothing worth watching in the summer anyway) and pick up some professional development books.
  • Reengage your networks. Start making some phone calls and reconnecting.
  • Follow up on all those job leads you were given.  Call those hiring managers back (yes, even the ones that won’t return your calls).
  • Go back and re-energize those business leads that dropped off during the summer.
  • Start (or restart) that diet and exercise plan you gave up on over the past few months.

The Dog Days of Summer will pass you by if you let them.  Once they’re gone, it’s all a blur. I’ve already the Halloween decorations out at Costco. It won’t be long until they appear at Walmart and Target, pushing the back-to-school supplies out. In about two or so months (if not sooner), you’ll see the Christmas decorations out.  If you’re not careful, these next few months will go by and you’ll wake up in January not knowing what happened or where the time went.

I’m ready for a breakout year and I hope you are too.  It won’t happen on its own.  Let’s push hard so we can finish strong!

Why Investing in People Always Pays Off

Hand in a handSummer is in full swing, but as we get closer to August, it’s certainly feels like back-to-school time here in Tennessee. Our son, a rising sophomore at The Ohio State University heads back in two weeks and our daughter, a rising high school junior goes back a week later. We just finished our first round of college visits with her a few weeks ago. She is leaning towards becoming a UT Vol, which makes me happy.

For some of you, this story means nothing. You’ve probably experienced the pre-college rush or have sent your kids off many times. In our case, these events are significant, for they would have never taken place had it not been for two determined mentors.

My wife and I are the first in our families to get a college degree. We didn’t do it the traditional way; in fact, neither of us ever intended to go to college. My parents both had good-paying jobs in aerospace and didn’t have degrees. My wife’s parents were truckers who had a successful business, without degrees. We both joined the Navy in 1983 (meeting years later, in 1989) without any real career direction.

Fortunately for us, we crossed paths with Greg Nelson and Paul Magat. Greg was the dentist I worked for at NAVCOMMSTA Harold E. Holt, Australia and Paul was my wife’s supervisor at the Sand Point Naval Station in Washington State. Greg and Paul needled us consistently about attending college and eventually we both began taking classes at night. When I met my wife-to-be at Naval Hospital Long Beach in 1989, she immediately enrolled in a program for a degree in Health Care Management. About a year later, I enrolled. After we got married and stationed in Guam and later in Bremerton, Washington, we finished our Bachelors and later Masters degrees, again going to class in the evenings and on weekends. Our experience made us adamant that our kids attend college, and not like we did, but with the traditional college experience.

Which brings us to today. It’s never been an option for our kids NOT to go to college. They’ve been programmed from a young age that this is their path. We’ve gone out our of our way to push them and encourage them. When it came time for our son to pick out colleges, we visited campuses all over the country, at his insistence. Our daughter is doing that now.   I suspect that both will do the same with their children years from now.

And it’s all because Greg Nelson and Paul Magat pushed us in the early 1980s to get off our ass and go to class.

Why not take some time this week to encourage someone to push beyond what they believe they’re capable of. Your guidance may have an impact for generations to come.

How to Deal with Annoyances

young woman stressedIn my experience, there are three types of annoyances:

  • Annoyance #1: Stuff we might be able to fix but it’s ok, we’re used to it and have accepted it.
  • Annoyance #2: Stuff we can fix but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it.
  • Annoyance #3: Stuff we can’t fix and we’ve resigned ourselves to it.

Annoyance #1 usually involves someone you’re close to and with time, becomes just part of the norm. You may not like it but you’ve come to expect and accept it. Examples might be my son who doesn’t clean up after himself when he makes something in the kitchen or the fact that our two poodles are absolutely un-house trainable. You simply account for it and understand you’ll be dealing with the aftermath on a somewhat regular basis. But you’re OK with that.

Annoyance #3 involves systems, structures, and situations that are beyond your control. Some of them are a part of life. I see #3 as the ridiculous taxes I have to pay or the inconvenience of having to endure TSA screening when I fly. It’s also the experiences you have come to expect from Disney (crowds, long lines, and having to pay for everything possible) and from the DMV (crowds, long lines, and rude customer service). You know it will happen and so you grit your teeth and endure it…because you have no choice.

Annoyance #2 is the subject of this post because it is actually the thing you should do something about. It could be a rude co-worker who nobody has the courage to confront. It might be the way you’ve been treated by a family member who probably has no clue they’ve irritated you.

In my case, it’s the fact that nobody can pronounce or spell my name correctly. I’ve dealt with it as long as I can remember.

Malcolm gets spelled:

  • Malcom
  • Malcomb
  • Melcome
  • Malcome

Munro gets spelled:

  • Munroe
  • Monroe
  • Monro
  • Munrow
  • Minrow

Then, it’s mispronounced or people can’t understand it.

It all came to a head this weekend at Starbucks.

Me: “I’ll have a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte” (For my wife. I prefer manly drinks like COFFEE)
Barista: “Ok, so that’s one Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte right? What’s the name?”
Me: “Malcolm”
Barista: “What was that? Milcon?”
Me: “No, Malcolm”
Barista: “Melkin?”
Me: “Uh No, it’s MALCOLM”
Barista: “How do you spell that?”
Me: “Forget it. Just put it under Dick.” (Immediately my 16 year-old daughter darts away in shame pretending to look at the coffee mugs)
Barista: (Snickering) “OK”

Now I’m not singling out Starbucks here.  The same thing happens ANYTIME I have to give my name to reserve a table or identify an order.  Maybe life would have been easier if I’d been named Dick. Or Bill. Or Ted. Or something that’s common and easy to spell.

I wasn’t. I was named after my dad, Malcolm Sr. I don’t know the reason why as I was pretty young back then.

But when I was in the Navy, my nickname was Mac. Life was easier. Even if you misspelled it, you never mispronounced it.

So, being that this falls squarely in the category of Annoyance #2, I took action.

Effective immediately, I insist on being referred to as MACK. With a “K”. It’s not unprecedented. Bruce became Caitlin with a few strategic Tweets and even Siri has caught on.

Yeah it will be a bit of a hassle. I have to change my email signature, my websites, my biography, and of course my voicemail. I will probably have to explain my reasons to people who know me. But at least I won’t have to contend with misspellings and mispronouncements.

I know this sounds silly to you, but you contend with something annoying right now that one simple action might fix. It could be that annoying co-worker. Or the way somebody criticizes what you do. It might be something as simple as the way your name is misspelled or pronounced. You could just suck it up and accept it, but if it’s truly in category #2, it will continue to bother you.

This week, why not take some time to sort out your annoyances. For #1 and #3, if you at least identify them, you can take your attention off them. For #2, think about how to fix it. It may not be as drastic as me changing my name, but the result will be as satisfying as removing that rock from your shoe.

Let me know how it goes.

Mack. (with a “K”)

Passion: Today’s Most Overused Word

passionHave you ever noticed how some words, phrases, or voice inflections slip into common vocabulary and suddenly are used by everyone? Here are some:

On every episode of Shark Tank:

Shark Kevin O’Leary: “Enough about the story, what are your sales?”

Entrepreneur: “So, last year we grossed $100,000.”

The overused word here is SO. More and more people start off their responses with So.

  • So…I’m glad you asked that.”
  • So…I’ve noticed I’m getting up four times a night to use the bathroom”
  • So…I would have had report done but I was too busy answering emails.”

It sounds arrogant and brash. Don’t use it.

Here’s another one:

  • “We met our sales projects this year?”
  • “I’d like to speak with you later about this idea?
  • “I’m not going to tolerate this anymore?

You can’t catch this from reading it, but the key is the question mark. It’s called UP-talking. It’s common in England, New Zealand, and Australia with those accents, but it’s now done quite a bit here. It makes you sound unsure of yourself. Don’t do it. Make you statements sound like statements rather than questions that should be debated or answered.

The final one is a word: Passion.

Passion suggests an insane devotion. The dictionary defines it as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” It’s rooted in a Greek verb that literally means to suffer.

That sounds serious.

Here’s what you often hear from people:

  • “I’m passionate about mentoring troubled youths.”
  • “I’m passionate about my Honda Accord.”
  • “I’m passionate about Camel cigarettes.”

Or the big one:

  • “Do what you’re passionate about and the money will follow”

Sometimes people say over and over how passionate they are about a thing. I saw this at a church meeting for a mission trip to Mexico where the trip coordinator told us no less than 30 times how passionate she was about this ministry.

I think I’ve done it myself. I used to think I was passionate about developing the next great generation of managers, but now I realize it’s merely important to me. I could say I’m passionate about the Washington Redskins, but if I were, I’d still be a fan even though I’ve moved to Tennessee. Not sure if I will ever be passionate about the Tennessee Titans, but I’ll give it some time.

There’s nothing wrong with the word passion, it’s just used so much that I think it’s lost its significance. Everyone talks about what they really like and refer to it as passion. Passion may be good for you, but if I’m not feeling it, then hearing you talk about it over and over won’t inspire me.

Passion suggests an almost insane devotion to something. One could say a world-class athlete might be passionate, but really they are just driven. You could say you’re passionate about your family or your god, but really, you just love them a whole lot. Come to think of it, I can’t really imagine anything I could be insanely enamored with enough to call it a passion.

But if you could, it would have to be pretty significant.

So your homework this week is to:

  1. Stop referring to things that you really like as something you’re passionate about.
  2. Discover something that you are TRULY passionate about.

When you find it, let me know. I’m really anxious to hear about it.