Finding Your Passion Takes Faith and Sacrifice

Last Updated Sep 1, 2009 8:22 PM EDT

I've long known that finding your passion is not only the key to happiness, but also the key to business success. Apparently, lots of successful people - like Apple's Steve Jobs - know it too. But it takes more than just a pithy, inspirational phrase to get there.

Here's some advice from Jobs and a former CEO of mine that provide a bit more visibility into what it really takes - faith, sacrifice, and willingness to take risks - to accomplish that lofty goal.

First, from Steve Jobs's 2005 Stanford University Commencement Speech:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something â€" your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me.
And, from an interview with Bruce McWilliams, a physicist who somehow found his way to becoming a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a very successful CEO:
I have found that as a chief executive, you basically show up every day and find a new problem waiting for you. It might be an employee threatening to quit or a customer who is upset or a problem in manufacturing, but if you love solving problems, then you will like being a chief executive.

Business in general is not best learned in the college classroom but by doing it -- by being in the foxhole with bullets going over your head.
As for me, I gave up a 10 year career as an engineering manager because there was something about the business of technology - sales and marketing - that I found more intriguing. I stepped a few rungs down the career ladder and took a cut in pay, but it didn't take long before that pursuit began to pay off.

Many years later, I did it all over again, giving up a 10+ year career as a senior high-tech executive to consult and write.

Jobs gave up college and a conventional life to partner with Steve Wozniak and follow what his instincts told him to do. McWilliams essentially walked away from a PhD and a career as a physicist because he was attracted to the excitement of running a technology firm.

What's the common thread? To find your passion, you must be willing to take risks and make sacrifices. You have to give things up. Safe things, sometimes things you worked hard to get. But it's worth it.

Now it's your turn: share a story - good or bad - about what it takes to follow your passion and achieve business success.

[Image courtesy L.A. Cicero]

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