The Influence of a Father: Passion

My father never worked a day in his life.

Do not misunderstand me: my father was a hard worker. He was born on the eve of the Great Depression, the youngest of six children. He grew up on the grounds of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, where his father was the stock keeper. He moved a couple of times before entering high school. Upon graduation, he entered the Army Air Corps and served until the fall of 1946. Upon returning home he worked in a factory for two years, when at age 22, he opened a Gulf Service Station with his brother. He continued to operate that gas station for the next 44 years, mostly by himself. The hours were long: 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.

He dealt with steaming hot cars in the summer, and worked through cold wet winters as well. His gas station opened up as a full-service station, and stayed that way for the entire 44 years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means my father pumped the gas into the cars – and washed the windshields, and checked the oil in the engine, and sometimes checked the air in the tires. That’s for every car that pulled up to the gas pumps.

Looking back over my years at home, and in the years following my going off to college, starting a family, and all the way up until the close of the gas station upon his retirement in 1993, I realize now that my father never worked a day in his life.

No, he followed this advice: find something you like to do so much that you would gladly do it for nothing; then learn to do it so well that people are happy to pay you for it.

That’s what my father did: his passion for serving people by pumping their gas was his career.

Following your passion is the key to finding your potential. When a person doesn’t have passion, life can become pretty monotonous. Everything is a “have to” and nothing is a “want to.”

John Maxwell had this to say about passion:

Passion is an incredible asset for any person, but especially for leaders. It keeps us going when others quit. It becomes contagious and influences others to follow us. It pushes us through the toughest of times and gives us energy we did not know we possessed.

Passion fuels us in ways that the following assets can’t:

  • Talent…is never enough to enable us to reach our potential
  • Opportunity…will never get us to the top by itself
  • Knowledge…can be a great asset, but it won’t make us “all we can be”
  • A great team…can fall short

Passion is a real difference-maker.

For 44 years my father lived off of the energy that came from loving what he did and doing what he loved.

To most people, there is a big difference between work and play. Work is what they have to do to earn a living so that someday they can do what they want to do. Don’t live your life that way. Choose to do what you love and make the necessary adjustments to make it work in your life.

And you will never work another day in your life.

reflections following my father’s death, and revisited two years later as my mother begins a major transition in life


What Could Apple’s Passion Do for Your Team?

What sort of values would an organization have to venerate if it wanted to duplicate Apple’s successes?

          Gary Hamel, What Matters Now

For months now I’ve been circling Apple like a moth around a flame, and have now taken the plunge:

As Vision Room Curator, I will be working off of a MacBook Pro.

As if the Auxano learning curve weren’t enough, I am also transitioning from decades of PC use to the world of Apple. I’ll have to get back to you on how it’s going, but for now, a quick drop-in to noted business thinker and strategist Gary Hamel’s thoughts on Apple from his book What Matters Now.

Specifically, his answers to the question above.

Be Passionate – great success is the product of a great passion; it arises from the tireless and inventive pursuit of a noble ideal. To deliver years of exceptional performance, an organization must first dedicate itself to the pursuit of an exceptional ideal.

Lead, Don’t Follow – what gets the teams at Apple up every morning? The chance to break new ground and radically redefine the status quo.

Aim to Surprise – as a company, Apple seems committed to exceeding expectations. Jonathan Ives, Apple’s head of design, stated “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it becomes sort of magical.” That’s the bar Apple sets for itself.

Be Unreasonable – greatness doesn’t come from compromise, from resigning oneself to the trade-offs others blithely accept. It comes from transcending trade-offs, by turning either/or into both/and. Apple gets this, and frequently challenges itself to do the impossible.

Innovate Incessantly and Pervasively – at Apple, innovation isn’t a strategy or a department; instead, it’s the basic material that goes into everything the company does. Apparently there are a lot of people at Apple who realize that innovation – in products, services, and business models – is the only strategy for creating long-term value.

Sweat the Details – Apple aims to produce products that work intuitively, seamlessly, and reliably – and this can only happen when hundreds of people take the trouble to sweat the details.

Think Like an Engineer, Feel Like an Artist – a company can’t produce beauty if bean counters win every argument. There are lots of people at Apple who work out of both sides of their brain – and understand that their customers do too.

What’s the bottom line? Apple’s unique success is a product of its unique values, which are uniquely innovation-friendly and customer-centric.

What if Apple’s passions were the norm rather than the exception…

…at your church?