Work v. Passion

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Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel and champion of the working class has a now famous quote from his TED Talk:

“Bring your passion along with you, but don’t follow it – be happy first!”

What?!?! Don’t follow your passion? Isn’t that counter to everything we’ve ever been taught. Perhaps, but I think he’s on to something.

Recently, I served as the Camp Director for the Jay Bilas Skills Camp, an ‘old school’ camp that is focused on teaching the fundamental skills of the game of basketball. Preparing for the camp and then the three, 18 hour days in the gym reminded me that my passion is teaching – teaching and leading coaches, teaching young people the game of basketball, and teaching life changing lessons through sports. I know it is my passion because not once did I think twice about putting in the long days; not once did I ask myself ‘what are you doing here?’; not once did I wish I was doing something else with my time; not once did I wonder how much I was going to get paid for the work. I was all in, all out, for the entire camp…because it is my passion.

But my passion isn’t my job. Does that make me a failure? Shouldn’t I have a job at 39 years old that allows me to make a living following my passion? I agree with Mike Rowe on this point and say NO! That doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job and it doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard at my job. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not happy. I have a great job working every day with sports teams to help make their facilities more beautiful and engaging. I earn a good living and have a balanced quality of life. I have time to spend with my family and friends. And  I still have time for my passion. I don’t work in my passion everyday, but I do bring it along with me to my job.

Here is what I have observed about people who follow their passion (including me in the early stages of my career). They eventually burn out, they destroy their relationships, and they become imbalanced and dependent. The reason for this is that when you are working at your passion you don’t ever want to stop. You believe so much in what you’re doing or love your work so much that you’ll do anything to keep doing it. No amount of hours is too many; no request from the boss is unreasonable; no sacrifice is too large. I know, I followed my passion for coaching for 10 years and I have countless friends who have done the same thing. The road I was going down, and the road I have seen many others go down leads you to ignore your health because there isn’t enough time for silly things like working out and eating right. It causes you to ignore relationships with your spouse and family and often leads to divorce and loneliness because your job takes priority whether you want to admit it or not. It creates an emotional roller coaster where your happiness is ONLY tied to success in your job, often leading to addiction in an effort to find some calming or numbing place. Following your passion can be very dangerous.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t love what you do and be passionate about it. And I’m not suggesting you should abandon your passions. What I believe is that if you blindly follow your passion into a career, there are risks that you should be aware of and guard against. I also want to stress that I do believe that it is important to pursue your passions, even when they aren’t your job. If you love art, keep creating and sell or give away your art. If you love to travel, find a way to spend your available time and money out on the road. If you love music, keep playing as much as you can as long as you can. If you love sports, stay involved in youth sports or an adult league even if you can’t find the right job in the industry that makes you happy. And most importantly, whatever you end up doing for your JOB, bring your passion along with you, but be happy FIRST.

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Blowing up the Dam

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When I was a young man, my soul was a river. It flowed freely and wildly, traveling wherever the land would allow. I was an emotional being and a dynamic one that was comfortable with where that emotion took me spiritually, relationally, and emotionally. Like any river, my soul started to find patterns where it could flow smoothly. An emotional personality started to form and some banks were created on my river that were comfortable and made me who I was.

By the time I reached college, my ‘river soul’ was a pretty well defined waterway with a strong current and a defined path that led to an ocean of happiness. Like all young people, my river would flow out of its banks with happiness, love, and excitement from time to time and I’d lose control over it, but it would settle down. Like many rivers, I had dry points in my young adult life where my river seemed to all but dry up, leaving little or no water flowing to share with others or even keep myself nourished. By the time I graduated from college, however, I had become a strong, flowing river again; defined by clear banks and an occasional tributary that fed my soul (like a group of friends who taught me how to camp, hike, and mountain bike and fueled my passion for the outdoors), I set off into the adult world with the beginnings of an understanding of who I was and the power that was within me in the form of that river soul.

As I look back on my early career, I mostly let the river within me flow. I wasn’t too concerned about how others interacted with the river, I just knew that when it was flowing people enjoyed my personality and when it dried up it wasn’t much fun to be around. I grew a lot as a person the first 5-6 years after college as my river soul flowed freely and I followed it wherever it wanted to go. I saw it spill out in generosity and kindness to others, it was refreshed with the energy of new love (another important tributary) when I met my wife and we were started our life together as a shared river. I wasn’t risky, per se, but not cautious either, just allowing my soul to grow and flow freely.

I can’t clearly recall when I started to build the dam. At some point, I realized that I could harness the energy and power of my soul if I would build a dam and force the river to flow through it. It seemed like a great idea at the time – take all of the great things that flow out of you naturally and start to control them. Over time, as the dam was built, I began to feel like I was taking control of my river soul, using its power for the greater good of my family, my career, myself. When the situation required it, I could open up the gates and let the river flow freely and powerfully over the dam – this created energy and was impressive to all who saw it at job interviews, company business meetings, vacations, or family get togethers. When people viewed the river with the gates all the way open, it looked like a thriving, healthy river. Then, at times, I could slow the flow to a trickle. The water levels would drop and the flow became more controlled. I didn’t realize it then, but when I forcefully closed those gates, it had a dramatic impact – my marriage and family were not nourished because there wasn’t enough water, my business relationships became stagnant due to the lack of moving water, and life became generally dull and dry. Too often, when I was trying to slow the flow of water it was in the midst of a season of drought that I didn’t even recognize. While I thought I was preserving my river in the dry time by slowing the flow to a trickle, what was really happening was that the river was drying up behind the dam.

The result looked something like this:
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The water levels of my soul behind the dam I had created had become so low, the water was evaporating away, and the fact that there was ever a river there was almost imperceptible.

And then I decided to blow up the dam.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort to blow up a huge dam that has been holding back a rushing river for years. You can’t do it with a pick axe, it takes dynamite. It is loud, and it hurts. There is no quiet, discreet way to blow up a dam.

The result of releasing the river soul to flow again has been amazing. True, there aren’t many of the ‘open the floodgates’ rushes of emotional water anymore that used to happen when I was in control; but my soul is once again flowing smoothly and uninhibited. It has returned to its original banks in most places and has forged new ones in other places. My river soul still goes up and down based on seasons of emotional and spiritual rain and drought. Every now and then a chunk of the old dam comes loose and barrels down the river, reminding me of the damage I did by trying to control my river soul. But now I don’t try to control it, instead I see my primary job as keeping it clean so it can flow freely and nourish others. When it gets clogged after a heavy rain with trees, debris, and rocks, I’ve got to get those out of the way. When the levels are low because of drought, I’ve got to dredge the bottom to maintain the river’s flow. I don’t have to control it anymore, just make sure that it is genuine, free, and clear of anything that might slow it down. The water of my river soul takes care of the rest.

Inspired by the book Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

The Energy Bus

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This blog is mostly about my personal experiences, thoughts, and perceptions, but I recently read The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and was so inspired by it that I feel compelled to share some of the wise words I gleaned from it with others. I strongly encourage this quick read.

Quotes and Thoughts from The Energy Bus

“The goal in life is to live young, have fun, and arrive at your final destination – as late as possible – with a smile on your face.”

“Positive teams produce positive results, and the essential ingredient is positive energy.”

“It’s the simplest lessons in life that are often the most profound and meaningful.”

“…trust, faith, enthusiasm, purpose, joy, and happiness” are the things that make up positive energy

“Your positive energy and vision must be greater than anyone’s and everyone’s negativity. Your certainty must be greater than everyone’s doubt.”

“Trust that great things are happening.”

“What would you rather be, corny and happy or buttoned up and miserable?”

The gift you bring to the world is “your presence of feeling good and being happy.”

“The heart’s electromagnetic field is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain.”
– heartmath.org

“If you are open to the signs (of life) and look for them, they will always tell you where your bus needs to go and what you need for your ride”

“When you bring out the best in others, you can’t help bringing out the best in yourself.”

“Trust is the high octane fuel that will take your bus wherever it needs to go.”

“Do not focus on the future because the future brings only what the present gives it.”

10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life
1. You’re the driver of your bus.
2. Desire, Vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
4. Invite people in your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
5. Don’t Waste your energy on those who don’t get on the bus.
6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
8. Love your passengers.
9. Drive with purpose.
10. Have fun and enjoy the ride

5 Ways to Love your Passengers
1. Make time for them
2. Listen to them
3. Recognize them
4. Serve them
5. Bring out the best in them

You can buy it here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Bus-Rules-Fuel-Positive-ebook/dp/B0086I25S8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395147092&sr=8-1&keywords=the+energy+bus