Passion – What Successful Careers Are Made Of

I love playing video games. I play most days and I’m quite competitive online in some of them. But they’re not my passion. I’m never going to make a successful career out of them. That’s because I don’t spend every waking hour thinking about videogames, trying to develop them, watching online videos in an effort to improve my play and hanging around videogame retailers with like-minded people. Yes, I love videogames, but they’re not my passion.

Passion is an obsession. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll spend an unprecedented amount of time practicing it in order to excel at it. Passion is what successful careers are made of.

The Passion in Bill Gates

Take Bill Gates. Before he was the man behind Microsoft with an income greater than most entire companies, he was a 13-year-old kid with a passion for computers. When his school purchased a teletype terminal for students to use, Gates’ obsession escalated and he spent all his free time on the terminal. He programmed his first game, a tic-tac-toe program, while at school. He and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen released Traf-o-Data, a program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, at ages 15 and 17 respectively, which netted the teens a cool $20,000. While enrolled at Harvard, Gates spent most of his time at the computers and his grades suffered, disappointing his parents. When they saw what Microsoft became, I’m sure they stopped complaining.

Nowadays, a look at Bill Gates’ blog reveals precious little related to computers. Gates is now passionate about changing the world for the better, whether through energy innovation, improving current education systems, or plans to completely eliminate malaria. And given how passionate he is about it all, he’ll probably succeed.

While Gates has stepped down from the executive level and now plays an advisory role at Microsoft, the company’s revenue was last reported as almost 87 billion US dollars, and it all comes back to Bill Gates’ passion as a 13 year old computer nerd.

The Passion in Heston Blumenthal

Michelin-starred chef and television personality Heston Blumenthal became obsessed with cooking as a teenager while dining at an acclaimed restaurant in Provence, France. From age 16 to 26, he worked a variety of jobs by day – photocopier salesman, debt collector, credit controller – but these just got in the way of his passion for cooking. By night, he would cook the same dishes over and over until they were perfect. He would spend every summer crossing the channel to France, visiting restaurants, suppliers and wineries to learn about culinary techniques and procedures involved in both the front and back end of restaurants. When he opened his restaurant in 1995, he would work 20 hour shifts, occasionally catching 15-minute power naps. This workload would discourage most mortals, but not Blumenthal. A 20 hour cooking shift? That’s just 20 hours doing what he’s passionate about. Easy.

Today his passion is demonstrated through the genius and madness of his dishes, which continue to receive critical acclaim despite how outlandish they are. His incredible platings and flavour combinations are the product of his imagination, which is fuelled by constantly reading historical recipes and researching the science behind how flavours mingle. This is why you’ll find salmon and liquorice on the same plate when you dine at his flagship restaurant.

Blumenthal appears to have the ability to be in several places at once: on the bookshelf, in the kitchen, on the small screen and on stage at an event. No doubt he has to endure long flights and sleepless nights as well as the hard yards in the kitchen, but it’s his passion that gets him through it.

And how much is Heston’s passion worth? In 2013, he pocketed 13 million pounds.

More Passionate People

You don’t have to look too hard to find more examples of passionate entrepreneurs. Chef Jamie Oliver was helping out in kitchens before he finished school and dropped out to attend catering college. Footballer Lionel Messi has lived with a hormone deficiency that stunted his growth, but he persisted due to his passion for the game, played with his older brothers, and defied the odds to become arguably the greatest of all time. Steve Jobs and his father Paul tinkered with electronics in his garage as a child. He later dropped out of college and instead dropped in on creative calligraphy classes, fusing his passions for electronics and design to found the most design-conscious tech company in the world, Apple.

Maybe you take a lot of photos. Maybe you paint every day. Or maybe you love writing about everything and anything. If you’re passionate about something, chances are, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, there might be some money in it.

– Magnus

Aim Carefully, Don’t Over Shoot

I’ve worked in customer service, in a variety of different settings, for many years now and until recently I didn’t really ponder the dynamics of the customer service relationship too deeply.

A couple of weeks back I had the displeasure of shopping at a chain of clothing

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

stores whose staff have been mercilessly beaten with an attitude of “push, push, push” and the result is a flow-down effect on the customer. I entered their store and after about 5 minutes of contented browsing I was approached by a young man whose face was split by a smile that was not reaching his disinterested eyes.

How are you today man?” he boomed in faux-enthusiasm. I replied that I was great and returned my eyes to the racks.

You looking for something in particular, because these are made and designed in Oz” He said at me, while holding up a shirt from a nearby rack and pointing at it suggestively. I replied that I wasn’t and I was just browsing. However, this seemed to be like waving red to a bull – how dare I attempt to browse this store without his input.

Yeah, I get that all the time. Did you know that all those jeans are handmade? You’d rock the mauve ones” He said pointing behind me. I thanked him and told him that I was just browsing – again.

After an awkward silence he exclaimed “You look lost!” and moved far too close to me. I assure him that I was not, and I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Are you sure?” He asked. I repeated that I was fine but I now had a sinking feeling that I will not be allowed free reign of the store without being rude to this “salesman”.

Well, you sure look lost. Hey, you’d look good in one those jackets. I’m thinking you’re a dark blue kinda guy” he says while physically grabbing my arm to drag me somewhere. It was at this stage that I decided enough was enough and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want anything anymore and left the store.

I think this kind of persistence is something that, if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced in a sales environment. For me, it drove home the importance of ‘reading’ a customer. Great salespeople will tell you that a good sales pitch gets the sale and a repeat customer. The ‘brute force’ method of mercilessly pushing a product will sometimes get the sale, but it will likely deter the customer from coming back to you because they found the experience to be uncomfortable or intimidating.

By no means should customers be ignored, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s equally detrimental to overshoot in the other direction. A salesman who’s obviously faking his enthusiasm, and covering the customers like his opponent in a footy match is more likely to put off customers than keep them coming back.

– Kyle

How To Be A Customer 101

As service providers, we go to great lengths to ensure we take care of our customers, but what about when the shoe is on the other foot? When we find ourselves as customers, how can we get the best possible service?

Before a company can commit to exceeding your expectations, they need to know what you expect!  So, let your service provider know. It seems so simple, but how many transactions result in disgruntled customers simply because the business representative did not have an accurate picture of the customers’ expectations?

What are your expectations as a customer?

What are your expectations as a customer?

Sure, you can argue this is the business’ responsibility and we’d agree with you. But maybe this example will encourage you to make your expectations known. We were working on a video production and noticed a faulty bit of equipment. This equipment did not come cheap and this fault was certainly unbecoming of the reputable manufacturer.

So we emailed the manufacturer stating the problem. The manufacturer’s representative promptly responded advising us to call the Australian distributor. We had dealt with this particular distributor in the past over the phone and our experiences were… disappointing. Naturally, this was frustrating news to receive. But how was the manufacturer to know?

We responded by writing, calmly but firmly, that this particular distributor had been unhelpful and unpleasant to deal with and as such we were not keen to contact them again. We asked for another alternative. They suggested we ship it. When we said that would be too expensive, they said they would ship a new unit and for us to send back the faulty one. Even though this was an international company, the issue was sorted within four days.

Would it have been better if they had a more professional Australian distributor? Absolutely, but consider how this transaction might have gone if we hadn’t made our expectations of customer service explicitly clear. Our faulty unit would have gone in for costly repairs and the manufacturer would have probably lost a customer.

This doesn’t mean you should be a prima donna. Sales people are astutely aware of customers who demand excessive service at a minimal price and quickly discard them as a vocal nuisance. It’s often extremely uneconomical to try to please these divas. Instead, make your reasonable expectations clear. Smart companies will see this as an opportunity to impress you.

Next time you’re a customer, think back to the customers you’ve impressed. Chances are their expectations were clear and you knew exactly how to exceed them.

– Jakub