Heston Blumenthal

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

Risks Reap Rewards!

Most people like to play it safe, but personally I’m a big fan of taking risks. And so is Executive Chef and owner of The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal. After all, it was taking a risk that propelled him to superstardom.

Liquorice salmon. Snail porridge. Quail jelly. These aren’t your average run of the mill dishes, but he took a risk believing the public would develop an appetite for them. And he was right. The Fat Duck has been ranked one of the Top 5 Restaurants globally since 2004, and claimed top spot in 2005.

In Heston’s case, a calculated risk reaped huge dividends. The same applies in marketing. Let’s take an iconic Messages On Hold image – the yellow hands at AFL matches.

Our Managing Director, Kym Illman, knew it would be a risk ‘ambushing’ each game with his big yellow hands behind the goals. And sure enough he was right. (Once he was evicted from the ground!) Yes there was negative press, but he was able to go on radio and explain his motivation, ironically securing more free exposure at the same time.

You could think of it as a cost-benefit analysis. Is the potential reward greater than the risk? In our case yes. On one hand paying sponsors were upset, and there was some expected backlash from fans and viewers. But we were getting the Messages On Hold brand out to a national audience for the price of admission.

In the end we came to an agreement with West Coast that’s mutually beneficial. In fact – we’ve been a proud official sponsor for the last 20 years.

We’ve all heard this one before – “look before you leap”. But no one ever said you couldn’t leap at all! If you’ve done your research, weighed up the pros and cons and are prepared to take a risk, go with your gut! Next week we’ll take a look at how to manage any potential fallout.

– Magnus