He impressed me from the start, not just because he started his business in a closet – quite literally -- but because of his passion. He was confident that he and his team could create a new line of apparel for a disorganized, under-served market that needed a more consistent branded product. So, with the blessing of his parent company, he gathered a small group of like-minded believers around the closet and went to work.
Their business took hold and prospered, and their brand became an icon in the trade. His team grew as they created opportunity, managed growth and guided the company into the future. No matter how successful they became (and they were enormously successful in a blazingly short time), they never lost that passion about their business, their customers and their purpose.
The passion was most obvious during their annual sales meetings, which were a combination of “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!” commitment and a palpable awe that they’d all been graced with the privilege of working together. Love was afoot in that company. And no matter how many sales meetings we worked for successive clients, no other experience quite matched the sense of belonging my team felt when working with this passionate group.
Albert Einstein claimed to have no special talents, but he did have passion. He was “passionately curious” -- and look where that got him!
So I began musing about all of this today and wondered what might happen if the sort of passion discussed above were to be introduced to – even expected of – students in America’s public schools. I read occasionally about students, sometimes whole classes full of students, who are inspired by passionate teachers. But I hear far more frequently about classes held hostage by the bad behavior of a handful of kids who could care less about anything other than clever disruption. What if those kids – all kids – were routinely introduced to passionate possibilities? What if they were exposed to such a variety of these possibilities during their school experience that a spark strikes and leads them to careers … dreams … lives … that otherwise would have been beyond their imagining? They would act up less and learn more. Every child has that potential.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to second and fourth grade classes about reading and writing. One day I arrived to find a girl standing up in front facing the blackboard.
“What’s up with this?” I asked the teacher, who mumbled something about how the girl had been talking too much. So I turned to the girl.
“How would you like to be my assistant?” I asked. Her eyes brightened and a smile crept across her face, which then bloomed into pure delight. The class responded, too, and we had a great time. I often wonder about that young girl. Grown up now, no doubt, perhaps with children of her own. She had a glint of intelligence in her eyes that said anything was possible … if only she was given the opportunity to discover whatever life’s pursuit would have been perfect for her – maybe even beyond her imagining.
I also recall, about that same time, speaking to an assembly of high school students in a large gym. As the principal was introducing me, a small group of students in the bleachers across the way began bleating like goats and snorting like pigs. So, when I finally got hold of the microphone, here’s what I told them:
“You guys up there in the bleachers think you’re cute. But if you keep on doing things like that, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to graduate high school – just barely. And you’ll find yourself unprepared in a world that would just as soon chew you up, spit you out and leave you by the side of the road. So go ahead, make all the racket you want. Even though there’s not much of a market out there for animal noises.”
It got pin quiet after that.
The world does not owe every ne’er do well a living. But everyone should have the opportunity to earn a living, a living shot through with optimism and passion. The sky should be the limit for both employee and employer as they succeed together. But not if you’re a slug who could care less about qualities like passion, team, responsibility and accomplishment.
“The saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all,” Nicholas Sparks wrote in Dear John. Which, unfortunately, can be seen all too readily in our schools.
So imagine what might happen if American students were introduced to their passion at an early age. Imagine the showplace of success our schools could become. Imagine the businesses that could be built, the art that could be created, the world that could be changed -- all because some child somewhere realizes what truly is possible and gets plugged into their passion.
I have friends who are crazy about pianos. Another who loves 1950s Fords. One who’s passionate about geology and the environment. And a daughter who’s passionate about planes and cars, the engines that make them go and the stars in the sky and the space that surrounds them plus all manners of fascinating, undiscovered things and is making wondrous progress on a path of her own making. She dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because she was unchallenged and bored, earned her GED, worked in New York, traveled the world for a while, took part-time calculus classes (for fun) and then got trained to be an airplane mechanic before settling herself back into college to study physics.
She’s got a natural spark, and her possibilities are endless. As it should be for everyone.
TakeAway: Passion is calling. How will you respond?
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner