Warning: Your “Passion” Might Not Be Working

I keep stumbling upon a quote from the 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. I read it and find myself wondering how Kierkegaard nailed the 21st century right on the head. Here’s our current culture in a nutshell:

“What our age lacks is not reflection, but passion.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Of course, with all our sophistication, we think we’ve figured out how to cheat the system: We redefined reflection (“thinking and talking”) as passion.

We think if our reflection sounds passionate, that’s enough. But we’re wrong. Here’s what I mean:

When was the last time you browsed the internet or visited Barnes & Noble without seeing a new voice in the whole “Live with Passion” and “Succeed with Passion” world?

Books, articles, blogs, speeches, seminars–everyone wants to teach everyone to live with passion. To dream big. To create success. To win.

And we talk and talk and talk about it. We write about it, post about it, and comment about it, so that everyone knows how passionate we are.

But are we really living it at the office? Are we committing and following through with those goals? Are we taking those scary steps we talk about?

See, here’s what always bothers me. We’re GREAT at talking! But talking is just the first step! And while it’s an important one, it’s not nearly enough.

You don’t win at life, realize big dreams, and create success by reflecting. You succeed by acting! And therein lies true passion.

No matter how many hours you spend reading passionate Facebook notes (like this one)  and leaving passionate comments (or passionately clicking “Like”), success and fulfillment take something more. Something way bigger.

If I could make one wish for the personal development world, it would be that people would start adding REAL passion–REAL action–to all the reflection.

Don’t get me wrong: The reflection is great. The more voices out there encouraging each other to do great things, the better.

But there’s a dirty little secret most of us personal development fans won’t admit even to ourselves: For all our passionate reflection, most of us lack the actual passion to get up and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

After all, it’s a lot easier to talk about being successful than to push ourselves to our limits until we really do succeed.

One of these days, we’re going to have to put down the books, get off our favorite success-guru’s fanpage, and actually DO all these great big things we talk about.

There are lots of talkers, but not so many brave and diligent doers.

Or as Kierkegaard would say–lots of reflection, but little real passion!

Of course, you probably needed those first couple motivational books you read. And refreshers are useful. If you’re like me, you even want to help introduce others to the hope that real understanding of personal development offers people. So don’t stop the reflecting.

But until the day you decide to translate that reflection into passion in the real world, you won’t live your dream, you won’t see results, and you won’t make another penny!

No amount of reading about or discussing productivity will make you more productive. You have to actually DO it!

No amount of reading about or discussing leadership will make you a good leader. You have to actually DO it!

And no amount of reading about or discussing millionaires will make you a millionaire. You have to get up, take a deep breath, and start doing the incredibly hard work of making it happen!

In the real world, reflection must eventually take the backseat, and passion must become the main player.

Real passion will mean blood, sweat, and tears.

Real passion will mean risk, nerves, stress, rejection, failure, criticism, exhaustion, and second-guessing.

Yes, all the talk is good for us. We need to be inspired. We need to be refueled. But we can’t forget that the reflection is supposed to serve the action! To carry you through the blood, sweat, and tears!

So once we’ve reflected for a while, once we’ve refueled and gotten inspired, we HAVE to turn it into real passion. REAL passion.

Not the kind that spends all day looking at motivational quotes and inspiring memes so we feel better about ourselves!

The kind of passion that starts turning all the noisy reflection into action.

Only then will you get the results you dream to see.

What real ACTION did you take TODAY to better yourself and inch closer to your dreams?

What will you do tomorrow? Will you spend the day wishing for and dreaming of success? Or will you have the real passion to ACT?

12 Rules for New Managers – #3: Write and Own a Vision

Last Monday I posted the 2nd rule I wish someone had given me when I first became a manager: Know Your People. The 1st one I needed was Keep Your Eye on the Ball.

Today I get to share with you the 3rd of 12 rules every new manager should know. I used to hate this one. I thought it was silly. Looking back, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

If you know any managers who are either fresh in their field or could use some fresh perspective and inspiration, please share!

Rule #3: Write and Own a Vision

“The number one reason most people don’t get what they want,” says T. Harv Eker“is that they don’t know what they want.”

Before you embark on a journey, you need to know your destination. Any preparation or action you take before you know exactly where you’re trying to go is silly.

You need a vision! A destination.

A vision is a clear concept of what you plan to make a reality.

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to determine exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and where you and your team are headed.

My experience confirms that until you have that clear vision, all your planning, all your analyzing, all your reviewing, all your assigning–all your work will be crippled by a lack of direction and purpose.

A vision needs to be 5 things:

1. Sincere

Your vision needs to be a sincere and honest expression of what you and your team truly want. You can have as cool sounding a mission as possible, but unless it’s something that fits you, you’ll never stick to it.

2. Inspiring

To be and do their best, people need to feel like they’re part of something important. Something that makes a difference. That’s why disconnected visions like “Follow all the rules and run smoothly” don’t work. You and your team need something exciting to reach for!

3. Clear

Your vision needs to be clear. It needs to be tangible and measurable. It needs to be specific and exact. As a leader, you lose all your leverage when the goal is something subjective, like “Be the best we can be.” You and your team need to know exactly what is the destination, so that there is no room for misunderstanding and half-hearted work.

4. Actionable

Your people cannot be waiting for the dream to become a reality. They need to be focused on making it a reality. Try using action words in your vision: Success won’t happen to you, you will make success! Tag numbers on it, put measurements in it. Your vision has to be one of action, so that when a player stops pulling his weight, the vision speaks directly to them.

5. A Commitment

Until you and your team can promise yourselves and each other that you will make your vision a reality, and hold each other to that commitment, the vision will be useless. There will be no passion, no inspiration, no power. Your vision has to be a commitment!

So how do you create and use your vision?

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion,” said Jack Welch, one of the greatest business leaders in history.

1. Write it!

Do not just talk about a vision. Do not have a vague idea that leaves everyone off the hook. Choose one and commit to it. Make it official. Put it in writing! You need to be able to return to it, consult it. Your team needs the same.

2. Collaborate.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I made as a manager. I tried to choose our vision without including my team. How seriously do you think they took that vision? How much do you think it resonated with them? How motivated do you think they were to pursue it?

3. Teach it.

Everyone on your team needs to know your vision. Inside and out. If you’re all trying to get to slightly different versions of a destination, you’ll never get there. So teach your vision in depth to each and every player on your team! Have people memorize it, or at least keep a copy! Talk about it lots. You and your team have to own it!

4. Tie everything into it.

Here’s where you’ll start seeing the real difference. When you have a “vision” in one corner, and what-you-do-daily in a different corner, you will see aimlessness and confusion. The real power is when you wrap everything you do back around into your vision. Show your people how each little part of their job is a part of the vision. Then, and only then, will you feel the momentum.

Takeaway: You and your team need a vision, and until you have one, there will be no direction or momentum. A vision is a clear concept of what you plan to make a reality. Your vision needs to be sincere, inspiring, clear, actionable, and a commitment. You need to write out your vision with the help of your team, everyone needs to learn it, and everything you do must tie into it. Then, and only then, will you feel the power of vision.

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way.” – Abraham Lincoln

What else should managers know about creating and living a vision?

Stop Pretending to Be a Perfectionist!

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” – Thomas J. Watson


It’s time to stop labeling yourself as a perfectionist. You are not a perfectionist.

You’re just scared.

Like me.

Please understand, I’m saying this as a textbook “perfectionist.” Through most of my life, I put my dreams and plans on hold in the name of “perfectionism.”

You see, here’s the problem for people like me: Perfection is impossible. Therefore, if you wait until you’re ready to be perfect, you will never take action. And if you never take action, your results will be anything but perfect! So true “perfectionists” really aren’t perfectionists.

When you wake up in the morning, you get all spiffed up for the day and head to work. Could you look a little better, dress a little better? Sure, but getting to work on time takes priority.

You get to the office and respond to a few emails. Could you have written better, reached out better, taken better advantage of some opportunities? Yes, but you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

You work pretty hard the whole day on that report your boss is waiting for. It’s due tonight, so you stay a little more focused than usual. But you still take a couple breaks to catch up with your co-workers. Helps keep you sane.

At the end of the day, you take a deep breath and hit print. You’re not completely satisfied, but you did your best. And your boss won’t wait forever. You turn in your report and head home. Proud of your work, but okay with the fact that you’ll always have room for improvement.

You know what’s crazy, though? That’s a typical day in the life of a self-diagnosed “perfectionist.” They aren’t REALLY perfectionists! Any true perfectionist would never finish grooming in the morning, never get through an inbox, never take a break, and never hit print!

So why do we say we’re “perfectionists” when we really settle for less than perfect every day?

Because it gives us an excuse to NOT do the things we’re too SCARED to do!

Here’s my shameful story of addiction to “perfectionism.”

I had so many things I wanted to accomplish, but I rarely even got started on them.

This is how it went–all day, every day:

Ambitious Me: “Why don’t I start that project?” Perfectionist Me: “No, I only have half an hour before my next meeting. I should wait until I can really focus–I don’t want to do a half-hearted job.”

Ambitious Me: “I should start a blog!” Perfectionist Me: “Are you crazy? Nobody would read it! You need to research blogging way more first!”

Ambitious Me: “I should try cooking a meal to surprise my girlfriend!” Perfectionist Me: “Whoa, you’re not nearly the cook yet. How embarrassing would it be if she wasn’t impressed?”

Ambitious Me: “I really need to reply to that letter.” Perfectionist Me: “You’re way too busy to give it the focus it deserves, let’s wait till we have more time on our hands. Surely it’ll happen soon enough.” 

As if I’d ever have the time and expertise to achieve “perfect” on my first shot.

(And here’s another problem. The more you put off in the name of perfectionism, the bigger your to-do list gets, and the less able you feel to focus on perfecting anything.)

Ask yourself this question for me–no, for your own sake: Are you really a perfectionist? Or are you scared of facing our imperfect reality?

There are so many things in life that you could accomplish, if you’d just give yourself permission to let go of your fear of less-than-perfect results. But you’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t take that first feeble step.

Just like you’ll never get to work on time if you’re a perfectionist getting dressed and doing your hair, you’ll never become a successful writer if you’re a perfectionist writing your first blog post.

You’ll never be successful at anything if your “perfectionism” keeps you from taking real action, NOW!

And if we’re being honest, when our “perfectionism” slows us down, it’s not about our commitment to the concept of perfect, it’s about our fear!

You’re not a perfectionist. You’ll never be a perfectionist. And the harder you try, the less you’ll accomplish.

Do you want to be great? Give yourself permission to start practicing!

“The formula for success is quite simple: Double your rate of failure.” – IBM founder, Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

Let go of your fear of failure, and fail your way to the top!

What do YOU think?

Success Controversy: The Reality Neither Side Knows

There is an intense debate going on these days, one with two very noisy and depressing sides.

One side says, “You can have anything, just believe in yourself! Be positive, and your dreams will come true today!”

The other side scowls and replies, “It doesn’t matter how much you try. You can do everything right in life, and still end up at the very bottom. It’s a matter of luck.”

The first side is quickly becoming disenchanted as they realize there is no magic potion for success. The second side gave up on their dreams of success back when their teachers told them to be realistic.

But there’s another group of people–one neither side in the debate seem to have heard of. This group of people understand something the others don’t.

“Sure, there’s no magic potion,” they say. “But I’m made of the same flesh and blood as those ‘lucky’ ones. I have every tool and opportunity they had. If the opportunity doesn’t come looking for me, I’ll go looking for it. And I won’t rest until I find it.”

“The worst that can happen is I can fail,” they say. “And if I do, I’ll pick myself up and try again, all the better for my experience. Because that’s how I believe I will create my dream. There is one thing I do know, though: If I don’t believe in myself and commit to my dreams, I will never taste success.”

They know it’s not magic, but they know the ball’s in their court, and they like it that way. They embrace the responsibility. And they run with it.

They learn from the great teachers who deal not in blind optimism, nor in cynical pessimism, but in reality. The reality in which the brave, the determined, and the diligent thrive.

They learn from the teachers who have been through life themselves, and proved what they say:

“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

They learn from the teachers who understand that “luck” has a lot to do with how diligently you seek it:

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

And they learn from the teachers who understand that there is more than one step to success:

“When you knock on the door of opportunity, do not be surprised that it is Work who will answer.” – Brendon Burchard

12 Rules for New Managers – #2: Know Your People

Last week I started a new series, Rules for New Managers, with one of the biggest lessons I have learned as a manager: Keep Your Eye on the Ball!

This week I’m excited to share the second rule. It’s one that will completely revolutionize a manager’s effectiveness, but very few managers seem to really get it. When I began to understand it and put it into practice, it made all the difference in the world.

If you know any managers, please share! If they don’t need to hear this lesson, they’ll at least know other managers who do.

Rule #2: Know Your People

Most managers seem to have completely missed one of the basic facts of life. And it makes them miserable. If only they knew: A person only does what he or she wants. Let that sink in.

So what? Why does it matter?

If I make my team “want” to do what I say to avoid a penalty, as soon as that penalty is no longer a threat, they’ll go right back to what they wanted before. They don’t want the actual thing I want, they just want to avoid the penalty.

How does this look in the real world? It looks like a team that quickly shapes up when you’re around, but goes right back to cutting corners when you walk away. It looks like a team that acts out of fear, not out of inspiration. It looks like a team who doesn’t really have your back now, and certainly won’t in the long run. So no long-term results.

How can you truly motivate your people? It’s about your people and their desires.

Here’s how it works:

     • I sit down with my employee Javier and chat for half an hour. Just chat. About life. About him. I learn that Javier has been through a lot in life and has had to fight for where he is. So he is a very serious person. He is very soft-spoken, kind-hearted, and respectful. He’s very thoughtful and has a young family to provide for. His family is the most important thing in his life.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Javier is to work very honestly and thoughtfully with him. To make sure his job helps him take care of his family, and doesn’t hurt his relationship with them. To show him what incredible opportunity he has, if he takes the job seriously, to earn a higher and higher income and to secure his family’s future.

     • Next, I sit down with my employee Jackson. We just chat for a while, too. Not about work, about him. I learn that Jackson has spent a lot of time in the army. He’s rough around the edges, but takes authority very seriously. He talks a lot about being disciplined and dedicated. You can tell he thinks very linearly, though. He waits for your questions, and answers them with precision. He’ll do anything, as long as you lead him clearly and with authority.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Jackson is to give him especially clear direction. In fact, giving him much autonomy might demoralize him, though most people love it. He clearly loves challenges and discipline, as long as he has a clearly-structured environment and a clearly-defined role.

     • Finally, I sit down for a full hour with my employee Mitchell. He loves to talk! He has a lot to say. His thoughts aren’t very organized, but the consistent message seems to be that he’s very proud of his work–and rightly so! He’s been exceptionally talented all his life, and he sees everything as a challenge to excel! He hates being put in a box, and unlike Jackson, he hates micromanagement.

Now I understand that the key to motivating Mitchell is giving him opportunities to show his value and develop his skills. Micromanagement will demotivate him, so I need to give him room. Sure, he might go off course. But if he does, I know that when I approach him, it should be about the quality of the work he’s proud of, not about me and my disappointment.

Do you see the difference really getting to know your people can make? I used to get teased for how much time I just spent sitting and chatting with my employees. But it worked! It made a huge difference in their performance! I knew them. I knew what they really desired, I knew what each one really wanted! That’s power!

Knowing your people gives you the key to unlock true inspiration and motivation on your team.

Takeaway: Nothing you use to externally motivate your people (threats, rewards, manipulation) will inspire them long-term. They’re going to do what they want. So to truly motivate your people, you have to leverage the power of their own desires. Which means you have to know your peopleTalk to them. Lots! Figure out what makes them tick, and then lead each one accordingly. Make sure to keep in touch with them and their ever-changing needs and desires. Know your people!

How do you go about getting to know your employees and team members?