People love the idea of passive income. Or earning money while doing nothing. I blame Dire Straits. But if you focus your attention on making money while doing nothing there is a high likelihood that you will earn nothing too.
The focus should be on passionate income. The money you make from aggressive moves, serious work, and taking risks. The money you make from following your passion. And harvesting that passion fruit. (Which sounds abstractly naughty.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. Everyone should. And I understand the value of accumulating assets, investing and letting your money work for you.
But I don’t believe that should free you from work. It should free you from the work you don’t want to do. And let you work hard at your favorite challenges and opportunities. That’s the sweet spot. Aim there.
I love to shop for books at Goodwill. I love the treasure hunt. I love finding great books for cheap. And I like picking up value that someone else discarded. So when they toss it and leave it, I pull up quick to retrieve. Just like Sir Mixalot.
One of the books I nabbed at the G-Dub was On Writing by Stephen King. It’s the only Stephen King book I have read. I’ll admit, there was way less blood than I was expecting.
I am always trying to improve my writing. And I figured who knows more about writing than a guy who has written a bazillion novels. (I guess a person who has written 2 bazillion novels.)
This morning in the section on editing Stephen King made a statement that jumped off the page like an Acapulco cliff diver. On editing he wrote:
I love this part of the process (well, I love all the parts of the process, but this one is especially nice). -Stephen King
I love this statement! Not because Stephen King loves editing and re-writes. But because I love hearing that someone loves all the parts of the process. Loves all the parts of their work. Because that is exactly how I feel about my job.
I love everything about advertising. I love pitching new clients. I love the research. I love studying the audience. I love developing and sharpening creative briefs. I love the creative thinking. The ideating and concepting. I love pulling ideas and language out of the ether. I love directing creative. And I love presenting new ideas the way an obstetrician loves presenting naked newborns.
I love it when clients love our ideas. But I also love it when clients give us a difficult challenge. Because I love being thrown a good curveball.
I love big budgets, and I can not lie. But I also love small budgets and short timelines, and the way those constraints force you to think harder and dig deeper.
I love production, casting, shooting and editing. I love finding the perfect music track. I love testing and optimizing. I love creating work that produces laughter. Or chills. Or good tears. I love the results that come as a result of the work we produce. That’s the best. It is the reason we exist.
I love the people of this industry, both on the agency and client-side. I love how interesting and smart and varied they are. And they are very varied. Like Vera Bradly and aloe vera
I love the dress code. I love the travel. I love that I met my wife Dawn at work in an advertising agency. And I love that she understands all the things I love about my work.
Since I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that I love everything about owning an agency too. I love the competition of business. It’s my all-time favorite game.
I love budgets and revenue and profit & loss statements, and balance sheets. I love taxes and capital expenses. I love adding software and apps to our infrastructure to create a better, smarter, more efficient machine. I love filing our annual report with the state. It’s a reminder that I am officially a business owner.
I love finding office space, and negotiating leases. I love partnerships with other businesses. And dealing with our client’s CFOs and procurement and reviewing legal agreements. Which may sound like drudgery. But it feels like a privilege to me.
I even like the challenge of a crazy global crisis that comes out of nowhere. It tests your preparedness, your resourcefulness and your resolve. The do-or-die nature of such challenges is a thrill. It forces you to ask yourself just how much you want what you want. And I really, really want. Just like the Spice Girls.
Find work that you love. It makes every day fun. It lets you wallow in your passion. It makes you look forward to every day and every new challenge. A love for your work is a key performance indicator. It’s hard to be passionate about your vocation and deliver poor output. Because the time, energy and interest you invest will drive continuous improvement. And over time you’ll become frighteningly good at what you do. Just like Stephen King.
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During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.
Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.
Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.
Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.
Just An Excitable Boy
I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.
Love Will Keep Us Together
The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.
Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…
I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever. Here is the clip:
Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley
Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.
I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.
When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.
Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.
If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.
Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.
Seth Rogen is a funny guy. He is so funny that he recently appeared on an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. You know you are funny when Seinfeld wants to drink and drive with you. And, of course, ask you about comedy.
Back In The Day, Eh.
On CICGC Rogen told the story of how he started performing standup comedy when he was 15-years old in Vancouver. I’m not sure how old that is in American years, but I think that is still pretty young. He performed stand-up regularly, like several-times-a-week regularly, until he was 18-years old.
One particular joke from one particular comedian from that time period still stands out to Rogen today. He shared the joke with Jerry Seinfeld, and with me as I eavesdropped on their conversation from home. Here it is:
‘I wanted to be a boxer, until I met someone who reeaally wanted to be a boxer.’ -Mr. Former-Boxer-Turned-Candian-Stand-Up-Comedian
The Set Up
Rogen shared that line, not just because it was funny and interesting, but to provide insight into his next chapter. After high school he moved to Los Angeles where he planned to further pursue his stand-up comedy career. But upon being introduced to the highly competitive L.A. stand-up scene he concluded:
‘I wanted to be a stand-up comedian until I met people who reeeeeallly wanted to be stand-up comedians.’ -Seth Rogen
Ain’t That The Truth!
I love this story. There are things we think we want, until we see how competitive it really is. Or how hard it really is. Or how good other people already are at it. Or how hard people will punch you in the face if you stand in front of them.
To determine if you reeaally want to take on your next challenge ask yourself these 5 questions:
Do you reeaally want to do this thing?
How committed are you, reeaally?
Are you prepared to compete with others who reeaally want what you say you want?
Are you prepared to sacrifice what reeaally needs to be sacrificed?
Are you willing to trade the pain required to achieve your goal for the pain of having not achieved it?
I Reeaally Want To Be An Entrepreneur.
When I first started planning to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I had to ask myself these 5 questions. And the answer to all of them was a loud and resounding YES! (Is there really such a thing as a quiet and resounding yes? Maybe if Clint Eastwood says it.)
To be clear, it’s okay if the answer to any of the questions above is no. That means the thing you think you want is not the thing you reeaally want. That’s good. It frees you up to discover the thing you reeaally want. Just like Seth Rogen. Who went on to write the hit movie Superbad, act in Knocked Up and 40-Year Old Virgin, and direct This Is The End.
You will always be most successful at the things you want the most. Be honest with yourself. Don’t waste time with things you wish you could do, or that you are sorta into. Find a career, an adventure or a cause that you can go all-in on. That you can double down on. Or go any-other-gambling-term on. Going all-in is the most rewarding way to go. It’s most likely to lead you to your greatest potential for success. So find your thing and fully commit. It’s the best way to reeaallly enjoy what you do every day.
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