You don’t need to have a passion to be happy and successful.

I have a passion. I love advertising. I love everything about the creativity and strategery involved. My friends I grew up with tell me I was born for my career in advertising. They also tell me that I was born with a glitch in my brain. They are probably right on both accounts. Advertising plays to my natural interests and talents. Which makes my work easier and more enjoyable. It also led to me launch my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.

However, discovering your true passion is fairly rare. Like a 4-leaf clover. Or a civil political debate. Over the course of my career, I have had conversations with countless people (meaning none of them were Counts) who have no idea what their passion is. In fact, I have come to think of the search for personal passion like the search for Sasquatch, or The Fountain of Youth. While it is exciting to think that it is out there somewhere there is a great chance you will never find it.

Don’t Worry. Passion Is Overrated

Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t discovered your special purpose. You don’t need to have one specific passion to be wildly successful in life. There are many conduits to wealth and happiness. So instead of focusing on discovering your personal passion, utilize any of the following drivers to experience fulfillment, joy and success.

7 Substitutes For Passion

  1. Problem-Solving. If you like solving problems, you can be wildly successful. Because life, business and careers are full of problems. People who are good at solving problems are extremely valuable. That’s why they land in executive roles. Plus, problem-solving is inherently rewarding. Which is why Vanilla Ice was so into it, while the DJ revolved it.
  2. Competition: If you like playing games and competing you can apply that to your career. This is why former athletes are often great at things like pharmaceutical sales. It isn’t as if they have a natural passion for antidiarrheals and commercial- grade wart removers. They simply approach their work as if it is a competition. Which it is. In fact, business is the ultimate competitive sport. Because you are playing for money, honey.
  3. Goal Achievement: If you are goal-oriented, set lofty goals for your life and career. Because if you have audacious goals, like Goal D. Locks, you can use any business or career opportunities that come your way as tools to help you attain those goals.
  4. Enjoying Team Work: Work is more fun when done as part of a team. If you like working with others and achieving great things together, use that to drive your success. Again, don’t worry about what you are doing if you enjoy doing it with others (snickering).
  5. Enthusiasm: Some people are just naturally enthusiastic. It is a great quality to have. In fact, if you have enthusiasm, you don’t need to have one specific passion. Simply apply your positive energy towards whatever you do and you’ll experience positive results.
  6. Personal Growth: Do you like getting better and better at things? You can put that to use in anything you undertake. And you can experience rewards on a daily basis. Enjoying your daily progress and growth is a perfect recipe for long-term happiness and accomplishment.
  7. Love For Money: There is nothing wrong with loving money. Money is like a key that opens doors. It can help comfort and entertain us. It brings peace of mind. It can be used to experience real joy and adventure. If you enjoy having money and what it enables you to do, let that drive you. As Gordon Gekko said, greed is good. He also said that he was tired of being mistaken for the GEICO spokes animal.

Key Takeaway

Having a personal passion is nice. But is not a requirement for happiness and success. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what you were born to do. In fact, not having one defining passion means that you can take many different paths to an enjoyable and rewarding career. Use any or all of the 7 drivers above to power you along your path. You may even find that these drivers are your passion. Enjoy the journey. It is the key to enjoying your life.

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Why you should have an excite hustle.

College is an exciting time. You get to pick a major that inspires you. Suddenly, it becomes fun to study and learn. You develop a vision of what your career will be like. And that vision provides motivation throughout your college experience.

More than 2 decades after graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison I can say that I have used the knowledge I gained while studying for my degrees in psychology and journalism every day of my advertising career.

The Great Compromise

But I noticed when I graduated that many of my classmates didn’t hold out for the jobs they really wanted. College debt, life expenses, nagging parents and a desire to simply get busy cause many, if not most college grads to take the first decent job to come along. Regardless of whether the job fit their original vision, major, or life plan.

This means that many of us end up in jobs or careers that don’t align with our greatest interests and deepest passions. That is okay. There are many good reasons we do this. But if you are not inspired or fulfilled by your day job, you should take on another project in your free time that fires you up like AC/DC in a high school weight room.

Excite Hustles

People often refer to these kind of side activities as side hustles. But I think of them as excite hustles. Because the best reason to take them on is that they give you something exciting to work on. They enable you to tap into your greatest interests, passions, and your desire for adventure, or self reliance.

Excite hustles can feel thrilling and dangerous because you feel like you are cheating on your day job. Because you are having a career affair with work that excites you more than your steady job. That is a great thing.

An excite hustle will wake you up early and keep you up late. It will call your name over the lunch hour, and during your commute. (I’m just kidding. No one commutes any more.)

An excite hustle provides even more reasons to look forward to the weekends. (Not The Weeknd. #ICantFeelMyFace) It will prevent you from filling your free time digitally grazing on your mobile device. It will prevent you from resenting your career, and going postal. (Can you still go postal if we don’t have post offices?)

An excite hustle is full of potential. It provides an outlet for your energy. It fans your flames. When you find your calling it creates a gravitational force that keeps drawing you forward to do more, create more and explore more. Like Roger Moore, Michael Moore, or Benjamin Moore.

My Excite Hustle

When I decided to launch my own advertising agency I created my ultimate excite hustle. I already loved my career, I just wanted an even greater challenge. And I found one. Today, as the Founder of The Weaponry, I couldn’t feel more excited about the work I do. I can’t wait to get to it each day. I approach each work challenge with enthusiasm. And at the end of each day I don’t feel spent. I feel invested and fulfilled.

Key Takeaway

If your day job doesn’t tap into your passions it’s time to find your excite hustle. Fill your free time with work that motivates you. That keeps you looking forward to more. And that makes you feel as if you are living into your vision for your life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Passionate people don’t focus on passive income.

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.

Do you love your work like Stephen King loves writing?

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.

Stephen King

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.

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This was written on the inside front cover of the book I picked up at Goodwill. Sorry Mom. I don’t think Ben loved it as much as I do.

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.

Advertising!

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.

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I love that nobody really wears socks.

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.

Entrepreneurship

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.

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This guy loves to write about things he loves. 

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.   

Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

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.

Advertising!

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.

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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.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

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.

Passion Powered

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.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

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.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

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.

How badly do you really want what you want?

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.

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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

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Ali reeaally wanted to be a boxer. A soldier, not so much.

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.

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This dude reaaaally wants it. I am not sure what it is. But he wants it.

To determine if you reeaally want to take on your next challenge ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Do you reeaally want to do this thing?
  2. How committed are you, reeaally?
  3. Are you prepared to compete with others who reeaally want what you say you want?
  4. Are you prepared to sacrifice what reeaally needs to be sacrificed?
  5. 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.)

I was committed to succeed. I was committed to the pain. I was committed to the sacrifice. I was committed to fight and compete. In fact, my commitment was well illustrated in a story I shared in A real entrepreneur’s reaction to my desire to start my own business. And I am just as committed today as I was on day one.

KNocked Up

It’s Okay To Not Really Want 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. 

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Seth Rogen telling Steve Carell he has to reeaally want to have sex in 40-Year Old Virgin

Key Takeaway

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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