Following Your Passion

As a Scout leader, having actually sat around a campfire and sung “Kumbaya” (not my choice, but it takes all kinds), I don’t have much patience for leadership mumbo-jumbo. I’ve grown up with leadership theory from age thirteen, and most of it is crap.

If I don’t know what behaviour to change, or what to do as a result of what somebody is trying to tell me, then it’s useless to me. It’s like telling somebody that you love them, but if you’re not willing to do anything about it. It’s just meaningless words. If I can get one good,  real, physical action or behaviour out of a workshop, book, article, or seminar, then I’ll count it as good and try to merge it into my daily practise.

I was writing another blog post about remembering names, and I realized that the example I wanted to use was also a perfect real-life example of how following your passion leads to success. Until now “follow your passion” was one of those leadership mumbo-jumbo phrases that meant nothing to me, because I didn’t know what it looked like.

I had the privilege of watching Bob Gray at the PMI SAC conference. As a kid he wanted to be magician. It was his passion and obsession. It drove his parents crazy, and he spent all his time and effort learning magic tricks. One of the tricks he learned was how to read minds. Turns out that the clairvoyance and mind-reading that stage magicians do is really a memory trick. If you can learn to memorize things, then you can seem to read peoples thoughts.

Bob has trained his memory to a phenomenal level. For example he can tell you the capital, population, and major exports of any country in the world. He’s also in the Guinness World Book of Records for being the only human who can speak backwards. That is, if you give him a word, he can speak it backwards to you. Not just by inverting the word and speaking each syllable from back to front, but in such a way that if you recorded him and then played the recording itself backwards, it would sound like the original word. I suspect this is also a memory trick. Since there are only so many distinct sounds in the English language, memorize each of them and their corresponding backward sound . . .

Neat trick, but so what?

When Bob ‘grew up’ and stopped being a stage magician he got a real job with a health club. Part of his job was sales. He was so good at it, that the head office asked him to teach other employees how he did it. He used this childhood magician training to remember his clients’ names. Not only their names, but also their spouses’ names, childrens’ names, hobbies, what they did for a living, and other details. Because he knew his clients names, they were more likely to sign-up and renew their health club membership. Somebody at that club cared about them. That turned into more sales and success for Bob, which in turn resulted in recognition and appreciation from the company.

Now Bob makes a very comfortable living travel to conferences and giving workshops on memory techniques. Again, he used his performance experience as a stage magician, springing from his childhood passion, to get his point across in an entertaining and memorable way. I watched him teach a room of six hundred people a better way to remember peoples names in less than an hour, and we had fun doing it.

So what?

Bob followed his passion. Even when he had to get a “real”  job which had nothing to do with being a magician, he used his natural talents and passion to help make him more successful in that job.

So what?

Bob is an apparently happy, well-adjusted, and financial secure person who enjoys his work. This is certainly one definition of success, and Bob achieved it by leveraging his talent and passion for magic, entertaining people, and sharing.

What’s your talent, and how are you using it in your life?

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3 responses to “Following Your Passion

  1. Pingback: Do You Know Where Your Priorities Are? « The Practical Manager

  2. Pingback: Public Speaking Made Easy « Practical Managers

  3. Pingback: One Discovery, Two Decisions | Practical Managers

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