If I were asked by a young person starting their first job what single advice I had for them, I would say, "play with passion." Entering a new role brings all sorts of excitement, a bit of fear of the unknown and the challenge to do something big and new. Why then send them off with the single thought of passion? What is it about passion that seems to fill all the gaps, help you cross hurdles and get people to move in your direction?
Passion is the secret ingredient that all teams have who achieve greatness. You see passion in the political campaigner who goes on to victory. You see it in the high school teacher who year-after-year draws out the best in their students. You see it in the athlete who after the race breaks down in tears over the win.
I would encourage anyone stepping into a new and larger project, promotion or location to use their passion as a way to achieve personal and team success. Realizing that it is okay to put your heart into it can be a breakthrough for someone, maybe you.
Passion is Emotion
There is a great HBO Sports documentary on Coach Vince Lombardi, the vaunted head coach of the Green Bay Packers. In the film you hear audio of Coach Lombardi talking about his philosophies and influences. One segment that really struck me was when he was discussing his passion. He said, "I think anybody who tries to hide their emotions makes a mistake." When answering what made his team more successful than any other he said, "There has to be a lot of love for each other in the locker room." Emotion and love? Yes. Playing with passion is playing with emotion; it is being open with who you are and how you feel.
Passion is the open expression of emotion. All sorts of emotions - laughing, dancing, waving hands in the air, high-fiving, crying, hanging your head, even being quiet. Emotion is like a rainbow; there is a full spectrum and it should all be shown.
Whoever began the idea that in business you leave your emotions at home was mistaken. Somehow the belief got started that statistics gathering, managing, monitoring, and all-around working was to be done without laughing and crying. If you are monitoring the statistics of a business and they are horrible, then you better get pretty emotional about it and make a change. If you are counting the numbers and there is a big success revealed, then jump up on a desk and shout it out. They do both in football. They do both in just about every other aspect of life.
Passion comes from within
We are very fortunate at Benefitfocus to have a wonderful culture. We have an open environment with lots of passionate people. One of the things that attracts people to Benefitfocus is our passion. As I have interviewed folks over the years, I often hear them say something like, "my current company does not have a good culture," or "I am not passionate about my current company." Their current workplace has no passion and they want to come to a company with passion. Makes sense.
However, it would be incorrect to think of your source of passion as coming from your environment. Certainly your environment influences your emotions and your passion, and it can encourage or discourage it. But keep in mind that your passion is yours alone. Your emotion, your unique way, is only yours. You are the keeper of it. You are the one who lets it out, builds it, takes a risk and stands out and shouts it. Passion comes from within. It is 100% inside of you. It is not external. You do not have to seek a different environment to have it, to show it or to grow it. You have all that you need.
Environment is certainly important as you develop your passion. What you listen to, who you spend time with and of course your work environment all influence how you express yourself. At Benefitfocus, we have chosen to encourage both the science of business and the passionate art of individual expression. It is a blend. We feel it is critical to our success as a company to draw out that passion and uniqueness in each of the individuals who are part of the team.
It isn't always easy, it isn't always perfect, but playing with passion is central to any winning team. The year before Vince Lombardi went to the Packers, they won only 1 game and lost 10. The next year, under Coach Lombardi, they won 10 games and went to the championship game. They did it with the same players. What changed? They had passion. And so do you. You will win when you play with passion.