Stay Young at Heart

I was writing my blog post for the week when my daughter Ryleigh came in to see what I was doing. Ryleigh is two and a half with a great sense of curiosity. She loves to be involved in whatever mom or dad is doing.

As she climbed on the chair next to my computer table she started pushing stuff out of the way. She got her foot on the table and started to climb up on it. I asked her not to climb on the table. She asked why not, to which I answered, “because we don’t climb on desks.” Immediately, I saw an image of me climbing on a table, not when I was two, but when I was thirty-two, and we had just started our company. Oops, I thought, I am giving advice to my daughter that I, myself, did not follow.

Over the years, I have stood on a lot of desks leading cheers and doing silly dances and stunts. Our management team has popped champagne while standing on desks. I even stood on a desk in a client’s office and sang a song to their call center reps. (I got in trouble for that.)

Many times I have told people I work with to “stay young at heart” and “play with emotion.” Following that passion in your heart, regardless of what people may think of you, is so important to your success. Those bursts of enthusiasm and displays of excitement are key to enjoying your work, to having a long career, and to drawing in the sort of people who will love you for who you are. Bottling up that emotion and hiding it creates frustration and a lack of creativity.

Your career is a series of stories and memories. The products and services you are creating are characters in those stories. You bring those characters to life with passion, a youthful wonder and an anything-is-possible attitude. Think of Walt Disney as he was sketching Mickey Mouse or drafting Disney Land. Think of Larry and Sergey dreaming of a plan to organize the entire world’s information.

At Benefitfocus, we are idealistic enough to think that we can help the world by organizing the world’s benefits information. Our philosophy is that it should be simple for families to understand their benefits options, select the right programs, and be able to sleep peacefully knowing they’re covered. Big dreams require a view only attainable while standing on a desk.

You have it in you. Jump on that table and do a dance. Get your blood flowing. People may think you’re nuts, as some thought of Walt, Larry and Sergey, as well as Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, who was fired. Yet Jobs returned and stood on the stage boldly sharing his vision again. The second time, he was not tempered or cautious—not even mildly ashamed. Rather, he was louder, more confident, and proclaimed a more radical view of the future.

Certainly, we learn from our mistakes. We adjust to things we try. We seek counsel from wise people. However, do not confuse becoming wise with losing your joy, your enthusiasm, your passion. I submit to you that if you are not seeing visible signs of that passion, you may be quietly letting it go. Get back up on that desk, and let the world know you have big ideas. When they laugh and when they tell you to get down and be proper, then sing louder.