I just read Les McKeown‘s “Stop Trying To Find Your Passion and Get To Work,” and, despite what you might expect me to say, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it. (I’ll be giving away one of his books soon, so I’m no stranger to Les.)
I’ll share his concluding remarks so you get a feel for the post:
The passion-driven leader may be pretty to watch, but selling people on the concept that passion means everything for business success? No thanks. I’ll take competence — even mercenary competence – every time.
One of the non-secrets of my work with my clients is that we start focusing on them being creative professionals who deliver. They become leaders not just because they’re passionate, but because they become extremely competent at what they do and they do it consistently.
So, I’d add the important adjective “consistent” to Les’s statement: I’ll take consistent competence any day.
Yes, we can clearly separate passion and consistent competence, and yet it’s also true that entrepreneurial success requires a lot of stamina to make it. Few people have the discipline to drive through the ups and downs of business and get those 10k hours without the spark of passion, but notice the role of passion in this case – it’s instrumental to success by way of developing the competence, experience, and momentum.
We also have to keep in mind that Les is talking about businesses at a different scale. If you have 152 employees, not every position needs to be passion-fueled. To riff on his point, would you want your CFO to have Gary Vaynerchuck’s passion? Imagine trying to convince him of the good sense of a strategic investment that’ll cut into your margins in the short-term.
Sure, it’s great for your salespeople, training directors, and (possibly) CEO to have that kind of energy, but managing that across your total organization would be like trying to keep a pack of firecrackers with lit fuses from exploding. When I was leading troops, I was quite happy to have a very few firecrackers and a lot of disciplined, competent operators.
Passion has its time and place in business, and it helps to be able to tap into that deep well within when the going gets tough. It’s not necessary at all times, though. In general, the newer your business is and the fewer people you have, the more internal drive you need, whether that comes from passion, discipline, hope, ambition, or fear.
It’s also true that when you’re working in alignment with your values and the people you’re meant to serve, you’ll be more effective and find more joy in the work you’re doing. Notice that he didn’t say you couldn’t have fun and joy in your work.
What is necessary is continual commitment to show up and deliver value. Let’s use that passion as wind for the sails when we have it and be prepared to row when the winds aren’t as favorable.
It’s a hard sell to sell hard work, which is why we don’t hear a lot about it from people trying to sell us stuff. Thanks, Les, for doing the work.
Hat tip to Karri for sharing Les’s piece.