Excellence In 2 Steps

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It is currently two minutes until midnight, my house is finally quiet.  My three kiddos are asleep upstairs, my wife is curled up in the next room and I am in my office working on my passion project.  If you looked all around my life, you would see that all of the available space has been taken and then some.  I am literally surrounded by my work and it is spilling into overflow areas and piling up in the corners. Honestly, I love it. I revel in it.  Each project has it’s own personality and charm.  In fact, I started two new projects this week simply because I couldn’t bare that they not move forward.  I’m working on a book right now, at midnight, because this is when I could redeem the time.  I tried to write this morning but my “real job” needed me.  I tried to schedule “personal time” for later this week but between being a dad, husband, boss, entrepreneur… it’s just not going to happen. 

I’m not saying any of this to complain though.  I genuinely love the pace my life is at.  I love the chaos of having 45 plates spinning at the same time.  I haven’t stopped creating. I’m up late working on the last ten percent that most people would have just pushed off to the next day.  Entrepreneurs take note.  Most of the people in the “success column” are there because the worked while others slept, dedicated themselves to the last ten percent, and most importantly loved what they were doing. 

Early on in my entrepreneurial journey,  Andrew and I would work to 18-20 hours a day.  We would actually sleep at the office, make grilled cheese sandwiches three meals a day and only stop working to butter the toast.  In those days working alongside Andrew, I learned to redefine the word excellence.  What I realized is that excellence is the combination of two things;  proficiency and passion.  I genuinely don’t believe that you can have excellence without being passionate about what it is you’re doing. 

Excellent work transcends the moment of its creation and it’s circumstances. When things are excellent they are appreciated differently.  We have even created a vocabulary around excellent things.  We say that music and art will, “stand the test of time.”  We talk about feeling “connected” to characters in movies and books. Both examples of excellent work going beyond the bounds of it’s created space and time.  Why do some works do that and some don’t? I believe it is because we are hard-wired to sense passion.  We see it in others and are drawn to it.  The receptor for passion is empathy.  We often think of empathy as being able to feel bad with someone but it is just as powerful when it allows us to feel other emotions like indignation about injustice or joy about a cause for celebration.  It is our ability to have and express empathy that makes us into a community and our ability to express passion and inspire others that makes us leaders. 

When you combine that with a high level of technical proficiency in whatever your chosen area of interest is, then you can create with excellence.

That’s not to say you can’t have proficiency minus passion.  People, maybe even you, go to work every day and spend eight hours a day being proficient cogs in someone else’s passion project. As a leader, I have heard the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” a million times.  That popular sentiment is championed by those around us because they intrinsically know that passion will carry the day while you develop proficiency but not the other way around. 

My question to you is, “What are you spending time doing that you’re not passionate about and why?”  You don’t have to.  Life is short and you only get one…go do something meaningful that doesn’t require excuses.