When I think about the successful people I know, I find they share something in common, they love what they are doing. My next door neighbor is John MacDonald, one of Canada’s great artists. He’s one of those artists who art dealers line up to represent. I visited him on the weekend and he talked about painting. And about how when he’s working in the studio, he becomes utterly focused on painting, the painting, the oil paint and the brush stroke and the moment where they meet with the canvas. Everything else drops away. That’s passion.
Then I think about some of the great lawyers I know, and the passion that underlies their practices. For one partner it is working out the complexities a deal. For another it is defending a complex case.
Adam Pekarsky at Fraser Milner Casgrain said it best. At the LMA Vancouver’s September event, Adam talked about the vital connection between passion and success. He told us the story of when he was an up and coming associate. Late one night, he and some others were hard at work on a particularly thorny deal, when the lead partner called in from home in the dead at night. The partner was excited. He had been lying in bed thinking about the deal and had come up with a creative solution. Adam could hear the passion in his voice. And in that moment Adam realized that he would never feel that excited about a deal, not even close. He understood in that instant that he would never become a star securities lawyer. Not because he wasn’t smart enough, or couldn’t work hard enough, but because he would never care enough.
That realization took Adam on a journey that lead him to what he does today. He is the Director of Professional Development and Recruiting for Western Canada for Fraser Milner Casgrain and his passion is for helping associates to succeed.
If you don’t know where your passion lies, don’t worry. It takes most of us many decades to figure it out. Watch for the sign posts, those moments at work when you feel the most engaged, when the rest of the world drops away. Examine those things you value most in life. Have a look at Peter Senge’s book The Dance of Change: The Challenges of Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations, and his section on personal mastery. He has some useful exercises for discovering passion and purpose.
Passion leads to excellence. Without it you can still succeed. With it you will shine.