Monthly Archives: June 2012

Does Passion Have Middle Ground?

I believe I may have gone from one extreme to another and the next chore is to identify where the middle ground lays.

I used to have great passion for horse racing.  Then, once you learn that you don’t work in a sausage factory if you like sausage, I switched to staffing.  A good place to make a living when times are fair or better.

I transformed that passion from racing to my most recent employment venture.  I was passionate when working at TBG.

But why?  Was it the company, the leadership, the levity, the work itself, the phone calls, the client visits, the happiness in getting an order, filling that order …. Or was it more of a relief when the latter actually happened?

An expectation for excellence and integrity in all we do were synonymous with each other.  I liked that a lot.  I had worked in staffing before and the expectations were the same but the authenticity of sincerity didn’t seem as prevalent.  That, I did not like.

Maybe it was because I was familiar with staffing that I stuck with it?  Yeah.  That is likely why.  It makes sense and if I am being brutally honest with myself I have always been too scared to try something new.

Mostly because I fear failing.  And failing.  And failing.  So many people watching.  So many people can see what I am doing and how well I am not doing at it.

So I stuck with what I was familiar with.

That’s why I didn’t do anything else.  Horse racing and staffing are the only industries I have ever worked in.  To try something else that didn’t somewhat relate to what I have been doing already seemed like a big risk.  With the exception of moving across the country and then seven years later taking the 3,000 mile drive home, solo, I haven’t taken many risks in my life.

I’ve made decisions that some would call risks.  I have made terrible life changing decisions that some would call risks too.  But I wouldn’t.  They were really just poorly calculated decisions made before I understood the man I am, what I want, and what is important to me.

A marriage because it was the next step in the progression of things.  A marriage because I thought it was something I was supposed to do; something expected of me.  Both mistakes because at no point was I truly honest with myself.  At no point did I listen to my head.  I listened to a very misguided and confused heart.  Perception became my reality and boy oh boy is that a stupid way to go.

It wasn’t until I reached my forties that I decided to live my life my way.  In sales they say “work what’s closest to the money.”  Well, my life isn’t sales.  It is my life and I decided to make decisions that were closest to happiness.   Real happiness.  My happiness.

My girlfriend is the perfect example of me deciding to do what is right for me.  I am with her because every day I am happy.  Every day.  Each night when I go to sleep I am grateful for all I have with her.  My best friend.  My lover.  My confidant.   I am a man who believes in God and that He put her in my life when He thought I could best understand how good I have it and how best to appreciate her.  All of her.  The big things and the little.  The most obvious of reasons and the slightest, seemingly imperceptible nuances of a human being.  All of it.

So many people say relationships require work.

I haven’t worked a single day these past two and a half plus years in this relationship.  There has been no need.  We don’t just love each other, we like one another.  Best friends.  No keeping score.  No ego.  No self absorbed behaviors.  None of that.  There is no place in this relationship for selfishness and as a result we have been happy.

Finally, I got something right.  Boy oh boy did I get something important right, and not a moment too soon.

Professionally, I had to make some changes too.  I had to be more demanding of myself, be brutally honest with myself and seek an environment where I knew I could be successful.

So when I entered my interview process with TBG I do so with a great deal of skepticism about the staffing industry.  I knew in my heart that another staffing gig in a bad economy is not a good idea.  But after interviewing with them they had several wonderful qualities that made me think I could rise above the initial concerns.

First and foremost they were all consistent with regard to how much they all loved working there.  They were happy.  Genuinely happy.  How often do we find that?

Next, the work was in a niche I appreciate and love – creative.  Writers.  Artists.  Communicators.  People who use the left side of their brain to make a living.  This is something I found very appealing.

Last, they offered a base salary, not a draw.  The salary was plenty to live on with the idea that monies made in commissions could be saved and put toward a long, happy, and comfortable retirement with Stacy in 20+ years from now.

All the pieces fit and when I was offered the position at the salary I asked for there was no hesitation on my part.  I was all in.

From my first day until my last I gave it everything I had.  I gave of myself.  More than just working 9-5 and busting out when the day was done.  I gave all of myself every minute I was there, more so than any other role I have ever had.  What I find most interesting about that, in retrospect, was there was no way I had the passion for staffing that I have had (and have now) for thoroughbred horse racing.  Yet, as much as I loved the sport and immersed myself in it, I never worked for people in that industry like I did at TBG.  The management, peers, inter-office relationships with those in half a dozen other cities offered a camaraderie I had not experienced before.

It was the single greatest environment I ever worked.  How could I not succeed?

But that honest truth of it all is I hate doing sales.  I never minded cold calling and introducing myself to new people, and the fact is TBG had a business services product I eagerly supported.  So why was it hard?  Why didn’t I succeed?  Is there a difference in failing and not succeeding?

Some would say yes.  Not succeeding can be interpreted as working hard to achieve a goal and it not coming to fruition.  Failures don’t even give it an honest effort.

I worked hard and had a great attitude.  It was second nature to mirror the kindness of those around me.  But yet, I couldn’t get the numbers I needed.  I did not have enough clients with long-term temp-to-hire staffing needs.

Did I look in the wrong places?  Hell, did I even know where to look in the first place?  Did I rely too much on existing relationships and business I had built already?

Probably.  Probably not.  Yeah, for sure.

I can build long term relationships with people.  They trust me because I am genuine and I am not someone who says what needs to be said in order to fill an order, to make a buck.  But when I see most successful sales people the truth is there is a disingenuous way about many of them and that is just not me.

That is not who I am and I cannot help but wonder if that is why I have never been a success at sales.

It is easy to pin some of this on the economy.  Since the end of 2007 – when I first reentered staffing again after a brief stint 10 years prior – the bottom fell out for the entire world with regard to the economy.  More jobs were eliminated than ever before and there were more people out of work at once than anyone on earth could ever remember experiencing. The talk echoed sentiments from 1929 and the great depression. 

So, what I am I doing for a living at this time?  Trying to find companies willing to pay me a large sum of money – at times up to 30% of a base salary – to identify, qualify and deliver top talent in the industry.  Brilliant career choice, huh?

The only benefits I was bringing them was (a) a relative expertise in the industry as someone who worked strictly in that industry (b) Giving eight or more hours a day on a search, an amount of time they cannot afford to spend and (c) utilize methods they, as an organization, are prohibited from doing such as reaching out to their competitors.  As a third-party source I had that ability.

But the economy was in the gutter and dollars and cents were slipping quickly into the sewers never to be seen again.

For four and a half years I struggled to make ends meet.  Sometimes I hit a mother load of a deal and did well, giving me enough money to live comfortably before the next series of deals that would fall through.  I couldn’t begin to tell you how many of those there were.  I never, and I mean never, got ahead.  It was all I could do to try, and I never gave up.

But, unfortunately, they gave up on me.  Not quickly, mind you, but eventually.

I am certain they hung on to me as long as they did because they knew I tried, always.  They hung on to me because I supported their mission and values and lived them every day I walked through that office door.  But, my numbers were not there.  So what else were they to do?  They aren’t the Salvation Army.  They are not running a charitable organization.  If you are costing a company more money than you are making them, and your job is Account Management – driving business and clients away from our competitors to our company – then there are no other alternatives.

They had to make a business decision.  So they did.

Today, I am in a pool of frustration, drowning in ignorance, unable to identify what I can become passionate for again.

The good news is my passion for TBG was real.  The bad news is there is no imaginary switch to trigger in order to latch on to my next great opportunity to be passionate about.  Passion doesn’t come to us like that.  It has to be real.

I love writing and would love to spend my days sitting in front of a laptop or a typewriter and put together words, sentences and paragraphs that lead to a compelling story in a style that others enjoy reading.  Writing in a way that moves people.  Writing in a way that may inspire someone else to pick up a pen or open up a new word document.

I love to write more than any other work there is … but how do I go about getting a writing job?

Blogs are great because they are an outlet for writing and there is enough of a degree of accountability for them.  Granted they are not juried sources, obviously, but once it is out there, it is out there.

I don’t think copywriting is necessarily for me.  I am not the slick Advertising type.  Again, it is the inherent sincerity and genuineness my parents instilled in me since I was in the womb; being less than forthright led to bad things.  Doing so would be like making a dishonest buck and Dad always told me “a dishonest buck is a bad buck and only leads to bad luck.”  Mom would then always tell me “you make your own luck in this world, Patrick” and when you put them both together it meant, very simply:  do the right thing.  Always.  Do the right thing always and everything will work out.

I agree with them.

However, “everything will work out” doesn’t necessarily mean we get what we want.  It generally equates to getting what we need.

Now I need to determine what I need.

Now I need to find something I am passionate about.

There is so much to be said for loving what you do.  It provides an important, and very necessary, balance.

So here I am, another day in my early forties, feeling as lost in identifying a career as I did when I was in my early late teens.  Six weeks ago I thought I had it all planned out. 

As it turns out, not so much.

But being lost does not mean one is without hope and drive.  We can always find direction.  We just may take a few wrong turns and hit a couple of dead ends along the way.

The secret, if there is such a thing, is to keep the tank full and drive on until you find your way out, paying attention to the roads we’ve travelled before, and determining our new route of ground to cover.