Thanks to David for forwarding this great note, it really is great advice
This post is part of a series in which Influencers share lessons from their youth. Read all the stories here.
You and I have certainly grown up in very different environments and I’m not going to pretend to know your personal goals or expectations. Still, I remember what it was like to be twenty-something: I loved music, I loved ladies, and I took the task of working on my abs so seriously, it probably qualifies as my first job.
But today, three decades later, my priorities have shifted.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by Millennials on my staff whose spirit I truly delight in. They have those gifts all young people have — moxie, a sense of humor, excitability, imagination, impulse. And these guys are not just dreamers, they are also some of the scrappiest, most resourceful people I know. (In fact, they’ve somehow managed to see every television program I tell them about, even though none of themhave cable TV!)
Millennials have so much excitement constantly competing for their attention. If I have an urgent assignment for my Millennials, I don’t email them (or, God forbid, call them), I just send them a text.
My point is, when you’re 22, life is fast, the music is loud, your teeth are white, and the options are endless. You ladies have such great hair, the bouncers sweep you right to the front of the lines. It’s an era of go-go fun and invincibility. It’s a carnival of life. But that focus eventually shifted rather radically for me when a different force took hold of my life, a force that’s the primary catalyst for making something — anything — of yourself out there.
Before all else, you’ve got to find your passion.
I’ve always said that passion is the genesis of genius
Passion is a force that awakens you. Passion blows the lid off of your imagination, your capability and your drive. It shakes your mind free from limiting beliefs and breaks your old patterns of thinking. Passion is what gives you a sense of purpose. [Click to Tweet this]
Achievers with youthful exuberance can do almost anything they really have to do, but trying to make yourself do something is an energy that will never last.
Passion wakes you up to something in life that you desire so strongly that you no longer have to push yourself to do anything. You now have a different kind of drive; a force that pulls you forward.
If someone asks me, “Tony, what is the single most valuable secret to success in life? How do I live life on my terms and have choices, and become the best in my field?” I’d tell them that every great leader I’ve ever had the privilege to work with — whether they are a politician, an athlete, a musician, or a business savant — got there using one force above all others. And that’s hunger.
What’s the difference between passion and hunger?
Passion is first gear; it will get you going, but hunger is the ticket that will take you there.
It’s human nature to get excited about big dreams; it’s easy to spark the fires of passion, especially when you’re young. But sooner or later, when it comes time to get the job done, suddenly, our level of excitement wanes because we’re all afraid of one thing: failure.
Here’s what’s great: Hunger will destroy that fear of failure.
Hunger will drive you through it. Hunger will be your resolve. It is the force that locks you into a commitment, it fastens you to the outcome when you’ve decided upon a result and you won’t sleep at night until you achieve it. Hunger is irrepressible.
It’s not enough to be passionate about a result. You’ve got to want it so badly that you become uncomfortable when you’re not getting it.
That’s what hunger is, it’s a desire so strong that when you don’t get whatever it is you’re craving, you’re disturbed. You’re hangry! You’ll die trying to get what you want if you have to because there is no other alternative.
If you really want to take the island, burn the boats.
That irascible hunger is the only thing that will keep you from settling for any less. Hunger is the X-factor that might not necessarily make your CV stand out in a stack, but I promise you that hunger is absolutely the driving force that will pull you forward and toward a breakthrough when everybody else is feeling down-and-out, defeated, and taking a breather.
Today, Class of 2014, the entire world is in your pocket. It’s all yours for the taking, but listen to me … only IF you’re hungry for it.
If not, you’ll get comfortable. And life gives us two choices — you either grow, or you die. You climb, or you slide. So sometimes hunger waits to appear until your back is against the wall, when you’re at the very bottom of the well, looking up.
If you’ve got a plan to fall back on, it just means there’s more room to fall.
And that’s the reason why a lot of people have trouble sustaining their passions. They take one step forward and two steps back, until they fall flat and start all over again on something else altogether. They live in a world of stutter-steps and false starts. That’s what passion without hunger will do to you and it means only one thing – you aren’t making the jump, you’re not committing, you’re holding back because you’re afraid to fail and you’ve got a crash pad to fall back on.
When there’s a safety net beneath you – your parents, relatives, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a comfortable hometown, a decent job – there’s tremendous comfort and certainty there. But what looks like an asset can actually lock you up and paralyze you with debilitating inertia. I mean, right now the largest percentage in history – 15 percent – of people between the age of 25 and 34 live at home with their parents. And that’s not a judgment from me, there is nothing wrong with living at home, but when your mom is stocking the fridge there is no way you’re ever going to get hungry.
There is nothing like necessity to get you through a challenge. But nothing is really necessary until you are chasing your passion. Passion is the only true exigency of action.
So let me ask you something:
What is your passion? What are you really here for?
To be clear, I’m not asking you what you want to be. I’m asking what do you want to create? What are you here to give? What is your gift? What is the one thing you want to do better than anyone else on this planet? What is the one thing you could do every single day and not get sick of? What will you share with the world?
That is your passion.
Finding Your True Passion
A lot of people — young AND old — will say, “But Tony, I don’t know what my passion is. How do I find my passion?“
The fastest way to find your true passion is to commit to something you have an interest in. Really immerse yourself in the environment, don’t just dabble. Volunteer with your whole heart. Do your homework and model the people who have done it best. Follow them around. Commit every cell in your body to learning and living that life and feel where that focus takes you.
If that doesn’t work, there’s another way…
If you can’t find your career from heaven, just describe your job from hell.
Often times, when I ask people to describe what they would NOT want to do for a living — the kind of people they don’t want to work with, the office they’d hate to be penned up in, the conditions that would make them crazy — that’s when they’re able to paint a very colorful portrait.
It’s surprising to see how much energy can be generated in a person from anger. So, go crazy for five minutes, get it all out and when you’re in that passionate state, that’s when I’d ask you to describe the opposite of everything you just rattled off. And then you’ll have your job from heaven. What does that look like? How does it feel?
That simple technique is sometimes all it takes to trigger the clues you need when you’re feeling blocked.
So once you’ve zeroed in on you passion and you’re hungry to chase it down, what’s next? You must serve something greater than yourself.
The question is never, “What are you going to get?” You got it?
You can get anything you want, but the only way to greatness is to find a way to serve others.
There’s a Bible verse that says, whoever among you wishes to become great, must become a servant of many. That means, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a great, successful leader, but the only way to do that is to become a servant.
Several people who have succeeded on the highest scale interestingly enough didn’t wait until they finished college to start serving others.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Ellen, Walt Disney, Ralph Lauren, Wolfgang Puck, John Lennon, Lady Gaga, Abe Lincoln — they didn’t drop out of school because they were lazy. They had already found their passion and they were ready to begin serving others.
They had such hunger they physically could not wait.
There is nothing quite as effective as a sense of urgency to transform the quality of a human being’s life.
The good news is, you are coming of age in an era of accelerated ideation and fast and furious innovation the likes of which the world has never seen.
The bad news is — you should’ve started five years ago!
Can you feel the pressure? Good. Internal pressure is not a bad thing. If you feel nothing but a little fire inside right now, you’ll be no worse for wear.
When I speak with great thought leaders and cultural influencers, they all seem to describe this common “feeling” inside of them. It’s a feeling of responsibility, like they must deliver something; a sense of purpose they’re here to serve.
It’s not about what life is going to give to them, it’s about what they must bring to bear.
If you’ve been waiting to turn your tassel to the other side of your cap before you start the process of defining what you really want, it’s time to throw a match in your gas tank. You and I are living in a world where people can compete from anywhere on earth and there’s no age requirement to add value to the marketplace. I’ll guarantee you there’s a hungry 17-year-old on 99 Designs or Freelancer.com or Fiverr who is already doing a job that many 22-year-olds are hoping their entry-level résumé just might qualify them for… an interview.
I’m not diminishing the merits of higher education whatsoever; I just want to make something crystal clear. We hear people say all the time that “knowledge is power.” That’s not true. Knowledge is NOT power. Knowledge of concepts is only of POTENTIAL value to you. Theexecution of the knowledge you’ve gleaned is where your power lies. [Click to Tweet]
So I challenge you to act on what you’ve just learned in college. Don’t let the learning stop. Not now; not ever.
The key distinction that will set you apart from the field is a commitment to mastery.
To truly master a field of study, you’ve got to go deep. These days, most people stay in the shallow end. Everyone seems to know a little about a lot. They dabble. They’ve got all kinds of pins and badges and likes and dislikes. They have hundreds of friends and thousands of followers. They’re comfortable with a level of communication that fits on the screen of cell phone.
Listen to me: That’s not good enough.
When you decide to become a master in the subject area that you are passionate about you’ve got to take massive action. You must be committed to learn everything humanly possible about that subject matter. You need to know it wider and better than anyone else, and most importantly, you have to use that knowledge to serve something greater than yourself.
Motive does matter.
So what’s the hack? Here it is in one word:
We live in a world where there are no limits for those who can create results. The faster you can use what you’ve learned to execute results, the sooner your GPA — no matter how impressive or abysmal — won’t matter.
There is no replacement for results.
Your ability to deliver useful results to people better than anybody else will determine your success. Meet people’s needs. Add value to their lives through music, or food, finance, literature, art, business — it doesn’t matter what marketplace you enter, you will get paid for results.
Sure, you might get lucky; maybe somebody will cut you a check just because you’ve positioned yourself well, but you won’t be able to sustain long-term success that way.
Delivering results is what changed my life.
When I was 17, and just starting out, I had nothing — I had a desk I made by taking a door off its hinges and flipping it around in a crappy little room in Azusa, California. I took out a telephone and I vowed to make 100 calls a day to people I wanted to do business with. There were no excuses. I tracked my progress. I had nothing if not hunger, and I figured that as long as I stayed connected to my passion and felt that higher sense of purpose I’d get through to somebody.
It was a disaster at first. But I stayed committed to mastery.
People ask, “How long does it take to get good at something?” And my answer is always, “How long do you want it to take?”
I read almost 700 books on human development, psychology, physiology. I wanted to know everything that could possibly change the quality of someone’s life.
I was obsessed.
I myself was trying to make changes in my body, grow my mind, condition my emotions, and elevate my spirit. I started out helping myself, and then my friends, and the more results I produced the more my impact began to expand. All the while I didn’t charge anybody for anything – not one penny – unless I produced results for them.
Before I had a reputation, my only leg to stand on was results. Results built my brand.
As time went on, I found other sectors that I could learn about and serve. I realized that I wanted to do this full-time as my career. But, the only catch was, there was no such career path.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with my passion. I thought, I could write a book — but not many 17-year-olds are on the New York Times best seller list. I could become a motivational speaker but I hated that idea right off the bat. I was never about pump up, I was always about strategies. All these years some people that have never met me still think I’m about motivation because I also know how to generate energy and ignite passion — but that’s never been the focus.
Energy is just a bi-product of the right strategy.
For me, my passion is finding the strategy that’s going to get someone who wants to change from where they are now to where they want to be in the shortest period of time.
But the thing is, when I was 22, there was no pathway to that profession. That profession did not exist. There were no search results returned on LinkedIn’s job board for the terms, “Now Hiring: Entry Level Peak Performance Strategist. Competitive base salary, plus commission.”
But here I am. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have big teeth and banana hands to carve your own path. You’ve just got to be able to obsessively articulate exactly what it is you want.
When you know your passion and you’re unwilling to live by somebody else’s rules, you can make your own way. And don’t misunderstand, this is not about breaking rules, this is about producing results.
Ignore the job description and produce results for somebody, I promise you, you won’t be ignored. People will change the rules for you if you can produce outstanding results.
When I first began to work with people, there was no such thing as life coaching. That was a phrase I coined myself. The only way you could come by this work professionally was as a therapist. You had to go to school, get a traditional degree, take the conventional approach of looking at someone’s problems (which at the time meant therapy once, twice, three, times a week for years, sometimes decades) and that method was something that did not interest me in the slightest. I wanted to help lots of people, different people, business people, athletes, investors, politicians, entrepreneurs, parents, artists, and kids. Not a couple hundred patients a month in an office, but millions of people all over the world.
And I became obsessed with this idea.
Often times, the standard way of doing things is not the only way of doing things, it’s just what people have gotten used to. If you come up with a different way to get people the results they’re looking for, you can do anything you want.
So if you’re 22 years old and reading this today, I know that you’re not satisfied with what you’ve accomplished already. You want to do more, be more, give more. You are in the prime of your youth, don’t wait for a time down the road, a birthday with a zero on it, to look back and realize that you’ve got to do something with yourself.
Commit to turning your Shoulds into Musts right now.
You do anything you want with your life whether or not the avenue exists. Clear the path, pave the road, step up and make it happen.
Discover your passion. Get hungry. Design the life you want to live. With massive action, flexibility, obsessive discipline, and a sense of purpose to serve something outside of yourself, you will develop the ability to consistently produce results, and you will effectively create your own path to greatness.
Finally, when you fall upon frustrating times – and you will – remember the words my mentor told me years ago when I was at my lowest place. He said, “Tony, keep working on yourself, keep improving, strengthening, and keep finding a way to serve more people. If you do that, I promise you — your gifts will make room for you.”
I wish for you an extraordinary life.