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Embrace Execution: When passion is not enough.

“the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it…Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs

I hear it all the time. Heck, I’ve probably said it. Maybe you’ve said it to a friend. Or said it to yourself – to muster up some courage.

Pursue your Passion

We hear talk about passion and it’s like we give it sudden and immediate access to our heart because it’s the language of our heart. And we’ve ignored our hearts too long – so it just makes sense to give in and agree.

We need to pursue our passion.

And then we discover something, don’t we? You’ve been there. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. That sad moment when we finally realize it.

Every job has crappy parts that no amount of passion will propel us past.

And suddenly what sounded right to our hearts may no longer sound so smart to our brains. We start asking the smart questions – like, if we’re supposed to follow our passions, who will take away our trash? Who will wash our dishes?

Surely not every essential activity under the sun has people yearning to do it out of passion.

What do we do when passion is not enough?

Let me be honest with you. I couldn’t have written this post nineteen years ago, when I was just getting started in the working world. It’s only now that I can look back.

I wasn’t passionate about the internet in 1994.

I knew friends who were passionate about things back then. They talked about it non-stop. I talked about business models and why Taco Bell had changed the layout of their restaurants so that they had less kitchen space and more places for people to sit. That was interesting. But I wasn’t talking about the internet.

It was just a job at the time. I was focused on execution.

I wasn’t passionate about Software as a Service in the 90’s.

While I was working on startups, I wasn’t passionate about software as a service (SaaS). That was, after all, just a delivery service. Who cares about that?

And I wasn’t talking non-stop about the idea of hosting providers, dedicated and virtual, and how it was shaping an industry. I was busy trying to make sure that our solutions were hosted and didn’t fail – because failure meant calls in the middle of the night.

It was just a job at the time. I was focused on execution.

I wasn’t passionate about startups for a long time.

Sure, today I love things entrepreneurial and enjoy helping startups. But that’s now, after five of them and in a context where I work on intrapreneurial things during the day and entrepreneurial things in the evenings.

But for almost ten years as I worked in startups, I was struggling to raise money or to launch products. I was too busy doing what I was doing to make sure I could eat, and that our staff could too.

It was just a job at the time. I was focused on execution.

Embrace Execution

It’s fun to look back and realize that the overall narrative of my professional life has been something sustainable – that startups, the web, and hosted solutions all still exist, some nineteen years after I got started with them.

But there’s a more important narrative than just startups, the web, and hosted solutions. It’s the narrative that goes something like this:

I’m passionate about execution, because everything else is just ideas that we had while sitting around a table. I don’t want to be “an idea guy.” I want to be known as someone who could take that nice idea, enhance it, and then execute on it. And now you can see it realized.

When you’re focused on execution, the reality is that some mornings you wake up and what’s in front of you isn’t inspiring, it’s a list of to-dos that’s pretty long. But if you find pleasure in crossing them off, there’s a feeling that comes at the end of the day from having an empty list that rivals anyone else’s passion about anything else.

That’s probably why I have spent so much time helping people embrace done done. Because it’s the language of execution.

Are you young?

If you’re 25-34, you may still say that your work isn’t really work. It’s fulfilling and you are passionate about it. That’s awesome. In a recent survey I did, I found that folks just stepping into the workforce, in whatever role it was, were still passionate about what they were doing. They didn’t see it as work.

That’s perfect. That’s the right time, while things are still fun and exciting and you’re learning things – that’s the right time to develop a discipline, a new passion, for execution. Trust me when I tell you, it will cary you far.

A bit older?

In that same research, with over 1500 respondents, I discovered that people 45-54 had also discovered passion. But their passions were outside of work. They found hobbies and life outside of their position and role and were enjoying them. That’s fantastic. Embrace it. And when it comes to work, instead of trying to shove passion into what you’re doing, do me a favor: embrace execution.

How do I get started?

You may read this and simply wonder, how do I get started? What do I do now? It’s really simple.

To embrace execution is to decide, inside, that that’s what you’re about. And to be that person is a lot easier if you have some accountability. So tell someone. Tell a friend. Tell me (in the comments below). But tell someone – and ask them to check up on you in a week or two.

See if you’ve become an execution machine. Trust me, you’ll love it. And people will love you for it! And then you can be passionate about execution.

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