Day 1: Composition

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PASSION ENERGIZES 

YOUR TALENT 

 

What carries people to the top? What makes them take risks, go the extra mile, and do whatever it 

takes to achieve their goals? It isn’t talent. It’s passion. Passion is more important than a plan. Pas- 

sion creates fire. It provides fuel. I have yet to meet a passionate person who lacked energy. As long 

as the passion is there, it doesn’t matter if they fail. It doesn’t matter how many times they fall 

down. It doesn’t matter if others are against them or if people say they cannot succeed. They keep 

going and make the most of whatever talent they possess. They are talent-plus people and do not 

stop until they succeed. 

 

DISCOVER 

 

What is your impression of passionate people? 

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What are some of the traits a passionate person displays? 

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Why might having passion be more important than having a plan? 

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YOUR PASSION CAN EMPOWER YOU 

 

Passion can energize every aspect of a person’s life—including his talent. Have you ever known a 

person with great passion who lacked the energy to act on what mattered? I doubt it. A passionate 

person with limited talent will outperform a passive person who possesses greater talent. Why? Be- 

cause passionate people act with boundless enthusiasm, and they just keep on going! Talent plus 

passion energizes. 

 

Authors Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler cite a study of 1,500 people over twenty years that 

shows how passion makes a significant difference in a person’s career: 

 

At the outset of the study, the group was divided into Group A, 83 percent of the sample, who 

were embarking on a career chosen for the prospects of making money now in order to do what 

they wanted later, and Group B, the other 17 percent of the sample, who had chosen their career 

path for the reverse reason, they were going to pursue what they wanted to do now and worry 

about the money later. 

 

The data showed some startling revelations: 

• At the end of the 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaires. 

• Of the millionaires, all but one—100 out of 101—were from Group B, the group that had chosen 

to pursue what they loved!¹ 

The old saying is true: “Find something you like to do so much that you’d gladly do it for nothing, 

and if you learn to do it well, someday people will be happy to pay you for it.” When that’s the case, 

then true are the words of a motto that Dr. Charles Mayo kept on his office wall: “There’s no fun like 

work.” 

 

What do you enjoying doing most in your life? Describe a task you get excited about when you are 

able to participate in it. 

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What is your reward for participating? How does your participation enrich others? 

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How could this activity be incorporated into your weekly routine? (Is there a place to volunteer? Is 

there a place to practice? Is there another job you qualify for?) 

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THE POWER OF PASSION 

 

There really is no substitute for passion when it comes to energizing your talent. Take a look at what 

passion can do for you: 

 

1. Passion Is the First Step to Achievement 

 

Loving what you do is the key that opens the door for achievement. When you don’t like what you’re 

doing, it really shows—no matter how hard you try to pretend it doesn’t. And it’s difficult to achieve 

when you don’t have the desire to do so. That’s why passion is so important. The only way you can 

achieve anything of significance is to really want it. Passion provides that. 

 

2. Passion Increases Willpower 

 

One of my roles as a motivational teacher is to try to help people reach their potential. For years, I 

tried to inspire passion in audiences by going about it the wrong way. I used to tell people about 

what made me passionate, what made me want to get out and do my best. But I could see that it 

wasn’t having the effect I desired—people just didn’t respond. I couldn’t ignite others’ passion by 

sharing my own. 

 

I decided to change my focus. Instead of sharing my passion, I started helping others discover 

their passion. To do that, I ask these questions (write out your anwers): 

 

What do you sing about? 

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What do you cry about? 

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What do you dream about? 

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The first two questions speak to what touches you at a deep level today. The third answers what 

will bring you fulfillment tomorrow. The answers to these questions can often help people discover 

their true passion. 

 

While everybody can possess passion, not everyone takes the time to discover it. And that’s a 

shame. Passion is fuel for the will. Passion turns your have-to’s into want-to’s. What we accomplish 

in life is based less on what we want and more on how much we want it. The secret to willpower is 

what someone once called wantpower. People who want something enough usually find the 

willpower to achieve it. 

 

You can’t help people become winners unless they want to win. Champions become champions from within, not from without. 

 

3. Passion Produces Energy 

 

When you have passion, you become energized. You don’t have to produce perseverance; it is natu- 

rally present in you. It helps you to enjoy the journey as much as reaching the destination. Without 

it, achievement becomes a long and difficult road. 

 

What activities do you happily wake up early or stay up late to participate in? 

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During a Q-and-A session at a conference, an attendee once asked me, “What is the secret of 

your passion?” It took me only a moment to be able to articulate it: 

1. I am gifted at what I do (strength zone). 

2. What I do makes a difference (results). 

3. When I do what I was made to do, I feel most alive (purpose). 

Do you identify with these statements? Explain. 

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I believe all passionate people feel that way. Aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh observed, “It is 

the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you’ve wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like 

you could fly without the plane.” 

 

Some people say that they feel burned out. The truth is that they probably never were on fire in 

the first place. Writer and editor Norman Cousins said, “Death isn’t the greatest loss in life. The 

greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.” Without passion, a part of us dies. 

 

Describe the last time you felt burnt out. How passionate were you about what you were doing? 

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4. Passion Is the Foundation for Excellence 

 

Passion can transform someone from average to excellent. I can tell you that from experience. 

When I was in high school, I wasn’t a great student. My priorities were basketball first, friends sec- 

ond, and studies a distant third. Why? Because playing basketball and spending time with friends 

were things I was passionate about. I studied, but only to please my parents. School held little ap- 

peal for me. 

 

Everything changed when I went to college. For the first time I was studying subjects that mat- 

tered to me. They were interesting, and they would apply to my future career. My grades went up be- 

cause my passion did. In high school I was sometimes on the principal's "list" (which was not a 

good thing), but in college I continually made the "dean's list." Passion fired my desire to achieve 

with excellence. 

 

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. asserted, "If a man hasn't discovered something that he 

will die for, he isn't fit to live." When you find purpose, you find passion. And when you find pas- 

sion, it energizes your talent so that you can achieve excellence. 

 

5. Passion Is the Key to Success 

 

People are such that whenever anything fires their souls, impossibilities vanish. Perhaps that’s why 

philosopher-poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Every great and commanding movement in the an- 

nals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm.” 

 

I read about two hundred executives who were asked what makes people successful. The number 

one quality they cited was enthusiasm, not talent—80 percent of them recognized that there needed 

to be a fire within to achieve success. 

 

The most talented people aren’t always the ones who win. If they did, how could anyone explain 

the success of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, which was depicted in the movie Miracle, or the 

Hall of Fame careers of basketball’s Larry Bird or football’s Joe Montana? It takes more than talent 

to create success. It takes passion. 

 

Everything changed when I went to college. For the first time I was studying subjects that mattered to me. They were interesting, and they would apply to my future career. My grades went up 

because my passion did. In high school I was sometimes on the principal’s “list” (which was not a 

good thing), but in college I continually made the “dean’s list.” Passion fired my desire to achieve 

with excellence. 

 

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. asserted, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he 

will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” When you find purpose, you find passion. And when you find pas- 

sion, it energizes your talent so that you can achieve excellence. 

 

6. Passion Makes a Person Contagious 

 

Writer and promotional publicist Eleanor Doan remarked, “You cannot kindle a fire in any other 

heart until it is burning within your own.” I believe that’s true. One of my favorite subjects is com- 

munication. I have studied and taught it for years, and I always enjoy observing great communi- 

cators in action. I believe that people are instructed by reason, but they are inspired by passion. 

TALENT + PASSION = A TALENT-PLUS PERSON 

PUTTING THE TALENT-PLUS FORMULA INTO ACTION 

If you don’t possess the energy that you desire, then you need to fire up your passion. Here is 

how I suggest you proceed: 

 

1. Prioritize Your Life According to Your Passion 

 

People who have passion but lack priorities are like individuals who find themselves in a lonely log 

cabin deep in the woods on a cold snowy night and then light a bunch of small candles and place 

them all around the room. They don’t create enough light to help them see, nor do they produce 

enough heat to keep them warm. At best, they merely make the room seem a bit more cheerful. On 

the other hand, people who possess priorities but no passion are like those who stack wood in the 

fireplace of that same cold cabin but never light the fire. But people who have passion with prior- 

ities are like those who stack the wood, light the fire, and enjoy the light and heat that it produces. 

 

In the early 1970s, I realized that my talent would be maximized and my potential realized only if I 

matched my passion with my priorities. I was spending too much of my time doing tasks for which 

I possessed neither talent nor passion. I had to make a change—to align what I felt strongly about 

with what I was doing. It made a huge difference in my life. It didn’t eliminate my troubles or re- 

move my obstacles, but it empowered me to face them with greater energy and enthusiasm. For 

more than thirty years, I have worked to maintain that alignment of priorities and passion. And as I 

have, I’ve kept in mind this quote by journalist Tim Redmond, which I put in a prominent place for 

a year to keep me on track: “There are many things that will catch my eye, but there are only a few 

that catch my heart. It is those I consider to pursue.” 

 

Even a brief review of effective leaders and businesspeople throughout history illustrates that 

their passion “caught on” with others. One of my favorites is Winston Churchill. 

 

In the 1930s, Churchill was beginning to fade from view in British politics. But with the rise of 

Hitler came a rise in Churchill’s passion. Long before others did, Churchill spoke out against the 

Nazis. He had a passion to protect freedom and democracy. And when Hitler declared war and 

sought to conquer Europe and crush England, Churchill’s passion for resistance became infused in 

the people of Britain and eventually the United States. 

 

Without Churchill, the fate of the free world might have turned out to be quite different. 

 

Prioritizing your life according to your passion can be risky. For most people, it requires a major 

realignment in their work and private lives. But you can’t be a talent-plus person and play it safe. 

Advertising agency president Richard Edler stated this: 

 

Safe living generally makes for regrets later on. We are all given talents and dreams. 

 

Sometimes the two don’t match. But more often than not, we compromise both before ever 

finding out. Later on, as successful as we might be, we find ourselves looking back longingly to 

that time when we should have chased our true dreams and our true talents for all they were 

worth. Don’t let yourself be pressured into thinking that your dreams or your talents aren’t pru- 

dent. They were never meant to be prudent. They were meant to bring joy and fulfillment into 

your life.² 

 

If your priorities are not aligned with your passion, then begin thinking about making changes in 

your life. Will change be risky? Probably. But which would you rather live with? The pain of risk or 

the pain of regret? 

 

What are the priorities in your life? Think broadly and include the areas of work, family, recreation, 

health, and so on. Write them in order of importance. 

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Compare what you have written about your passions and talents from Chapter 1 and the priority list 

you just completed. How do they match up? What could you change to help align them? What price 

will you likely pay if you neglect to make changes? 

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2. Protect Your Passion 

 

If you’ve ever built a fire, then you know this: the natural tendency of fire is to go out. If you want to 

keep a fire hot, then you need to feed it, and you need to protect it. Not everyone in your life will 

help you do that when it comes to your passion. In truth, there are two kinds of people: firelighters, 

who will go out of their way to help you keep your fire hot, and firefighters, who will throw cold water 

on the fire of passion that burns within you. 

 

How can you tell the firelighters from the firefighters? Listen to what they say. 

 

Firefighters use phrases like these: 

• “It’s not in the budget.” 

• “That’s not practical.” 

• “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” 

• “We’ve never done that before.” 

• “Yeah, but . . .” 

• “The boss won’t go for it.” 

• “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” 

• “That’s not the way we do things around here.” 

• “It’ll never work.” 

• “But who will do all the extra work?” 

• “You’re not __________ [smart, talented, young, old, etc.] enough.” 

• “You’re getting too big for your britches.” 

• “Who do you think you are?” 

If you’ve heard one or more of these phrases coming from people you know, you may want to 

create some distance between yourself and them. These firefighters focus on what’s wrong rather 

than what’s right. They find the cloud that comes with every silver lining. 

 

They doubt. They resist change. They keep people from reaching their potential by trying to put out 

the fire of their passion. Stay away from them. Instead, spend more time with people who see you 

not just as you are, but as you could be; people who encourage your dreams, ignite your passion. I 

try to schedule a lunch or two with firelighters like these every month. They really fire me up and 

energize me to do what I know is best for me. 

 

List the firelighters and firefighters in your life.

 

 How can you limit your time with the firefighters? 

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How can you show the firelighters your appreciation? How will you make time for these people in 

the coming weeks? 

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3. Pursue Your Passion with Everything You’ve Got 

 

Rudy Ruettiger, upon whose life the movie Rudy was based, observed, “If you really, really believe in 

your dream, you’ll get there. But you have to have passion and total commitment to make it hap- 

pen. When you have passion and commitment, you don’t need a complex plan. Your plan is your 

life is your dream.” 

What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? How do you want to focus your energy: on sur- 

vival, success, or significance? We live in a time and place with too many opportunities for survival 

alone. And there’s more to life than mere success. We need to dream big. We need to adopt the per- 

spective of someone like playwright George Bernard Shaw, who wrote, 

 

I am convinced that my life belongs to the whole community; and as long as I live, it is my priv- 

ilege to do for it whatever I can, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in the life for its 

own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I got hold of for a 

moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before turning it over to future 

generations. 

 

Shaw had passion—for life and his work. Your passion has the potential to provide you energy far 

beyond the limitations of your talent. In the end, you will be remembered for your passion. It is 

what will energize your talent. It is what will empower you to make your mark, 

 

DEVELOP 

 

Describe the environments where and the times when your passion is contagious. 

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Who can you be a firefighter for? How will you involve and encourage them? 

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