Great Leaders Find Their Passion

At GCI, we talk a LOT about job fit. We know that when the right people are in the right jobs at the right companies… magic can happen. And massive leaps in employee engagement occurs! Steve Jobs, who passed away last month, certainly made quite a bit of magic happen throughout his life.


Steve Jobs was initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. Told by doctors that the cancer was inoperable, Jobs was given 3-6 months to live. He received this news after his 7:30 AM appointment, and he spent the day in agony as he played this death sentence over and over in his mind. The same evening, a biopsy was performed on the tumor that the doctors had found on Jobs’ pancreas. Doctors literally cried when they discovered that the cancer was a rare form that could indeed be cured through surgery. Jobs had the surgery and later reported, “I’m fine now.”


The close call in 2004 led Jobs to muse very frankly on the concepts of life and death. Shortly afterwards, in his often-quoted Stanford Commencement address, Jobs was able to very eloquently share some of his thoughts on living a life filled with purpose and passion. Jobs believed that he was “lucky” to have found work that he loved early in life. He found “success” quickly, as Apple Computer became a $2 billion company within ten years.


And then, as we all know, he was fired from that same company that he created. Jobs described the feelings of failure (and confusion) that he initially felt after being let go from Apple, but he was able to identify what it was that kept him going through such a tough time.


“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did,” he said. “You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And 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. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”


That paragraph packs a punch, doesn’t it?


Does this mean we are always going to love our job? NO. Or that it contains duties, tasks, elements of that job that we may not love at all? Of course. That is reality. But, those people that get to “scratch the itch” that engages and excites them as a part of their jobs are the lucky ones. Sometimes we’ve found it and don’t even recognize or acknowledge that fact. Often times it is there but we allow ourselves to get weighed down by all the pieces we aren’t in love with. A lot has to do with our own perspective. We all need to take a little(or a LOT) more responsibility for our success and passion in what we do.


As individuals, we know this. We know that we are uniquely gifted to do certain things. Certain types of work bring out the best in us. They engage our talents and our interests. They challenge us, but in a good way. When we’re working in areas where we are not only skilled but also passionate – look out. Great things can happen.


Employers know this, too. Employers don’t want employees who are merely capable of doing their jobs. They’d prefer to have people who really love their jobs. They want people who are really excited by their work. Employers know that these highly engaged employees are also highly productive and tremendous assets for their team. And yes, employers need to do a better job of this. Steve Jobs followed his passions and did what he loved to do. He did what he was uniquely capable of doing. And he remained intentional about staying aligned with his passions.


In his commencement address, he also shared a quote that he had read when he was 17 that influenced him. The quote, he said, went something like this: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”


“Since then,” said Jobs, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been No for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”


Jobs continued by saying, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” He urged the graduates at Stanford that day not to waste their lives living someone else’s dream. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice,” he said. “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”


Can you imagine a world where everyone poured as much passion into their work as Steve Jobs did? What if all of us came to work each day as excited to be at our jobs as Steve Jobs was to be at Apple? As excited as Steve Jobs was to introduce the iPhone to us?


We’re not all called to be CEO’s of companies or creative geniuses like Steve Jobs. We don’t have to make the same contributions as he did. (Whew.) But… we CAN all bring the same level of energy and passion to our jobs as he did. We CAN be just as passionate about our work as he was in his. When we make the commitment to finding work that we love and NOT settling, as Jobs implored of that graduating class, we set the stage for some magic to happen in our own lives.


We’re all given unique personalities, abilities, skills, and interests that are designed to bring us fulfillment when we align them with meaningful work. We think that when the right person is in the right job at the right company, we’ve got a formula for success- for both the individual and the employer. We think Steve Jobs believed that too. Steve Jobs found his calling and showed us how to live a life of passion and purpose. He didn’t settle, and he urged us not to either. Think about that world again where we’re all as stoked as Steve Jobs was about our jobs.


How cool would that be?