There’s always something to howl about

Find Your Passion? Make Money From It? Gimme A Break

Every time I hear or read someone espousing the ‘find your passion’ mantra (Or should I say script?), my knee jerk reaction is to roll my eyes, sigh melodramatically, and wonder what percentage of these people are chanting that catchphrase to convince themselves and not you and me. Try this — being brutally honest, count how many people you know, first hand, who are literally passionate about what they do for a living.

I can name one — Grandpa. He’s long gone, but his two careers were marked by his love and passion for both. I maintain his case is anomalous. In my life I’ve had a passion for an avocation, baseball — specifically umpiring. I couldn’t believe they paid me for doing it. Whether I was on some forlorn diamond at the God forsaken hour of 9 AM on a Sunday morning for a bunch of 20-somethings with six fans in attendance, or a post season college game with a few thousand partisans watchin’, I loved it. It mattered not to me if it was a Little League game or a Pac 10 contest, the thrill was always there.

Still, it’s been my personal experience and first hand observation that easily over 95% of us aren’t that kind of passionate about what we do.

Yet I maintain, speaking only for myself, that I have a work related passion that keeps me goin’ beyond any desire to generate income. Furthermore, I think I may be in a large minority, if not the majority.

The passion I enjoy for my work has little to do with the work itself — though I’ll admit there are parts of it I thoroughly enjoy and even gleefully anticipate. But for the most part? I don’t love my work. And I’m betting you don’t either. We don’t hate it, at least most of it, but we don’t wake up in the morning excited that the Lord gave us another day to mess with those folks attached to our business who seemingly exist only to make our lives miserable. And no, I’m not talkin’ about our clients in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll confess to loving my conversations with prospects and clients. I often admit to being an addict — craving these chats to the point I require daily fixes. Why? Simple — I know it’s my chance to have a real and measurably life changing, positive affect on their lives. Taking someone from a small pension + Social Security to a six figure retirement is a high I can’t imagine giving up.

The heartfelt passion I’ve always had for my work can be found in one word. It’s a word that scares most agents, as they realize that sometimes it doesn’t apply to them in a complimentary way.


I get emotional when I’ve been able to take someone headed for a lousy or mediocre retirement, redirecting them to a much better end game. I wish I could explain it, but I can’t. You know what I mean though, don’t you? Sure ya do. I’ll bet you’ve experienced it yourself.

Having been on dozens of panels with some truly stellar people, I can testify that I’ve yet to meet one who thinks of their real estate career, the work itself, the way Grandpa felt about his art or his ministry. Not even close. Yet when they talked about the results? Many of them lit up like Roman candles. Whether it was seeing clients’ reactions to their new homes, or something else, it was all about the results they produced — not the work itself.

It’s long been my personal belief that as long as one doesn’t hate their work, likes some of it, sometimes a lot, the real, palpable passion arrives in the results they produce. To so many, it’s what they can do because of the income. To others it’s something as simple as knowing they’re very good at what they do.

Dad built a pretty small company by modern real estate brokerage standards. Instead of 100+ agents he never even had 30 full timers. He was one of those guys who found passion in two ways. First, he loved to win. For him, it was about surpassing a goal, beating his competition, being the guy the rest of ’em were chasing. Take it from me, he didn’t love his work. He didn’t abhor it, but he didn’t live to chase down another FSBO. πŸ™‚ Secondly, it allowed him to live the life he wanted, and to indulge his real passions. Ones that wouldn’t allow him the income to live the lifestyle real estate afforded him.

What fires my passion?

I love those moments on the phone, better in the office, when it’s obvious the client just realized what I’m tellin’ them will actually get them where they wanna go — or out of the trouble they’re in — or best of all, both. For me it’s like walkin’ away after nine innings behind the plate, and one of the coaches tellin’ me my strike zone was wicked solid. Max endorphins.

Not long ago I was able to tell a married couple, long time clients, “…when this escrow closes and the smoke clears, you’ll finally have enough income so that Angela can quit work and stay home with the kids.” You don’t have enough money to pay me for how their reaction made me feel.

Then there’s my all time favorite. The phone call in which I’m privileged to tell a client their Plan has reached it’s main goal — they can give their two weeks notice. It’s time to schedule that first retirement cruise.

Did I enjoy doing 80% of what it took to get them there? Gimme a break. I suppose you think I love dealing with underwriters who can’t get it through their mush for brains that funds in a tax deferred exchange’s accommodator are the most reliable they could ever hope for. Or that you just can’t wait for the next time a first time buyer-client loses their dream home as a result of some bureaucrat’s whim.

My passion is for the results I can produce. The feeling of having brought real value to my client’s table. Knowing my work, expertise, knowledge and experience have made a very real and positive difference in their life.

Doesn’t that sound more real to you than the whole ‘find your passion’ incantation? Will you admit that your passion, if you have it, is found in the results you produce — one way or the other?

I’d love to hear from the folks who disagree with this outlook. I wanna hear how you revel in yet another opportunity, as Grandpa did, to set a blank canvas on the easel for the millionth time, knowing you’ll be in heaven with every brush stroke you make. Remember, I don’t doubt there are some of you out there who love their work the way I loved umpiring. I just think you’re in a minute minority.

Or do you think I’m a party of one?


13 Comments so far

  1. Todd Carpenter September 18th, 2010 12:31 pm


  2. Jim Klein September 18th, 2010 4:07 pm

    Great post Jeff, but it looks to me like a distinction without a difference. Our values are hierarchical and you, like most here, have a passion for production. Ultimately, production is just the adding of value. The umping is a passion too, but it’s a passion of personal enjoyment in your case. If you could add as much value by umping as you do in RE, and be so rewarded, then you’d have the best of both worlds. But in this world, the value you add in the RE business is tons more than the added value of umping. So you produce in RE, and garner enjoyment from umping. And your passion for production trumps your passion for the joy of umping for various reasons, including the many other enjoyments you get pursuant to the production. That’s close, isn’t it?

    Now, crazy idealists like me try to have the best of both worlds in their occupations. That’s probably why you don’t see me bragging about how great my business is!

    Any way you cut it, it’s just a hierarchy of values. In the end, that’s all we do.

  3. Dan Connolly September 19th, 2010 8:29 am

    Its interesting, because I have been having this discussion with an old time friend (40 yrs) of mine. He keeps thinking he needs to tell me that I am a workaholic and need to relax. In the course of the discussion he tries to tell me that I just love to work and I always tell him that I don’t. This is true in business and in time off. When we have family reunions I am the same way. I am the one who sets up, organizes, and am there at the end cleaning and getting everything put away, and returned. Why? because it needs to be done.

    I have different reasons why I work but the love of the work is not one of them. I love my life and I love the results of my work and the opportunities those results offer me, but I do the work because it has to be done. I enjoy the moment at closing when someone who has never owned a home finally does. I have seen tears literally squirt out of their eyes and land on the table two feet in front of them. That feels good, but the process getting there doesn’t.

    I think by definition work is what you don’t love. “That’s why they call it work” is a standard answer of mine when people complain about a task. or “Why do you think I am paying you to do this? Because doing it sucks and I would rather give you money than to do it myself”

  4. Jeff Brown September 19th, 2010 10:55 am

    Much appreciated, Todd.

  5. Jeff Brown September 19th, 2010 11:05 am

    Jim — I get what you mean, but frankly, if I’d had the opportunity as a young man to umpire, and could’ve gone through the pro ranks, ultimately to MLB, I would’ve in a second. I’d of known that the income wouldn’t touch what I’ve been able to do in RE, but I’d of been doing something for which pay was a bonus. So to that degree, we disagree.

    Still, your point is well made, and I would debate the point with any real passion. πŸ™‚

  6. Jeff Brown September 19th, 2010 11:08 am

    Jim — I get what you mean, but frankly, if I’d had the opportunity as a young man to umpire, and could’ve gone through the pro ranks, ultimately to MLB, I would’ve in a second. I’d of known that the income wouldn’t touch what I’ve been able to do in RE, but I’d of been doing something for which pay was a bonus. So to that degree, we disagree.

    Still, your point is well made, and I wouldn’t debate the point with any real passion. πŸ™‚

  7. Jeff Brown September 19th, 2010 11:20 am

    ‘…because it has to be done’. ‘…that’s why it’s called work’.

    Think you said it best when you said you had different reasons why you work. The bottom line is that it’s the results that ultimately drive you, and almost all of us. Not the ‘work’ itself.

  8. Greg Swann September 19th, 2010 4:46 pm

    I love to work for the sake of working. I don’t like trivial or repetitive tasks, but I can take a big bite out of anything serious and make a feast out of it. I love to work, and because of that I do almost nothing else with my time. I believe I am an ontologically-normal human being. In other words, I believe that, in the absence of anti-human cultural influences, most people would be like me. And if that were so, the results would be phenomenal. So there. :p

  9. Greg Swann September 19th, 2010 5:46 pm

    I don’t want to be too big a booger. Like Jim, I think we’re all talking about the same stuff, and just assigning different names to what are, in all probability, essentially the same variables. I really like to work — I really like to think — and so I am apt to call this work, where you might call it a passion. Here’s a different way of looking at things, from my essay Psalm, but really from everything I’ve ever written:

    Living is what you’re doing when you’re too enthralled to notice. Dying is what you’re doing when all you can do is notice.

    If you can’t think about anything except what you’re doing, if you can’t even conceive of taking your eye off of that ball, that’s what I call working. If all you can think about is getting whatever it is you’re (not really) doing over with, I think that’s what a lot of non-entrepreneurs call working. The decisive issue for me is how you approach whatever it is you’re doing, not what name you give it.

    I can’t see you doing less than your best at anything, Jeff — and I’m sure you know by now that I throw compliments like that around like they were asteroids. I know almost nothing about Dan Connolly, but I’d give odds on the unimpeachable excellence of the tasks he accomplishes. I can’t think of a motivating premise for the lifelong pursuit of excellence other than passion, but I admit that I am in some ways mentally-imprisoned by my own approach to living: I understand quite a bit about people who are a lot like me — which is why I can feel so much at home here, at BloodhoundBlog, when I’ve never felt much at home anywhere — but I can but conjecture about people who seem to me to be very different from me.

    As must be obvious to everyone, I think the difference — not as an either/or but as a set of continua unique to each individual, and reflecting each sort of goal-oriented behavior that person might undertake — I think that the difference results from the simplest kind of error: Rational egoism versus any sort of dogma-driven selflessness. In that regard, I think “pursue your passion” is code. What it really means is this: “Knuckle under to your dogma, whatever it might be, in every conceivable respect except for this one extra-special instance of a faux-defiant, self-indulgent, possibly riotous but completely temporary display of the fully-human being you are otherwise expected to forbid yourself to be.” To which I can say nothing of greater moment than this: Ew!

    Here’s my take in the instant matter: I don’t care what name you give the Jeff Brown meme. I just want you to spread it — and I advance my own interests by doing what I can to help you spread it. And: So: Again: So there! πŸ˜‰

  10. Jeff Brown September 19th, 2010 6:27 pm

    As I got Jim, I also, even more easily, get you too, Greg. However, I do disagree on the one main point. In my view there is a monster difference between loving your actual work, vs loving its results.

    You love working, I love what my work does. I’d be a major league umpire if I’d been both younger and had the requisite talent. You’d still be doing real estate — i think.

    Your description says volumes — ‘getting lost in what you’re doing’ etc. Trust me, I never get lost when doing what amounts to roughly 75% of what I’m required to do.

    Still, I love both the monetary and non-monetary rewards pretty much equally. Frankly, I could mail in my performance if I sold houses in SD with its price point. A deal a month at the median price would net me roughly $130K/yr. But I don’t, cuz I love takin’ folks from their current Point A to a Retirement Point B many of them thought wasn’t on their menu.

    In the end, it still comes down to what Grandma said — “Jeffrey Scott, as long as your wife and your banker are always happy to see ya comin’, you’re probably doin’ things right.”


  11. Sean Purcell September 19th, 2010 8:33 pm

    Jeff, I’ve had this exact dialogue more times than I care to admit. One time, while talking to my “mentor,” I complained that I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing and elaborated for some time on how I only wanted to do something for a living that was a passion for me. He gave me a short answer that changed my entire perspective. Unfortunately, my mentor is a bit of a smart-ass and his exact words are not appropriate to this forum. (Ask me about it next time we get together to boost Starbuck’s bottom line. πŸ™‚ )

    Here’s my take-away, in any case: “It’s not so much doing things that are our passion, as it is finding the passion in the things we do.”

  12. Wayne Johnson September 20th, 2010 9:14 pm

    I like the way you phrased your post. I’ve liked pretty much every job that I’ve had. But not passion about any of them either. I’ve heard the admonishion you mentioned about being passionate about the job, but I never really gave much thought to it. I just figured I’d leave well enough alone.

    Bottom line results-that’s the ticket.

  13. Jim Klein September 20th, 2010 10:00 pm

    > Here’s my take-away, in any case: β€œIt’s not so much doing things that are our passion, as it is finding the passion in the things we do.”

    Well done, Sean. That’s the whole ball o’ wax IMO. Whether mundane or special, it’s the joy we get from our activities–chosen by whatever standards and values we decide–that’s the real payoff. And it’ll never fit together nicely, not the goals nor the activities nor the results, without an understanding (a recognition, I’d say) that the correct focus of an individual’s life is just that…his own life.

    Everything else is dischord and all the intellectualizing in the world can’t make it anything but. This is the problem we face—billions of tiny errors pretending that something else could be more valuable than our own lives, often with the best of intention and always with the grandest of rationalization, leading to societies built of fundamental error and the ensuing dischord. No wonder so many folks don’t get along, eh?

    Even when we make Greg’s “calculus of loss” in the extreme, whereby we might decide that life isn’t worth living under certain conditions, it’s still built of the /fact/ that both the purpose and the standard of that life, is the life itself and whatever hierarchy of values it creates.

    The altruist will be quick to retort, “Right, and I choose to make others the pinnacle of my hierarchy of values.” That’s why he runs around in circles, never knowing the passion of which you all are speaking.

    Even a hamster takes a break now and then, but never does the altruist. He is forever trying to show that the way to live life best, is not to live life best. It can make you dizzy, just thinking about it!