Business Success: Does passion really matter? What’s the role of commitment?

Recently, I was a guest trainer at a business-building workshop for independent service professionals. All of the participants chose to attend this training, ostensibly, to help grow their businesses, to be more profitable, and to help more people.

As I got to know the participants, two things became readily apparent to me:

  1. 100% of the participants were 1000% passionate about their work, which ultimately was about making a contribution to their clients’ businesses and lives.
  2. Only about 10-20% of them were financially viable, even though they were all making a valuable contribution to their clients.

This observation both puzzled and troubled me. You see, for years, I used to believe that if a person was really passionate about something, success (however way they define it for themselves) was a foregone conclusion.

So, I wondered what it was that separated the financially successful and passionate business from the equally passionate (in loose, relative terms), but financially non-viable business.

After percolating on this for a while, I realized that the significant difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one lies in the depth of commitment. Yes, the “C” word – commitment.

Commitment means being willing to take on a greater level of personal growth, to face the unanticipated challenges with courage, to take bold actions, even in the face of extreme pressure and uncertainty. Commitment is also about being willing to grow from the inside out, at a deep, personal level – being willing to face one’s inner demons – those limiting beliefs and lingering self-doubts that only serve to keep you stuck where you are.

(And, by the way, commitment is not about working hard, ‘paying one’s dues,” sacrificing, or suffering. That may be part of one’s experience along the journey, but that’s not commitment; that’s simply part of the ride.)

Without a doubt, having the passion for what you do, have, and experience in business and in life is an important element of personal fulfillment.

But having passion alone is not a surefire formula for success.

See, there are many people who are passionate about something, whether it’s ‘ending world hunger,’ ‘saving the whales’ or ‘freeing Tibet.’ But far fewer are committed to doing something about it, to taking action even against great odds and tremendous challenges.

Passion without commitment is akin to a rocket ship on the launching pad without fuel: It’s a great idea, but going nowhere – fast.

Conversely, it’s entirely possible to be financially successful, without having a passion for the business. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Action Plan:

  1. Looking at your own business and life, where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being high) as far as being passionate about the business you are in (not just a part of it, but the whole of it).
  2. Now, list your top three business goals for the next year or two. Go ahead, put them down on paper or screen.
  3. Now ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to doing whatever it is you’ll need to do to have those business goals be a reality? Let’s be honest here.

The Bottomline:

The critical link between passion and success lies in the level of one’s commitment to the pursuit of ‘success.’ If you find yourself below a 5 or 6 on the level of commitment (and you are being honest about it), you really need to ask yourself what you’re really spending your valuable time and life energy on. Maybe it’s time to commit to something else.

But even at the highest levels of commitment, there are no guarantees of success.

For those of you seeking guarantees, I leave you with one of my favorite quotations from W. H. Murray, one of the first to climb Mount Everest:

Commitment. Until one is committed there is always hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Playing a Bigger Game: What Does It Mean to You?

Playing a Bigger Game: What Does It Mean to You?

A lot of people talk about playing a bigger game. Few understand what it takes to play. Even fewer actually take on playing the bigger game.

What does it mean to you to play a bigger game in your life? There’s no right or wrong answer here, because everyone is going to have a different definition of what playing a bigger game means to them.

For me playing a “bigger game” means challenging my beliefs, my ways of thinking, how I feel about myself, others, and the world at-large. It means challenging my decision-making criteria and processes, challenging the actions that I take. Challenging my ego and who I think I am, my sense of self and self-worth. Growing myself to be grounded emotionally and spiritually. Maintaining my physical senses and capacities (last time my personal trainer checked, I could leap onto a platform 48″ off the ground, from a standing start. Oh yeah, I’m 66″ tall). And taking on stimulating intellectual challenges. It means actively seeking opportunities to connect to and collaborate with other like-minded, like-hearted, and like-spirited individuals and groups. It means asking questions about where I choose to focus and invest my time and energy.

Playing a bigger game means crafting a bigger story about who I say I am, what I’m out to accomplish, and raising my energy and enthusiasm to meet life’s challenges that invariably come with playing a bigger game. It means being willing to continually reinvent myself and my approach to life.

When it comes to others, the people I resonate the most with are those who have big dreams for themselves and an even bigger vision for the world. For the entrepreneurs I work with, their dreams aren’t just about themselves at all; they are about making a meaningful, lasting difference for others, for organizations, and the planet, fueled by the success of their business. And of course, they want to produce more profit, with less stress and effort, and have more time and energy to contribute in ways above and beyond their business. Ultimate freedom!

In the spirit of playing a bigger game, I’ve written out top priorities for what I intend to contribute to the world. Some of these things are big deals, at least for me. I mean, they are really, really important to me and it’s become more clear to me how important they are. Important not as a “someday, one day” dream, but important in that I can feel more energy focused in these areas and they are coming closer into view.

The closest thing I can relate this to is when I was playing tennis tournaments. I remember being behind in certain matches and then having an inner knowing that I was coming back to win. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But most times I did. I feel that now.

  • Overall, the biggest thing I want to influence, beyond raising our sons to be blended people, is to alter the prevailing approach to education. I think I went through 27 years of formal education and training so I could gain a perspective on how poorly we teach, educate, and train young people and adults.These days, too many parents are preparing their children for a “race to nowhere.” (Yes, I’d like to see that movie). Do you really need to be concerned about your kid getting into an Ivy League school when they’re only 4 years-old? I mean, there’s a woman in Manhattan who is suing the day-care she has her 4-year-old in because they aren’t teaching her things that will prep her for an Ivy League university. No kidding! (I graduated from an Ivy League school, Brown University, and I promise you, my parents did NOT put me in an “Ivy-League prep preschool.”)
  • I’d write books that blend business with personal growth, transformation, and spirituality.
  • I’d provide more financial support for my wife’s parents, above what we’re doing now.
  • I’d make sure that the “Narada Fund” for scholarships to Living Wisdom School-Seattle is well-endowed (Narada was our close friend who passed away a earlier this year).
  • I’d set up a building fund to support Living Wisdom School-Seattle to purchase its own land with buildings and/or construct its own facilities.
  • I’d figure out how to support the growth of the Education for Life philosophy throughout the world. I’d also investigate how I could support other existing Living Wisdom Schools in Portland, Palo Alto and Nevada City. And maybe help to start one in Italy, just outside of Rome.
  • I’d investigate funding movies that have a spiritual message. There are people who already do that, funding Hollywood-caliber productions. I once took a class from Stephen Simon, the producer of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Somewhere In Time; he went on to create the Spiritual Cinema Circle.
  • For my brother and sisters, they are well-off, so money isn’t an issue for them, but I’d still take them on a cruise or something like that. The challenging part is that my “family of origin” dynamics are such that “little brother” doesn’t usually take care of the protective, older siblings.
  • I might consider participating in medical missions, but I’m not sure.
  • For myself, I think I’d play more tennis. I don’t need more “things”, but the only “gadget or gizmo” I’d really want to get for myself is a super high-end Bose sound system for my computer. (Sure I could buy one now, but in light of all the other things I’m going for, it’s just not a burning, top-of-mind priority; the others above it are more meaningful to me). Other than that, I don’t personally need much more. I’m more interested in simplicity.
  • There are plenty of things I’d do with and for my wife and kids, but they don’t really need a whole lot more of “things” either. I’m sure there are more things I could add to this list, but that works for me, for starters.

How about you?

  • What does it mean to you to play a bigger game?
  • What’s your practical approach to playing a bigger game?
  • What stops you from playing a bigger game?

I invite you to share your thoughts and comments below, so we can learn from each other as we expand our concepts about what it means and how to play a bigger game than we’ve ever played before. The future of our world is counting on us to play at that level.

Boosting Business Productivity – Scheduled Relaxation

Boosting Business Productivity – Scheduled Relaxation

When things aren’t going as well as you’d like in your business, chances are that your natural inclination is to “try harder,” as in work harder and work longer hours.

Otherwise known as the “brute force” approach to success, the problem is that this approach doesn’t typically work. The only guarantee with this approach is that you’ll end up working harder and longer hours. But it doesn’t guarantee success, no matter how you define success.

When one “tries harder,” the predictable outcome is tension – inner tension of the mind and body and outer tension in how your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes get expressed in your daily life. No freedom here.

I’ve found that principles of success in sports apply equally well to the world of entrepreneurship. One of my friends, David Ranney ( writes in his book, Tennis: Play the Mental Game: “Although trying harder may seem to work in the short term, you will find that when the match gets tight or when it comes time to win, your game may break down.

If “grinding it out” and working harder isn’t likely to win the day for you, what’s the alternative?

…Relax. Really.

Relaxation means different things to different people. It may be meditation. Reading a good book. Going for a run. Maybe singing or playing a musical instrument. Or, if you’re me: hitting tennis balls.

Diverting your attention away from your private mountain of projects and tasks gives you a valuable opportunity to see solutions and opportunities from a different and unique perspective.

Most people don’t realize that Dr. Albert Einstein was an accomplished violinist. In fact, he attributes his experience with musical improvisation as contributing to some of his greatest insights.

Whatever you do, it’s vital to schedule regular, consistent times away from work. Of course this makes good common sense, but common sense isn’t commonly practiced!

To avoid the “I know this already” trap, I recommend that you schedule times for relaxation, “scheduled relaxation.” Go ahead, do it right now.

Put in your schedule the times for you to practice singing or playing an instrument, times for running or working out. And if you really want to stay on track, get a relaxation accountability partner, that is, someone who will help you make sure you both take regular relaxation time throughout the week.

Fear Management for Entrepreneurs

Fear Management for Entrepreneurs

One of my dedicated readers, Dave, has graciously and generously expressed his fears and concerns about taking the leap toward setting up his coaching/consulting practice.

In a comment on my post about “The Gift of Forgiveness,” Dave wrote that he’s “still struggling to break through what sometimes feels like a Saran wrap of low self-confidence and reach out to prospective clients with what I have to offer them.”

Well, Dave is not alone.

Below is how I replied to Dave; see if you see yourself in Dave…

Dave, while we could spend the rest of this lifetime (and the next several!) analyzing and dissecting the root of those fears and concerns, the fact is, it’s all made up. Not that whatever is stopping you isn’t real or valid. It’s just that as human beings, we’re constantly in search of meaning. You might say that we’re “meaning making machines.”

Something or things occurred in your life. Based on your level of maturity, mood, environment, and self-awareness, you then interpreted those events a certain way and assigned a meaning to it (i.e., “not good enough,” “not smart enough,” “not skilled enough,” “not accomplished enough,”“ not whatever enough”, and so on). Conversely, you could have assigned more constructive meanings to those events, like “I’m really great,” “I’m super-competent,” “I am bright,” “I am capable,” etc. But if that were the case, we would be having a different dialogue!)

In essence, you made up a story about what that event meant. And you and the people in your life continue to perpetuate that story.

The beauty is that, as long as you are breathing and your heart is pumping, you get to make up a new story about what those events mean and about who you are, at any time along the way.

Great in concept, but the really payoff comes from working this out in real life. I’d suggest you lay out a “life plan,’ a vision for your life and your self-defined purpose for being alive. Based on this “life plan,” you then write out a game plan for moving forward. You don’t need to know all the steps and answers about the “how-to” right now. For now, trust that the people, places, things, knowledge, and fortuitous happenstances will come when the time is right.

Start telling a different story about who you are, what you stand for, and the value you offer as a citizen of the planet. I’ve always said, “If you want to play a bigger game, you need to tell a bigger story.” As your story expands, your limiting beliefs, thoughts, and feelings will fall by the wayside, as a natural consequence of you owning your value and worth, along with your generosity and willingness to share that with others and the planet.

All this talk is great, but you do need to take proactive steps moving forward. Take small steps. Gain small victories over your limiting beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about who you are. Then build on those small victories.

In the absence of a written plan of strategy AND action, you’ll predictably get stuck, mire in the mud of self-doubt, self-criticism, and perpetual frustration. And that serves no one.

Be courageous. Be willing to shine your brilliance upon the world, even if it’s a small corner!

Except for the masters and avatars who have and do grace our planet, the rest of us have a “Dave” inside us that pops up from time to time. When “Dave” shows up, it can be a confusing and paralyzing experience and yet, it’s also an opportunity to grow and expand ourselves, beyond where we are today.

Just remember, that when Fear comes knocking on your door, send Courage to answer it. And allow Courage to embrace the Fear. If you are willing to take this on, you’re bound to experience expanding degrees of freedom, power, and fulfillment.

The Gift of Forgiveness

The Gift of Forgiveness

If you’ve ever found yourself verbally, mentally, or emotionally berating yourself or berating someone else, I have a story for you that will help you to snap out of it, so you can go on being the best that you can be and living a life of freedom, fulfillment, and joy.

Over twenty years ago, when I was in General Surgery training, one of my service rotations was covering the busy Emergency Room of inner city hospital. We used to joke that we were right in the middle of the “gun and knife club.”

During this rotation, I was “on-call” every other day, which theoretically meant that I was awake and on-duty for 24 hours straight, then I supposedly had the next days off. In reality, it was more like being awake for 36 hours straight, crashing right to sleep, then waking up to start all over again. Functioning like this for three months was a physically, mentally, and emotionally intense and demanding time of my life.

One night, the paramedics brought in a young, otherwise healthy male, who had been stabbed in the chest, apparently while standing on a street corner. I don’t know any other details, such as whether he was an innocent bystander or involved in some sort of altercation or drug deal gone bad.

As the paramedics rolled him in on a gurney, the nurses hooked him up to monitors, so we could monitor his vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. We started cutting his clothes away, which is standard procedure when a trauma victim is brought in, so we could determine where his injuries were. Suddenly he “flatlined,” which meant that all the readings on the monitors went flat: his heart had stopped beating,  he had no blood pressure, and he stopped breathing.

Anytime there’s a penetrating chest injury, “flatlining” is an indicator that the heart has lost its ability to contract and pump blood. There’s a sac around the heart called the pericardium.  If there’s a penetrating injury like a bullet or knife wound, blood can leak out from the heart and into the pericardial sac. If too much blood leaks into this sac, the heart cannot fill with blood and then pump it out. It’s a showstopper.

When a trauma patient suddenly loses all vital signs, what we have to do is to perform a procedure called “cracking the chest”. This means that we literally cut through the chest to get to the heart, then open up the pericardial sac to relieve the tension, allowing the heart to start beating again.

And when I saw the flatline, I called for a scalpel, then immediately started opening his chest. And then something that never should happen happened: One of my junior residents took the scalpel out of my hand while I was cutting, the equivalent of surgical sacrilege. I was so taken aback that this happened, that I just let him continue opening the chest wall. I wasn’t willing to let my ego or rank get in the way of saving this man’s life.

So I switched my mindset to supervising the procedure, but I was still mentally thrown off. Once the incision in the chest wall skin and muscle was made and rib spreaders were inserted, we could see that indeed, the pericardial sac was tense will blood. So the next step is to take a pair of scissors and cut through the pericardium, to release envelope of blood that prevented the heart from filling and pumping. My junior resident opened the sac with scissors, just like cutting wrapping paper.

Immediately, the heart started pumping again, spewing a fountain of blood through the knife wound. To complicate matters, the patient also immediately regained consciousness as blood flow returned to his brain. So image this: His chest is spread wide open, his heart is gushing blood with each heart beat, and he’s trying to sit up, struggling and flailing about. And everyone on the trauma team is yelling at him to lie still! Yeah right! Got the visual here?!?

In this situation, what is needed now is an inexpensive medical device called a “Foley catheter”. A Foley catheter is a rubber tube that normally goes into the bladder. It has a balloon at the end, so it stays inside the bladder and collects urine. So the proper maneuver at this point is to take the Foley catheter and insert it into the knife wound and then inflate the balloon at the end of the catheter. This temporarily stops the blood from gushing out of the heart and buys you enough time to put sutures around the laceration, stop the geyser of blood. Simple enough. But for whatever reason – maybe it was my fatigue and/or the shock of my junior resident taking over this procedure – I didn’t perform this maneuver. Within a minute or two, the patient lost consciousness again, this time because most of his entire blood volume was now on the floor of the emergency room. I instructed the nurses to pumps resuscitation fluids into his body as I performed open cardiac massage – I placed his heart between my gloved hands and pumped the heart.

Lacking anything else to do, we started literally rolling the gurney to the operating room, as I continued cardiac massage. We took a shortcut to the OR, rather than taking the regular exit out of the emergency room. We rolled right through the waiting room that was jammed packed with patients and families of all ages. Can you imagine their shock and horror of seeing this bloody, wide-open chest, with me holding his heart in my hands, desperately pumping it?

But at this point, it was already too late to save his life; that opportunity had already been lost moments ago.

So for many, many years, probably for over a decade, I felt guilty about that incident. I felt guilty that I didn’t save this patient’s life. I felt guilty that I knew what to do, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t execute on my training.  And with the thought of “I didn’t say this patient’s life,” what naturally came as a thought after that was: “I must be a loser;” “I must not be very good doctor;” “I am incompetent,” “I am not worthy,” “I just wasn’t good enough and will never be good enough.”  And you can imagine the cascade of that “gremlin voice” that only serves to keep me small.

One day I was driving down the freeway on the way to my office when I was practicing as a plastic surgery and I was thinking about this. Wishfully, I was thinking, “Why can’t 100% of my surgeries go well? If I was a good enough surgeon, then it should always go well. Why is it that I see these guys present at the plastic surgery meetings and it seems like they all go well; they never have any complications, their patients are always happy, and they never get sued. Why is that? I must be a loser.

Then I realized, it’s none of that. I realized in that moment, that perfection is my life as it is this very moment. And, excellence is the process of fulfilling my commitments.

And I realized that I did my best given who I was and given the circumstances with that patient came in and when that patient died. And I also realized that in doing the best I could do, that that patient also had a role in his death. It may have been an innocent death, I don’t know. He may have been up to “no good; ” I don’t know.

But the point is, I discounted the role of this patient’s responsibility in being where ever he was when he was stabbed. And whatever he may have done or said that contributed to him getting stabbed. And I didn’t understand the role of responsibility, personal responsibility, and the role of living out one’s karma. I just focused on myself in a very subversive, egotistical way. But once I realized that I did the best I could under the circumstances. And that I am committed to excellence, and that there is something for all of us to learn and grow from, even when things don’t go well, as well as intended, I was able to forgive myself. And it gave me a tremendous degree of freedom.

I never used to tell anyone about this event, about what happened. I felt too guilty, I felt too ashamed.

So in forgiving one’s self, there is freedom. There’s the freedom to create beyond your wildest dreams and imagination. So in forgiving yourself for the beliefs, the thoughts and feelings and actions that you have taken and that you’ve held, there is also the flipside, which is forgiving yourself for the beliefs that you’ve not had, the thoughts you’ve not thought, the feelings you’ve not felt, and for the actions that you have not taken, that have either held you back, held others back, or hurt you or others.

Forgiving yourself is an area not commonly thought of when it comes to enhancing performance and productivity. You don’t usually wake up and say to yourself: “Today is December 2nd; I’m going to forgive myself today!”

I assert that if you are willing to take on forgiving yourself, it will open up a world of relating to yourself, to others, and to the world at-large that gives you greater abilities to make the impact, make the contribution that you are committed to. It will give you the ability to make all the money that you envision for yourself. It will give you a greater framework for the healthy, for being well, and all the other important aspects of being human. It will open up the possibility of possibilities in your life.

This is easier to talk about than to actually do. And in my personal experience, I’ve found that if you can practice, the more you practice forgiving yourself, the easier it becomes. And then, the easier it becomes to forgive others.