Why passion is overrated and what matters instead

Updated to Habits on January 3, 2023.

Guilty as charged!

I’ve be known to promote the “P” word. You know, “passion” – as in – if you want something you have to be passionate about it.


That’s like me telling my daughters if they want good grades they need to be passionate about Math 302. Trust me, that’s a non-starter.

In this post I’m proposing that your long-term success is not simply a result of inspiration, passion, purpose, gratitude journals, or lining your desk up to face due North.

Of course, dear reader, you can count on me to impart unsolicited advice about what really does work.

Boring is Gold

We all know Warren Buffett doesn’t wake up worrying where his next meal will come from. The “Oracle of Omaha” is not just rich – with a net worth estimated at $67B, Buffett has more shekels than the GDP of at least 15 countries, including: Costa Rica, Kenya, Uruguay, and Luxembourg.

What most people don’t know is how boring he is.

Okay, that’s not fair – but you’ve got to admit he lives an understated life. You rarely see him in the news, he was married to the same woman for 52 years (which, based on my 24 years enrolled in that institution, certainly does not have to be boring), he lives in Omaha (nice place, but not exactly San Francisco or New York), heck he even lives in the same home he bought in 1958 for $31,500.

Even his investment advice is boring and droll, like this Dr. Seuss-worthy gem: “I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions, than most people in business.”

Can you imagine being the guy who reportedly paid $2.35 million to lunch with the Berkshire Holdings CEO, and the only note he scribbled down between the beef bourguignon and chocolate torte was “read more, think more”?

Before you call me out for throwing pebbles at the big guy, there’s one quality about Buffett I’ve always admired – he does the work.

You see, passion is an asset and feeling inspired certainly helps, but there’s days when those juices ain’t flowing – those are the day you just have to do the work.

Do the Work

I could go on with more examples like: Napoleon Hill, Maya Angelou, Stephen Covey, J.K. Rowling (by the way, her Robert Galbraith novels are page burners), or Wayne Dyer. All highly influential and successful—all did the work.

Here’s a test for you. I want you to honestly answer these two following questions:

1) What single activity creates the most value in your work? For example: sales calls, following-up on leads, writing new material, coaching staff, promoting seminars, selling books, or networking.

Great, whatever it is, write it down. Now, here comes the clincher:

2) What percent of your day do you spend on #1?

Now, be honest (and don’t skip ahead hoping for a “Pass Go” card.) Look at your last day working – what percent of an eight hour day did you spend on #1? If you’re stuck on the math, here’s simple formula: 30 minutes is 6%, 1 hour is 12%, 90 minutes is 18%, 2 hours is 24%, etc.

I get the best results growing my speaking income by:

1) publishing and promoting original long-form content (webinars, blog, video, podcast) and,

2) following up on sales leads.

That’s it—two activities that generate most of my results and revenue. Everything else is nice but not generating income.

What about you? If you did the exercise and your answer was less than, say 25%, does that cut it? In other words, if you keep going down this path will you ever reach your goals?

So, what’s getting in the way of you investing everyday in your growth? Sure, stuff comes up, but those should be the exceptions, not the rule.

If your TYPICAL day is crammed with interruptions, distractions, rabbit holes (technical name for wasting time learning something you don’t need to know to do something you don’t need to do), making lists, and updating your FB status, well, you don’t need me to hold up a mirror.

What you need is to adopt the Universal Solution to Success.

The Universal Solution to Success

Yes, my friend, if you want this year to result in dramatically better results you need to do the work. And the best way I know how to do that is by following this universal solution (I’m hoping the word ‘universal’ makes you want to pucker up and kiss your old habits goodbye):

  1. annual goals: personal, profit, people, purpose, passions.

which lead to…

  1. weekly goals (see my Flight Plan model)

which lead to…

  1. systems for: planning, note keeping (see my post on Evernote), writing, networking, filing, bookkeeping, and any other routine you might procrastinate about.

which lead to…

  1. habits for: being honest, listening, sleep, exercise, keeping promises (like with yourself), dealing with conflict, turning work off, and any other behaviour that makes you show up just a bit more polished.

which leads to automatic success.

New Fangled, Syncopated, Broadband Nonsense

Yesterday I wasted an hour trying to use software I wasn’t familiar with to do something graphically I’m not good at for a task I don’t need. Been there?

It’s easy to get seduced by new fangled, syncopated, broadband nonsense, but I’ll bet my modem it won’t make you money.

Passion’s swell but doing the work puts money in the bank.

Now you can take that to the bank.