I’m baaaack. Well, sort of. After my deflating half-marathon experience a few weeks ago when I didn’t meet my time goal (cue voice in my head: perseverance and tenacity, perseverance and tenacity, that’s what counts, perseverance and tenacity… it has to sink in soon), hitting the pavement for my daily run has involved Herculean mental effort.

I’ve tried all my usual tricks. I even bought new shoes. Each day, though, it just came back to gutting it out.

When my son suggested a couple of weeks ago that we run a 5K together, I only half-heartedly agreed. We checked the local race calendar and picked one that seemed convenient, but I had a hunch his resolve might fizzle as the day approached. To my surprise, it didn’t.

And so, on the hottest day of the year (so far) on a course that featured one hill after another, we ran. I ran to recapture something I had lost, and he ran to prove that he could. Gloriously, drenched with sweat and heaving, we did it. We both found what we were looking for.

We ran our hearts out and finished strong. My time and my finishing place were much better than I had anticipated. Better still, Jake finished only two places behind me. In another couple of races, I fully expect him to pass me–to both of our delight.

In any case, yesterday’s accomplishment already makes the thought of my next run seem less daunting. All it takes is a little success to rekindle the motivation. The tough part is sticking with your plan until you find it.

On a mission

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the importance of bringing passion to your job. It’s easy to buy into that theory when the job involves fun stuff like planning a Super Bowl or marketing Apple products or creating ad campaigns. But what about when the job involves selling hearing aids or running a security company or teaching French to semi-interested adults who refuse to do homework? What about running a sanitation crew or fixing potholes or troubleshooting pumps? What about hauling grain or changing bedpans or working on a factory floor? I maintain that passion is essential no matter where you work or what you do. I’ve seen the difference firsthand.

Here’s a case in point. I once attended a sales meeting for a company that makes and sells products that most people wouldn’t consider very exciting. In fact, the average Joe probably doesn’t think about these products at all; they just hum along in the background, taken for granted by everyone.

I didn’t expect to get much from the meeting other than some face time with colleagues I don’t see often. It didn’t take long, however, for me to really tune in during the product presentations. Despite the not-so-glamorous profile of hanging hardware and flexible piping, I found my attention drawn to the front of the room. It wasn’t because of eye-catching graphics on the projection screen; it was the passion in the presenter’s voice that drew me there. It wasn’t just one presenter, either. Each person who stood behind the podium clearly believed in what he did and was eager to share his enthusiasm.

That made all the difference.

I left that conference refreshed. It’s exciting to work with people who are excited about what they do. I want to jump in and be part of it, and when I do a good job with my portion, I know it will be appreciated. That makes me eager to do more; success breeds success breeds success.

I’ve been involved with the flip side, too. When people view their jobs as tedious and boring, assignments become tasks, things to check off a to-do list, one more thing to get done before going home for the day. When effort goes unappreciated and is taken for granted, the incentive to go above and beyond disappears. In the end, a lackluster attitude brings lackluster results.

When you’re passionate about what you do, your job become a mission–and it rubs off. So what if you have a dirty job or a boring product? I’ll bet there’s more to it than that. Consider the examples I offered earlier from a different perspective:

  • The person selling hearing aids is allowing people to hear the voices of the people they love.
  • The person running a security company is helping to provide peace of mind and to keep people safe.
  • The person teaching French is sharing part of another culture.
  • The person hauling grain is helping to feed people and animals.
  • The person changing bedpans is bringing compassion to a sick person, as well as helping to control the spread of germs and bacteria, maintaining sanitary conditions so others don’t get sick.
  • The person troubleshooting pumps is making sure people don’t run out of water to drink.

It’s a lot easier to become passionate about your job–to transform it into a mission–when you take a long view of what you do. Look at the big picture and get excited. After all, you’re on a mission.