What Steve Jobs Taught Us About The Power of Following Your Passion

My daughter lives upstairs and last Wednesday night I heard her running down stairs. When she poked her head in my office, she said “Steve Jobs just died.”

At that moment I wanted to say in slow motion, noooooo!!!! I got up and we went into our TV room and turned to CNBC to watch the coverage. My wife came in and we kind of sat around misty eyed as if we knew him personally.

My daughter talked about all the cool products that his company created. I talked about his prowess as a business disrupter who followed his passion and changed the world. My wife wanted to know if he had family, if he was married, and whether he had kids.

Over the next few days these type reactions have played out in all forms of media.

Follow it no matter what

My discussion with my daughter was about the importance of following your passion. Whatever it may be,you need to follow it in some shape or design.

I know so many people who have followed their parents dream and are miserable –the legal family where everyone is a lawyer, and there is also the medical family  where everyone becomes doctors.

Life is tough enough as it is; try and imagine living your life and hating that you never gave your dream a try.

That is one reason why the workplace today is so dysfunctional.

Passion equals innovation

With innovation being the maxed out word in business today, the only way that innovation going to be achieved is through passionate people.

Passion is what makes your days fly by. You get more done. Your mood is always good, even at the end of the day.

More importantly, within the organization it has an affect on everyone — a real, positive, and calming affect. Your team believes in you. They trust and support you.

More importantly, passion produces innovation.

Imagine for a second that Jobs had run his company as a run of the mill CEO, coming to work and managing the numbers, playing it safe. That would have meant that there would be no disrupters such as going into the music business with the Ipod. That would have also meant no movement into the phone business which is surely not a transition from the computer hardware business. That would have also meant no cool aesthetic designs on all the Apple products.

Every time I get the opportunity to speak to college student or graduates, my message never changes: Manage your career for you. Find that passion. Never lose sight of it.

Either now or never

I have always thought that passion came in two flavors: Young passion and old passion.

Growing up and leaving college, we wistfully think of what life will be like. We look forward to getting on with it. I say this works until life happens. That is when reality sets in. But it should not be just about that. While the destination should remain the same, the route may change.

The older version is a version of the dream on hold, waiting until the kids get out of college, you’re more financially secure, etc. But the problem is that the dream deferred can have devastating consequences if major changes in life occur.

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A new sheriff in town

Because of the uncertainty and joblessness of new college graduates and the current workforce, the mindset has changed. This will have severe shock, distress, and consequence for the future workforce. While there will always be those dreaming of working in marketing and finance and even HR, believe me that the trust equation with these workers will not be as strong as in the past.

Their passion will have to be managed and nutured. Career management will have to be remodeled and will have to take on real meaning.

Career management will have to encompass the life cycle, enabling these workers to achieve their career goals. It will not happen as the result of a singular event such as a class or conference. It will be a continuing process that will need to be adapted to the changing demands of this economy.

So the lesson from Steve Jobs was that he showed that you can have a big failure but you can also bounce back. You can have passion, and you can make your dream come alive.

One of my favorite songs was written and sung by John Lennon and it covers both of their lives — Lennon and Jobs. They were both dreamers.

You may say that I’m a dreamer.

But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us.

And the world will be as one.

May we all hold onto our dream.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


1 Comment on “What Steve Jobs Taught Us About The Power of Following Your Passion

  1. Like Steve, preachers are allowed to be passionate and vocal.  You own the place so your passion is the rule.  Many would say they lost their careers being as passionate.  If you will be passionate “like Steve” remember it might only apply to your dreams away from the job.

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