Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Finding Your Passion

Have you ever known someone who put their passion into their work, or better yet worked their passion?  I’d like to introduce you to my friend Kevin.  

Kevin and I have known each other for about 12 years now, meeting as we worked together in project management.  I was new to the department and to project management; Kevin became my training buddy.  I shadowed him on his primary accounts to learn the ropes in hopes that I would very quickly take on my own project.  During that training period, Kevin and I got to know each others background to some extent, but like most work relationships, we only shared bits of whom we were and where we came from.  As time went on our careers moved in different directions, but both of us would have similar events bringing us back together.

We both became victims of downsizing and left the organization where we originally met.  Within about a year, we met up again at another company with me, ironically, taking over the role Kevin had as he moved to another division.  I was a consultant and as my project ended, Kevin got caught in yet another downsizing.   We both left that company at about the same time.  

With both of us looking for our next career move, we connected and decided to form an organization on our own.  This organization was called Rise Above and with three others, we helped people who were downsized.  We put on free seminars providing hope along with practical skills around networking, writing resumes and interviewing.  As with any other training, we found that we learned as much by presenting as the audience learned from us; and I learned more about Kevin.

Over the next 9 months, Kevin shared more about his time in the Navy, his childhood years with his sister, mother and stepfather in Ohio, how he met his wife Beth and stories from his alma mater, the Ohio State Buckeyes hated rival of my Wisconsin Badgers.  What really became evident to me during that time was Kevin’s passion for helping others.  How he could make a career out of this inner need, we didn’t know yet. 
I’m a big fan of the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  We are not all ready to learn at the same time, but when we are ready, it is amazing how quickly our teacher shows up.  This proverb fit Kevin perfectly.  What Kevin didn’t know at the time was that the teacher he needed was he himself.  

As he continued to provide insight to others about how to understand their passion through stories of his own career, Kevin gradually realized that he also needed that advice.  One day he told the story of a meeting he had with one of his leaders.  The leader asked Kevin what he wanted to do with his career.  Kevin answered, “I want to help people.”  

“Well, you’re not helping people here in this role,” was the response to Kevin.  

As he told that story to the audience, it hit him and he looked at me and said, “We have to talk.”  We sat down for coffee and he relayed his newly discovered passion.  

“I’ve made a decision,” he said.  “I’m going back to school to become a nurse.”  

You can imagine my surprise.  My initial thoughts were mixed with excitement and joy for him along with a little bit of doubt.  After a 20-year career in the Navy and business world, this was a significant change.  Could Kevin really make that big of a shift as he entered his forties?  

Within a few weeks, Kevin had completed his research, enrolled in some foundational courses and gotten accepted in an accelerated program through Bellin College of Nursing.  Just two weeks ago, almost 2 full years from our meeting at the coffee shop, Kevin got the news that he passed his board exam.  

Kevin would describe himself as a fairly average guy.  He’s not a Bill Gates, Michael Jordan or Donald Trump, yet he has, in my opinion, made lifestyle changes as dramatic as they have.  Many don’t know their passion or haven’t taken the time to define it.  Most who do know, don’t take actions toward that passion. 
What makes Kevin so remarkable is that he took actions rather than finding the excuses.  He didn’t let his age, shift in career, long nights of study, lost income or any doubters tell him he couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t easy and he went through many struggles, but Kevin never wavered on his goal.  As he confronted obstacles, he pushed through, re-planned like a good project manager and kept taking the next action.  

I am proud to call him my friend and Registered Nurse.  Just imagine the impact he will have on others as he serves them.