As I was winnowing down my in-box, I came across an article sent to me a about the importance of being enthusiastic about what you do. It’s all about how tech companies with genuine enthusiasm excel not only at motivating their customers to buy, buy, buy, but also at inspiring their workers to make great products.

I’ve found the same thing with most of my clients, no matter what industry they are in and no matter what position they hold. (I’ll change some of the details here to protect everyone’s confidentiality.) A partner in a business helping companies get the energy they needed at reasonable prices clearly found what he did to be more than a paycheck. Yes, he liked being an owner, but he also liked the ins and outs of his work week. He passed that on to his employees, and, once he got a few sticking points ironed out, his revenues just kept going up. client was just barely able to pay attention to his law practice, and it was languishing despite the long hours he spent in the office. But get him talking about his new business and he caught fire. It was clear that he needed to transition from law to the new business, but he couldn’t just give up his practice. It was paying his mortgage! Instead, we had him stop taking every legal issues that walked in the door, focusing his practice on the kind of work he could do easily and lucratively. This freed up time for him to build up the new business he loved.

Then there was the client who was making great money doing software coding. She had all the material things she wanted, and her family and friends were very impressed with her success. Yet she was stressed out and finding it harder and harder to get herself to even sit down at her computer. It was getting so bad that she was starting to blow deadlines. It turned out that this wasn’t a question of just getting better organized; she had an artistic side that she was ignoring. She saw the writing on the wall — if she kept coding, sooner or later she would be out of a job. Once she realized that she couldn’t keep coding forever, she decided she might as well be proactive, make plans to get into a new field, save as much money as she could in the meantime, and make the transition as smoothly as possible. She applied to and was accepted by a graduate school, held a few garage sales, sold her house, and moved. I heard back from her three years later. She was working in her new field, and, while new problems had cropped up, they didn’t seem so insurmountable. She was doing something she loved so it was worth fixing them.

Another woman called me up wondering if she needed to make a radical career change. She was exhausted and found herself dreading Mondays. Yet she swore up and down that she loved what her company did and really enjoyed contributing to that. But she was working late into the evenings and weekends, thinking about work when she wasn’t there, and constantly worrying about whether or not her people were doing their jobs. First, I made her do something she hadn’t done in three years: take a vacation (a critical piece of stress reduction). When she got back, we got to work. What we discovered was that it wasn’t the job that was causing her so much stress, it was her approach to it. She was trying to do everyone’s job for them instead of managing them while they did their own work. She was constantly on call to answer every question, no matter how trivial. And all this wasn’t leaving her the time or energy she needed to focus on strategy, a big part of her job description and what she most enjoyed about her work. Once we set up some rules — like no phone calls from work on evenings or weekends unless it was a true emergency and asking employees what they were going to do about a problem rather than automatically taking it on herself — and spent some time practicing sticking to those rule, she was able to find her passion for this job again and make the most of it, for herself and for her company.

What I’ve seen over and over with clients like these is that to really succeed at their job, profession, or business, they have to find their passion for it. Sometimes this means clearing away what has been keeping them from doing what they love. Sometimes it means making a plan and following it to transition out of work they find deadening and into work that inspires them. Trying to stay in a job that doesn’t hold any excitement or satisfaction (other than money) is bound to lead to stress and unhappiness.

Oh, and if you’re curious, check out the article on enthusiasm in the tech world. Be sure to watch the short Apple video at the end. Laughter is also a good stress reliever.

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