Passing or Passion?

Tony Robbins is one of the nation’s premier motivational speakers. On October 16th, 2000, Tony Robbins was in Atlanta speaking to a crowd of 14,000 people. I was in the front row. The rest of our staff was right behind me in the second row. Tony’s booming voice shook the floor and rattled the chairs. “I need a volunteer. Someone who has some enthusiasm and passion!! Let me see who has some passion and I’ll pick a volunteer!!”

I was among half of the audience on their feet, shouting and waving arms. For a moment, time seemed to slow and then stand still. I was aware of my own level of energy and then that of the people around me. We all pretty much looked the same, wildly jumping and waving. And then I realized that I was probably only at about 60% of what I was capable of.

Could this be a mirror of how passionate I am about my life in all of the other areas?

I continued to wave my arms and shout. I thought, “if most of us are only at 60%, who is going to stand out?” Tony was already pointing into the crowd away from where I was. My thoughts continued, “If I am only at 60%, who do I know that can go to 100% or beyond?”

He jumped about four feet into the air and wriggled like a giant fighting swordfish caught on a steel cable. “Pick ME! Pick ME! Pick ME!” Tony stopped and looked over with a look of surprise. He smiled and pointed just past me. Yep, that was the guy that Tony needed. 100% plus.

The guy behind me was my partner Vincent.
Vincent did a great job in front of 14,000 people. He had some fun and got an autographed leather bound journal signed by Tony Robbins. Inside the front cover was written, “Live life with PASSION! Tony Robbins.” If I had added forty percent to my performance, I could have been the one to go up on stage and win the prize. After all, I had the front row advantage!

So, what does 60% passion get you in the game of life? Second place to the quality you could have had? Safety in the crowd? Passable communication? Doing “OK?”

Why not have something better, something worth smiling about when the days of your life finally wind down? To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, “it’s better to really go for it in life and hazard the chance of succeeding brilliantly or even failing miserably, as opposed to being one of the cold gray souls who tried and got nothing special out of life.”

I’m often a slow starter in the mornings. The next morning I rolled out of bed and helped my five-year-old get dressed for school. My daughter put her hand on my shoulder “Daddy, I don’t want to go to school today. I want to stay home.” Without even thinking, I told her “Today is a school day. Your mom and I have to go to work, and you have to go to school.” That’s when I thought again about the 60%. And I looked up at her.

I realized at that moment that those times in my life when I have truly connected with people in a meaningful way were the times I was really tuned in to them and where they were coming from. Those were the times where I listened carefully and responded with a genuine part of myself. My best friendships and the best parts of my being a good husband and father also stemmed from that level of attention and caring. The best part of what I do as a communication coach also stems from that higher level of involvement and passion for communicating.

And today was starting out as a 60% day. The results would be second place fatherhood, safety with the fast pat answer, and passable communication. I stopped and looked into my daughter’s shining eyes and smiled. Sixty percent was just not good enough. “Of course you’d rather stay home. If we could all stay at home, we could swing in the yard and hike down to Rainbow Lake. I’d rather stay at home today, too. I have responsibilities at work, and today is also a school day. How about a hike down to the lake as soon as we get home tonight?”

We earn the benefit of good communication with every single interaction that we have with others. We have the opportunity to create passion with every thought. It’s easy to lapse into 60% thinking. In life, 60% is a passing grade. But passing is not passion.

Improving the quality of our lives and relationships is a function of going beyond passing to passion. Pay attention to the world around you, tune in and turn it up, and make a real difference for others and yourself!