How to Live a Balanced Life: Part FourMay 07, 2019
In the first three parts of this series, I talked about the importance of family, friends, adventure and continuous learning to a balanced life.
Now I would like to turn our attention to the one secret that not only helps ensure happiness but can also give you a greater chance of success at whatever you undertake. My secret: be passionate. Make life choices according to what you love or know you will fall in love with. That goes for every choice, be it career, hobby, or adventure.
The more you love doing something, the better at it you will be and, more importantly, the happier you will be. This may sound like such a simple rule, but you would be surprised how many people don’t give this idea enough thought. One of the biggest mistakes people make is how they choose their career. Many young people are pressured to choose money over love when making career decisions. Yes, it may seem like the easy route at first. The concept sounds simple enough: “Make a bunch of money fast and then you can enjoy the rest of your life.” But for many people, that decision ends up leading to a nothing but a bad career choice. It’s a trap that delivers no satisfaction and, in many situations, not even the money.
What if money was no object?
The late philosopher, Alan Watts said it best in a talk titled What If Money Was No Object? He starts by asking “What would you like to do?” and offers various suggestions: “Be a painter, writer, poet ... ride horses?” He then says, “You should do that! Forget the money. Because if you choose ‘making money,’ you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You will spend your life doing things you don’t like doing, to make money in order to go on living doing the things you don’t like doing, which is stupid.”
He then goes on to suggest that if you choose something you love doing, you will eventually get very good at it and someone will pay you money to do it. For many, this may sound idealistic and unrealistic. Perhaps. And maybe it was sheer luck, but my life story suggests that passion is integral to success.
My life has included a series of hobbies (which often turn into real businesses) and careers that feel like individual projects – each with a beginning, middle and end. I have fallen in love with each of these careers and have put my heart and soul into each one. I am like a hopeless romantic – always loving the idea of falling in love with something until its success is achieved, at which point I pack up and move on. In relationships, this behaviour would be considered flaky, but in careers and hobbies it feels like a never-ending adventure.
I loved building an investment bank that began as a tiny unsophisticated brokerage firm and evolved into a powerful investment boutique. That love affair lasted 16 years, with many ups and downs. I loved building that business and loved surrounding myself with eager like-minded associates. I cared less about the money than I did about building our size and reputation. But at the height of our success, I became bored. It felt like the building part was over and all anyone cared about was the money. I decided to retire from the industry at the age of 39.
Passion will pull you through difficult times
I loved building a film and TV studio because I have loved movies my entire life. It was the hardest thing I have ever taken on. We almost didn’t survive. But I knew we had something special in the types of films we were making and distributing. It is during the most difficult times that your passion will be the only thing standing between forging ahead or surrender. Eventually, I brought in the right management and they made it one of the biggest success stories in Hollywood history. But once again, as the business stabilized, I became distracted and moved on.
During my second retirement, I became passionate about economics. I spent a year educating myself and eventually developed the confidence to make a bold macro call on gold. I was evangelical in my efforts to convert institutional investors to my way of thinking. It wasn’t easy – and I was often ridiculed – but I believed and so I persevered. My passion became contagious, getting enough people excited that we ended up creating one of the greatest gold mining companies in the world.
And once again, just as it was reaching success, I moved on. I had no interest in playing an ongoing role as a board director. Instead, I wanted to build other resource companies from scratch and so I spent the next few years doing exactly that – quite successfully, I might add.
Then, I discovered the true love of my life, philanthropy. And she is a keeper. I love my philanthropic work with all my heart. It’s my life. I live and breathe it. I try to be the best at the initiatives we create or support. I enjoy being hands-on and I get real satisfaction spending time with the beneficiaries of our work, whether it’s mentoring boys or visiting refugees or talking to the farmers in our poverty alleviation work.
Although philanthropy is my life’s work, I still allow myself to fall in love with other things, from writing songs and articles to making the worlds’ best olive oil. I easily immerse myself in those things – often for days at a time.
I once gave a talk at the New York International Olive Oil competition on the subject of passion. I talked about why our oil quickly became one of the world’s best. I ended the talk with what I believe is the secret to success: Passion begets excellence, which in turn, begets success.
But most importantly, passion brings happiness to everything you do.