Insights and Opinions

Finding Your Passion

What really turns you on? Think about it … what would cause you to jump out of bed every morning with a fire in your belly instead of dreading that train ride into “work?” What would you do if you could do anything in the world? Now, get ready for this question: Why aren’t you doing it?

You can always come up with hundreds of reasons for not doing something. I challenge you to focus on the reasons you can do it. Lay out a plan (planning will be the topic of one of my next columns in the coming weeks) that will enable you to get to a place where you can have passion for living. That should be your ultimate goal!

I speak to thousands of people from all walks of life. And I’ve asked them how they would know what they were passionate about, and there are always these common answers:

  • It is something I would do if I had $10 million!
  • It is something that I would not think of as work!
  • It is that thing I’m doing when I lose track of time!

    Your attitude is contagious. It infects those people around you in both your personal and business life. If you’re upbeat, excited and energized about a project that message will come through loud and clear. Whether it is your co-workers, boss, friends or family, they will pick up on your passion. If you’re unsure, slow and not really into it that will be the message people get. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re much more likely to succeed at whatever you’re doing.

    What is success? Well, I urge you to figure it out for yourself and don’t let others define it for you. A lot of people allow others to set their goals for them. Do not let someone else define success for you. If you want to be a high school basketball coach and know that is something you’ll be passionate about, then go for it. If you really do want to be a real estate mogul and think that will make you happy, that should be your objective. However, your ideal job should drive you and keep you excited. Not because your mom or dad or neighbors think it is “success.” Remember, you’re the one that has to live your life — nobody else.

    I am an entrepreneur at heart and love starting and growing companies. Throughout my career, I’ve only been able to help grow and develop one or two companies at a time as an operator. It has been incredibly rewarding. However, with my new Venture Capital Fund — Angel-Led Venture Partners — that I’m creating, I should be able to assist 35 to 40 companies over the next three to four years. Talk about exciting!

    During my last year working with Donald Trump, a class of middle school students visited Trump Tower on a field trip and Donald agreed to come down and meet with them and asked me to come down as well. They asked us all sorts of questions, but one that I remember very well was, “Donald, what would you do for work if you didn’t do real estate?” And Donald answered, “I don’t consider what I do to be work. I love putting together deals and building buildings!” What a great answer! Can you say that about what you do? Donald only sleeps a few hours every night and doesn’t drink, smoke, or gamble. He loves his work. It is his passion.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a realist and understand that there are going to be times in our careers and life when we don’t get to do everything we want. It may feel like a “dead-end” job or you may see the writing on the wall and understand that you just don’t want to be a part of your current company anymore. What do you do? I recommend you take advantage of that situation to create better opportunities for your future. Do not sit around and mope. Do not have a bad attitude. Take that opportunity to teach yourself some new skills. Network, network, network. Even if it is something simple like learning Excel and Power Point or attending trade association meetings in your desired industry. Once you’ve figured out your long-term plan, it will be easy to determine what activities will help you the most in the future. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Develop your plan based on living a passionate life and start executing it. Before you know it, you’ll be living that passionate life.

    I’d LOVE your thoughts on PASSION and how it has impacted your career and how you’ve seen great (or HORRIBLE) leaders implement (or not!) this leadership principle! Please let me know!

    Kelly is a managing director of Angel Venture Partners ( ) where he and his partner are raising $100M to co-invest with the leading angel groups across the country in early-stage ventures. Prior to the venture capital fund, Kelly's entrepreneurial skills and strategic thinking abilities were put to the test on the highly acclaimed NBC show, "The Apprentice" where he won the second season. Kelly also served as a military intelligence officer in the US Army and successfully completed both Airborne and Ranger training. He holds a BS degree from the United States Military Academy, West Point, and earned his MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA and his JD from the UCLA School of Law. He donates his time as a celebrity spokesperson for Big Brothers/Sisters (">">, The National Guard Youth Challenge Program ( ) and was appointed by George W. Bush in 2006 to the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.