"Creativity-by definition-comes from mixing things up." Tom Peters
Erik interviewed two of the Pursue the Passion road-trippers:
Two additional Pursue the Passion tour members did not take part in the interview, but we'd like to introduce them here:
Bios adapted from their website: PursuethePassion.com
tompeters.com asks ...
Tell me about Pursue the Passion.
BF: I founded Pursue the Passion when I had no idea what to do after college graduation. Four of us are taking a cross country road trip to interview professionals who love what they do for a living. We talk about where they were at our age and how they got to where they are today.
What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
BF: We hope to create a resource for other college students and people new to the workforce who are looking for career direction. They can look to these interviews for inspiration and guidance so that they can find jobs they'll be passionate about as well.
It seems you did a version of this last summer. Is this your second road trip?
BF: Last summer, three hours into the road trip, our RV broke down. We had originally planned to travel 10,000 miles around the country in this RV. Eighty miles into it, the thing was toast.
Who sold you that RV?
BF: Oh man. We found it on Craigslist and bought it with whatever money we could scrounge up. [Laughter]
So what did you do between the RV breakdown and the beginning of this summer?
BF: Zach and I worked for a year in corporate America as auditors. I know that look on your face; I know what you're going to say. It wasn't our passion. [Laughter]
I won't say it.
BF: It wasn't our passion. So that's why we're out here, actually, pursuing it now.
Okay. You have a better RV now, I take it?
BF: We have a better RV, largely due to our sponsors, Jobing.com. They provided the RV and all the gas. That's how we are able to cruise the country.
Were you influenced by Roadtrip Nation? How similar is what you're doing to what they did?
BF: We're very similar. We're all young guys cruising around in RVs, basically asking people for advice. I'd like to think that a lot of the people we're interviewing have never been interviewed in their life. We're interviewing ordinary, yet extraordinary, people. They range from a janitor to a public defender to a wedding photographer to the CEO of MGM Grand. We're trying to get the full perspective from a bunch of professionals in different types of industries, not just recognizable leaders.
Okay. So you're ostensibly discovering passion.
BF: We're trying to.
What have you learned about passion so far?
ZH: I think each of us has a slightly different answer to that question. I think people who have passion for their work find inspiration in it and that there's room for growth. People who really dislike their jobs have fallen into a place where they're no longer inspired by their work. There's no challenge, they don't know where they're going, there's no room for growth. I think a big reason why that's a problem in corporate America is that organizations utilize human capital as if they're machines or part of a machine. People don't like that. They want to be inspired. They want to try new things. They want some autonomy in their job. They want to be creative. They want to have some real ability to make decisions and to see their efforts materialize. Once their job becomes so myopic that they're doing the same thing over and over again, essentially they become just a cog in the machine, and they can no longer enjoy what they do. The personality and humanity is removed. Who we are as people is really all we've got. We want that to apply to what we do.
What about people who say they don't know what their passion is? Do you have any suggestions for them?
BF: Grab a pen and paper and look at what your interests are. That's where it starts. Go back to when you were a kid and think about what you enjoyed. Compare that to what you're doing now. No one finds it easily through a classified ad. Well, except for the killer whale trainer at Sea World we talked to. He got his start by finding a classified ad 30 years ago. Finding your passion starts with deciding to be passionate about what you do. In order to do that, you have to know yourself first.
ZH: And it's not necessarily about finding the one thing that we can be passionate about. I think each of us can be passionate about many things. It's knowing what you don't like and being in a position where you have enough faith in yourself to say, "I don't have to do what I don't like." There's plenty of opportunity out there, especially today, if you're willing to work, and you care enough to work hard. You should be doing something that you at least like and is good for you as a person and a professional.
What about the parental influence? You guys are still around the age of hearing your parents say, "I just want you to get a job."
BF: It's not going to happen. [Laughter] No, we've been fortunate that all of our parents are pretty supportive of this project. I think secretly they wish they could have done it as well when they were our age. For people that do have that parental influence, where they're paying the bills, it's hard to go against the grain. But a lot of the people that we've talked with have done exactly what they've wanted to do as opposed to what their teachers, parents, or friends are telling them. Like I said, it goes back to finding out who you are first, listening to yourself, and following what you believe in.
ZH: And it's about not having a job for the sake of having a job. Not everybody can afford to do what we're doing, just traveling around. If your parents are telling you to get a job because you need to have a job, then it makes sense to go out there and try something. But don't get a job for the sake of getting a job and then as soon as you get it, think, "Well, I have a job now. There's nowhere else to go from here. I guess I'm going to work here for the next 20 years." There are tons of jobs. If you need a job, get a job. But talk to people, put yourself out there. It's your world. Find something you care about and do that. Don't just fall into something because it's there.
BF: Penelope Trunk's parents basically disowned her when she pursued a professional volleyball career. She was the black sheep of the family. But now, 20 years down the road, she's the Brazen Careerist and her parents are raving about her. That just drives home the point that you've got to follow what you believe in because good things are going to happen.
How about lessons from the road? You're putting in a lot of miles in an RV. What have you learned about being on the road, in America?
ZH: Put your sweaty running clothes in a trash bag before you throw them in the hamper. They smell up the whole RV. [Laughter]
BF: Empty the septic tank before it's too late. And we've learned a lot about getting along with people. We're four guys in an RV, living so close that you could smack the guy next to you when you're sleeping. The important thing to realize is that no matter what you're doing, in any job, you're going to have to deal with people. If you can be successful in that, then you can take those skills anywhere. It's been an interesting dynamic to spend two months and 10,000 miles with three other guys.
ZH: You learn a lot about group dynamics. For one thing, when we do interviews and we're out traveling, we have a Pursue the Passion identity, and my own identity kind of gets muddled in with the other four guys because we're together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When one person's tired, another person picks up the slack. You learn a lot about how to work with people, how to tolerate their differences, embrace them, and use them. It's been really interesting. The four of us are very different but we have a pretty good dynamic going.
BF: Every single day there's a new lesson learned. We learn something from every person we talk to.
Who's the most interesting person you've met on the road?
BF: It's so tough to pinpoint the most interesting person.
ZH: My token answer has been, "The last person that we interviewed." Our interviews are generally pretty inspiring, so for the next few hours you just keep going over it in your head.
No specifics here? Well who was the last person you spoke with?
ZH: Well, I'm going to pick one, but he's anonymous.
ZH: Yeah, Mr. Anonymous.
Was he in the mafia? Something like that?
ZH: No, he was a former high security inmate turned warden. He's really high up in the chain for Alcoholics Anonymous. He does a lot of public speaking for them and is really involved in that organization. He was a very interesting guy. We went to a prison to see his presentation to the inmates. The inmates asked him questions. It was cool for us to be able to step back and listen instead of asking the questions. Usually when we're asking questions we're trying to ask them on behalf of students or young professionals. What do they need to know? What do they care about? In this case, we didn't have to guess what anyone would want to ask Mr. Anonymous, but we compared what we would've asked with what the prisoners actually asked.
BF: That was a crazy experience for us. None of us had ever been to a penitentiary or prison. We walked in and there were a hundred inmates in their prison blues. We took a seat next to them and listened to this guy give a message that is so dear to the inmates' hearts.
Would you like to mention any others?
BF: We interviewed Stephen Hopson in Akron, Ohio. He was born deaf and he's now a motivational speaker. He's a former Wall Street broker and the first deaf pilot to ever receive an instrument rating.
How can you do that?
BF: It's scary. He describes it as flying blind and deaf.
ZH: When you're in the clouds you can't see anything. He had to be tested to prove that his other senses were heightened to the point where he could tell what was going on with the plane. He'd have to look the other way and the tester would pull the throttle back to make the plane go faster or would make the plane dip. And the tester would ask, "What did we just do?" He'd have to say, "You increased air speed" or describe the dip.
He can't hear the radio. So when he's going to land, he has a contraption in the cockpit that the tower shoots with a laser. If it's clear for him to land, it pops up green and he lands, and if it's not, it pops up red.
BF: It hasn't popped up red, yet.
BF: The guy is inspirational.
Has he written a book?
BF: He's in the process of writing a book about a moment in fifth grade that basically turned his life around and gave him confidence. His teacher asked a question. He raised his hand for the first time in his whole life and he answered it perfectly. And she said, "That's right, Stephen." It was only three words but from then on, his confidence was through the roof. He achieved more than most of us will ever achieve in our lifetime.
So he'd been under the radar until he raised his hand? Well, of course, everyone probably thought he was stupid just because he couldn't hear.
BF: Exactly. He had a box the size of a brick on his stomach as a hearing aid that ran cords up to his ears. So he looked like—
ZH: Part man, part machine.
BF: Exactly. The bully that beat up every kid in the whole school cornered him one day and he said to the bully, "Stop, I got a bomb right here. And the whole school's going to blow up." [Laughter] So he skipped out on a beating because of the box.
What's the thing that you hear repeated the most when you talk to people?
ZH: Believe in yourself. Take risks. Don't be afraid to do something you care about when other people are telling you you shouldn't. We had one person tell us that you can usually tell if you have a good idea because other people will criticize it. The best ideas haven't been accomplished yet because they're not easy or people think they're impossible. So usually, if you come up with an idea and people are super hesitant or you get a lot of resistance, it's probably a good idea.
What a great organization.
ZH: It is. He's a really interesting guy, too.
My favorite quote from your e-book is: "You're only young and good looking for so long."
BF: That's from Samantha Harris, the Playboy Playmate. [Laughter] So that's exactly what we're doing—taking risks.
ZH: I heard a great saying that goes, "If you're not handsome by 20, you'll never be handsome. If you're not strong by 30, you'll never be strong. If you're not rich by 40, you'll never be rich. And if you're not wise by 50, you'll never be wise."
The tour wraps in mid-October. What then?
BF: What then? We go back to the drawing board. We have about 250 hours of video to go through from all of these interviews. And we have a few goals. One is a book, two is a documentary, and three is creating a resourceful website for young people and people that are looking for some kind of career direction. None of them are easy things to accomplish. We're going to be taking about three months to focus all of our time and energy to get them off the ground.
You're funded for this period of time?
ZH: We're funded for this period of time currently. The period of time we're talking about in the future is up in the air.
BF: We might have to work a little part time job and do this when we can make time for it. But I saved up during that year in corporate America so I could go out and do something like this for a few months and at least pay the rent.
Good luck with the project. Thanks guys.
BF: Our pleasure.
E-book: Timeless Advice for the Aspiring Individual [PDF]
Email: brett (at) - pursuethepassion.com
zach (at) - pursuethepassion.com
james (at) - pursuethepassion.com
noah (at) - pursuethepassion.com