“I want you here full-time,” he said. Bent on finishing college, I said “I’m not ready to enter the work force yet.”
He sat up straight, wheeled his chair closer, and asked “Do you really think that what you do here is ‘work’?”
Yes I did. What else could it be called? He was the millionaire boss, I was the college intern, and I worked for him. That was our summer arrangement: Paid staff showed me the ropes from nine to five each weekday, I contributed when I knew how to, and for my time I would receive four credits toward my bachelor’s degree. More importantly, I received three months of experience. Wasn’t this supposed to be work? Was I missing something?
Apparently I was, and he knew it. He started to elaborate:
“I don’t ‘work’ here,” he said. “I play here.”
I could tell he was being honest. He spoke with a blend of excitement and pride that was too sincere to be faked. He explained how his staff members felt the same way, saying “I don’t hire people who don’t love this industry.”
In other words, he and his staff believed that work should be play. Using this single concept, he turned his love for computers into a multi-million dollar consulting firm in under ten years.
He attributed the success of his business to his staff, who he described as a “team of people who feel lucky to be in a career where every day involves hours upon hours of playtime.”
He went on to describe his method for identifying potential hires. In his mind, there is a fundamental difference between people who are successful and people who aren’t: “It all comes down to attitude. If your heart is into something, you’ll be exceptional at it.” In other words:
If you love what you do, you’re bound to be successful at it.
He loved computer work. His staff loved computer work. He was now asking me if I loved computer work. I said that I did, and thus secured a full-time position with his firm following graduation. What I failed to realize was that he didn’t ask me as a test of my loyalty — he asked me because he honestly wanted to know if my heart was into it.
It wasn’t. This was proven when I quit within one year of my starting date.
Six years, four job titles, and three apartments later, I’m finally beginning to recognize the truth in what he told me. You shouldn’t choose a career based on what it pays or how practical it seems. If you do, your life is reduced to a vicious cycle of work and play. You should do what interests you.
So when it comes to choosing your career, follow your heart. (And if you ever find yourself talking to a self-made millionaire, listen carefully to any career advice they offer you. Chances are, they know what they’re talking about.)
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