I am not sure if you have ever heard of Mike Rowe. He is the host of a popular tv show called Dirty Jobs. The show doesn't air any new episodes but it still entertaining. In this show Mike travels around the country as an 'apprentice' to many different jobs. Most of the jobs would be considered 'labor' jobs and certainly not what most of society would consider glamorous. He has a witty humor about him and it's always an entertaining show to watch. I've followed him a bit through the years and he has a wonderful initiative called Mike Rowe works. His initiative is for society to understand it is ok to work hard and smart. That you don't have to work in a corner office to have a great life. He has a great message that we should all be preaching to our kids and grandkids. You can find more info at this link www.mikeroweworks.org.
I recently came across a video that Mike did a few years ago. The video was put together as a sort of commencement speech. In the video Mike talks about what he's learned about following your passion...especially if you aren't particularly skilled at your passion. The video made me sort of reflect on my personal story and rewind back 22 years and how passion, skill and opportunity all played a role to where I am today. You can access the video by clicking this link.
When I was making a decision for college the only decision to make was what sport(s) I was going to play. I didn't think much about costs of attending, classes I would take or majors I would declare. Decision #1; Did I want to play football, baseball or both? That's about where it ended. I chose Mankato State University to play baseball and become the best baseball player I could be. I would figure the rest out as I went. First declared major was law enforcement but I thought I might want to be a teacher coach. I also worked residential construction in the summers while attending college so I always thought I could fall back on swinging a hammer for a living if nothing else worked out. As I got in to my general classes I took Economics 101 and really enjoyed it. As I took more business classes I seemed to find something I understood. Although I had no idea how I could make a living having a finance degree...I changed my major to finance.
Meanwhile I was devoting 4-5 hours a day to baseball. Lifting, throwing, running, etc... loved it and couldn't get enough of it. Most days at practice I was leading other pitchers in working out and trying to help everyone get better so we could have success as a team. I am sure some guys weren't too fond of me putting them through the workouts we did but I felt that would make us better as a team. We'd lift, throw, run, hang out at the ballfield and then do it all over again the next day. I had found my passion for sure.
In my junior year one of the senior ballplayers on the team mentioned an internship in the financial services industry. I thought; 'hey maybe this is something I could do with my finance major.' So I did an internship shadowing a financial advisor, working one day and a couple of evenings each week for the summer while still working construction during the day. As we talked to people about their money I began to think this could be something I could do for a living and there was an opportunity for me to be my own boss and work with people enjoyed being around.
The next spring I graduated and as the June MLB draft came and went I was without any team. Not that I was expecting to get drafted but I remember it being in the back of my mind. So I was off to studying and getting licensed to become a financial advisor. Fortunately for me, I was still able to feed my passion of playing baseball with our local town team while pursuing my career. After one of our games a coach from the other team said he could get me a tryout with the St. Paul Saints. After the tryout they signed me to a contact and I played the rest of the summer with the team. Following the season I started full-time as a financial advisor. 9-12-2001 was my first day on the job full time. A day I won't forget for obvious reasons. Not long after I started my financial services career, the local Dodger scout called and signed me to free agent contract with an invite to minor league spring training. So I spent the winter working full time and trying to get in shape for spring training. Thankfully Adam Templin, a high school senior at the time, was willing to get up before school and play catch with me a few days a week. Now that he's old enough I should probably buy him a beer for doing that. In the spring of 2002 I went to minor league spring training...following my passion.
In all honesty, I was unprepared for camp. My velocity was 86-87 mph and it was 90-91 in the summer. I threw ok and got people out but 87 mph is underwhelming when you're competing at that level. So I was the 'ok' act America's Got Talent audition. Good enough at the time but not rememberable enough to move on to the live shows. My passion wasn't going to allow for me to make a living. If I wanted to follow my dream I could certainly try to catch on with another team. Otherwise I could simply face the facts and come to the conclusion that I wasn't good enough at my passion to continue to follow it. So I began life in the real world. Fortunately, town team baseball in Minnesota is a special thing and still allows me to compete at a game I love. Over the years, being a player and manager of a team full of adult men has also given me some great life experiences to translate to my business (and vice versa).
Looking back on life leads you down a few rabbit holes. I would imagine, if not for baseball, I may have not went on to a four year school. So being in the construction trade is likely a place I would have landed. If not for baseball, I certainly wouldn't have been introduced to the internship opportunity and company I am still with today. If not for baseball, I may not possess some of the work ethic and leadership attributes I feel I have today.
I certainly wasn't passionate about financial services when I started. I was passionate about people and trying to educate myself so I could pass that knowledge on to my clients. It became a passion as I sat down with more people and realized there was a need for what I was doing and I enjoyed it.
I think Mike Rowe is on to something. We need to look for opportunities where we can thrive and eventually become passionate about what we are doing. There are great opportunities in a wide variety of skilled trades and other careers that don't require a four year degree. In fact, those opportunities may even be better than many that do require a 4 year degree. With technology today, many trades are way different than what they were 30 years ago. Work Smarter AND Harder seems to be a motto that could catch on.