Think back to when you were a child. When you talked about the future, you probably declared: “When I grow up, I’m going to be a fireman!” Or maybe it was an astronaut, doctor, explorer or possibly a singer, veterinarian or ballplayer. Whatever our ambitions were, we passionately proclaimed our grand aspirations for these careers, not because they were merely jobs but because to us, they sounded fun.
Of course, time passes and a terrible thing happened to many (but not all) of us — we grew up. In time, imagination and youthful exuberance were replaced by controlled behavior and managed expectations, so much the better for functioning in adult society and living a professional life. We may not have realized it while it was occurring, but in doing so, many of us put aside our passion and enthusiasm, as well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the famed 19th century poet and philosopher wrote, “Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is due to the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it.” Roll that around in your mind for a few moments and contemplate how profound yet simple that statement is. Add to that another well-known saying — “enthusiasm is contagious” — and the result is the recipe for greatness.
Most successful businesspeople share a common trait. They love what they do. They have succeeded in taking the same mindset they had as children and applying it to their work. Furthermore, their highest goals are almost always about something more than monetary pursuits. Consider for a moment some of the greatest human endeavors — walking on the moon, climbing the highest mountains, exploring the ocean, finding cures for deadly diseases, even pursuing Olympic medals and sports championships. For those who pursue these extremely lofty goals, the challenge — and the satisfaction — comes from wanting to be the best. They are fueled by a fire that burns from within. By retaining their childlike spirit and passion, these people confront seemingly daunting challenges not with dread but with tremendous enthusiasm combined with a deep sense of purpose.
Of course, not every successful person is necessarily a great leader. The best leaders aren’t just passionate themselves; they are also able to impart their enthusiasm to others. By nature, most people are resistant to changes in the status quo. But a true leader, infused with an individual sense of deep passion, can actually generate a wave of energy to those around them.
Our history books are filled with the names of legendary leaders from all walks of life — sports figures, statesmen, military figures, as well as those from the business world. What elevated them from the rest of the pack was their ability to spread their vision and motivate others to believe in whatever cause they were working toward. More than just selling them on an idea, their deep-seated passion sparked the same feelings inside their followers, making them feel personally inspired to aim toward the same goal. This personal engagement was then passed along to the next person and the next after that. Soon enough, with critical mass achieved, the white-hot flame of belief and passion gave rise to monumental achievements — world record sports performances, decisive military victories and breakthroughs in business.
By recapturing the ambition and enthusiasm we had as children and translating that into our professional goals of today, we can bring new vision and purpose to those goals — not just for ourselves but for our employees, customers and communities. Emerson was right. The bottom line is: With enthusiasm, you truly can attain greatness and change the world.
Tony Little is founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp. Known as “America’s personal trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct response marketing and television home shopping. Today, his company has sold more than $3 billion of product. Contact Little via his website, www.tonylittle.com, or by e-mail at GuestBook@tonylittle.com.