Some of the best ideas start with someone saying "Hey, watch this!" Of course, some of the worst ideas start that way, too. We know “Hey, watch this!” is often code for “This is gonna be spectacular, or this is gonna hurt.” Sometimes you don’t know which one it will be until you experience it. But without passion, you’ll never say “Hey, watch this!” with the conviction needed to deliver on your promise of something big.
Passion can override the voices saying no. It's the fuel for your climb to the top and the safety net for the bad landings.
What passion cannot do is override the facts. Passion that pushes past facts becomes an indulgence. If the indulgence gets too big, you cross into obsession, and that’s when you lose perspective.
The problem and the promise of passion is that it comes from your heart and your gut, not your head. Passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. That’s why people feel like they constantly have to limit it; they don’t like the lack of control that comes with it. Of course, passion leads us into bad decisions and doing some questionable things even when we have all the information we need. I know how I feel when someone wrongs my wife or hurts my kids. My passion for them can get me in trouble, because it's built on something genuine in my heart.
Maybe that’s why I connect deepest to the passions of the people I meet, like Gene Simmons of KISS. He was my first interview for my CBS radio show, All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett, but we had already met years before on Celebrity Apprentice when he was a contestant and I represented Kodak as one of the sponsors of a challenge. We butted heads a little about the results but stayed in touch and today have a great amount of mutual respect, even if we disagree on who's better looking. Gene is also exactly the same in person as he comes across onstage and on-screen. Last time I was at his home, he gave me a pair of thong underwear. Not a gift I expected from one corporate executive to another, but exactly what you’d expect from Gene Simmons.
While people know Gene Simmons the rock and reality TV star, they don’t see Gene Simmons the entrepreneur and marketing genius. Gene Simmons is a brand, and KISS is a big business that's now more than 40 years old and still at the top of its game, selling out concerts and merchandise. (KISS has licensed more than 3,000 products.) But Gene wasn’t nearly as passionate about any of that as he was about telling me about starting his first business at six years old. He lived in a small village in Israel, and he and his friend went out and gathered cactus fruit, washed it, and sold it for a few pennies. He made two dollars that day, and after rewarding himself with an ice cream cone, he brought the rest of the money home and laid it on the table for his mother. At first, she was worried that he stole it, but when he told her the story, she said, “My little man.”
That’s the root of Gene Simmons’ passion. Here's a guy, a millionaire in his sixties, and what drives him forward is the memory of what that ice cream tasted like and hearing his mother say those words when he was six years old. That’s what fuels the fires he breathes literally onstage and figuratively in person. Peel back the face paint he wears, wipe off the blood he spits, and silence the ax-shaped bass he plays as part of his performance, and you find someone who does it all for his family.
Most of the biggest and best businesspeople I know tell some version of Gene’s story as the root of what drives them. I know I do. We draw on that passion every day and never let it go as we push the proverbial envelope. We’re not in it for the money. Well, we are and we aren’t. We’re in it for the money because that's how we keep score. That’s how we build capital and get to do the things we have to, need to, and want to do for our businesses and families. But beyond that, we’re in it for the adrenaline we get from pouring our passion into acting big in all we do in the most genuine way possible.
So if you fall flat on your face, don’t worry. Your family, friends, and the people who surround you in business will be there when you stand up. Don’t let those face plants make you falter. Sometimes your passion and willingness to go “all in” might cost you, but no one is going to die. You’re better off in the long run, when your passion will run up against other people’s passions. You will need to be bigger to stand up to their attacks!