Per the Urban Dictionary: Passion – is when you put more energy into something than is required. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement; passion is ambition that is materialized into action. To put much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible.
One of the things I think you ponder as a parent is what your children will become. What type of adults will they be? What career will they choose? When Nick was born I thought about it a lot. I immediately went to Doctor or Lawyer. I mean really, who doesn’t need one in the family? Kidding aside, I just knew I wanted him to have a career which would give him financial success. But I also wanted him to have time to enjoy life. I didn’t want him to be a slave to his job. What type of career could give him that? I began thinking that maybe I was placing too much on the monetary aspect of his career. I once had a friend tell me, “We taught our children to get careers to make money. Nothing in the arts”. Is the end goal money or something more? You may be making money but are you enjoying what you are doing? What would help you achieve your “dream” career? Passion. I wanted him to follow his passion. If you’re doing something that you love, it will never seem like work. My father was a laborer. He built fences for a living. He ended his career as a salesman for Cyclone Fence. He wasn’t millionaire rich but he lived comfortably, enjoyed a good golf game and loved his family. He was happy every day of his life. He always said “I loved every single day I worked”. My Dad showed me that copious amounts of money isn’t the answer – loving what you do is.
Whenever asked what type of career I want my children to have? I always respond “I want them to follow their passion.” It was clearly evident early on what Anthony and Riley’s passions were. Anthony was a car guy. At the age of three, he knew the make and model of every car on the road. When asked in grade school what his favorite television show was the answer was always Speed Vision (it was a car channel). Everything automotive was his passion. Add in his second passion – money - you could see his career path.
Riley has been passionate about dance since the age of three. We tried to steer her into other activities: soccer (too much running), baseball (too hot), basketball (got hit in the head and cried on the bench), swimming (not having it), playing an instrument (would rather dance to the music not play it). She held fast, it was dance all the way.
Nick, my oldest was more of a puzzle. He is a man of few words, truly. He was quiet, not introvert quiet just introspective quiet. When he did speak, he was eloquent and usually spot on with his assessments. He’s just “steady eddy”. He rarely shows intense emotions. I’ve literally seen him lose his temper three times in his life. He played hockey and baseball and was great at both but was never overly excited. If he lost or won a championship he would be happy or sad but nothing exuberant. I’d say “Congratulations, Nick on winning the championship!” his response – “Yep”. I used to joke with him that he would make a great pilot some day because he never lost his cool. “Engine four is out, Captain Nick!” Captain Nick, “Yep” and then he’d calmly land the plane.
I’ve been thinking about passion a lot lately. How it’s affected each of our three children. We just moved Riley to Chicago, she was accepted into a dance company and is pursuing her passion of becoming a professional dancer. She’ll be a starving artist for a while but she doesn’t care. She is pursuing what she loves. She’s knows about sacrifice and hard work, it’s taken that to get her to this point she’s willing to continuing doing it to achieve her dream.
Anthony started working at the age of fourteen. At the age of 15 he paid for a training ski trip to Colorado with his own money. He asked his father to co-sign on a car loan with him at 18 to establish credit. His said to me at the time – “I’m off and running now”. At 19 while going to school he worked at Jimmy Johns. He was made assistant manager after a month and three months later was made the youngest Manager in company history. At the age of 22, he bought his first corvette. Per the owner of the dealership, he was the youngest person to buy a Corvette on his own. He has owned at least 8 cars since he bought his first car, sometimes owning two at a time. At the age of 26, he has just bought his first house. His career at the moment – selling cars. He is doing exceptionally well. He lives and breathes his passion every day. He’s been taking his time finishing his degree (call me frustrated). I have thought he would never complete it since he’s loving his job, but he has put himself back in school and will finish up this December. When asked why – “I like selling cars but I’d rather own the dealership than just work at one.” And you know what? With his passion for money and cars, I think he may just do it.
When Nick was applying to colleges – he zoned in on two, Western Michigan and Michigan State. And let’s be honest those were the two colleges his friends had applied to. To help him make a decision, we had him sit with a college “coach” to go over his ACT scores to help guide him to a college which would be the best fit for his future. About that time, Nick said he wanted to go to Western. “Why Western?” we asked. I want to be a pilot, he says. Bowl us over with a feather. Never had we ever heard Nick mention becoming a pilot. Let me say that again, NEVER. Did I give him subliminal messages when I was teasing him when he was younger? Where did this come from?
Western Michigan to become a pilot? They have a program? They’re second in the nation for aviation he tells us. He goes on to explain that he’s never wanted a nine to five job. That being a pilot would be his dream job. Later that week, he met with the “coach”. She is going over this ACT scores and she tells him that his writing is superior and his math not so great. Maybe he’d like to write about pilots instead of being a pilot. The math will be difficult. Nick in his usual aplomb says, “Nope, I’ll be a pilot.”
He went to Western. At orientation, the head of Aviation told the crowd to make sure this is the career you want. It will be expensive to get your aviation degree and you’ll have to work hard and make sacrifices. The cost for your degree is close to $100,000. And once you graduated and were hired by the airlines, starting salary was $25,000. Flabbergasted, we looked at Nick. Are you sure? Yep, was his response.
We watched him sacrifice and work hard to get his degree. He was broke most of the time. (It cost $400 every time he went up in the air). You took classes in conjunction with flying. Classes were hard. And yes, he had to retake some of the more difficult math classes. He sacrificed not having the “party” experience his friends were having. He never did drugs and watched his drinking. It took him over five years to get his degree. No matter how difficult it was, he never gave up. He stood steadfast in his commitment.
Once he graduated he moved to Florida to become a Certified Flight Instructor. He got hired on the first interview. He moved to an area knowing no one. He once again, studied diligently and learned while flying how to be an instructor. He graduated and then spent two years teaching and accumulating the 1,000 flight hours needed to apply to the airlines.
Hours earned, Nick got an interview with Endeavor Airlines. They are the smaller planes that fly for Delta. Airlines are very selective on who flies for them and we want them to be. Nick had told us they will interview 20 in a day and maybe one will get an offer. The day had come and he was the last one to interview. He said he sat and watched people go in for their interview and then leave. He was the only one to get an offer that day. And the good news, the airline industry finally figured out they were losing pilots and changed the pay scale for incoming pilots. Nick was going to make a good salary.
He’s been a first officer for Endeavor Airlines for two years now. Flying 90 person jets. He had to live in a crash pad in New York for the 8 months waiting for a spot to open up in Detroit. He had a bunk bed in an apartment in Queens shared with 16 other pilots. He hated his time there but persevered to have his dream job. And dream job it is - he says it never feels like he’s working because he’s having so much fun. I asked him the other day if he’s ever been scared and in usual Nick fashion, he thought for a minute, staring off into space, finally looked at me and said “nope”. Perfect pilot!
Passion. I’ve realized something wonderful today. My children are living out their dreams because they dared to follow their passion. They have worked hard, sacrificed and consequently are loving their career choices. I’ve had one of my dreams come true - witnessing my children follow their passion. Blessed!