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Do What You Love and Success Will Follow

Earlier this month, iconic Oakland Raider owner Al Davis passed away. Football fans around the world owe a debt of gratitude to Al Davis, as the professional game we now enjoy achieved its success due in no small part to Mr. Davis’ work. Professional football lost a legend this month, and a personality that will never be replaced.

Al Davis spent his entire life doing what he loved. Upon graduation from college, he started coaching at Adelphi College, and spent the next sixty years involved in football. He is the only person to ever serve in professional football as a scout, personnel assistant, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, and team owner. He was rewarded for his lifetime of service with induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

In recent weeks, many media and football greats have taken the time to comment on the life of Al Davis. One constant in all of the tributes was Al Davis’ passion for football. Mr. Davis was not some dot com billionaire or oil tycoon who bought a team. He started as a simple coach at a college few people have heard of, and, at the time of his death, was the principle owner for the Oakland Raiders. He achieved this success because of his work ethic, vision, intelligence, and the fact that he loved what he did. The Oakland Raiders are estimated to be worth close to $1 billion. This financial wealth was quite literally a by-product, not the goal, for Al Davis. This is something that we can never forget.

Commitment to Excellence

The phrase commitment to excellence seems like a modern creation of corporate America. The phrase was actually coined by Al Davis, and has been used as a rallying cry for Oakland Raider fans, or better known as Raider Nation, ever since. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that such a phrase was created by someone who loved what they did. If you have a passion for what you do, then it would seem natural to want to achieve as close to perfection as possible. As another famous football icon Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

A commitment to excellence is a powerful slogan. But what does it take to incorporate this into our daily lives? Let’s define the two words:

Commitment: an obligation, promise, etc., that restricts one’s freedom action.

Excellence: the state of quality of excelling or being exceptionally good.

Incorporating the slogan commitment to excellence in your daily life is a pledge to hold yourself to the highest standards possible, and to expect the best from yourself every day. Living this commitment means the bare minimum is not good enough. In trading the financial markets, you may have gauged past success on how much money you made. A commitment to excellence dictates that you become the absolute best you can be as a trader. If you excel at trading, then the money will follow naturally. The same holds true in real estate and other entrepreneurial activities. You judge yourself by the quality of your ability, and not the end result. Financial reward will naturally follow these activities if you excel at what you do, but it is not the primary objective.

There is a second part to the definition of commitment, the part that “restricts one’s freedom of action.” If you are truly committed to excellence, then dedication and sacrifice are required. Dedication and sacrifice seem like ominous words when describing activities that we truly don’t enjoy. In real estate, if you don’t enjoy making offers or evaluating properties, or don’t love dealing with people, then three things are likely to happen:

1) You are unlikely to spend that extra time, thoughts, and energy necessary to raise your expertise level from mediocre, to average, to good, to excellent.
2) Your happiness and enjoyment level will be low, and you will constantly be tempted by activities outside of your “chosen” field that will draw your time.
3) You have a lower chance of being successful than someone in your field who loves what they do.

The same principles apply to any field. Those that love what they do have such an easier path to excellence than those that engage in activities they don’t enjoy. Time is precious, both in life and in business, and it seems so obvious that we should follow what we love.

The Video Game Principle

Many years ago, Gary Larson drew one of his Far Side comics of two parents watching their son playing video games. Above their heads were thought bubbles with dreams of classified ads that listed high-paying video game testing jobs for their young son. The cartoon was meant as a comical look at kids who apparently had no discernable skills outside of playing video games and a world where that actually never exists.

Let’s assume that the parents in this cartoon worried that their son had shown no interest in anything outside video games. Well, video game design is not only a high-paying job, but also a growth industry. Take it one step further, they could encourage their son to create his own game or his own gaming company. Or perhaps they could identify the attributes about games that draw their son, and point out similar careers. Is it the constant motion, the analytic skills required, or the constant evaluation of moving parts? Sounds like a stock trader to me.

Doing what you love does not give you a license to never leave your basement and play video games the rest of your life. However, never be afraid to think outside the box in determining what you want to pursue in life. Never limit those around you either, as it probably seemed silly in early 1950 for a graduate of college to say that he wanted to go coach football the rest of his life. I doubt few people around him gave him a chance to own a billion dollar franchise one day.

I am not an Oakland Raiders fan, but I will miss Al Davis. He was a rebel, a creative thinker, and a true visionary. He will serve as an inspirational force in people’s lives for years to come. There are two quotes that I have looked at every day since he passed: “You don’t adjust, you just dominate,” and, “Just win, baby.” It is a whole lot easier to win and dominate when you do what you love.

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