Friday, June 13, 2008

Burning Passion

My younger brother has been a Los Angeles City firefighter for over 10 years. Though he has always enjoyed adrenaline and the physical challenge of various sports, for the longest time, I would never have guessed that he would select firefighting as a career.

Why?

Well, let's just say that when he was very little, the sight of flames terrified him. I remember our first family trip to Disneyland, going on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and him screaming in horror at the sight of fake burning logs as our little ship passed through the ride. This fear remained until he was nearly a teenager, at which point, it became more of a curious obsession. Of this, I remember him rushing out of the house whenever he'd hear sirens to get a good look at where they were headed, and to make sure that the flames they might be reporting to were nowhere near our house.

In his late teens and first adult years, he had little career ideation, but one major event helped him transform a fearful obsession into a lifetime passion. In the early 90's, Los Angeles was beleaguered with fires, so much so, that firefighters everywhere called on community members for volunteer assistance. This random event (though fires have been common in the area), gave my brother the opportunity to face what he once feared, helping put out flames and saving horses and livestock.

The message here is that we all have the potential to transform. My brother has always had a fascination for fire, but the way he perceived it drastically changed. How can you change your perspective so that what you fear most becomes a welcome challenge that you can conquer and proceed further toward actualizing your dreams?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Passion Portfolio

I like to follow the Careers Section of the Condé Nast Portfolio.com website because, among other things, it has weekly career snapshots of individuals in some unusual occupations. This week they did a write-up on professional poker player, Tom Schneider. While Mr. Schneider was once a successful CEO for a midsized company, he now experiences wide success doing something that he is good at, passionate about, and thoroughly enjoys (although he is not crazy about taking money away from friends). And interestingly enough, a professional poker player can make upwards of 12 million dollars annually.

If you are not doing work that you are passionate about, there are many interesting and inspiring stories like Mr. Schneider's on this web page where individuals have given up successful careers in order to follow their passions.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Invention is the Mother of Opportunity

On a lead from the PSFK blog, I was amazed to find that Daniel Burd, a sixteen year-old kid from Canada, had quite possibly found a solution to a major environmental scourge: the disposable plastic shopping bag.

When you consider that most of these bags are not recycled and thus end up in landfills, and that in the landfills they do not biodegrade, we have a major problem. Moreover, much of this plastic unfortuanately ends up in the ocean, where it endangers marine life, and has even created a shameful mass known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Here's a video posted by Cryptic Moth:



Hopefully, none of us need to be reminded of the problems created by these plastic bags. What I would like to emphasize is how a young man not even out of high school took the irritation of accumulating bags in his house, and set it upon himself to identify which microbes are responsible for degrading these bags, and resultingly found a natural solution for getting rid of them. It turns out that at the right temperature, some yeast for fermentation, and two microbes, these bags can be degraded in weeks.

Things that can be learned from this kid:

1. Do not ignore problems brought to your attention. Instead, challenge yourself to find a solution. Problems are often opportunities in disguise, but it takes passion, initiative, and dedication. Nobody would have expected somebody this young to make this discovery--and yet he did. Why? Because he took the initiative to solve his problem, and methodically and tenaciously devised a solution.

2. Do what other people aren't doing. When Daniel Burd researched what other people were doing to solve this problem and discovered that they weren't doing much, he then took it upon himself to do something. This is the source of invention, innovation, and opportunity. You should always be looking for this sort of opportunity in your life and career.

3. Think big. Daniel Burd could have stopped his experimentation when he identified that plastic in a bacterial culture degraded faster than in a control setting. That alone might have secured his winning a national science fair, but even after winning this fair, he plans to further his study to see if his idea can be implemented on an industrial level. By thinking and devoting himself on a larger scale, this young man made a profound discovery instead of a mere curiousity. The difference may be small, but the results are big.