Not everything we do has to produce a ROI. Not everything we do even has to make sense. That’s the beauty of life. As long as our actions don’t negatively impact the lives of others or break laws, we have the ability to fully pursue our own happiness, however trivial or grandiose it may be. The history of the world has forever been shaped by people who did things to the extreme, not out of necessity or financial consideration, but because they were passionate about their work and making a statement to the world. Money was obviously a consideration, but it was not the driving or limiting factor. We studied these people and their works of labor in detail in history class – Roman Coliseum, Renaissance paintings, Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China … They wanted to show the world their work was the best and never to be outdone.
Imagine if you committed the same level of excellence in your profession. If you did, I promise you’ll never go back to your old way of doing business.
In today’s view, these “over the top” projects don’t produce a solid ROI and are never undertaken. One challenge of producing a ROI is it often breeds mediocrity. Sadly, many temper their risk aversion by sacrificing quality and it shows in their work. Much like their work, many have played it safe their whole life and yet question why their life feels average or void of purpose. Regardless of your opinion of pro athletes, musicians or actors, as a whole, these are people who committed early in life to their passion. Can you put a price on pursuing excellence? Can you put a price on leaving a legacy? Can you put a price on happiness or fulfilling one’s calling? If you were to pursue a passion with relentless focus, what would it be? Don’t make the mistake of confusing a hobby with a career. Hobbies lose their enjoyment once they become careers.
Ever since I was a small boy I wanted a tree house. My parents attempted to build one and the end result was an 8’ x 8’ shed nestled on the ground against the back-yard fence. As an adult, I use the word loosely and it’s often debated by my wife, I decided to give my kids the tree house I had envisioned as a child. Remember, it’s always for “the kids.” Being a smart husband, I asked my wife for her blessing before committing our hard earned money to this venture (trust me, she knew full well what she was in for by saying yes). Little did she know I had already been researching for over a month the best tree house builder and had conducted multiple phone interviews with custom tree house builders/general contractors all over the country. With her approval secured, I selected a tree house specialist out of Philadelphia, who was an arborist and had been building custom tree houses for over 20 years. Besides his expertise and portfolio of final products, I loved the passion he exuded over the phone about building a one of a kind experience…and he was “within reason” of my budget.
Fast forward 6 weeks. Like most custom projects, we exceeded our budget and had some challenges but nothing we couldn’t overcome with a commitment to see the project through to completion. Besides, how do you tell your kids you can’t finish what you started. There will always be bumps in the road on the way to fulfilling a dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Surprisingly, I was having my house painted at the same time and learned my painter used to paint army jeeps back when he served in Vietnam. Coincidence? Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences. If you put yourself out there and often, you quickly learn you are constantly surrounded by people who can and will help you achieve your dreams. The key is to share your dreams…with everyone. You never know who you are talking to (see my article on guy at Starbucks who wrote me check for $10,000). It didn’t take much persuasion to convince him to paint the tree house and I can assure you he lost money based on the hours his crew invested (he never complained and apologized wishing he could have done better).
The masterpieces visionaries leave behind don’t produce a solid ROI nor do they improve the quality of life of society. They do something even grander. They encourage people to take risks. They give people a sense of pride in doing something no one else dared to do. They dared to be excessive and pursue their passion with no limits. I challenge you to leave a masterpiece in your community, whether it’s a treehouse, holiday decorations or the greenest lawn in the neighborhood. I’m a firm believer in anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
Pick something you care about and pursue it with all your heart…permission to be excessive.
Shay is an All American and World ranked triathlete, burn survivor with scars over 65% of his body and is a sought out national motivational speaker. Despite being told he’d never compete in sports again at the age of 8, Shay is living testament to “Anything is Possible”: 4x Ironman, 4x member of Team USA, ranked top 1% of Ironmen worldwide and has competed in 9 triathlon world championships, including the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. His mantra has always been to not merely be a “finisher” but to be a “competitor.” If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to check out his other posts.