Exclusive Excerpt from The Sustainable Edge

Identify your passion that pays.

Hero Images/Getty Images
Hero Images/Getty Images

What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the very best in the world at? What drives your business’ economic engine? Many people know what their passions are, but that’s as far as they go. They have many passions, are generalists about all of them, and don’t strongly commit to one or two. As a result, they never become really exceptional at anything—and this holds true for their businesses, as well.

To really find your niche in life, we encourage you to explore and dig deeper into your passions. In doing so, you will reach another level of richness in your business and your life. Viewing your work as your “Passion that Pays” is the heart of being busy with balance.

If your business is truly a passion, it will be much easier to achieve balance in the rest of your life. Work will energize you, so you’re ready to enjoy your other passions. Partaking in your other passions will, in turn, put you in the relaxed frame of mind that makes it easier for you to grow your business. Once you pinpoint what your passions are, you can to transform the way you manage your time, so you are spending most of it on what you truly love. That will make it easier to clear your calendar of time­ consuming obligations that drain the life out of you. Once you give yourself the space to focus on what is most meaningful and fun for you at work, you can tap into the mindset that unlocks new opportunities for you.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons that connection between passion and profit gets broken. Many entrepreneurs lose their passion, because they try to handle too many tasks in their business on their own. It burns them out. In our experience, they often become much more passionate about their business if they focus on the parts they are best suited to handle and surround themselves with bright, capable people to tackle the rest. Once they give themselves the space to focus on what is most meaningful and fun for them at work, they tap into a mindset that unlocks new opportunities.

We have found this to be true in our own businesses. One aspect of running Carson Wealth that Ron particularly enjoys is sharing his personal passions—from hunting to aviation to fine wines—with clients. Not only does Ron have a passion that pays, he also doesn’t distinguish between work and play. To him, it’s all living. He is doing what he loves to do all the time.

Recently Ron was in Napa Valley meeting with a valued client to build on their relationship. He asked the client to introduce him to two other prospects who shared their love of wine as they met at a winery and sipped an amazing vintage. What part of that was work and what part was play? The point is there is no distinction. It was all Ron’s passion. Immerse yourself in what you love, and you’ll never have to “work” another day.

The more you focus on clients who can share the passions you enjoy, the more fun you will have at work and the easier it will be to grow your business. Recently, another valued client of Ron’s bought a new plane and flew to Omaha to show it to him. The client arrived with a prospect who shared their mutual passion for aviation and bird hunting. Ron had encouraged him to make introductions to people with their same passions—an easy thing for the client to do. All three of them ended up heading to Ron’s hunting lodge, where Ron got to know the new prospect while doing something they all enjoyed. As Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Look back at your youth and you’ll often find your deepest passions started there. That’s certainly true for Scott. Ever since he ran his first business as a teenage magician, entertaining children at birthday parties, he has had a lifelong passion for reading and learning about entrepreneurship. When he was thrust into situations where he couldn’t act on that passion, his enthusiasm waned.

For instance, when he was in high school, he had to write a term paper in his junior year. When the day came to turn it in, he didn’t have a paper to submit. He had no interest in reading a book and writing about it. His teacher was flabbergasted. “In my twenty­-six years of teaching, I have never had a student not turn in a term paper,” she said. He still can’t believe he passed the class.

During his senior year, however, he was required to take an oral exam for which he was free to pick the topic. Scott decided to speak about motivation and goals, a subject that always intrigued him. He read Denis Waitley and several other writers on the topic and received an A­-plus on his presentation.

When Scott looks back, it’s clear he has always been passionate about being an entrepreneur. It is in his DNA. If he weren’t in wealth management, he would be an entrepreneur doing something else. Meanwhile, he has to chuckle at the irony of the fact that he is writing his third book. Now that he is writing on topics he is really into, the process is fun. It’s not work. He can only imagine how his junior ­year English teacher would react if he sent the books to her.

In running his firm, he frequently makes time to attend conferences and events where he can enjoy this passion and strengthen his leadership skills at the same time. While Scott attended a recent conference for entrepreneurial companies, he had dinner with a fellow member of a coaching program to which he belongs. The other coach has a similar passion for learning about entrepreneurship, and they genuinely hit it off.

After chatting for a while about the speakers, the coach mentioned that he really should be asking Scott about Cornerstone Wealth and what it does. It turned out the coach needed a wealth manager to handle his family’s assets, which turned out to be very sizable. They are now discussing the possibility of working together. The conversation would not have happened if Scott had not allowed himself to build his business around his passions.

So, if you want your Passion that Pays to remain just that—a passion—you must surround yourself with passionate people. That is especially important when building your team. To create a workplace where you love to be, it is essential to find people with aligned interests and develop a culture that supports where you are going. We both hire for attitude and then train for skills. Making deposits in the emotional buckets of your team members on a regular basis is also one of the best investments you can make in growing your firm.

To reach your full potential as a leader, you must understand your core competency and that of your firm. Core competency is what you do best and at what you’re most competitive. Personally, it energizes you and gives you joy. Your core competency is something you’d do even if you weren’t paid to do it. Knowing your core competency will help simplify your complex world into one basic, organizing idea. It will enable you to focus yourself and your company on achieving one or, at most, a few big goals. Knowing your core competency and tapping into it is the key to achieving the Sustainable Edge.

We should point out that your core competency isn’t only about building a career around what you enjoy doing. Many people fail at businesses built around their favorite hobby or passion. Your core competency must be a value creator for you and the people you serve. The key to building a great business lies in turning your passions into productivity—remember, it’s your Passion that Pays.

One clue to identifying your core competency is knowing what people are willing to pay you a big premium to do for them. Think of the best golf pro you’ve ever met. Not only are they great at golf, which is likely their passion, they are also good instructors. Thus, they are turning their passion into productivity, creating a Passion that pays. Is there an example like this in your life—something you love doing that you can capitalize on? Knowing your core competency will help you focus your energy and resources in the right direction.

In 2006, Ron’s firm had the opportunity to invest in a large car dealership. His company had plenty of cash on hand, and the deal looked great on paper. But as Ron dug into the details, his gut instinct told him not to bite. Running car dealerships is not Carson Wealth’s core competency. It was easy to see the project devouring Carson Wealth’s time and resources, which would be better spent on what the firm does best, so Ron passed on the deal.

As you might have guessed, it was the right move. Within a few years of passing on the deal, the dealership filed for bankruptcy protection. As Ron looks back at the “opportunity” now, he finds it to be a great reminder why you should focus on what you do best, especially when you are pursuing the Sustainable Edge. Recognizing (and accepting) that managing an automotive dealership was outside of his firm’s expertise saved Carson Wealth an enormous amount of time, money, and energy.

With exponentially increasing competition in today’s market, it is more important than ever for entrepreneurs to focus on their core competency. You must know, definitively, where you can add value to the marketplace—and you must act on it every day. It is better to excel in one niche than to try to be good at everything, if you want to achieve the Sustainable Edge.

Practice your core competency until you can execute it flawlessly. Intense focus is the key to harnessing the power of your mind to achieve success. If you try to improve on all of your weaknesses, you’ll end up with quite a few strong weaknesses and underdeveloped strengths. We’re sure you’ve never complimented someone on their underdeveloped strengths! Tap into your core competency as if you were a star athlete—then you’ll never have to rethink it in the moment and risk “choking.”

About the Book

The Sustainable Edge: Fifteen Minutes a Week to a Richer Entrepreneurial Life was written for business owners who are seeking a fuller, more rewarding work-­life balance. In this easy­-to-­reference, practical guide authors and entrepreneurs Ron Carson and Scott Ford share personal anecdotes to their own career successes.

Each chapter is designed to inspire entrepreneurs to define and sustain a competitive edge in the complex, fast­changing world of business. Order your copy now at www.thesustainableedge.com.

About the Authors

Ron Carson, CFP®, ChFC®

Ron Carson is the founder and CEO of Carson Wealth, one of the largest wealth advisory firms in the country, serving clients through holistic financial planning, disciplined investment strategies, and proactive personal service. He is one of the most celebrated and respected financial advisors and executives in the industry and is a sought after speaker, thinker, and investment strategist.

Ron has shared his success principles, as documented in his book,

Tested in the Trenches, with audiences worldwide. Most recently, Ron coauthored The New York Times best­selling book Avalanche and the blueprinting process that goes with it.

Together, these tools help advisors learn how to clarify their mission, vision, and values by setting business and life goals. Ron and his wife Jeanie reside in Omaha, Nebraska.

Scott Ford

Scott Ford, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management Group and a Carson Institutional partner, serves on the investment committee as the technical strategist. He is a registered principal at LPL Financial and is a registered financial consultant. Scott is ranked in the top 1 percent of all LPL registered financial advisors based on annual production.

He was recognized as one of the 20 Rising Stars of Wealth Management by Private Asset Management Magazine. Scott is the author of two books: Financial Jiu­Jitsu: A Fighter’s Guide to Conquering Your Finances and The Widow’s Wealth Map: Six Steps to Beginning Again. Scott and his family reside in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Ron Carson and Scott Ford’s new book, The Sustainable Edge: Fifteen Minutes a Week to a Richer Entrepreneurial Life, was written for business owners who are seeking a fuller, more rewarding work­life balance.

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