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Strategic Passion

The Key Ingredient to Winning Your Race

Nothing great in this world has ever happened without Passion.


Whether it is a walk on the moon, a new invention that changes the course of our lives, or winning that next big deal, passion is there. Heck, even a one-year-old trying to walk has passion.

Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many leaders that definitely had passion: Passion for their business, their family, their employees, and passion for their cause. But those leaders who were able to turn their vision into reality for their companies have a key ingredient that makes the difference between winning and losing their Race to Amazing. It is what I call Strategic Passion. Jack Welch has a wonderful saying that I think of often: “Great leaders create a vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive that vision to completion.”

When there is strategy without passion, execution doesn’t happen. When you have passion without strategy… well, you just have passion.

I learned strategic passion at a very young age. See, I grew up in a small coal-mining town in Western Pennsylvania. Our family owned the local tavern, Freddie’s Inn, and we lived in an apartment above it. My father loved his family, his country, and loved his community, but he was PASSIONATE about his customers.

When the coal miners arrived in the morning after a long night of work, he would have a shot and a beer ready for them, as he prepared them breakfast in the kitchen. He respected them, wanted to see them smile and brighten their day, with his infectious positive attitude.

I remember one day running through the bar in the morning to catch the school bus, and it was empty, it was dark, there was no one there. I saw my father sitting alone in a corner booth, with his head in his hands. He had been crying. I had never seen him that way. He said to me, with tears in his eyes, “The coal mine is shutting down. We may need to sell Freddie’s.” I remember trying to be positive, as he always was, and I said: “No we won’t, we can do it, we can figure this out.”

It was at that moment, he turned over the paper placement.

He drew 2 lines and divided it into 3 columns. In the first column we listed all the things we could do to bring in new business, the second column was what we could do so when the customers came, they would stay longer and spend more money. The third column was ways to keep them coming back and bringing their friends and family. That’s when I saw Strategy and Passion meet.

The next week we had Jazz music in the back room.

We started theme nights and new people came from neighboring towns. We started delivering pizza to the local university, before Domino’s ever dreamed of it, selling over 300 pizzas a night. My father added a banquet room that he built with his own hands from my grandfather’s barn beams. I saw him transform this dive bar into one of the most popular wedding venues in Western Pennsylvania.

This pivotal event gave my father the opportunity to take his passion for his customers, his family, and his community, and wrap a strategy around it. The results were astounding. He became the amazing leader that he was meant to be, and set an example for me of what is possible when strategy and passion meet. It is a lesson I’ll never forget, and a concept that we teach to our K.Coaching clients daily.

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