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Live passionately: better to wear out than to rust out

As I See It

One of my favorite television programs is “The Crocodile Hunter,” which airs on the Animal Planet network. Steve Irwin, the nutty, enthusiastic host of the show keeps me on the edge of my chair with his antics involving all manner of dangerous animals, especially the reptiles. I also enjoy his Australian accent.

I think Steve’s contagious enthusiasm toward his undertakings is what fascinates me most about the program. One of my personal objectives is to live life actively with compassion and enthusiasm. Better to wear out than to rust out. Naturally I notice others who seem to share that goal.

All of us have known people who do what they do with zest and commitment:

• For those of us who came of age in the 1960s, Walter Cronkite represented absolute credibility. In fact, when Cronkite turned against the Vietnam War, President Johnson said, “if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the war.”

• On a more current and local level, few would dispute that our U.S. Senators, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, vigorously represent our state. Senator Cochran is legendary in his support of agriculture issues that impact Mississippi. Likewise, Senator Lott has used every ounce of power at his disposal to bring federally funded projects home. Some would characterize these efforts as “pork” — but it’s only pork when the money goes to some other state.

• David Oreck promotes his eight-pound vacuum cleaner with undisguised excitement. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a Mississippi Economic Council function and found him to be as impressive in person as he is on TV. As an aside, Mr. Oreck manufactures his eight-pound vacuum cleaner on the Coast in Long Beach.

Mistakes part of making things better

My father often told me that no mistake was too bad if we learned from it. Since my early years seem to be mistake prone, he had lots of opportunities to talk with me about learning from my mistakes. With that as a background, I have always counseled my employees that mistakes are a necessary part of making things better. The only people who don’t make mistakes are those who don’t do anything and I don’t want to be surrounded by a group of people who don’t do anything.

Enthusiasm. Mistakes. Learning. Creativity. These are all elements of living an active lifestyle, both on and off the job. It really bothers me to see someone waste away marking time until retirement. In one of her books on mid-life crisis, Gail Sheeny says that we “discover” our passions and that joy is to be found in pursuing those things we feel passionate about. I think she has captured the essence of success in life.

A soon to be released study of workforce training in Mississippi says that we don’t have enough emphasis on entrepreneurship in our education system. Though generally used in relation to starting one’s own business, entrepreneurship is actually a much broader term that encompasses how we perform our jobs as employees as well as owning a business.

Are we just marking time until retirement or are we going about our daily activities with a spirit of entrepreneurship? The latter is far superior to the former. How can one break away from the clutches of the day-to-day doldrums?

First, commit to continuous improvement in every aspect of life and work. Make mistakes in pursuit of improvement and learn from those mistakes. “Own” your job and do it like you owned the business. Don’t waste time or money when it is within your power to be frugal.

Get involved with your occupation. Learn all you can about what you are doing. Be creative in how you accomplish tasks. Always be alert for a better way of doing things.

I am convinced that those who pursue their jobs like it is the most important job in the world will derive increasing satisfaction from working and living. Feeling good about what we do puts us up a notch or two on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ladder and moves us closer to the ultimate in happiness and satisfaction. Give it a try and I think you will be amazed at the difference attitude plays in living life to the fullest.

Thought for the Moment – Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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