Passion, like a red hot flame, can sometimes burn bright for awhile, only to fade out in time. For many entrepreneurs, the excitement and energy surrounding a new business can fuel passion for a season. As is the case in much of life, as the newness wears off we are left with the mundaneness of day-to-day routines. In business, this means that you better like what you do. Further, if you are not good at your craft, then the challenge is even greater. A person with talent and passion will win the race every time over someone who excels at one and lacks the other. How many gifted professional athletes have thrown away their careers because they displayed an indifference to the game? Conversely, even the most passionate American Idol contestant is not going to make it far without the requisite talent.
The challenge in life is that we tend to deceive ourselves knowingly or unknowingly about what we are good at. As quoted by Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We have to break free from the power of self-deception and be completely honest with ourselves to truly find our calling in life. This takes tremendous courage and the ability to give up dreams of greatness in one area to pursue other paths.
Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics Corporation and one of Mississippi’s best entrepreneurial success stories, knows this lesson first hand. Growing up during the birth of rock-n-roll, Peavey had his sights set on a career in music. His father had been a successful musician and Peavey had dreams of being a part of the next great rock band. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. While Peavey was appreciated for his ability to help out his bands by building music equipment, his musical skills were not as valued, and he was rejected as a band member. After some deep soul searching, Peavey realized that his true talent was in building things. His dreams of being a rock star had to be set aside, and Peavey leveraged his newly discovered talent of building musical equipment and launched his company in 1965.
According to Peavey, “I have always been driven by a passion for what I do and a fear of failure.” The 67-year-old Peavey still radiates with passion for his craft. His 44-year-old company is the leading innovator in its industry and holds over 180 patents. As Peavey describes it, “my passion has been my pull and my fear of failure has been my push in life.” While his passion keeps him motivated to grow and evolve as a music industry leader, his fear of failure keeps him from becoming complacent in his success. This combination of passion and drive has served Peavey well. His company continues to be the largest industrial employer in Meridian with over 1,000 employees and sells its products in over 136 countries. As athletes competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, audio distributions from Peavey’s MediaMatrix provided audio networking at several sports venues. The company has also received the prestigious E Star Award, which is the top honor the U.S. Commerce Department awards for excellence in exporting.
As Peavey’s story illustrates, success in business and life entails risk. This begins with the ability to be brutally honest with yourself and to diligently find your sweet spot of talent and passion. While many of Peavey’s competitors have flamed out over the years, he has purposefully remained passionate about his business and taken bigger and bigger risks as he grew his company. While it would have been easy to “cash out” long ago, Peavey is still innovating and creating opportunity because of his love for what he does. Undoubtedly, Mississippi would benefit from more courageous entrepreneurs like Hartley Peavey who clearly take stock of their talents and passionately pursue business opportunities leveraging their true abilities.
Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.