One of those silly but helpful “how-to-succeed-in-business” books asked me to write down the three people I admire most in my life today. I did so without difficulty. Next, it asked me to consider what trait these three people have most in common. That was easy as well: passion.
I like a lot of people who don’t appear to have much passion toward much of anything. They seem to navigate through their days and years just fine. An afternoon with them is like sipping a cup of hot chocolate during a January snowstorm.
Yet, I have a higher attraction to those individuals who can never seem to get comfortable. Their passion oozes out of their bodies at all hours of the day. Energy abounds. No one is quite the same after joining them in a quest.
As a young man, I had the opportunity to work for a truly passionate person. He was an older gentleman by the name of Jacob. Jacob owned many properties: banks, golf courses, motels and condos. But in his late 80s, he decided to focus his vehement efforts on one small hotel on West Colfax in Denver.
It was during this time that I worked for Jacob, and had the privilege to see his passion drive us to offer a great hotel experience to every guest. As Jacob’s motel manager, I always felt a bit on edge, wondering if I was measuring up to his standards.
Each morning, Jacob would arrive at the hotel before five and walk briskly back to the big coffee urn in the kitchen to make sure it had been scrubbed clean from the night before. No coffee was ever to be served from an urn that had only been rinsed out; a perfect cup of coffee started with a spotless urn. Jacob also taught me how to buy the best meats from vendors and how to dry-age beef by hanging it on racks in the walk-in cooler. We would smell test the beef every morning, breathing in deep, passionate breaths.
Sheets on Jacob’s motel beds were white as snow and had a slight scent of lilac, even in the heat of August. He made sure each wine glass was wiped crystal clean. He personally taught every night auditor to greet late-arriving guests with a smile and a cookie. Upon checkout, Jacob was often there, helping guests carry their luggage out to their vehicles.
It was a little motel in a tough part of the city, and Jacob was wealthy by any standard, so it took me years to figure out why this old man displayed such dedication to the smallest unit of his corporate empire. The answer? Passion. Jacob had a huge passion for excellence, and it gave him a style, a dignity and a purpose that could not be lessened by age.
When I think of the three people I admire most in my life today, I can see a bit of Jacob in each of them. And I’m sure all three would appreciate a cup of his coffee from a sparkling clean urn.