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From the November 15, 2002 print editionarrowMore Print Edition Stories
Career Moves

Is work your joy and passion? Or is it killing your spirit?

Judith Briles  

Liz thought she had made it — from designer clothes to entertaining in the best restaurants in town. Working for a Fortune 500 company and climbing the corporate ladder as a finance executive, she was living her dream — or thought she was.

Yet something wasn't working. The stress from 60-plus hour work weeks, along with lack of a personal life, took its toll. Seeking balance, she quit and became the controller for a growing entrepreneurial venture. The balance she sought eluded her; she had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

That all changed when she fell off a 17-foot cliff. She survived the fall and realized that she needed big changes in her professional and personal life. Her head — the logical, rational-thinking side — had dominated her decisions to this point. Finally, her heart spoke up — the emotional, creative, feeling side. The message she got was simply, "Follow your heart, do what you love."

With the downturned economy, can you just pick up and say, "I'm out of here" when a wake-up call comes your way? Millions are asking:

  • How can I make a difference AND make a living?

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  • How can I find and pursue a purpose that I am passionate about that brings meaning to life?

  • How can I keep that fire burning?

  • Are there universal principles that can help me on life's journey?

  • What is the real formula for success and for getting what I want in life?

Especially in the worst of times, as Dickens would say, when terrorism, war, economic downturn, drought, layoffs, bankruptcies and ethical challenges surround us, we need to ignite our true spirit. Just as exercise strengthens our muscles and brings more fitness, adversity strengthens who we are and stimulates stronger flow of spirit.

And that is why the worst of times, when adversity strikes, can be seen as the best of times. Liz's 17-foot fall could have killed her; instead, it became a rebirthing.

Theresa M. Szczurek is a successful entrepreneur, shepherding Colorado-based Radish Communications Systems to a $40 million-plus sale a few years ago. Presently, she heads up Technology and Management Solutions and has taken the principles that emerged with the growth and success of her first company. The result is a new workshop she is presenting, "Pursuit of Passionate Purpose: Principles for a Meaningful Life," sponsored by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at CU and based on her experiences, the results of the study she conducted and her forthcoming book by the same name.

According to Szczurek, the challenge of all organizations made up of people is to keep that human spirit flowing. After she completed her extensive research, she concluded, "It is the pursuit of passionate purpose, and not only its attainment, which brings satisfaction and meaning to life."

Szczurek explains that her research found that the pursuit of passionate purpose in life includes four areas:

  • Knowing and nurturing the person by assessing what is important to you

  • Finding a meaningful purpose

  • Pursuing the purpose

  • Assessing your progress

Let's go back to Liz. Unknown to her at the time, Liz started the Assessment Phase when she fell off the cliff. She stopped working, healed physically and explored through travels to Africa who she was and what was important to her.

She embarked on the Know and Nurture the Person Phase and realized that her love of music and singing was missing. But how could she pursue that and make a living?

During the Find Passionate Purpose Phase, she found the answer. Liz started a consulting firm that provides accounting and financial management services to companies that only need a part-time controller. And, she started her own band to satisfy her music needs. Now, immersed in the Pursue Passionate Purpose Phase, she has found balance in life through following her heart and living her dream.

As the process evolves, internal rewards come from the activity itself and bring forth even more motivation for the pursuit.

What about you? What are you doing to nurture passionate purpose?

A passionate purpose is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, and your career. You experience joy and build self-confidence in your abilities to contribute while living and working within a satisfying environment. And, with the pursuit of purpose comes fulfillment that creates meaning and a feeling of success. The bonus is that organizations gain peak performance and positive results when employees' passions are aligned.

The "Pursuit of Passionate Purpose: Principles for a Meaningful Life" workshop will be presented in conjunction with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado in a kick-off keynote on Friday evening, Nov. 22, followed by an interactive workshop on Saturday, Nov. 23. Go to for more information or call 303-443-8674, ext. 1.

It may be just what the good doctor ordered.

Judith Briles has written more than 20 books. Reach her at 303-627-9179 or

© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.

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