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Practically every team in professional sports has one or more players who were not high draft choices but have excelled. Look at the National Football League. Quarterback Tom Brady was drafted 199th in the 2000 NFL draft and has led New England to six Super Bowl titles. Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, yet was only a third-round pick. John Randle from my Minnesota Vikings wasn’t even drafted, yet the defensive tackle is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

How can draft experts and team executives be so wrong?

Easy. You can’t always gauge passion, desire, effort or heart.

As author T.S. Eliot put it, “It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”

You can detect passion in someone, but trying to predict how far it will carry or what will result is more intangible. But without real passion, a job is just a place to go.

Passion is at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel at, whether you are in sports, sales or any other occupation.

There is no substitute for passion. If you don’t have a deep-down, intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there’s no way you will be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful.

However, I will offer one caveat about passion. If you are not good at what you are passionate about, it doesn’t matter. I was passionate about becoming a professional golfer at one time, but my mother helped me realize that because I lived in Minnesota, where you can play golf only about half the year, it would be difficult for me to catch up with young golfers from warmer climates. Now I’m passionate about golf as a hobby.

When you start to discover your own passion, my advice is to surround yourself with people who are passionate about their jobs. You will catch their passion. And remember that you can’t be passionate when you feel like it. You have to be passionate about your job, product or cause all the time. There’s no off switch on a tiger.

I have always admired the passion demonstrated by the late Steve Jobs, who said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

But what do you do when you lose the fire and passion that fueled your ambitions when you were younger? You can regain your enthusiasm by doing a little introspection.

Reflect on the past. Draw up a timeline from the very beginning of your childhood and figure out when you were happiest and what got you down the most.

Find your guideposts. List five or six principles that guide you in life, and decide whether they are values you truly live by or ideas you merely talk about.

Make it real. Write down your thoughts, feelings and hopes and share them with your family, or tell them to a trusted friend. That way, there’s someone to witness and hear you out, and you will feel responsible for making some changes.

Don’t panic. You may discover you have developed a new passion for a career change. Follow your dream!

Mackay’s Moral: Passion never goes out of fashion.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail