People are passionate because they are successful, head of private clients at Deloitte says

12/10/2018 Ramla Soni

People are passionate because they are successful and not necessary successful because they are passionate according to Nicola Roberts, head of private clients at Deloitte. 

She admitted to attendees at the seventh eprivateclient Leadership Insight Seminar titled ‘You can buy anything but you can’t buy passion’ held in London last week (04/10/2018) that when she started her career 22 years ago, although she is now passionate about her job it “definitely did not start that way”.

Ms Roberts explained that, one of the most “dangerous and limiting ideas that is carried around is when people say follow your passions and that is the way to success. This suggests that everyone has one singular passion that you were born to do and you have to find it, and if you find it you will be successful and if you do not find it you will be a failure.”

“That leads people to turn down job offers and opportunities in case the thing they are being offered isn’t the right thing for them or isn’t their passion," she added.   

However, the reason we all talk about passion today, Ms Roberts explained, is if you think about successful people most people would associate that with them being passionate about what they do. 

“So it is important to be passionate as well but it is not something everyone should get tunnel vision and stuck down to because actually that will lead you to lose opportunities.”

“Passion feeds success, it is not the other way round,” Ms Roberts continued as she used Steve Jobs as an example to reinforce her opinion. 

She continued: “Steve Jobs when he started out was passionate about Buddhism; he was not passionate about building computers. He built computers because he could make money from that. He then became passionate about Apple and his brand and everything he did to do with it and he is now known as ‘Mr Passion’ and ‘love what you do’. That is not where he started.” 

An audience member noted that Steve Jobs was also misinterpreted frequently as other people had changed ‘love what you do’ into ‘do what you love’. Ms Roberts agreed and this was certainly not the same thing. 

Similarly, talking about how she got to her career today and how she grew to become passionate about her job, Ms Roberts explained that when she started her career she “did not know much about the job.”

She had told a temping agency that she was “quite good at maths” so to perhaps look for “some sort of purchase ledger job” as her plan was to “get a job, go travelling and then go to university”. She then managed to get a job at Coopers & Lybrand in the personal tax team (where the temp agency supplied secretaries) and on her first day was given a tax return to do, in respect of which Ms Roberts admitted not “even knowing what a tax return was” as she was 18 at the time and just out of school.

“So I was definitely not passionate about this job, but what I did do was just get on with it, worked hard and made some friends. It never really crossed my mind if the work was interesting or not as I thought this is just a job I’ll do for the next few months.

“But I did care about my job and I wanted to be good at it and did want others to think I was good at it,” she added.

At this point, Ms Roberts said she was thinking of going to university when C&L offered to support her through professional exams and she didn’t have to go to university if she did not want to. 

Ms Roberts told attendees how she agreed to this because it meant she could keep earning money which essentially meant she had, “based her whole decision on being able to buy a car.”

Ms Roberts said that she had then made a habit of saying “yes” to new opportunities.  She had started in the Reading office but also spent some time working in the Southampton office to gain experience of different work and a different team.  

In the early 2000’s she also started doing more international work and then the London team were “crying out for people” so she put herself forward for this opportunity, but she “wasn’t sure if she was really good enough as it was a bit scary, and it went on from there,” she stated.  

Looking back now, Ms Roberts said that the only thing “I continually did successfully was say yes to things” such as “going out of my comfort zone and trying something new, and so that to me proves that passion isn’t ‘found’.” 

There is also some recent Stanford university research that shows how passion is developed, she continued. 

“If passion was a fully formed idea that you just happened across one day that would massively limit people to narrow their focus and discard many other interests. So this concept of a singular thing, I reject whole-heartedly and if people do get stuck in that mind-set it leads to loss of opportunities, possibly job-hopping which can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration.  Frustration is the enemy of passion.” 

So, if you try something and you’re not that good at it you might get frustrated, Ms Roberts explained. “Most people then make less effort and then if you make less effort you are going to be even worse/not improve, so you are going to get even more frustrated.”

On the other hand, “if you do make an effort and you find out that you are quite good at it, you do get a bit of confidence and then probably try harder. You then put more effort into it which leads to you becoming even better at it, more successful, and over time you will become more passionate about it,” Ms Roberts said that this is something she had certainly done during her career.  

Overall, looking at the elements of success and the root of developing passion, Ms Roberts pointed out three elements.

“Cognitive ability, diligence (or conscientiousness) and industry (otherwise known as hard work). If you do everything like it matters, if you care about what you do, you care about your clients, care about your team- you will be diligent, you will work hard and to me those are the things which will lead you to feeling passionate about your job,” she concluded. 

The seventh eprivateclient Leadership Insight Seminar was sponsored by Ruffer LLP and hosted at its London office on Thursday 4 October 2018. Other speakers included Lucia Perchard, director at Highvern and Jonathan Shankland, head of international private wealth, RadcliffesLeBrasseur and a 2016 eprivateclient Top 35 Under 35.

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