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Happy…

Closing out the yearI’m a little contemplative today. I tend to get this way roughly this time each year.

  1. Because of the holidays and the end of the year, and
  2. Because it’s my birthday.

Yes, I’m one of those. Don’t worry. It’s not a mid-life crisis, just a little year-end contemplation. I think it’s valuable to look back every now and again. And this year, I find myself thinking a lot about my Birthday Reflections post from two years ago:

“…through everything, I’ve had more happy days than sad the last year. Which I hope is true for most people.

I suspect it’s not.

I look around and see people challenged in many different aspects of their lives. Some are unhappy in work. Others are unhappy in love. And still others are unhappy in life, generally.

Now, to be fair, many people face challenges that I can scarcely imagine. We’re sitting in the middle of the worst economy any of us will ever see (we hope). Lots of people are struggling to pay their bill or are worrying about what happens if they get sick. Some aren’t sure how they’re going to pay for their kids’ college or their retirement. Others face very real medical situations for themselves or their family. These are huge problems and ones that I don’t see any easy answers to.

At the same time, I’m excited whenever I talk with a business owner or an entrepreneur or a kid fresh out of school who looks at the world and sees opportunity. Many speak of their plans with such enthusiasm and passion and drive, that they breathe life into everyone who hears what they’ve got to say. You can’t help but get caught up in their excitement for what they’re going to do.

Sure, some won’t succeed, at least not at first. More than a few will likely adjust their plans or their goals along the way once they learn a bit more about their customers, their market, or their assumptions that weren’t quite right. But many will succeed in the long run. And not because they had a better idea or a better business plan or a better operating environment.

No.

What will help them reach their dreams is that enthusiasm, that passion, that drive. We all get knocked down from time to time. The most successful people I know often have suffered serious setbacks or losses somewhere along the way. That’s not cliché. That’s reality. It’s the enthusiasm, the passion and the drive that helps them deal with those setbacks, that helps them overcome the challenges, that helps them get back on the horse when they fall off.”

I’ve long believed it’s important to do what you love. In fact, I’m increasingly convinced that’s true. That doesn’t mean you’ll love it every second. Nor does it mean it’s a guarantee of immediate success.

What it is, though, is the thing that will get you up off the ground when you’re knocked down — and if you’re like most of us, that will happen somewhere along the way. Bill Gates’ first company was called Traf-O-Data. While it wasn’t an outright failure, it didn’t exactly net him his billions. Warren Buffett couldn’t get a job with his hero, Ben Graham, when he first graduated college. Again, that seems to have worked out OK.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a look backwards every now and again — whether on your birthday, the day after a major project tanks, or whatever one appeals to you. But the folks who do what they love quickly absorb whatever lessons they can from the process, then “get back on the horse,” and start moving forward again. Gates’ love of computers and software led him to Microsoft; Buffett’s love of business and finance kept him in the game.

So, as the year starts to close, take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Do I love what I’m doing? Will it sustain me through the tough times?” And if you find the answer is “No,” think about what it would take to get you there.

And, for those of you who answered “Yes,” you’ve got the best present you can have. For you, I’ll close with my thoughts from a couple years ago,

“…my birthday wish is that you find whatever it is that engages your energy and prods your passion (even though that [phrase] sounds a little dirty when I say it out loud). Each year goes a little faster than the one before it, so don’t waste your time worrying too much about what could go wrong. Some bad stuff will happen no matter what you do. That’s life. Just make the most of your time and do what it takes to make yourself—and the people you love—happy.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of my past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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