Ever since I was young, I dreamed of working on Wall Street. That passion drove me to attend college where I studied to do just that—and then it happened. The interesting thing that occurred was a transformation of that passion from simply working on Wall Street, to embracing, learning, mastering, and sharing the very attribute that was at the core of success for anyone in or out of Wall Street: communication.
After spending twenty-five years working in and around Wall Street—including having leadership positions at Bloomberg, BlackRock, and Citadel—I took a giant leap and opened my own firm called Climb Leadership Consulting. The goal was to leverage my expertise in sales and public speaking in order to make a difference in the lives and careers of others. To augment my private practice, I also dedicated myself to teaching undergraduates all the skills and techniques that no one bothered to teach me when I was in college—thus, I earned a living by combining these two distinct yet interrelated disciplines.
An Unexpected Honor Because of Passion
I arrived at the awards ceremony with no expectations. I’d only been teaching for a single year, unsure just a few months earlier whether I was even fit for academia or not. I never win anything, I told myself, so why should this time be any different?
Then I heard the announcement ring out over the auditorium: “The Mercy Maverick College Professor of the Year is…” The student emcee called my name; I was completely dumbstruck. Here I was being given a college-wide award—chosen by the student body—for teaching excellence.
As I walked up to the dais to accept the award, I was asked to say a few words to the faculty, students, and guests. I said to myself, Don’t overthink this, Chuck. Do what you train others to do. Put one word in front of the other, and speak with passion and purpose. With my microphone in hand, I said the following: “There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, ‘The longest journey any of us will ever take is the eighteen inches that separates our hearts from our minds.’ Since this was my first year of teaching, I knew what I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know exactly how. This was new to me. I decided to just surrender to my intuition. Teach from the heart and the mind will follow. My objective was to come to campus each day and inspire you to do three things:
- Bring your ‘A’ game.
- Be generous to others with your time and expertise.
- Work each day to exceed your own expectations.
“I brought to class the realization that education is not the filling of a pail; it’s the lighting of a fire. But a funny thing happened on my way to the classroom. It was you who inspired me to bring my ‘A’ game, to be generous with my time and expertise, and to exceed my own expectations. For that I am truly grateful. It is an honor to accept this award.”
It was at that moment that I realized I had made the right decision—devoting my professional life to teaching the art of communication was the best career choice I’d ever made. Going to work every day excited me and brought meaning to my life in ways I never could have imagined, and still does to this day.
When people find what drives them—their inner passion—it ignites those around them. There is no shortage of “do what you love” platitudes on the web inspiring individuals to follow their dreams, but there’s truth at the core. When you believe in what you do, success will inevitably follow.