Spikes Asia 2016
Why Passion Trumps Talent

When Matt Eastwood is hiring, he doesn’t look for talent.

Ok, that may be a tad of an overstatement. But during his speech at Spikes Asia, the Worldwide CCO of JWT described why he focuses on passion over everything else. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be passion for the job or industry itself. For Eastwood, passion translates. People who are passionate about something are usually passionate about anything. As Eastwood put it, “Passion is the strongest indicator of your potential.”

Eastwood referenced a number of history’s most successful people as paragons of the virtue of passion, and how it can be the ultimate motivator. Talent is great, but it can be a trap, causing complacency. Pablo Picasso was undoubtedly one of the most talented artists ever, but he also had a clear passion for making art. Why else would he have created such a staggering amount of it? Thomas Edison was brilliant, too, but had the “advantage of doggedness,” Eastwood said. Passion for something can often be the driving force behind the work ethic required to achieve great things. Edison, Eastwood noted, made 1,000 different iterations of the light bulb and tested 6,000 filaments before landing on the eventual invention.

“[Edison] made 6,999 mistakes,” Eastwood said. “He never let up.” To Edison, and others that are considered brilliant and successful, the mistakes become opportunities to grow and learn. Only someone who has a deep passion will see it that way, however.

Eastwood deftly brought up examples of more real-life, everyday passion, not limiting his examples to famous people. He talked at length about a number of folks around the JWT network who have displayed passion in everything from shoes to antique French keychains to Formula 1 racing to, yes, even marijuana.

“You want these kind of people on your team, no matter what your team is,” Eastwood said. “And no matter what their passion is. Even though my business is marketing, I look for passionate people in all places, passionate about all things.”

Some might wonder, what good is a passion for antique French keychains when your job is to create marketing communications? Unless your work has to do directly with your passion, can’t it be a detriment? To Eastwood, people who are passionate about something know how to translate passion into some sort of end result.

“It [also] gives them energy, it gives them meaning,” Eastwood said. “It makes their skin tougher, it teaches them to try harder, to devote themselves. It changes the dynamic of the work itself, because these people are used to pouring themselves into something.”

As with the Edison example, mistakes and failure are a part of any endeavor: creative, personal, professional. Eastwood talked about his own tough times, being shockingly fired from a job early in his career before dusting himself off and leaning on his passion. Another high-profile example, author J.K. Rowling, is a story of dogged perseverance and belief in oneself, one’s work or idea. Harry Potter was passed over by numerous publishers before becoming a cultural phenomenon. For Eastwood, when things go south, there’s one thing that can get you through.

“The biggest test of your passion will come when nothing goes your way.”

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