Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Your Passion


It has been said that to find happiness, you should follow your passion. Quitting your “money job” to follow your passion can be scary, daunting, overwhelming at times – but can also lead to great success.

My good friend, Boyd Wright, is a great example of someone who followed his passion to success.  As a young man Boyd visited his uncle, a banker, who did woodworking in his spare time. He observed how his uncle enjoyed his creative outlet of “making sawdust” as he worked the wood and transformed it into something beautiful after a hard day at the bank. This stuck with Boyd as he embarked on his career at the University of North Dakota.

In 1980, after eleven years in the Political Science Department, he was appointed General Counsel for the University. He enjoyed his work and could easily have stayed in that position until retirement. Over time, however, Boyd found the legal system took far too long for him to see the end results of his cases. He needed something more.

As Boyd’s uncle aged, he gave up his hobby. Remembering how gratifying woodworking was for his uncle, Boyd decided to start a woodworking business of his own.  In 1983 he built a small building behind his home and moved in his uncle’s equipment.

Learning to use all of the equipment proved to be difficult, and Boyd had to borrow many DVD’s and books from the library to teach himself the intricacies of woodworking. He found that developing a piece of wood into a finished product took much less time than waiting for legal decisions, and also provided instant gratification.  Within a year he enjoyed his “pass-time” business so much it became his passion and Wright Made Products became an official part-time business.

Like most home-based businesses, Boyd started small. His “marketing program” consisted mostly of hand stuffed mailings to both wholesale and retail customers. If Boyd had free time, he spent it developing his business. The resulting growth was exciting and by 1990 he needed to decide whether to continue building Wright Made Products or devote his energy to serving as General Counsel at the University. With the support of his wife, Lillian, Boyd followed his passion and devoted himself full time to his woodworking.

Boyd’s dedication and enthusiasm motivated him to keep up with technology.  With the advent of the web, Boyd expanded the scope of his company by marketing through several on-line resources. If one approach didn’t work out to his satisfaction, he tried a different one. By keeping up-to-date on available resources and evolving trends in social networking, Boyd developed his business internationally. Quite an accomplishment for a home-based business!

When asked what advice he has for others, Boyd gives his top three tips. “1. Be prepared for hard work and long hours with no safety net.  2. Be open minded and realistic about what you are doing; if it isn’t working, change it.  3. Learn from anyone and everyone you can; there’s a lot of talent and ideas out there, and most people are willing to teach or help you.”

Boyd is thankful for the help he received. He has teamed up with his neighbor who runs the local office of the SBA, and together they conduct seminars and classes on starting and growing home-based businesses. He is also a member of SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed.  By giving back to his community, Boyd shows his appreciation for the help he received along the way.

In 2010, Boyd received the North Dakota Home Based Business Champion award sponsored by the SBA. He also won the Region VIII award and was declared the National Home Based Business Champion by the SBA for 2010. This was the first time a North Dakota based business won the national award.  Boyd told me “I never expected to win these awards. I just enjoy ‘making sawdust’ and learning new ways to market my products.” In other words, he just followed his passion.

Follow your passion and you, too, will have fewer regrets and will lead a more fulfilling life.

Be sure to check out some of Boyd’s beautiful products at http://www.etsy.com/shop/wrightmade.

Originally published in Meta Arts Magazine, November, 2011.

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