A recent podcast, The Perils of Following Your Career Passion,” by Adam Grant, compelled this post. One of many takeaways is the idea of developing your passion versus following it, and his insight that “passion is a consequence of effort, not just a cause.”
As a result, I was inspired to illustrate my learnings via the storied career of my husband, Robert Poindexter, whose chapters are replete with grit, determination and resourcefulness.
Self-directed, with an appetite for cars, boats and communication, he proves that openness to learning and growing your passions can net you a satisfying and successful career.
Glassdoor: Would you describe your career path? Is it self-directed? Did you have a vision for your future professional self? If so, what was it?
Robert Poindexter: I would describe my “career path” as more of a “career maze,” actually. It has definitely been self-directed. Not having much support or anyone to help guide me during my formative years left me without much of a vision for my future professional self, other than to survive as best as I could.
Survival for me was to get as far away as possible from an abysmal home life and try to figure out how to make my way in the world. While driving around looking for a job in the small West Texas town I had lived in for most of my childhood, I passed the National Guard Armory.
The military really hadn’t been on my radar; however, since I was a high school dropout at this point, and without much direction and absolutely no prospects, joining the U.S. Navy seemed like a good way to at least improve my current situation. So, I walked into that armory and asked the first soldier I saw how I could join. Ten days later, I was on my way to boot camp in San Diego, California.
Glassdoor. Did you follow your career passions? Or, did you develop your passions? Or, perhaps a combination of both? Please explain.
Robert Poindexter: I would say it was a combination of both. My passions have changed over the years, and I’ve been fortunate to find employment that answered those passions as they morphed. My passion for travel was satisfied with my enlistment in the service followed by 15 years on the road driving coast to coast in a semi-truck.
Once my wanderlust had been satiated, I was ready to settle down to a more conventional lifestyle and found plenty of opportunities to use my developed gift of gab in the auto industry. Cars had been a passion of mine since I was old enough to know the difference between a Ford and a Chevy, and this line of work seemed to be a perfect fit.
After enjoying success in the auto industry, my not-so-dormant passion for boats (developed while I was in the Navy) found me on the doorstep of a local boat dealership seeking employment in a new industry.
Glassdoor: What aspects of your career would you describe as guided by your passions (situations where you followed your passions)? Conversely, what aspects of your career unveiled areas of passion that you heretofore didn’t know you had (situations where you developed your passions)?
Robert Pointdexter: My time in the service was certainly guided by my passion to travel, and being around boats and the ocean unveiled a love of the nautical lifestyle that I never realized existed.
3. Do you feel there are certain passions that have developed more than others over the years, and if so, which ones? Why? How has this added value to your career?
Robert Poindexter: Over the course of my working life, most of my jobs have required the ability to communicate well in order to succeed.
Communication may not have been high on my list of passions starting out. However, the fact that written and oral communication was a constant part of each new opportunity and an integral part of the day to day of each position I’ve held, at this point I would consider it a passion. It is also a passion I plan to continue to develop and sharpen well into and beyond whatever ‘retirement’ may look like for me.
Glassdoor: Any surprises in regard to passions and how they’ve developed? How have your passions helped your career? What have been downsides and/or upsides of following your passions? Conversely, downsides or upsides to ‘developing’ your passions?
Robert Poindexter: As I stated above, I have been surprised by how the need to properly communicate developed itself from a need to now being a passion. That passion has meant the difference between being a background player in my employment opportunities and being on the frontlines.
The only downsides to my passions, whether feeding my wanderlust or developing my communication skills, has been my need for changing my situation in order to make that passion a bigger part of my life.
I could have stayed in the military for 20 or so years and had a nice little retirement to depend upon for the rest of my life. Doing so would have meant my wanderlust and communication would have been limited to what the military decided for me.
I could have stayed in the trucking industry and acquired more standing and a few more trucks and at some point, started a real trucking company that would have provided a secure future monetarily speaking. But again, I would have been confined to learning only what that industry required of me for success.
The same is true of the auto industry and now the boating industry.
Glassdoor: Why did you (what spurred you to) join the Navy? What areas of talent, skill, ability strengthened during this tenure? What passions may have developed?
Robert Poindexter: I was truly spurred to join the military based on my current personal situation at the time. I learned to drive boats during the service which helped to develop that passion, and I learned invaluable skills for dealing with people from all walks of life, which certainly helped me in my sales skills down the road.
But, I believe that self-discipline was my biggest takeaway, and that is something that has served me well regardless of what position I found myself in.
Glassdoor: Similarly, tell me about the start-up and launch of your over-the-road truck driving career? How/why did you start this business? What areas of talent, skill, ability strengthened during this tenure? What passions may have developed?
Robert Poindexter: I had saved a little money while I served in the Navy and knew when I left the military, I wanted a more independent lifestyle. After being constantly surrounded by people for over three years, some solitude was needed. What better way to achieve this than running coast-to-coast in the cab of my own truck with a loosely threaded schedule that let me stop when I wanted company or keep on running when I didn’t?
Communication in dealing with shippers, dispatchers, law enforcement, other drivers and state and federal regulatory personnel certainly helped to hone those skills.
I also developed a great sense of geography which helped later on in sales when dealing with people who were from other parts of the country than where I was selling at the time.
In other words, if I was selling someone a Cadillac in Florida who happened to be from Seattle Washington, I instantly had something to talk to them about since I spent lots of time in that part of the world during my time on the road. Having something in common with a prospect always gives a salesperson a leg up, I’ve found.
Glassdoor: Why did you divest your trucks and initiate a career in sales? What areas of talent, skill, ability strengthened during this tenure? What passions may have developed?
Robert Poindexter: By the time I decided to go into the car business, I had been on the move for most of 20 years. I was road weary and ready for something that more closely resembled normalcy. I owned three trucks at the time, and the economy was making things tough on small independent truckers like me, so that added to my disenchantment with the industry. I was on my way back home from an appointment with my accountant, and the news he shared with me didn’t make me feel any better about things.
On a lark, I pulled into a car dealership in Merritt Island, Florida, and applied for a job selling cars (cars had long been a passion of mine). I had no idea what I was doing or if I could even make a living at it. That was in October of 1999, and I told the manager that interviewed me that I was willing to give it a try if there was a position open, so long as they would understand that it was just a trial for me.
I told him I would work until the end of December, and if it looked as if I could make a living selling cars, I’d sell my three trucks and stay on with the dealership. After a month in the business, I had found my new career and divested myself of my equipment and employees.
My communication skills found a whole new arena to play in, and I honed them even further here. I developed them so well, in fact, that it wasn’t long before I was moving up the ladder. First, as a Closer, then a Sales Manager and eventually a Business Manager, (one of the best paying positions in this industry next to the General Manager). In addition to increasing my customer relationship skills, I also learned how to deal with executive management in order move up in the industry.
Glassdoor: Next, you left the auto industry to start in the boating industry. What areas of talent, skill, ability strengthened during this tenure? What passions may have developed?
Robert Poindexter: By the Winter of 2010, the stress of long days and the constant struggle to meet or exceed backend sales quotas had me thinking about finding a new challenge that wasn’t as demanding on me physically and mentally.
My wife owned and still does own a careers business, and I had been doing some writing for her on the side while working at the dealership. We both had a desire to live in a warmer climate than Kansas City, Missouri, and made the decision to move south and live on a lake. The plan was to develop her business to a point that would sustain us and to work together while living a more independent lifestyle.
After moving to Lake Texoma, Texas, we started working her business together. It took about six months to realize our plan wasn’t going to work as well as we had hoped, so I put my feelers out in a very small job market and landed a job selling land for a local resort. The money was good, but the job was horrible and after about two years, I wandered into a local boat dealership to buy a new boat.
I met with the owner and a relationship formed. Soon, I inquired about a position with them, and here I am. I was brought on as a salesman, but was soon given the opportunity to get involved in managing sales, marketing and filling other business development needs.
I have gained a great deal of knowledge about this niche industry over the past nearly five years and have increased my knowledge of a personal passion of mine: boats and boating.
Careerists who may find themselves in a similar career maze as Rob encountered, may find encouragement in his journey. You may also reap guidance, a beacon if you will, in articulating your story, going forward. An ability to connect what may sometimes feel like disconnected dots is important in conveying your value as you close one chapter and begin anew.