On New Year’s morning, a New York CPA sent a proud email to his associates highlighting his accomplishments for 2006.Contained in the message were details of the exact distance he had run during the year (1,706.7 miles), broken down into various categories, from day of the week to state. Attached was a “full analysis” in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

Joe is a self-proclaimed “semi-geek, anal-retentive accountant,” who started his career at age 13 working at his father’s firm entering data into the general ledger. Two decades later, he combined his passion for numbers with his passion for running, having started tracking these statistics in 1998—the year after his first marathon.

Possessing passion for our careers is a gift not many people are fortunate enough to receive. Those that do tend to stand out from their competitors and the really lucky ones enjoy a higher level of success.

One of the most amazing passion-based success stories comes from Mrs. Fields, who whipped up a recipe for running a profitable cookie shop at age 20 without an ounce of business experience. Thirty years later, there are 390 of those shops in the United States and 80 more across the globe.

“True wealth,” her father had told her, “is found in family, true friends, and passionately loving what you do.”

What Debbi Fields Rose loved -- and still loves -- to do is make cookies, eat cookies, and share cookies.

And she shared that story this past fall at Sage Software’s annual customer conference, Sage Summit:

When she was growing up, she baked chocolate chip cookies with whatever ingredients her family could afford, and quickly became known as the “cookie kid.”

Her first job was working as a bat girl for the Oakland A’s and she still remembers what she purchased with her first paycheck: real butter.

Unfortunately, her passion for dessert didn’t carry over to her passion for school. She received mostly Ds and was happy to become a housewife. But when she attended business meetings with her husband, his associates and potential clients immediately dismissed her as someone worth holding a conversation with, believing she was not going to amount to anything.

So she made a commitment to start her own cookie store with no business background and no money -- only passion.

To acquire the dough, she made appointments with bankers, brought along some freshly baked goodies, and asked them for a loan.

“Then, with cookie breath and chocolate-stained faces, they’d say, ‘Debbi, we love your passion, and we love your cookies, but we’re not going to give you [the money],’” she recalls.

She began losing hope but continued forging ahead until one man decided to take a chance on her at a 21 percent prime interest rate. It was the only money she could get, so she accepted.

When she opened the doors in August 1977, a few people wandered in, looked around, and purchased nothing. It was already mid-afternoon and she had not made a single sale.

If she continued sitting in her shop, waiting for people to come to her, she’d be doomed. So she loaded up a sample tray and marched up and down the streets of Palo Alto, Calif., entreating people to try her cookies.

Some people did. Some even followed her back to the store. Grand sales for the day totaled $75.

“That was the greatest cookie sales day of my life,” she says proudly.

No recipe contains only one ingredient. Mrs. Fields found that running a successful cookie business takes a quarter cup of passion, a quarter cup of perseverance, a quarter cup of perfection, and a quarter cup of people, all of which lead to quality.

Finding the first quarter of a cup was easy for her, but some people never take those life passions and translate them into jobs they enjoy.

Not everyone will be as financially successful as Mrs. Fields or as meticulous as Joe the accountant, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all send out annual emails highlighting our accomplishments, knowing that passion helped make them possible?

It would be like having our cookie and eating it, too.

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