Seventy five years ago, the founder of Douglass Signs was an artist and creative spirit who thoroughly enjoyed figuring out any challenge. It was L.J. Douglass’ passion for solving problems for others that led him to react to literally every sign request with a “Can Do!” approach. When he was asked to mark gas water heaters, he learned how to make decalcomanias (water slide decals), which led to the formation of the screen printing division of the company. He employed a young artist to help him design the new line of decal products. Within a few years, that artist – my dad, Tom Kaiser – faced a choice between incorporating the screen printing division at L.J.’s retirement or losing his job. Although there were many things he did not know, he, like L.J., was resourceful, passionate, and determined to succeed.
Do you love what you do? Think back to the times that you made choices about jobs, education, or volunteering. The choices that lasted were most likely those with which you engaged with passion. Perhaps you had a particular talent; perhaps you just really believed in the organization or subject as one of value. Whatever your initial reasons, the more you experienced success the more likely you were to also develop other passions and ultimately significance as a leader in that organization or subject.
It was my dad who helped me find my passion. He knew that I was not happy in my first year of college, and urged me to think about what I really loved to do. Considering that, I decided to major in fine arts and switched schools accordingly. The switch gave me a chance to work with my dad, and I learned the commercial side of art and design – and figuring out anything – under his tutelage. Years later, as I became the third artist-owner of the company, I yearned to give back to the arts. First was a decision for all charitable contributions to go to the arts and exhibit leadership with community arts programs such as Swansation and Kaleidoscope. Next was a decision to begin a serigraphy (fine art screen print) collection at the Polk Museum of Art. Currently, Douglass Screen Printers helps underwrite Kids Tag Art, a program started by the Polk County Tax Collector’s Office enabling fifth grade students to design their own license tags and help raise arts monies for their schools. The program has since spread into multiple Florida counties.
I believe my love for the arts stemmed originally from the joy that comes from creativity and expression. However, following this pursuit also forced me to continue to be a student. There was so much I did not know -- but had to know – in order to successfully run a business. As certain subjects were mastered, others arose that seemed equally urgent to know. Learning soon became a new passion. Realizing that one of the best ways to learn was to teach others, yet another passion emerged. I now find myself seeking every opportunity to use the things I have learned so that I can make a positive difference for others. I am not sure I would have made a choice when I was of college age to be a servant leader, but that is where my passions have led me.
Do you live your passions? Consider what you love to do and how it fits with your talents. Are there things you need to learn to be more successful, and do you know where to start to get the education you need? One of the best ways to learn about success is from someone who is exactly that, and can act as a role model to you. Once you’ve connected thought and consideration to your passion, set lofty goals that keep you motivated. Apply discipline and single-mindedness in pursuit of these goals, but always be open to other opportunities along the journey. Give of yourself when you can, and it will return to you ten-fold.
One of my favorite sayings is a small poem by Rabindranath Tagore, who deftly expresses the concept of servant leadership with these words: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was service, and behold, I discovered that service was joy”.
It is my joy to serve the world’s women through the work of TIAW. I promise if you look for your passion, and you will find your joy. If you’d like to learn more about servant leadership, investigate the life work of Robert Greenleaf.
Lisa Kaiser Hickey