Whether we're thinking about starting a small business, or just thinking about what career path to choose, it's important that we follow our passions. When we think about what is needed to be successful in life and in our work, we usually think about characteristics like value, talent, ambition, intellect, discipline, persistence and luck. What many of us often fail to include in this recipe for success is passion. The passion we have, or don't have, for our work should not be underestimated. Sometimes this ingredient could make the biggest difference of all.

SEE: 5 People Who Turned Career Disaster Into Success

The True Meaning of Success
Before we talk about what I mean by passion and why it's so important, we must first explore what the true meaning of success is a bit further. Success is usually assumed to be associated with large sums of wealth or a high level of fame, but true success is not all about money,.

Success is, or at least should be, primarily defined as an achievement of something desired. So, the most successful people are the ones who achieve the things they most desire. What we desire the most, even more than money, is to be proud of what we do with our lives. This is especially true when it comes to our work. A truly successful person is one who is proud of the work he or she does. That, is the true meaning of success. Now, a lot of money shouldn't be the primary definition of success, but it's a reasonable goal to have. We all want to have enough money to sustain ourselves and our family. The thing is, if we're truly passionate about the work we do, there's probably a better chance that money will follow.

What I Mean by Passion
When I speak of passion, I don't mean it in the romantic way. What I mean by passion is the powerful feeling of enthusiasm we all have inside of us. We are all enthusiastic and passionate about something, whether its finance, food or a favorite sport. That enthusiasm is very powerful. When we can combine it with our work, we are setting ourselves up well for achieving true success.

Why Passion Is so Important
When we are enthusiastic and proud of the work we do, the better equipped we'll be to overcome the many obstacles that will surely arise in the process of starting a business or moving up in a career. Also, the more enthusiasm we have, the more inclined we are to work harder at improving ourselves. This will allow us to continuously get better at the work we do. The better we get at our work, the better we can get paid for doing it.

Ensuring we are passionate about our work will not only provide us with a meaningful career, but it will also give us a good chance of being paid well. The passion we have for our work can be the difference between making a living or making a killing.

SEE: The 10 Greatest Entrepreneurs

The Successful of Our Time
Steve Jobs
One of the most successful companies in the world today is Apple. When we think of Apple we also think of Apple's ex-CEO, the late Steve Jobs. Carmine Gallo wrote an article called, "The Seven Success Principles Of Steve Jobs," which outlines seven key factors that are responsible for Jobs' success. The article is based on multiple interviews with Apple employees and Steve Jobs himself. Believe it or not, the No. 1 principle in this article is, "do what you love." Steve Jobs believed in the power of passion, and once said, "people with passion can change the world for the better." Jobs claimed that the passion he had for his work made all the difference.

Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner, the once homeless man turned multi-millionaire stockbroker that Will Smith plays in the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," once expressed what he believes is the secret to success. He stated that he believes the secret is to "find something you love to do so much, you can't wait for the sun to rise to do it all over again." He explains that the most inspiring leaders are those who don't work at a job, but pursue a calling.

Mark Zuckerberg
These days we cannot talk about success without mentioning Facebook and Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The 27-year old billionaire has changed the world we live in. In David Kirkpatrick's book, "The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of The Company That is Connecting The World," Kirkpatrick lists what he believes are Zuckerberg's ingredients for success. One of these ingredients is, you guessed it, follow your passion - not money. Zuckerberg suggests to "follow your happiness," and explains that even if you don't end up making a fortune, you'll at least be doing what you love.

SEE: 6 Millionaire Traits That You Can Adopt

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, known as "the Oracle of Omaha" and probably one of the greatest investors of all time, usually talks about his secrets to successful investing, but even Buffett knows there is more to success than money. In Parade's article, "10 Ways To Get Rich: Warren Buffett's Secret That Can Work For You," Buffet ends off his list of advice with, "know what success really means." He explains the importance of finding what it is that brings true meaning to our lives, what makes each day important and to make this our focus.

It's Never Too Late
For those of us who have been thinking, "I'm already following my passion" while reading this article, that's great! You should appreciate that because you're in the minority. According to The Conference Board, over 50% of Americans were dissatisfied with their jobs in 2010. It stated that most Americans were only working for their current employer simply because they had to.

Now, obviously most of us have to work one way or another (unless you were born into riches and are completely spoiled). So, don't just quit your day job because you aren't completely satisfied. However, that doesn't mean you can't pursue another more fulfilling career-path part-time. Have you ever heard the saying, "it's never too late to be what you could've been?" Well it's true. If you have an idea of where you want to be, you can still make moves towards getting there. If you have a full-time job to support you while you make that transition, that may actually be even better.

SEE: 6 Career-Killing Facebook Mistakes

The Bottom Line
True success is much more than having a lot of wealth and fame. Enjoying the work you do is, in some ways, more important than having a large bank account. Plus, if you enjoy the work you do, there's a greater chance you will do great work and get paid accordingly. If you're thinking about starting your own business, or just struggling with this in your own personal career, you may need to think about what you're passionate about. It may not be easy, but chances are it will be worth the effort.

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