I interviewed a "new" artist this week because he was selected as the "developing artist of the year."
Howard Spielman gets a kick out of that designation.
"Imagine that," he says with his characteristic sense of humor. "It only took me 70 years to become a 'developing artist.'"
Howard says he's been an artist ever since he could hold a pencil and a paintbrush. He wanted to live his life as an artist but quickly realized he had to do something that would keep a steady paycheck coming in. He worked as an art teacher for 30 years.
"During that time, I was still doing my own art. But with a wife and family, my emphasis had to be on earning a living," he says.
After he retired, Howard said he realized he had time for himself, time to find his passion.
"You can work at your career all your life and you can do really well at it. But most times that's different from finding your passion in life," Howard says.
After realizing he had plenty of artistic talent but knew nothing about new technology, he signed up for some photography and computer classes at the local art center.
That's where he found on outlet for his passion. He calls it "painting with pixels."
His unique artwork is mostly created on the computer using a digital tablet and a digital brush. When combined with his drawing, painting and photography, the result is a fresh approach to fine art.
I'll bet Howard is working longer hours creating his unique canvases than he ever did during his career. But there's a major different. He's now doing what he wants to do, not want his has to do.
Coincidentally, Howard was the second person in a week to talk with me about finding one's passion.
Jack Rabito says he found his passion when he was able to finally pursue acting. "The acting bug bit me early in life but I knew it wasn't a reliable way to earn a living," he says.
So he worked in broadcasting for 20 years, finding a successful career as a radio announcer.
Now, he says, he found something better than success: "I'm pursuing my passion for acting. I'm doing something out of real love," he says.
Happily, he's found success on the stage, too. Jack is now traveling the country, filling the role of Harry Truman in a one man show called: "Give em Hell, Harry." He's been invited to give a special performance at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.
He says he spent a full year researching Truman. "I listened to every one of his speeches and studied his Midwestern inflection, posture and mannerisms," he says.
That kind of dedication is what happens when one follows his passion.
Many people have to wait until retirement to find their passion. Some never do it at all.
I consider myself richly blessed because my career and my passion were always one and the same.
From my sophomore year in high school I wanted to write for a newspaper. There was never any doubt. And there was never any doubt through 50 years of journalism that I picked the right career.
I can remember coming back from spending a day with Gary Alt, the bear biologist, when I didn't want my boss to see that I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I figured he wouldn't pay me if he knew how much fun I was having.
I've told readers before about the weeks before I was scheduled to have serious neurosurgery.
The doctor told me while I was waiting for the surgery, to go home and do the things I most wanted to do in life.
I stayed in work doing interviews and writing because that was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Every interview enriches me in some way.
That's passion for the job.
Even now, in my so-called retirement, I still need to write, the same as I need to breathe. That someone actually pays me to do what I love has always been a marvel for me.
Every now and then I say I'm going to stop writing so I have more time to do other things. My friend Linda says I'll be writing until the day they shovel dirt on my coffin. I think she's right.
Most kids today pick careers based on passion, not on job prospects and not on future paychecks.
In decades past, people like Howard and Jack thought first about how they could support themselves and their family. If they realized the long-term job potential was slim, they found a different career.
I've had guidance counselors tell me kids don't think long term when they pick a career. They think only of their current interests. My friend's daughter is an example of that.
Ann picked music as a college major because she always loved to play in the band. But after college graduation she learned there are few full-time jobs as a musician and is now working as a bank teller.
Sometimes, as Jack and Howard learned, passion has to be put on the back burner in favor of more practical pursuits.
But happy is the man or woman who finds a passion and has the opportunity to pursue it.