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An interview with Gary Zelesky on his new book: The Passion Centered Professional – How to Go From Having Just A Career to Having a Life

Feb. 1, 2008
From the moment he began speaking, I was spellbound by Gary Zelesky. I first saw him during a meeting hosted by the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration.

By Debra Engelhardt-Nash

From the moment he began speaking, I was spellbound by Gary Zelesky. I first saw him during a meeting hosted by the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration. Gary was the early morning keynote speaker. I was alone – my team did not attend and my husband, Dr. Ross Nash, was attending a clinicians’ breakfast.

I thought Gary was poignant, funny, dramatic, and pertinent. Most of all, he was passionate. I sat slack-jawed for his entire presentation, and based on that presentation, I decided that the Nash Institute needed a meeting of its own with Gary.

That was almost 10 years ago. Gary Zelesky has been a featured speaker at every one of our Team Extravaganzas ever since. He continues to awe audiences and sends a message that touches the personal and professional lives of all who attend. He has become a mentor for Ross and a close friend of ours, and our families are connected by our zeal for life and helping others.

In addition to his speaking and writing, Gary is a life and team coach for business professionals, dentists, and teams. His exposure to professionals from various industries, including dentistry, inspired his latest book, “The Passion Centered Professional – How to Go From Having Just a Career to Having a Life.” Gary is committed to helping people live the life they love, rather than the life they tolerate. The launching of his latest project prompted me to ask him a few questions about his book.

Debra: I know you’ll say it was passion that compelled you to write this book, but can you give us more details about what that felt like? What was the point that committed you to this project?

Gary Zelesky speaks at the recent RDH Under One Roof
Click here to enlarge image

Gary: When people tell you over and over, “This stuff needs to be in a book,” it’s time to listen! Putting what is in your heart on paper feels like being naked in public! And I know that feeling…

Debra: First let’s clarify what you mean by passion.

Gary: Passion is what you would do if you never receive a dime for doing it. Passion does not have its expression in logic but in childlike belief and simplicity. Passion is the voice that calls to you from deep within to be fulfilled.

Debra: How do you know if you are working your passion? What does it feel like?

Gary: Passion is energy! You know you are working your passion if it doesn’t feel like work. People never retire from their passion, only their position. Passion is the fuel. Purpose is the engine.

Debra: Some people think they live out their passion outside of their workplace in their avocation, but you contend they need it in everything they do. How does that happen?

Gary: Unfortunately, too many people wait to do their passion on the weekends or near the end of their lives. Whatever your passion is, bring it to work with you. It’s something that reminds you why you’re really on the planet. In my book, I give example after example of how people can take their passion for life to their position in life.

Debra: You think passion can really transform a person’s career. Tell me how:

Gary: Before someone can transform his or her career (position), he or she must work on transforming himself or herself. People must have the courage to believe there is something more for them and should not listen to negativity, especially their own. Passion always affects position, but position seldom affects passion!

Debra: What if people feel they can’t get out of the “rut” they have created in their work? How do they start climbing out?

Gary Zelesky entertains the crowd at the recent RDH Under One Roof.
Click here to enlarge image

Gary: They need to take baby steps. In my book, I share that we don’t need to leave our jobs to follow our passion if we don’t want to. The first step is simple awareness of what our passions are and how we can make them part of our life. Too many people bury their passion in the name of responsibility. Hey, I understand that … however, never forget that passion is there. I teach how to dig it up, dust it off, and make it your reality, no matter how many years have gone by.

Debra: You mentioned that working with passion can directly increase productivity and profitability. How?

Gary: When you are passionate you are at your peak performance. Passion never needs to be motivated or reminded. People who are passionate about their position show up early and are the last to leave. They are contagious in the workplace and with the team. A passion-centered person sets the pace for productivity, which translates into the bottom line … increased profits. Trust me, the opposite is also true.

Debra: I know that you know how I feel about teamwork, and that you feel the same way on how critical it is to have the group work well together. Are you suggesting that each team member work with passion, or is this just for the doctor?

Gary: Passion must be appreciated within every team member, not just the doctor. Passion is not something that can be demanded by the “boss,” but must be discovered and expressed within each team member at some level while at work.

Debra: How does a doctor inspire passion in the team?

Gary: By first inspiring it within himself or herself. Passion is contagious if it can be seen in the lives of those who lead. Another great way to inspire passion is simply to ask each team member what their passion is. What do they love to do?

Debra: Gary, you talk about “passion in action.” Tell us more about that.

Gary: Passion is much more than a feeling … it’s a commitment. If I am truly passionate, it will show in the way I live my life. Team members don’t want to just hear about your passion, they want to see it in action. As they say, “Talk is cheap.”

Debra: In your book, you mention rebuilding your career so it is passion-centered. That seems like a lot of work.

Gary: It is work, however, passion is the fuel that will keep your motor running through the most challenging times. My book breaks the process down into bite-size pieces.

Debra: Gary, I know you live a passion-centered life in your work, family, recreation, and spirituality. It is evident that you love your work and play, and it’s inspiring to know you.

Gary: Well Debra, those who know us both say that I’m Debra in a male body. You also live a passion-centered life and it shows in the way you inspire all of us to take life to the next level. You are a great friend and mentor!

Debra: Thank you, Gary.

If you are interested in ordering or sampling Gary’s book, check out his Web site at

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