Do You Live Your Life in Color?

Richard Chambers, CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA, shares his personal reflections and insights on the internal audit profession. 


Last month, I lost two people who had an important influence on my life. One was a dear relative and the other a close personal friend from my college years. As I have reflected on these two remarkable women, I am struck by one thing they both had in common: They lived their lives in color. Unlike so many people who simply punch the clock on their personal and professional lives, both of these women lived their lives to the fullest, and pursued their passions (personal and professional) with zeal.

We have all encountered individuals in our professional lives who are living their lives in black and white. While I am sure they love their families and enjoy their personal lives, in their professional lives, they are literally and figuratively just punching the clock. I have always struggled to understand how anyone can spend such a substantial percentage of their adult life going through the motions in the workplace — simply watching the clock until the workday ends. But I see it around me with frightening regularity.

Rather than living my professional life in black and white, I have strived throughout my career to live it in color whenever possible. I have been inspired not only by my aunt and my college friend, but by countless others whose passion for their work inspired me to live my professional life as if I would only live it once. I am sure there are times when — to borrow the illusion from the Wizard of Oz — I stepped out of Oz and back into Kansas. When that happened, I either changed my attitude or my job as quickly as I could.

As I have thought about this topic, I have developed five questions that one could apply to assess whether they are living their life in color:

Are you passionate about your work? To live your professional life in color, passion for your work is the table stakes. Without passion, I believe there is no color. If you don’t think your work is important, or can make a difference in some way for others, it will be obvious to others that you are simply consuming oxygen in the workplace. With my extensive travel obligations, I spend a lot of time on airplanes, and it is always obvious to me which flight attendants are passionate about their work. The same is true whether you are an internal auditor, a professor, or a restaurant waiter. Be passionate about what you do or move on to another role.

Do you settle for less than excellence? This goes with passion. Too many professionals are content to be average and to generate average results. Obviously there has to be an average, but individuals who are passionate about their work and who live their lives in color are not content to be there.

Do you treat those around you with dignity and respect? Passion for your work and obsessive pursuit of excellence often come at a cost. Those around us can simply become instruments to help us excel. Those who truly live their lives in color respect that others may be trying to do the same thing. We must treat our professional colleagues and others with whom we come in contact with dignity and respect. We should be recruiting others to live their lives in color alongside us.

Do you dwell on the negative? It is easy to find negative aspects in the workplace. I often find that those who live their lives in black and white thrive off of negative energy. When you identify things to be negative about, strive to change them or circumnavigate them. Otherwise they will doom you to a life in black and white.

Are you genuine? Finally, you must be genuine. Just as we can typically identify a fake piece of jewelry or a knock-off article of clothing, it is likewise easy to identify professionals who are not genuine. Acknowledge your faults at the same time you embrace your strengths. Others will respect you more than if you only boast of your accomplishments.

These are a few of my thoughts on how we can live our professional lives. We will all make mistakes along the way. I certainly have. However, life is so much more rewarding when we strive for rewards beyond the obvious. I encourage you to live every day of your professional life in color. I will be eternally grateful to Aunt Florence and my friend Karen for inspiring me to live mine in color.

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Richard Chambers

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  1. Well said, Richard.  When anyone spends the majority of their waking hours at a job or career, they should get personal and professional satisfaction out of it.  One's job should be something that adds to one's personal satisfaction, as well as their personal & professional growth.  What we pour into our jobs is a demonstratable representation of how we want to live our lives, have others see us, and the impact that we want to make whiel we are on this journey.

  1.  Beautifully Written ! Simply if we enjoy our work it will add colors at work place and in our personality as well. 

  1. So true

  1. So true. I always like to remember that there are no rehearsals in life, and only get a chance to do this once.

  1. Richard, I think this blog post is outstanding. It should be shared with every college student and working professional. To echo your comments, people often go through life trying to live up to the expectations of others and may not choose a career in the area of their passion. But true success, fulfillment and happiness comes when a person can have a career that utilizes their passions. Being passionate doesn’t mean that you will love every aspect of you job, but it does give you the opportunity to press in to your area of passion and make a meaningful contribution. Greatness resides in those that press into their passions and choose to live their life in full color.


  1.  Richard this is great. It reinforces the approach I have taken to my career which has brought me satisfaction. I believe this advice also stands true for those of us who are involved  in voluntary activities such as the IIA's chapters,committees etc. We often dedicate a good amount of our time to leadership, planning, execution and interacting with other volunteers so we should make it count, along with our professional careers.


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