“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.”
Ever since I graduated college a couple years ago, I’ve been obsessed with finding “my work.”
You know, finding my “passion” and all that. And it’s not just because I’ve disliked jobs and have had douchebag bosses – it’s mostly because having found “your work” entirely changes the quality of your life.
Just picture these two people: One goes to work from 8 until 6 and kind of mumbles by keeping him or herself busy. Six O’clock is when sweet salvation arrives at which point you get to gloriously drag race home and begin “living.” Work is usually a means of just existing and we’ve settled and just tell ourselves “we have to.” As little thought as possible is put into it – in others words, it’s not treated as something important, and thus becomes that.
The other person shows up to work whenever they want – and they want to – ready to roll. Even when they go on vacation or on the weekend are brainstorming new ideas to take their work to the next level – it’s their love, after all. They constantly feel fresh and challenged, and like talking to others about their work – people can feel their excitement.
Huge difference. Just being friends with both kinds of people is enough to make me realize the important of not hating your daily existence at work.
As a result, I’ve taken this investigation into my own strengths and loves very seriously – I’ve taken every personality test under the sun, I’ve read most of the best career finder books out there, and I’ve done started and quit many new jobs in just a few months when I knew intuitively they weren’t the right fit.
A few of the things I did trying to find my work:
- Basically every strengths and career assessment out there
- What Color is Your Parachute
- Read half a dozen career/life change/work books
- In the course of one year, started and quit three jobs
Of the many things I did, a few gave me more pieces to the puzzle than others. Those are listed below.
It’s not like I took one “passion test” and life was like “Boom. Here’s what you love. Now go forth and milk pigeons.” (I wish..)
Here’s what worked:
#2 Pre-note: Process vs Event – Don’t expect skittles to rain down from the heavens
One of the toughest things for many people like myself who are really working hard to find their passion is this: In my experience it isn’t really an event, but a process – sometimes a process that we have very little control over, despite searching.
It seems to happen in bits and pieces, slowly adding up over time into a coalesced whole that is the combination of those pieces.
M.J. Demarco talks about how the average joe loves events and hates process, and that’s why A.J.’s are easy to swindle – they always think there’s some magical recipe for success, some home run technique, a new vitamin that will cure all your ills, some new fitness shortcut that magically negates the entire process.
That’s one of the grandest delusions of humanity – one that many of us buy into regularly. That next diet book? That 55th book about success? I’m guilty like all the rest.
The truth is that, in my experience (remember: having no clue what my passion is) it goes like this: finding your passion is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.
Maybe you find a piece here, a piece there. You read and something clicks. You experience something new, and something clicks. Pieces are added slowly and one at a time.
At some point, one day you look up and see that the puzzle has been completed. It just “feels right.” Everything is in place. It works.
This is how I think it works. The only problem is that if you’re impatient and a hard worker like me, you want to invest 6 hours a day into finding your work NOW so that you can get started NOW and be on your path NOW and stop wasting your time on pointless jobs in-between.
Haha.. sorry folks, doesn’t work that way.
It’s a process, not an event. And it’s not necessarily a process you have a lot of control over.
The process is how you find your work. It happens organically.
#3 A couple resources for getting closer to your path
Following are some introductions to the products, classes, and books that worked very well for me in helping many pieces of the puzzle come together:
#1 Scott Dinsmore’s Live Off Your Passion Course
I really liked Scott’s product for a couple reasons.
When you get into many of these “passion” based courses, all you usually end up getting is a step closer to your passion, but zero steps closer towards getting paid for it.
Scott’s product is 50% investigation and 50% testing to ensure that people will pay you for what you love.
And that’s one of the key things here — so many of us A. Don’t know what “our work” is, but most importantly B. Don’t know if we can get paid for doing the things we love.
Many beginners miss the obvious step of testing to see if anyone will actually pay for their passion — this is where Live Off Your Passion is particularly strong.
When I went through scott’s product I ended up collecting a ton important information about myself:
- My earliest childhood memories that lit me on fire
- Things that get me pissed off and fuel my fire
- The key qualities of successful and passionate people
- Playing a game you can win, rather than being mediocre in someone else’s game
- Finding mentors & networking
- Testing your skills and passions for money-making potential
- Steps both online and offline to immediately start getting paid by clients
Truthfully Scott’s product is the most valuable because almost no passion courses talk about getting paid.
The emphasis here is on getting paid for what you know. And I know to many of us that’s as important as finding our passion in the first place.
#2 Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck – Aka Not Sucking at Intuition
This book is insanely good.
And it’s clear why: Martha’s book is literally written from the thousands of coaching sessions she has had with clients who feel “dead’ in their current work, lost in life, and in general that feeling like they’re not on their true path.
It’s literally a scientifically researched tome on getting yourself back on the path where you feel most fulfilled, and she recommends doing this in a number of ways.
The essence: deep down, you intuitively know what you want, what you don’t want, and where you want to be. But over years of ignoring this inner voice, it gets harder to hear.
When a massive life event strikes us, like a life transition (ahem, lost 20 somethings) , move, or relationship ending, it’s easy to get lost and have no bloody clue where to go or what to do. We end up going through the change cycle (see below), and if we’re not following our gut feelings, we end up just as lost as before.
One of the core pieces of this book is what she calls the essential vs social self problem.
The essential self is you at the core. It’s the you that you’re familiar with, with all the things you love, all the dreams and excitement.
The essential self tells you not to follow up on that second date, or that second job interview, because you aren’t really feeling it. Deep down you know it’s not right.
Then there’s the social self. The social self is what we do with others in mind – it’s taking that law school path because you know you should to make your parents happy.
It’s not burping at dinner or taking out your phone because you know your girlfriend hates it. It’s what you do with the weight of society on you.
It’s continuing in a 9 to 5 for the sake of having a “safe” job to show your friends, family, and parents, even if your soul is slowly turning into mashed potatoes.
Here’s the problem: Most of us turn off the guidance from the essential self (we slowly die inside?), and instead go mostly on our social self’s guidance. We do what we think we should or ought to do, rather than deep down want to do.
And that’s when you become that typical manager who is 44 years old, divorced, hollow inside, and miserable. Once you’ve lost contact with your intuition – which knows what you want from life – you’re on the path to getting screwed left and right by your lifestyle choices.
The entire book from there is essentially how to re-discover your own intuition and personal compass — because then you don’t need to read much else, your decision making is all internalized leading you to the people, places, and jobs that you naturally love.
If you’re lost a lost 20 something, this should be one of the top 5 books you read.
#3 What Color is Your Parachute
What color is your parachute is essentially a job hunter’s bible.
But the most useful part of this book (for me) was what he calls “The Flower Exercise”. It’s essentially this massive series of exercises that you put together that gives you a comprehensive analysis (on one page) of what you enjoy and where you should search for jobs. It’s awesome. And it makes your life a million times easier if you really have no idea what you want to do for work.
If you’re thinking “Yea a startup would be cool (but I dunno what industry), marketing would work, health and wellness, personal training…..” you need to go through this.
Here’s how you do it:
Pre-work: Who Am I
You just do a totally open ended analysis. Write 10 lines and start with “I am….” and fill them in. Once you do, expand upon them even further and give specific examples, and then you can analyze trends.
Once you do, you may get something looking like this:
Then go to part 1.
Part 1: What knowledge do you have that you want to use in your life and work?
Compile a list of all the skills you have studied and learned in various parts of your life, e.g. your hobbies, school, college, work.
Then you sort the skills into four boxes, based on how much you like them, and how good you are , like the following:
Then you pick your three favorite knowledges from those boxes, and try to find themes or work where all three overlap.
For example: I came up with Entrepreneurship/internet biz, meditation/health/longevity/alternative medicine, and rapid skill acquisition as my 3 major themes.
I would want to find something where all three of those intersect – like a startup or internet biz in the health/wellness industry.
Part 2: What kind of people environments do you like?
The exercise in this part gives you six social scenarios, and essentially you choose the top three that you most resonate with.
Once you’ve found three, link them into a statement.
For example my three were Social, Artistic, and Investigative. So I’d want to work with people “who are very curious and like to investigate/solve problems, who are innovative and bent on helping and serving people.” Done-zo.
Pass on shuffling papers.
Part 3: What kind of working conditions are optimal for you?
This part of the exercise is where you jot down your previous working conditions and list the worst working conditions you’ve had, and then rank them.
Once you have the “top shittiest qualities” of your previous work, find the opposite.
For me, one of them was “cubicle” — and that was up near the top. The opposite? Freedom (literally) or just freedom in the sense that I can work with teams, meet clients, etc. without sitting in one place all day.
Another one for me was “hovering boss.” I am extremely self-motivated person. You don’t need to be on my ass all day. So one of my qualities in the “positive” column would be the potential for self-directed work. That could mean being self employed, or it could just mean running a team or having a boss who lets me run my part of the show.
Part 4: What level of responsibility?
Do you want to be a boss or CEO? A manager under the boss? THe head of a team? One who works with a partner? Alone? One person business?
Part 5: What geographical factors are most important to you?
What places have you lived in and loved? Hated?
Mine looked something like this:
Hometown – CT, USA – Hated small town vibe, not a good social scene, not many opportunities for jobs. Loved the green space and short commute to a big city (NYC).
Other places lived:
Fribourg , Switzerland – Hated small town vibe, not a big social scene, not may job opportunities. Love the not-so-city feel even though it was a city. Loved speaking another language and making international friends. Loved living abroad.
Beijing, China – Loved the big town feel most of the time, tons of people, tons of work, tons of social stuff going on. Hated the pollution, hated the chaos, hated the lack of escape-to-countryside options. Loved speaking another language. Large international community.
From just these 3 data points I’ve already learned a lot of information about myself and geographically where I want to be, as well as where I don’t want to be.
I know I would ideally like to live in a large city, with a large international community, where I can learn another language.
Part 6: What goals or purposes would you most enjoy setting your energies to?
This part, the author says, is what you call that moment in life where “you go after your dreams, do something you love, try a new direction in life, get out of the rat race, find your mission in life.. etc..”
This is sort of the 21st century theme of for-purpose work. What underlying purpose do you want your work to hold?
Here’s where he talks about 9 key themes to get you started:
- Mind – dealing with knowledge, truth, and clarity
- Body – health, fitness, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor
- Eyes – Leaving more beauty in the world, painting, art
- Heart – More love and compassion
- The will or conscience – Morality, justice, righteousness
- Human spirit – More faith, more compassion, more spirituality
- Entertainment – Laughter, helping people forget
- Possessions – Simplicity, emphasis on enjoying the real stuff of life beyond materialism
- The Earth – Environmental concerns
Which one of these categories do you want there to be more of in the world, as a result of your work?
I ended up having two things: Mind, and Body.
I want there to be more knowledge, truth, clarity, simplicity, and self-actualization in the world as a result of my work. I also want there to be more longevity and an emphasis on health in society.
Part 7: What skills do you most enjoy using?
I always say to myself “ahh christ.. here we go again with the skills” when I see this exercise in a book.
However, it’s really really clear here when he breaks down skills into three broad categories: Data skills, people skills, or “thing” skills.
Data skills = analyzing, copying, comparing, synthesizing
People skills = mentoring, negotiating, selling, speaking
“Thing” skills = setting up, operating, controlling, manipulating, feeding, handling
Most of us immediate resonate with one or two of these.
I immediatley X’ed off “things” because I’m not really into unicorn-handling, lion taming, or construction.
That let me with people and data – two things I know I’m interested in.
Skills, part 2:
If you’re still really stuck about specifically what skills you have, take this next step:
You’re going to write 10 short stories (just a few sentences each), with the following criteria:
You had some kind of mission, and there was some kind of hurdle or obstacle that you faced, and how you overcame it.
My stories ended up suspiciously being similar: I had a problem, a did a ton of research, synthesized it down to a few key points, then creatively came up with solutions to the problems.
Voila! I had discovered an awesomsauce trend in every story: gathering data, synthesizing, and applying it creatively to solve a human problem.
Now fill in the flower with all its petals.
This exercise is so valuable because it literally is a cheat sheet (obviously with a shit ton of research behind it) that hones in on knowing yourself because you go make shots in the dark.
Strengthsfinder is useful in a general sort of way, it essentially gives you a list of qualities about yourself after their 30 minute test.
It actually explained a couple key qualities about myself that I knew, but consciously had never paid attention to, like “Achiever.” Achievers are those people that *have* to do something every day, including days off and vacation days, otherwise they feel like pieces of shit wasting their lives.
Changing me would take effort – that’s kinda how I’m wired. Having understood that I can be less hard on myself when people tell me to “relax already” when I’m on vacation.
I’m an achiever damnit! I have to be up at 8 am in the gym!
My strengths finder results:
(The Actual results themselves are in a much longer PDF document sent to you immediately, with a comprehensive analysis of each character trait, as well as an analysis of what that implies for your work situation).
As an example, here is 1/2 of my workplace analysis for “achiever” theme:
-Indicates I’ll probably be unhappy with my work if it does not involve people. One of my greatest strengths is connecting with others.
-Naturally like being busy and productive, have a great deal of stamina and like working hard. = The need to feel like I’m getting something done.
-Love learning and collecting information, hate small talk bs and love getting to the core of things.
-Introspective and love quality, intellectual discussions.
-Adept at resolving situations and problems.
How this will help you —
Strengthsfinder essentially gives you a list of strengths (duh…) that you naturally possess, at the current time. To me, this should be a requirement for life rather than just work, but for those looking for their work, this (like a Flow test) will help narrow down options dramatically.
If you have a choice between two jobs, and one involves sitting at a machine all day, while the other involves some machine work and coaching people – and you know you’re a relator – it should be obvious which job will go a long way towards your happiness and success.
To take the test, first you need a copy of the book (the code is inside) and then you can take the Strengths finder test here.
#5 A flow test
At some point, while reading more about Doc C., Jim Collins (Read more on Doc C, Flow, and accelerated learning) , and Daniel Pink, I came across the recommendation to “give yourself a flow test.”
Most of us know what flow is – having experienced it at some point or another in our lives, but the catch is that most of us also don’t know how to induce it. We don’t naturally know what activities are flow producing for us.
So here’s what Pink suggests: set an alarm to go off 40 times randomly during the week (Siri: Set a reminder at 4:30, 5:30, 6:30,7:30 every day), and when the alarm goes off you record what you’re doing, how you feel, and whether or not you’re in flow.
Jim Collins was said to have collected years of data on himself which he then tweaked to maximize his time in flow.
The benefit? You’ll start realizing what activities are inherently enjoyable. Flow producing activities naturally accelerate our learning and above all, are enjoyable.
Here’s what my results looked like.
Times when I was in flow:
– Meeting people to “talk business” in a cafe
– Anytime I was learning a new skill that I wasn’t yet proficient at
– My afternoon stints in cafes doing work I enjoyed or blogging
Times when I was not in flow:
– Work (although work is supposed to be a high-flow producing activity for most)
– Early morning and late at night
– Any time I was at home trying to do work
How this will help you: You’ll get an insanely comprehensive set of data points telling you, where, when, and how you are most effective. What times of day and doing what things are you the most happy, the most productive. What activities or things to avoid ==> getting closer to finding your work.
#4 What do you think?
If you’ve found your work, how did you find it? Did you experiment? Did you always know?
If you haven’t found your work, what have you found out?
To me it seems like passion is definitely a puzzle – sometimes you get a piece here, a piece there, but ultimately it’s the rare person who finds all their pieces in one place.
There doesn’t have to be this “either a rich person selling their soul” or “a starving artist” dichotomy anymore. The smart ones, the lucky ones, are those who’ve found a way to mesh usable, valuable skills with passion and meaning. If you ask me, there aren’t many other things in this world worth striving for.
Hopefully this is a good starting point for finding your work.