There is great advice out there about finding your purpose scattered among hundreds of books, interviews, and speeches from successful people. I’ve compiled the best of what I’ve learned, what makes the most sense, and what actually has worked in the real world — not theory. Here’s the guide I wish I had for myself years ago:
The 3 Legs of the Stool To Find Your Passion
What you’re looking for requires three things. It’s really that simple:
- Passion: something you have so much fun with that you can enjoy it at least 40 hours a week or forever, ideally to the point where you’d do it for free.
- Money: something that actually pays. There has to be enough market demand where people are actually willing to pay you for it.
- Skills: you have to be good enough (or the potential to be good enough) compared to your competitors to actually get paid. This includes asking yourself:
- Can I get to (or am I currently at) a point where I am better than most or all of the competitors so I can charge an amount that is financially sustainable?
- Is anyone actually willing to pay for this (a.k.a. is there any market demand)?
Arguably, you can add an optional fourth leg to the stool later down the journey — or right now. This leg is fulfillment. Some people like to feel fulfillment with their work, whether because it builds their legacy, helps those in need, or makes a positive difference to the world.
There are variations of this model from other people. Ultimately, they all have similar messages.
Why does it matter to do something you enjoy on a daily basis? Because:
- You are likely to work harder and longer more sustainably.
- You are less likely to burn out, stress out, or feel dissatisfied (which is bad for you and your employer).
- You have more fun. Life isn’t a chore.
- You spend most of your life working, so it’s better to love it than hate it.
- You are less likely to give up when times get tough.
Many successful people agree:
While the technological era has opened up plenty of possibilities to make money doing stuff that is seen by most people as “complete fun”, it hasn’t made every act you can do into a well of money. If it had, none of us would have to work at all — we’d all be rich.
There are still some skill sets or behaviors, like eating potato chips or sleeping for long stretches of time, that just don’t have marketable demand and don’t generate money.
This is a well-known metric that your parents have talked to you about already so I won’t dwell on it. Having some practicality around this is important. It’s a useful factor to measure and important not to swing too far to the extreme of believing that “anything can be made into your passion and make you rich with little work put in.”
If you have ultra-conservative parents or were offered limited job options in college, your problem may be the opposite. You are not aware of all the possibilities out there. I suggest you check out the “Considering All Options” section further down.
“I had a passion for investing and sports. But I wasn’t good at sports.” -Warren Buffett (source: interivew on YouTube)
Put simply, a realistic assessment of your skills will let you know if you will be competitive and good enough to make money from it. There’s a limited amount of jobs and businesses that can survive out there and a lot of competition.
Making a realistic assessment is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. You can get it wrong and think you have no shot when you do because of low self esteem. Or you can think you’re the best in the world when you suck and will never be good (like many singers who audition for singing TV shows do).
Having studied many successful people who persevered when many people told them they wouldn’t make it (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s journey into acting is a great example), I realized I can’t give you a clear-cut answer on how to figure out if you have the potential to have the skills.
The one clear thing you should do is look for glaring signs that you lack base-level competency around technical skills for the job. If you’re genetically behind the average person, that’s a red flag. For instance, if you still can’t master basic dance moves after 3 months when most classmates did it in 2 weeks, that could be a sign it’s not fit for you.
Accounting for this factor will allow you to narrow down which of your passions would make a viable career. For those you abandon, you may not have to abandon them completely. Later down the journey, you may be able to incorporate parts of those passions into your main skillset.
Jimmy Fallon and James Corden are great examples of this. They couldn’t have made it as singers by profession but they incorporate their musical talent as supplementary skills to heighten their talk show performances.
Finding out what you are good and bad at is a life long journey. You can learn a lot by looking at your past and seeing what you’ve naturally been better than others at. But a good portion of your discoveries will come from trying out different jobs and seeing what your actual strengths are based on feedback from those you trust and your own observations.
Another way of learning more about yourself is through strengths tests. I recommend the quiz and companion book Strengths Finder (and its sequel Strengths Finder 2.0).
Our Parents Lived In Different Times
Make Monday – Friday awesome too :) wish you all a great weekend pic.twitter.com/thrXEuIiXq
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) February 28, 2015
There are many cliche statements that our parents make about finding a job and whether or not you should pursue your passion. They came from a different era where times were tougher and you sometimes had to suck it up and take the job you could get.
Many were hard-working and sacrificed a lot so that we could have better lives. Some of our parents have even claimed that they couldn’t live the lives they wanted but they did it so we could live the lives we wanted.
Loving Your Job Is A New Idea
Having a job you love is a requirement that is a newer development in the timeline of human civilization. Most people were focused on survival. The economics didn’t allow for the luxury of looking for jobs that were more enjoyable, and people were fine with that.
Our parents and grandparents grew up in a time when it was hard just to survive. Therefore, they believed it was good enough just to find a job even if you didn’t enjoy it.
While genetically, some of us have evolved to enjoy physical work, cleaning, cooking, math, science, or leading others, many of us still believe that it’s rare you’ll be able to fuse those with a job you love. Some of us (myself especially) have more normal hobbies like video games and sleeping. We can be lead to believe that there’s no chance to make money doing those things.
The truth is that the technological revolution has changed everything. Jobs that were considered fantasies a few decades ago are realities. Pewdiepie, for example, is one of a few gamers who make millions of dollars filming and editing his gameplays on YouTube.
Plenty of people point to him as a champion example of following your passion but I’d like to remind you that there are also ten thousand or more people who are trying to do the same thing but making very little money from it. The earning game in some industries like that is like a pyramid: most of the money goes to the people at the top.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try. I’m just tempering the extremes of advice out there. Some say that now anyone can do anything — they forgot to mention it’s not that easy; it’s a competitive marketplace. Others say you have to suck it up and suffer — they are living in the past; times have changed.
The truest path lies somewhere in the middle. But with hard work and creativity, you may be able to find and carve out a niche that makes you a healthy living doing what you love. Pat Flynn of smartpassiveincome.com has helped many entrepreneurs do just this. Some of his success stories include a lady making six figures a year teaching people how to read tarot cards and another lady making six figures teaching people how to water orchids.
Do What You Love and the Money Will NOT Follow
Some people claim that if you just keep being yourself and doing what you love, you will eventually become rich. This is wrong.
I know plenty of people who have spent their entire lives doing what they love (guitar, dance, etc.) and they’re still just over broke. I’m sure you know a few people like this too.
Living your life like a zombie isn’t enough. You have to be more strategic about it. Without considering the other legs of the stool, you’re going to fall down with a lack of money or lack of enjoyment. Therefore, it’s important to always be on the lookout new job titles, new hobbies, or career paths can be out there that you can incorporate into your goals and journey. Knowing yourself and finding out objectively what you can and cannot become really good at is also important.
“What Will You Do If You Have Infinite Money?” Only Somewhat Works
While this may be a magic question that solves it for you, it helped but didn’t solve it for me. Honestly, I have quite hedonic goals. I may just be traveling the world and dating lots of women.
But for some of you, if you ask this daily, over time, what you would want to do would be revealed.
This question is used quite often from people in this industry, including Brian Tracy. Why does it work so well? Because it removes the money-based motivations that drive you to get jobs that aren’t necessarily your passion. Many people think they’re passionate about something but in reality, they’ve tricked themselves into thinking so because they’re really after the money. Believe me, it happened to me and I found out right before I applied to med school. And it’s no coincidence that almost all the Asian classmates I know are want to be, about to be, or are a doctor or lawyer.
On Money & Career: Considering All Options
Ramit is the founder of a multi-million dollar business that teaches people who to earn more money as a freelancer, get their dream jobs, and/or start a business. I took Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job course and he told me to do something that changed my world. He told me to go to LinkedIn and explore all the different industries out there and look at all the different job titles in the industry that interested me.
I discovered that there were hundreds of job titles and dozens of industries I had never heard of. Many of these job titles and industries were never mentioned to me in high school or college, nor were there clear academic pathways outlined to get to them.
To give you an example, there were job titles like nurse anesthesiologist (with earning potential of $300 to $400,000 a year), railroad operator (you can earn $100,000 a year but you’re on the road alone a lot), and AdWords PPC manager (one of many niches of digital marketing).
I was also told to reach out to people on LinkedIn in a polite way for a quick interview to find out about their work. I ended up talking to around a hundred people and found out the truth about their industries (if it’s fun or not, what all the career paths are, and if the earning potential is worth it).
I encourage you to do the same because you are probably not considering plenty of job titles and industries because you have never heard of them.
The Truth About “Passion”
For many years, I was under the impression that the most successful and wealthy people in the world succeeded because they found a skill that they loved 100% of the time and it just so happened to pay well. Perhaps, this is true. Gary Vaynerchuk has said he changed his whole work routine because he enjoyed 99% of it but hated 1% of it. He wanted to get to 100%.
However, I’ve found that even the most successful people in the world have moments where they don’t enjoy what they do. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have admitted that they never enjoyed firing people but it’s part of their job.
I was watching Brandon Marshall, an American football player who has made millions, talk about how he sometimes didn’t want to wake up early to go to physical therapy, meetings, and practice.
There are multiple pathways that lead to the same end goal. For some people, maybe they truly luck out and just so happen to enjoy something 100% of the time that most people don’t enjoy doing, like working 18 hours a day staring at stock charts. For others, they go the more traditional route of trial and error.
False Myths About Finding Your Passion
“Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. It almost doesn’t matter what it is at the start. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion.” -Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and best-selling author. Source: the book, Tribe of Mentors
It’s not as black-and-white as you think. I used to believe that your passion is one single thing you find like a treasure buried on an island or something that was laid down upon you at birth by destiny. It’s not.
You can have a variety of passions and interests, and not all of them can or will translate into income. Some of these you can mold together into a job — it doesn’t have to be one thing.
Flow — the state of work that is not too easy or too hard that makes you lose track of time – is often just as important, if not more, than passion. Non-glamorous jobs can be turned into something fun and meaningful, two words that may be more useful than the word “passion” in finding your dream career. See this Gallup study for proof:
Turning “Oh, No” into “Oh, Boy”
Dr. Robert Glover is a best-selling author of the book No More Mr. Nice Guy and psycho-therapist who has coached thousands of “Nice Guy’s” to help them succeed at their career and with their relationships. He has stumbled across this same point.
He created a great blog post and podcast to explain why and how you should change your attitude with work that you don’t enjoy. Over time, your whole perspective and output with your job may change.
Worst comes to worse, you’re still putting out great work into the world. As Jack Welch says in his book Winning, sometimes, the best way to get out of a job you don’t like is to do it so well that competitors and recruiters take notice.
Try it out. Find something about your current work you enjoy. There are definitely small pockets of any job that one can learn to love if you gave it its deserved attention.
The Problem With The Words “Purpose” and“Calling”
When people say that they haven’t found their purpose or calling, they assume that there is some point where they will completely love what they do and make a lot of money from it. Some add a third criterion, which is that they feel fulfilled from it, whether because it helps others, makes the world a better place, or fulfills their creative drive.
James Altucher, in his book Choose Yourself, said that the problem with purpose is that it implies that you suffer until you find it. You can have a lot of fun on the journey to finding that fulfillment. I want to share with you an example of one guy who had to test out a number of things for many years before he made it…
“Is It Too Late? I Feel Lost in My Career and Life.”
There are tons of examples I can show you of successful people who have failed to succeed until later in life. I wrote a whole article on it. But here’s a good one:
Colonel Sanders had a wide variety of jobs before he “made it.” He was a fireman, streetcar conductor, farmer, and a steamboat operator. He franchised KFC at 65 before he started making real money. (He lived until 90 so he still had some time to enjoy it. People tend to underestimate how long we can live to now; they tend to assume you die around 50.)
A common thought I hear goes something like this:
“I see all these child prodigies who found their passion when they were young and have such a head start. If I keep flip-flopping between passions, won’t I be missing out on time to hone my craft?”
This is a question I juggled with for a while for many years. It’s also a popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours concept. People assume that if they keep flip-flopping, they will run out of time to get in the “10,000 hours necessary to be great.”
First off, Gladwell’s 10,000 hours claim wasn’t all-encompassing. It was mentioned in his book Outliers, but it only focused on musicians who had a natural gift and were competing at a world-class level already. His real assertion was just that the only differentiator between the champions and those who were really good was just being outworked. I imagine many college students do too.
They’re scared to switch majors too many times because it puts them behind. It just gets worse if you decide after graduating college. But as I dug into it, I realized a lot of people have found their passion later in life or switched careers. In fact, many of them have slowly moved from one job to another many times in order to test out different things and find out what they truly liked. They used it as a process.
I’ve seen examples in many top career books like Winning by Jack Welch or Life is What You Make It By Peter Buffett. I suggest three things: developing skills that you are universally useful (social skills, selling skills, storytelling, etc.) so you don’t always have to start over (but it’s okay if you do), making sure you’re not so picky that you let perfectionism ruin a job (remember you can find normal jobs engaging if you give them a chance), and putting yourself on the front lines for anything you find interesting (volunteer, intern, get a job there, or talk to people who work in the job).
Business Insider provided a great list of 19 highly successful people that switched jobs and made it much later in life. I suggest you check it out.
Simply put (TLDR), the rare few have one passion they’re genetically gifted at that they find very early in life and hone it to a world-class level by their twenties or thirties. Instead, most of us will be better off discovering new passions and developing new skillsets (some not even invented yet) and fusing those together in innovative ways to engineer our dream jobs and dream lives.
Ever head of Charles Darwin? He’s the guy famous for coming up with natural selection and evolution.
Charles Darwin was born under a successful father who was a doctor. For most of his life, he was pressured to succeed in the same way, but he always did poorly in school. All he was interested in were outdoor activities like hunting. But these hobbies did not pay. He was overshadowed by his super star brother.
One day, Charles’ father told him something he would never forget: “You will be a disgrace for yourself and your family.” His father sent him to med school, but he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Eventually, his father secured him a position as a country parson for a church if he finished his university degree.
He developed a keen interest in botany and got a Bachelors of Arts. Right after, he got a proposal to become an unpaid naturalist and travel aboard the HMS Beagle for several years to collect specimen samples and find proof of Noah’s Flood and the Garden of Eden.
His father was forceful and against it. It would derail the path set up by him because he would be gone for years. At first, Charles did what his father said. After thinking about it for a while, this opportunity became more and more exciting to him. He finally convinced his father, although it was tough.
On departure date, he wrote, “My second life will then commence and it will be as a birthday for the rest of my life.”
Not soon after departing, he started regretting it. He was constantly seasick, couldn’t stomach his food, had heart palpitations, missed his family, and had to deal with a captain who was insecure and furious over the small things.
Eventually, he adopted the stoicism of the other sailors, who never complained about anything no matter how bad it got, and managed to calm himself.
As he began exploring the vast, diverse tropical forests, he was re-energized with how incredible and diverse nature was.
He discovered that nature was at a constant flux for survival. Despite the vast biodiversity which was far beyond what he ever saw in England, there was clearly all sorts of insects and animals competing to survive.
He discovered fossils of enormous, strange creatures with massive teeth of a horse and horns like a giant armadillo. It was something that clearly didn’t exist anymore and it made him realize that species go extinct.
He found all sorts of seashells and fossils of sea creatures at an elevation of 12,000 feet up in a mountain. He hypothesized that these creatures were once in the ocean but volcanoes pushed it up.
And, of course, he found the Galapagos Islands which were only a couple hundred feet apart and yet had diverse yet similar species on each island. He hypothesized that species land there through water and sea travel for a chance at a less competitive life. In doing so, they developed their own physiology better adapted to survival in the new environment.
When Charles returned to England, his father recognized a different presence in him, one with a keen sense of purpose. Of course, he’s famous now and no one knows who his brother is.
Even this famous scientist felt completely lost in life and antagonized by his parents. And it took many years before he finally found his passion and made peace with his parents. Hell, some artists, like Van Gogh, Stieg Larsson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, don’t receive acclaim until after death. He was patient and learned to embrace the suck. And through it, he realized how much he loved what he loved.
(For more info on this Darwin’s biography, check out Robert Greene’s book Mastery — or just research him online.)
You Don’t Choose Your Passion. It Chooses You.
Jeff Bezos, regarded as the best businessman of the era by Warren Buffett, said in a Charlie Rose 2017 interview that you don’t find your passions, they find you.
I believe his point is that what you find interesting may be a mixture of your pre-programmed genetics and your upbringing. Therefore, you’re not deciding what you’re passionate about, it’s already decided. Your passions are not a choice.
That doesn’t mean you have found them yet. It’s still important to try new hobbies and activities, including stuff you are may not think you’d like. What Jeff is saying that genetically, it is already decided and your body and mind will tell you once you try it out.
Sometimes, It’s Hiding Right Under Your Nose
The answer is sometimes hiding in plain sight. For some people, they have been doing this for fun in their free time for a long time but they haven’t identified it because it is too close to them. That’s why an outside eye who can point these insights out can be exceptionally useful.
One exercise people (like Robert Greene and Ramit Sethi) often give as advice is to go back to your childhood memories and ask yourself what you did for fun in your free time. By doing this, you may unearth your top passions you forgot about.
I think this is useful but not complete. Sometimes, you haven’t stumbled across some of your passions yet.
You Really Don’t Know What You Like and Don’t Until You Try
You can’t sit in a cave and think your way to your passion. Some passions really require you to go out and try it. If you’ve never tried something like salsa, search engine optimization, risk management, or painting, you can’t truly say you don’t like it.
Also, you may be surprised with what you think you’re passionate about when you do it for a job. Doing something for fun for a couple hours a day is quite different from doing it 8 hours a day.
We are often inaccurate with our judgments. Sometimes, you think you hate something but when you finally try it out, you love it. Sometimes, you think you love something, but when you try it as a job, it sucks the fun out of it.
Marie Forleo, a famous online entrepreneur, spent months trying to decide in her head if teaching dance was her passion. But when she finally went out and did it, she knew instantly. It was so clear that she broke down crying.
Tai Lopez, another internet entrepreneur, thought he loved salsa. He started his own salsa nightclub, but after 8 hours a day of dancing, he burned out and realized he didn’t love it.
Evan Carmichael, a YouTuber, had the opposite effect. He thought he would hate salsa and was forced to go to a class by his wife. He ended up loving it so much that he helped start one of the biggest salsa education companies in Canada, which he still helps out with.
I met an artist who thought he would like turning his craft and artwork into a business or side gig. But when he did, he found that the judgement others placed on the art turned it into an objective scoring competition. It ruined the enjoyment.
Not every passion you have is suitable to be turned into income. This filter will help you identify which is which.
The Danger of Perfectionism
I was tricked by all the advice online telling me to follow my passion. I got so perfectionist and picky in my quest that I limited out most things. I thought it had to be the perfect or near-perfect job out of school. This was the wrong approach. I was too picky.
I talked to one woman who had years of job experience through Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job community. She ended up in a job for the government reading long documents and she loved it. She would never have thought she would like this. Her advice to me was that you have to give jobs a chance and change your attitude. If you open yourself up to seeing how interesting a seemingly dull subject is, you may be surprised at how interesting it can become.
This is great advice and it did help cure part of my perfectionism.
As Charlie Munger says, “extremes are usually wrong.” I have also taken this advice to the extreme of the other direction. You can’t force yourself to be passionate about something by pure force of will. For years, I tried to trick my brain into believing that I loved medicine partially because I knew doctors were rich. It took me to the point of taking the MCAT to realize that this was not something I enjoyed.
I met someone in college who changed her major so many times that she had to take a fifth year of school to get the right credits to graduate. Her belief that “you have to have decided your job pathway and gotten the right major by the end of college” caused her to flip flop constantly between vastly different majors and graduate late.
I know another classmate who went back to college and is spending an extra three years to retake courses because he wanted to switch to pre-med and apply to med school.
I used to think this too. It wasn’t as extreme but it makes a lot of sense why many young people would believe this. If you don’t have the right knowledge and major when you graduate, you’re behind everyone else, right?
But the truth is (and I learned this much later in life) that many successful people ended up in fields completely outside of what they majored in. The soft skills and achievements they developed over the years helped them transition.
Think of Deepak Choprah. He was a middle-aged practicing doctor before he decided to become a spiritual guru. Life is not so cut and dry. Rather than trying to be so rigid in your preparation, you should be testing things out, moving towards what you like, and being okay with not being perfect.
Many young people fail from “perfectionism paralysis.” This is where their standards are so high that they won’t take jobs that can lead them to their dream job because they think they deserve or need their dream job immediately. This idea that a job that pays a lot and you 100% love will arrive quickly is toxic.
You shouldn’t expect to get your dream job as your first, second, or even third job out of college.
“You can’t guarantee you’ll find it on your first job out.” -Warren Buffett source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aNKhVPKHBc
You will never have 100% certainty that a job you chose will be perfect until you try it out. You shouldn’t be looking for this either. You should be asking yourself, “Is this job helping me get the skills and experience towards eventually getting to my dream job?”
Think of each job you take as a rung on the ladder that will get you to your dream career. From each experience, you will learn what you like and don’t like. You may even find out that you don’t like certain tasks that you thought you would like and vice versa. From each of these discoveries, you can sculpt and shape what you’re looking for in the next promotion or job offer.
Keep in mind that it will rarely ever be a perfect climb up the ladder. There may be one or two rungs (jobs) that don’t help you out. Maybe they’re even drops from where you were before. It happens. What matters more is that the five-year, ten-year, and fifteen-year trend is upwards.
Note: This doesn’t mean you should swing to the other end of the pendulum and tolerate a job you hate 95% or 100% of the time because it will be good “experience” for your resume. I’m saying that you should take a job you like 60% of the time especially if it will get you valuable marketable skills that can level you up in 3 years to a job you like 70% of the time and pays even more.
Just get started. Don’t let perfectionism or ridiculously high standards stop you from taking a less-than-perfect job offer.
Your Rejections and Failures May Be Blessings in Disguise
Warren Buffett’s dream was to go to Harvard Business School. He took a train for hours to get to the interview.
But within a few moments, the interviewer had decided he wasn’t fit for the school.
He was sad about this in the moment. Yet it turned out to be the greatest thing to ever happen to him.
Since he was rejected from Harvard, Warren went to Columbia Business School where he mentored under Ben Graham. Ben taught Warren the foundations of value investing, which became the structure that he used for his entire investing strategy.
Without meeting and learning from Ben, Warren may not have been even in the top 10,000 richest people in the world. But because he did, he has ranked in the top 5 for decades.
Similarly, Brandon Stanton, a best-selling author, was fired from his trading job, according to the book, Tribe of Mentors. He was convinced he wanted to be a successful bond trader.
He says, “Sometimes, you need to allow life to save you from getting what you want.”
You Will Still Have Moments of Suffering When You’ve Found Your Passion
The lie told about finding your passion is that “your entire life will be nothing but fun and good times 100% of the time.”
I used to believe this too but it’s wrong and debilitating.
There are plenty of examples of people who have made it to the mountain top yet still have moments of suffering.
Ask enough athletes or fitness experts with perfect bodies and they’ll tell you how it sucked when they had to eat tasteless boiled chicken while their peers were eating out at restaurants.
Ask enough successful entrepreneurs and they’ll tell you about the times they had to eat shit working 18 hour days while their friends parties and had normal social lives.
. Be “ #perspective ‘d out “. – Chopping it up with my guy @illmindproducer and trying to spit him some facts as I can see he’s taking it to the next level. – My friends get your big picture right and that, that allows you to eat shit hourly,daily,weekly,monthly,yearly! – Tag a partner that needs to hear this. – How do you get your macro right? Make a move that feels uncomfortable, make that big move and deal with it! – #mindset #motivationalquotes #music #blueprint
Ask enough actors and they’ll tell you about the times they had to outwork others for little money to get their foot in the door during the auditioning process.
That’s part of the process. Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do and that’s because what they have to do sucks. If it were easy, everyone would be rich and have perfect bodies.
Just keep in mind that it will get better over time if you choose something you’re passionate about. Eventually, the suck will get less and less as you move towards your dream job. And even during the suck, it won’t suck as bad because you enjoy what you’re doing on a higher level.
A lot of successful people say that they got to where they were by doing what others don’t want to do. That usually means that you will have to use your willpower and/or motivation do unpleasant stuff you don’t want to, whether it’s working when others are partying or go through the pain of pumping iron at the gym while others are watching Netflix.
Even Gary Vaynerchuk, who is known for preaching how important it is to love coming to work on Monday’s, has emphasized the importance of the “horrible moments” you have to be willing to go through to get to where you want. He calls this “eating shit for a decade.”
There will be tough times where you may have to take a job or gig you don’t enjoy to use it as a stepping ladder to get to a job you love. Heck, even when you get to your dream job, you may have un-enjoyable moments 5% of the time in order to stay at the top of the game so your competition doesn’t take your seat.
Because successful people have to do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to and that usually means work that makes you feel unpleasant. In fact, many successful people brag about the horrible experiences or sacrifices they had to make to get where they want to go.
Even Warren Buffett who is known for saying how much he loves every part of his job, says that he has one thing he doesn’t enjoy but is a necessary part of the job: firing people.
Eventually, you may get to a point where you eliminate every percentage of your job that isn’t enjoyable. I think it’s possible but tough to do.
The danger of assuming that it’s nothing but smooth sailing once you find your passion is that you can end up looking for a false mirage of a life and use it as a crutch to excuse yourself from doing anything you find unpleasant. It could lead to standards that are too high for you to get going and climb towards a better job. Or it could prevent you from doing the unpleasant work necessary to move forward because you get a bit spoiled.
I definitely had some of this false belief in the past. Part of me thought “If I don’t love it 100% of the time, it’s not my dream job so I’m not even going to try.” But that’s not how it works. You have to work through it.
Initially, you may have a job you like 30% of the time. But what you can do is leverage the experience and skills you gained from the job to get a job a few years down the line that you like 55% of the time and pays more. And so on and so forth.
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both admitted in numerous interviews that they absolutely love their jobs but still hate firing people. They are symbols of people who have found their passion yet even they have that 1% of their job they still hate. Even Warren procrastinates (though rarely). In a recent shareholder’s meeting (I believe is it 2016), he admitted that he procrastinated for years on firing a manager he loved but had gotten Alzheimer’s.
Perspective Is The Secret to Conquering Perfectionism
Many of the people I’ve met in real life who are happy despite working common jobs and many of these people studied in scientific experiments have a good perspective about the work they do. They aren’t drama queens and don’t come in with the expectation that they need to be traveling the world and sleeping on yachts to have a good life.
This was a healthy perspective that most of our ancestors have that is lost in some of us because we are poisoned by people showing off their lives on social media.
The management guru Peter Drucker has a famous story. There are three stone masons. They all do the same job. When each is asked individually what they do though, they have different answers.
The first says he’s cutting stone. The second says he’s earning a living. The third says he’s building a cathedral.
Although they’re doing the same work, each gives different perspective and meaning to their job. The third stone mason will end up enjoying his work and doing a better job even though it’s the same job because he chose to see the impact and overall purpose of his work. The first two will feel like their work is two times tougher because they see their work as drudgery.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting or striving for a more luxurious life. But it’s healthy to be content and not need such an extravagant life to be happy and passionate about what you do.
Beyond just making money doing what you love, you should consider:
- Having a healthy, fit body and mind
- Spending enough free time with your family
- Having a sustainable work life so you don’t burn out
- Doing something that challenges you enough so you don’t get bored but not too challenging that it stresses you to death and exhausts you
I mention this because plenty of millionaire entrepreneurs (you can find proof by watching the podcast episodes of Eventual Millionaire or Entrepreneur on Fire) make a lot of money but regret it because they sacrificed their health, sanity, body, and/or 99% of their family time for it. They regretted it but it was too late.
Be Open to the Unknown and Uninvented
“The seminal change in the business from then to now is that a young person should view the career pyramid differently rather than traditionally. Put the point at the bottom where you are now (at the start of your career) and conceive your future as an expanding opportunity horizon where you can move laterally across the spectrum in search of an ever-widening set of career opportunities. Reinvent yourself regularly. See your world as an ever-increasing set of realities and seize the day.” -Peter Guber, former CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. He produced films that have garnered five Best Picture Academy Award nominations. He is also the co-owner of the Golden State Warriors (2015 and 2017 NBA champions) and Los Angeles Dodgers. Source: Tribe of Mentors
Realize your “passion” or dream job may not be invented yet. James Altucher explains it beautifully in this video:
Here’s the summary of the video: What’s science fiction today may be the reality in the future. Nowadays, people have jobs as virtual reality world programmers, video game creators, and self-driving car engineers. These were science fiction and impossible a few years ago.
So what’s the takeaway? Don’t over-stress about finding what you’re meant to do. I don’t believe there is a “destiny” where everything fits together and everyone lives a happy ending. We do the best with what we have in the era and environment we were born into.
Don’t just sit on your butt doing nothing to advance your life, hoping your dream job will be invented. But don’t stress too much if you’re actively looking and considering all the options and things aren’t clicking yet. There are many vloggers on YouTube who make a killing just capturing their life on video. That wasn’t a potential job until recently. Sometimes, life is strange.
How To Stay Relevant in the Job Market In A World That Is Changing So Quickly
Now, more than ever, the world is changing at an exponentially faster rate. Some people say that many of the jobs that exist now will be replaced by robots in the next decade.
Many young people, you included, may be scared of losing your job or having your skills go obsolete in the near future. So what do you do so this doesn’t happen?
First off, great for you for worrying about this. In the past, the world changed slower so lazy people could spend decades doing the same job over and over before they got replaced.
It’s great that you care about this at all because it means you will likely stay vigilant and be more prepared so it doesn’t happen to you.
Most importantly, while industries are changing faster, let’s not overestimate how fast jobs will change. Critical jobs with low supply, high demand, high specialization and investment of my time to develop skills will remain for a while. For example, doctors, lawyers, and jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field will be around for a long time.
Why will these remain? Because it’s hard for other robots and most humans to replicate the same skill with a satisfactory level of quality and there is high demand for people willing to pay for it. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
Therefore, always strive to be irreplaceable and valuable at skills are hard to duplicate.
Even outside of the STEM field, there are plenty of people who will be rich for the rest of their lives because they are the best at what they do (actors, athletes,
Ramit Sethi says there is no job security. You could have the safest job in the world as something like an accountant but economic changes out of your control, like another Depression or World War, could force you to lose your job. What you do have is the ability to always be learning and spending a little extra time to develop your craft in ways that will make you indispensable and better than others.
I try to do this with both soft and hard skills. On my own time, I go to Toastmasters meetings and read books on topics like growth mindset and social and emotional intelligence for my soft skills. I read biographies and business books to expand my business knowledge develop my hard skills.
“I learned many, many lessons from my father, but not least of which is that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.” -Jim Carey, 2014 MUM Commencement Speech
Recommended Further Reading
These books go into a lot more detail than I can in this article about the subtle details of how to find your passion. I’ve also ordered them in rough order of priority based on their persuasiveness in argument, credibility, and impact on me. Some of them have great case studies of successful people to use as examples:
- Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal
- How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric
- Winning by Jack Welch
- Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
- Life is What You Make It:Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment By Peter Buffett
- Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do by Chris Guillebeau
- Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
If you go through these Amazon links and purchase anything, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.
Action Steps For You
With all this information on mentality, what do you actually do with it? Here’s what I recommend…
If you’re just starting out and don’t know which field to get into, I suggest you do what I said in the “On Money & Career” section above. Start reaching out to people on LinkedIn in the specific manner I outlined. This will get you a better sense of what options are out there. Then, start networking and asking for internships into those fields.
Your objective is to find out about these fields, find out how others got their foot in the door, and get your foot in the door into those industries even if it means you don’t get paid initially. The toughest part sometimes is just getting that first bit of experience.
With the mentors you develop from your LinkedIn networking, you can find out how others advance and how successful people got to the top of their industry. Do what they did. If it means they spend an extra hour after work studying material for work, do that.
And remember: It’s about trial and error, not analysis paralysis. Consult the “Danger of Perfectionism” section again if you find yourself not moving forward with any internship or job in the first two months because you don’t think it’s the “perfect job” yet.
It’s better to get real experience under the belt and find out what it’s actually like rather than to sit in theory land in your mind.
If you’re already firmly decided on which industry or job title you want to go for but aren’t making the progress you want, find coaches, mentors, teachers, and role models through LinkedIn and other websites. Find people who have done what you want and learn how they beat their competition and rose to the top.
For example, if you decide you want to go into the online space and make money teaching others how to dance salsa, you can learn from Pat Flynn of smartpassiveincome.com or Jeremy and Jason of Internetbusinessmastery.com, Gary Vaynerchuk of Garyvaynerchuk.com or Ryan Lee of freedym.com. These people have helped thousands of people from many different industries go from nothing to a career or business doing what they love.
Above all else, remember that trying and failing is better than doing nothing. You will learn from the experience. You may learn that there isn’t enough market demand or interest for you to build a following around a topic. You may learn that you enjoy your hobby once a week, but talking about it every day isn’t want you like — so you switch to a different hobby. You may even find that a job and hobby (e.g. horticulturist and horticulture) you weren’t even aware of is actually your top passion.
Good luck. I appreciate you for reading this.
Let me know if you need any more help or have any questions,
P.S. Don’t forget: It’s a lifelong journey, not a one shot decision.
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