Every quarter JP Morgan puts out a 100-page financial report chock-full of financial lingo and models, dense economic data, and lots of other...interesting...things. When I learned this from one of my clients, I thought, "Man, I bet there are like 1,000 people in the whole world that actually read that thing."
Imagine my shock when my client then said that he reads it cover to cover. For fun. Because it's super interesting.
I said, "That's not normal."
He laughed and went on to explain it, to which I remarked, "That's still not normal."
And yet, that's a sign of passion! What do you love to engross yourself in because it's interesting? What do you lose track of time reading or studying? What abnormal things do you look forward to?
I talked to another guy the other day who hates being a dentist and would rather be a park ranger.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I LOVE camping. Like, if I retired today I'd go camping every night. I'd probably even work at a National Park at the cash register, just to sustain myself so that my wife and I can camp out and travel from National Park to National Park."
How do you find your passion?
Start by looking for the abnormal things you like to do, then ask yourself "why?" If you want to take it one step further, ask how you could apply your talents and actually make money doing that abnormal thing.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day with a close friend who works in prosthetics and orthotics. Someone mentioned an interaction they had -- totally off topic -- with an amputee who had a 30 ply prosthetic leg. My friend lit up talking about how 3-ply was the standard. Afterward I said, "Man, you know a lot about that stuff."
He said, "Oh yeah, I love this stuff."
So I continued, "What part of the prosthetics world is your jam?"
"Design," he said.
"Are you good at it?" I asked.
"I'd say I'm pretty good at it." (He was being humble).
"And, have you ever made money doing that? Like outside of work?"
"Sure," he said.
I call that convergence...when what you're passionate about, what you're good at, and what you've made money doing all come together. That's also called the foundation of a successful venture.
Figure out your weirdness and do more of it.
What makes the Mona Lisa so interesting? I have no idea, but I’m also not an art aficionado.
However, lots of other people do know what makes her so interesting, and they travel across the globe to see her.
Here’s the thing: she doesn’t know she’s amazing.
She sits in her frame looking out at the people walking by and wondering, “Why do these people stop and stare? What do they see? Is there something behind me? What’s so interesting?”
She doesn’t get it. She doesn't know how awesome she is because of this important principle:
It’s hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame.
Likewise, you might have little-to-no idea what your talents are, but other people do. If I gathered 20 of your closest friends, family, and colleagues into a room and asked them what makes you great, they’d probably identify 5-10 consistent things that make you uniquely you.
But you can't see it.
Herein lies the great paradox of talent: the only person who doesn't seem to know what you do best is YOU. Why? Because talents are natural, innate, and fluid. These talents are so much a part of who you are that you don't work to deploy them. They express naturally in your life and work.
Imagine figuring out these talents, then using them to guide the way you work. What if you could identify what you do best and use that as the foundation for your career and leadership? Better yet, don’t imagine, go do it.
The same way Mona Lisa would finally see her beauty -- have someone hold up a mirror and tell her.
Start by asking the people who would fly across the globe to see you what they see. When have they seen you at your best? What did they see? And why did it have an impact on them?
Uncomfortable? Sure. But not more uncomfortable than not knowing.
And the answer, applied to your work, just may change your whole trajectory.
At any moment of any day you are doing one of two things — either increasing your energy or draining it. There is no in between. All activities do one or the other.
One reason people lose hope and hate their jobs is because they are making more withdraws than deposits. In the financial world, that’s called “overdraft” which leads to fees, despair, and eventually bankruptcy.
Here’s the thing: you control your deposits and withdraws.
Now, this isn’t true all the time. Sometimes you find yourself in a line of work where someone else tells you what to do, when, and where. But for most of us, we have just enough flexibility in our jobs to control what we do and in what order we do it.
That's where deposits come in.
What makes the difference between a deposit and a withdraw?
When you utilize your strengths you release energy, satisfaction, and happiness into your world which results in a deposit. When you work in your weakness, you drain your energy, resulting in less productivity and output and low morale.
It's important here to stop and clarify that a weakness is not something you're bad it. Rather, it's something you could be good at but that does not give you energy. By the way, many of us work jobs where we're paid to do things we're good at but hate doing.
The goal is to target strengths. And, the challenge is, most people don't know what their strengths are. I'm not talking StrengthsFinder 2.0 words...I'm talking your actual, articulated strengths, rooted in natural talent and ability.
To this end, we're launching a workshop on Friday, December 9th from 8:30am-12pm to help people discover what they do best and do more of it. More information can be found below:
Lead with Your Strengths Workshop (click here)
This would be a great professional development opportunity to discover your talents and connect with other like-minded leaders doing the very same thing.
If you can't make it to the workshop, there's still hope. It starts with tracking your energy and identifying the activities that fill your bucket and those that drain your soul. Do more of the former and less of the latter and you'll be well on your way.
Lastly, be careful not to characterize a whole activity as a deposit or withdraw. Lesson planning, for example, is not inherently a withdraw. The way you go about lesson planning may be a withdraw be there are likely other ways to do it that might release more energy.
And, of course, if you need help hit me up at email@example.com
See you at the workshop!
On Monday, I presented to a group of 200 high school students on the topic of talent and developing a Profile of Self. The conversation was good, they were engaged, and they got the concept, but something interesting happened in the middle of the presentation.
I had just helped them figure out how to identify talent and set them free to talk with their buddy and discover their own talents. They were doing it and the energy was high. I was excited to hear what they came up with and so I brought the group back together and asked for a few volunteers.
“Raise your hand if you discovered a talent,” I said.
About 150 hands went up. (Not sure what happened with the other 50.)
“Awesome! Raise your hand if you’re willing to share your talent with the group.”
Every hand went down. I waited, then prompted again, “who would be willing to share?”
I told them that I wanted them to watch this experiment, and again asked them to raise their hands if they found a talent. All hands went up. Then I asked who would share. All hands went down.
I asked a simple question: “Why? Why won't you share your talents -- the very things that make you unique?”
In response, I heard a few soft answers:
“What if I’m not that good?”
“People will laugh.”
Bingo. This experiment never fails. What is this phenomenon, where people discover their talents but won’t share them with the world? The cruel paradox of talent is that because we’re so naturally gifted at that thing we don’t believe we’re all that good at it. We’ve likely not had to work hard to develop it — because it’s innate — and so we fear raising our hand and owning it.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world wonders “where can I find someone who does ______” or “I wish I knew someone that was gifted at _____.”
When we refuse to raise our hand and share what we do best, we sacrifice the gift.
Don’t sacrifice the gift.
Want to catalyze some serious momentum in your life and career?
RAISE YOUR HAND.
It goes like this:
Job is draining —> Person can’t dream of a brighter future because they feel drained —> Person also has no energy after work to research a different path —> Job doesn’t change —> Job continues to be draining —> Person continues to not dream and get stuck —> Job doesn’t change —> Repeat
If you find yourself here, what do you?
The Dysfunction Spiral is vicious, because it can trap you in something you hate for a really long time.
Take steps to break free.
When I tell my career story, it starts with a job in public relations that drained me and ends with a career in leadership development and career coaching that fills my bucket every day.
What I don’t tell many people about are the stop-gap jobs in between. What's a stop-gap job? It's the job you take between the job you left because you couldn't do it a day longer and the job you can't wait to do, but haven't yet landed (or discovered!). More simply, it's a regular job that buys you time to figure out your next step.
Here were mine:
Customer service at Overstock.com: helping customers track packages, fielding complaints, and doling out $5 discounts like candy. FYI — if you’re mad enough, CR reps have the freedom to grant up to $5 credits. Boom.
Large appliance delivery: When Overstock.com got lame, I started delivering range stoves and ovens to pricey cabins in the mountains of Utah. From 5am until 7pm every day we delivered and unloaded huge appliances. Back breaking work but I got paid in cash — don’t tell Uncle Sam.
Alarm system sales: When delivering steel ovens got lame, I sold alarm systems door-to-door in Nebraska. What made me think this would be a better job? Not sure. But it wasn’t. Knock a door, offer a free system, plant a sign in the yard, and charge $40 a month for two years, more than making up the cost of the free system. I was bad at selling and worse at handling the rejections. Within the first two months I sold a respectable 40 systems. By the end of the fourth month, I had sold five more.
Although lame, these jobs served a valuable purpose. I’ve said before that when the ship is sinking, it’s tough to stand at the bow with a telescope and dream about that bright future. Better to get off the ship into a lifeboat, then reset your course.
If you’re in a dysfunctional job or environment that doesn’t allow you the energy or mind space to come home and dream, consider getting a stop-gap job. First of all, you can make ~$20k-30k a year doing them — enough to survive for 3-6 months — and the work will leave you with energy at the end of the day to do the important work of figuring out your next step.
Do they end up on my resume? No way. The only value these stop-gap jobs added was freedom and time to explore other options. "But don't employers ask about the gap between one actual job and another?" No one has ever asked me why I had a nine-month gap. In my opinion, if someone asks you tell them: "I took some time off to figure out what I really wanted to do, and this job (that I'm interviewing for) is it."
Don't overthink the stop-gap job. Dive in, work hard, earn your minimum wage, then get home and figure out what you really want to do.
Plus, they make for a great story.
I talked to a client recently who was mere moments away from letting her boss know she was leaving to go and pursue her passion, whatever that may be. She was nervous. She didn’t have a crystal clear plan about what the next step was, she just knew staying put wasn’t a long-term solution. She was afraid he would question her and want to know more about her plan and she wouldn’t have much to say.
I can totally relate.
When I left public relations to find my passion and do it, I didn’t have a clue about the next step. I knew another day where I was wouldn’t get me any closer. More importantly, I knew that staying another day would continue to drain me of the energy I needed after work to search for my best-fit career. So I did something that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend: I made up a story.
When I told people I was leaving and they reacted with a “what?!?!” and “why?!?!?” I told them I was going to pursue my passion for the Spanish language and get a Master’s in Spanish. This wasn’t totally wrong. I did speak Spanish fluently and it was a consideration at the time, but deep in my core I knew that wasn’t it either. The Spanish plan was more for them than it was for me. People need to hear that you have a plan to calm their own insecurities.
What would have been even more bold would be to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing next, but I know I’m going to figure it out.” I met a Rice University student who did just that. During the onslaught of senior-year job offers from prestigious consulting firms, she stood resolute and told friends, family, and any one who asked, “I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I’m continuing to search for the right fit.” She graduated without a job (oh, the horror!) and continued to search — using her talents and values as a guide — and landed an amazing job doing something she’s passionate about and getting paid to do it...at 20-something years old. So inspiring.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you have a plan. If your finances are in order and you’ve got the drive to figure it out, you can work almost anywhere making next-to-nothing while you figure out your next step.
What’s most important is that you listen to your Inner Voice.
When it’s time to go, it’s time to go, and that’s enough of a reason.
Expertise is an interesting thing.
I recently encouraged a coaching client to start a business to which he replied, “Who am I to do that?!” I responded, “Yeah, but who am I?” He said, “You’re an expert! No one would listen to me.”
Whoa...wait. What?! I’m an expert?
This got me thinking, if he perceives me as an expert, how did I get there? How did I get to the point where an individual believes I’m expert enough in something to pass along advice and coaching and merit pay in return??
For me, it’s a five step process.
Here’s how to become an expert in almost anything:
Step One: Real experience.
In both of the worlds I live in — leadership and career — I don’t just make stuff up. I speak from experience. I don’t tell other peoples’ stories. I tell my own. Expertise has come from the school of life -- from hating my job then trying something new before eventually finding a career I love. From ineffectively leading people and working for equally ineffective leaders before studying how to lead, learning more about my own leadership, and striving to improve.
The implication here is that if you don’t have experience in the area you want to be an expert in, go get some experience! Better yet, try something and fail at it. Then get better. Voila! Expertise.
Step Two: Harness talent.
Once I identified my areas of interest — leadership and career — I had to choose my piece of the pie. Would I plan events in those fields? Write books? Speak? Teach? Coach? Start a company? To answer the question of “where do I fit” within the expertise I looked to my talents. I’m good at synthesizing information for people (coaching and teaching), delivering content in a meaningful way (teaching and training), and researching information relevant to the topic (writing, teaching, coaching, and training). I’m weak with logistics and details (event planning) and operations (running a business).
Stick to the part of the field you do best. People will honor your expertise in that specific area.
Step Three: Know the content.
This is key. The biggest gap between experts and non-experts is in content knowledge. If you don’t understand the underlying content that drives the industry, you can’t effectively speak the language. I’ve immersed myself in a deep study of leadership and career articles, books, curricula, journal articles, and other research to learn the fundamentals of the fields. What I’ve found is that really smart people have taken the time to conduct meaningful studies that give credibility to the experiences I’ve had in Step One. Make the connections and articulate them clearly and those you’re trying to lead as an expert will grant you credibility in return.
Step Four: Define and deliver your key message.
What do you have to say? It’s one thing to believe "all people can love their career” or “the best leaders are authentic,” but you can’t build a business on that. Get specific about what you believe, why it’s true, and how others can go and do it. Define the key message and the steps they may take. Develop the system -- the "how." This is why I wrote RESET — I believe anyone can love what they do and here are the steps to do it.
Getting clear about your key message does two things: it builds your confidence and it also attracts those individuals who believe (or want to believe) the same things.
Step Five: Interact.
Expertise is never built in a silo. I can do steps One through Four but nobody becomes an expert in isolation. Connect with other experts and thought-leaders, but more importantly connect with the people a little further back on the trail who need a few tips and points to advance to the next stage. This is your audience. The more you connect and add value, the more your expertise grows. People share with other people the value you have to add and nothing builds expertise quite like a third-party testimonial.
Do these five steps consistently over a period of time and you’ll become an expert. Skip a step at your own risk.
There is no shortcut to expertise, but there is value in becoming an expert.
I don’t know why it is, but you’re more likely to thrive in your business/passion when you’re all in.
When you do it part-time, it feels part-time, both to you and the people you serve. But when you do it full-time, people think “Man, this dude must be an expert, because no one but an expert would be crazy enough to go all in as an entrepreneur.”
Before you can hit that tipping point to take what you do to the people, show you're crazy enough to believe in what you do.
The best way to do that? Go all in.
The first is a platform and the second is an audience: you need something to say and someone to aim it at.
Building a platform is relatively easy, albeit time intensive. A platform can be anything from a book or article to an active social media page to a YouTube channel or Web site. It doesn’t really matter. The key is that you have something to point people to so they can get a taste for what you’re about.
In my business, my book about finding your passion and doing it -- RESET -- is the key. I don't have to make much of a pitch to people. I can simply hand them the book and engage them for 12 chapters. Thinkreset.com is the second half of that equation because it's the place where I expound on my book and further my message. Both combine to become my platform.
Building your audience is less about building and more about finding. See, your audience already exists. And you probably already know some of the people in the “tribe.” The key is to open a spreadsheet and create four columns: first name, last name, email, and organization. As you meet people that believe in what you do, add them to the spreadsheet.
Then, when the platform is ready, blast it out to the people and give them what they want.
What does the Inner Voice sound like in a career search?
It sounds like recurring patterns of thought, especially ones that come at times when you aren’t proactively thinking about anything, like in the shower, while mowing the lawn, or while driving in the car in silence. What recurring thoughts do you have?
For some, they may say “write the book.” Others might be “go back to school” or “join that organization” or “reach out to that person.” The Inner Voice sounds different for everyone but always gives you the next step.
The key is simply to follow it.
The thing that ties most of us together is that 1) we all have an Inner Voice that tells us what to do next and 2) most of us never follow it because of fear and comfort.
Want to catalyze some amazing opportunities in your life to do more of what you love? Listen to the Voice and see what happens.
By the way, on the heels of the Inner Voice is another voice: Resistance. Resistance always comes immediately after inspiration and tells you to stay put, be safe, and avoid risk. Resistance wins out more often than not, but luckily it only takes a few times listening to the Inner Voice and acting before big things happen.
I was talking to a friend about a project he’s meant to do but he isn’t quite convinced himself that he should do it.
How do I know he’s meant to do it? These three signs:
If you’ve felt any of those three things toward a project or idea, DO IT.
At the root of all three signs is fear, and fear is never a good idea to not do something, unless of course it’s the kind of fear that’s stopping you from jumping in front of a train.
...I'll be speaking to a group of college-age interns at a chemical and plastics manufacturing company about my book, RESET, and how to do more of what they love. I'll get paid well to do it and sell 20 books in the process. It's exactly what I want to be doing.
So how did I land the gig? Let me back up and explain because there's a lesson embedded in there that is crucial for anyone trying to reset their career.
One year ago-ish I got an email from a guy named Rick -- a banker -- who was passed a copy of my book from a friend at the organization I was working for at the time. He read it and reached out to thank me for the book and asked if we could meet up to talk more.
At first, I was hesitant. I was just starting my business and the time it takes to meet for an hour really ends up being more like a 2-hour round trip with travel included. And I wasn't convinced he would end up as a long-term paying coaching client, but I went anyway.
We met at a Starbucks, talked through the book, and I pointed him toward his next steps to figure out what to do with his life. We had a great meeting and I was inspired by his reflectiveness and commitment to do more of what he loves. In short, I was glad I got over myself and met with him.
Fast forward a year. He quit his banking job, landed a great job in the social sector doing more of what he loves, and emailed me to say thank you.
He then sent my name along to some colleagues who are part of a large organization that brings in speakers. I met the leaders for lunch, gave them each a book, paid for their lunch, and we set a date for me to speak for free at the event.
On the drive home from lunch, I talked with my wife and we reflected on the idea that I had given up a few hours of time at this point plus $50 or so for lunch with no financial return. I remarked that my goal was simply to serve people and good things come around when you put good into the world. It's the law of reciprocity.
At the event, I spoke, sold ~$200 in books, and connected with some great people. But it didn't stop there.
One of them reached out to me this week -- a month after the speech -- and asked if I could speak at her chemical and plastics engineering firm for 90 minutes to a group of 20 interns. For a great speaking fee. Plus $250 in books.
Done and done.
I've also connected with a few others from the event for one-on-one coaching and to help them do more of what they love.
In short, I'm doing what I love and getting paid to do it.
How did it all come to be? A few keys I've learned:
I recently went to Moab, an amazing spot in Utah for hiking. On the first day we drove to the parking lot for our first excursion, made a quick lunch, put on sunscreen, grabbed some water and went to the trailhead to look at the map and decide which trail to take.
One trail would take us one way and another trail would take us the other. Both ended up at the same spot, but they each had potentially different vistas, terrain, and experiences.
Based on feedback from the park ranger, who had been down the trails before, and based on gut instinct, we picked one.
Did we pick the right one? Who knows. We'll likely never know. But we made the most of it regardless and enjoyed the journey.
Imagine for a second that we stood at the trailhead all day long, paralyzed to make a decision because we didn't know *for sure* that we would pick the right trail. The extent of my trip would have been a view of the trailhead and a whole lot of "what might have been."
Welcome to the world of 90% of career clients I coach.
"Which way is right?"
"What if I pick wrong?"
"How can I know *for sure* that it will work out?"
Behold -- a few key lessons from the anecdote:
A word of caution: asking people about the path once you've figured out your passion is crucial. Asking people about your passion before you've figured it out is dangerous. That would be like me asking other people where they think I should go on vacation. "Well, I liked Y because of the beach." If that had happened, I never would have made it to Moab in the first place. YOU figure out your passion, don't let others do it for you.
If you're at the trailhead, you're in a good spot. It means you've done the research and reflection to figure out generally what you want to do with your life. Now don't get stuck trying to pick the right path.
Just choose something. You can always turn back, jump trails, or carve a new path.
Did you ever wonder how you ended up where you are? How did it come to this?
Here's the secret: you aimed for it.
You always hit what you aim for.
Coaching clients often wonder how they ended up in a great paying job that sucks their energy at a massive bureaucratic organization. The truth is that's what they aimed for, consciously or not. They wanted great pay and stability regardless of (or, perhaps, more than) work quality.
But don't get discouraged. The principle works to your benefit as well.
Want something better? Aim for something better, then use the same tactics that got you where you are today to get you where you want to be tomorrow.
It may take some time, but you'll always hit it.
You can't say 100% about many things. It's so definite. Final.
100% of water is wet.
100% of the sun is bright.
100% of bacon is delicious (except turkey bacon, so I guess 99% of bacon...).
Here's a 100-percenter you can bank on:
100% of career dissatisfaction comes from values incongruence.
If you're not satisfied with what you're doing, it's because what you expected it to be and what it is are two different things -- they're incongruent. You have a set of values -- core beliefs -- that are so much a part of who you are that they drive every decision you make. And when those values are disregarded, trampled on, ignored, or threatened the result is dissatisfaction.
I meet with lots of career coaching clients who are dissatisfied with what they are doing and the answer, 100% of the time, is to diagnose what about their currently reality is misaligned with what they thought it would be.
Save yourself the headache of jumping jobs and looking around for something that's more satisfying and start by getting crystal clear about what in your current reality is incongruent.
HINT: It's not only values, but also talents that are dormant or environments that are misaligned.
At this point I've met with hundreds of people one-on-one to help them through their career journey. Each is person is unique, but the pattern is the same:
So DO SOMETHING.
When you've figured out that you can no longer live with your career the way it is, you really have three options, in order from most risky to least:
It doesn't matter so much which one you choose as long as you choose. Pick one and do something about it. The worst thing you can do when you discover you career isn't working (pun intended) is to do nothing at all.
Ignoring it won't make the dissatisfaction go away. Address it head on and choose to do something about it.
How do you know when it's time to leave?
When you were hired because of who you are and you're now being asked to be someone you're not.
If this happens, it's time to go.
And, by the way, I'm not talking ethics here. I'm not talking about your work asking you to cook the numbers or hide injustice. I'm talking about the more innocuous yet dangerous situation where your employer hired you to be a cook because that's what you love but now they need you to wait tables with no end in sight.
Is it a bad thing to wait tables a little bit to help the company through a tough patch? Not necessarily. But beware of the bait-and-switch, like my buddy who got hired at a sports store to work in the hunting department because of his passion for hunting but found himself one day on the loading dock, unloading boxes of product. When he asked when he could go back to hunting the response was, "You're right where we need you for now."
P.S. He now sells guns online for a living and loves it. There's always something better if you'll keep your head up and look for it.
Eight years ago I was driving home from a UNLV student retreat with a suburban full of students and my graduate assistant, Alfonso. We were on a high from a great weekend and talking about the future when Alfonso asked me a life-changing question:
"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"
I thought about it and said something like, "Hopefully I'll be speaking and coaching and getting paid to do it."
He pressed me. "But what will it actually look like when you're doing it?"
I thought about that for some time before speaking up and sharing this vision:
"I see myself in a cabin in the mountains somewhere, speaking to a captivated audience. I'm in a turtleneck, leaning against the fireplace, and sipping a cup of cocoa. They're all there because they're trying to figure out what to do with their lives and I'm helping them do it."
Don't ask about the turtle neck. I don't even own one. It just fit with the scene, alright?
Point is, that vision was more than a trite conversation. I've clung to it. In fact, with every decision I've made in my career since that day I've asked myself, "Is this getting me closer to or further from the cabin?"
I'm happy to say I'm closer than ever to the cabin scene (still don't own a turtleneck), because a clear, vivid vision has a tendency to pull us through challenge and difficulty.
So where are you headed? What will it actually look like when you're there? Take a snapshot of the future and describe it, then head toward it with everything you've got.
Visions have a way of manifesting.
In my book, RESET, I talk about the circumstances that led me to curl up in the fetal position and cry to my pregnant wife. Some who’ve read the anecdote misunderstand the point.
“Dude, why didn’t you just buck up and get a job?” they say.
It was never about the job. The crying wasn’t about public relations. It was about the disconnect I felt between who I was and what I was doing.
And, actually, it was even more than that. It came from knowing that I had gifts and talents but didn’t know what they were. It was about lacking self-awareness and, therefore, being unable to live as intentionally as I otherwise could if I knew who I was.
In one post awhile back, I shared that having talents and not knowing what they are is like heading off to sea without ever stopping to look at the ship you’re on. Taking on the ocean in an inflatable raft is a very different experience than doing so in a cruise ship.
The tears and emotion came from the incongruence and the helplessness that I felt. It came from feeling like I was doomed to be normal.
The reality is that none of us is normal. We were created to be different. Each of us has unique gifts and talents, the combination of which adds tremendous value to the world.
We lose – and so does everyone around us – when we don’t identify and maximize those gifts, but instead cram ourselves into a perception of who we’re supposed to be. When we fit the mold, we’ve lost our power to affect change.
Being a generalist is scary. Specialization is where it’s at.
Several weeks ago I guest-lectured for a college career class about how to figure out what to do with your life. I hit 'em with the best stuff I have -- beware the outside/in model, develop your Profile of Self, and fight the fears that get in the way of success.
Toward the end, a student who had a particularly skeptical look on her face and who had been fighting some internal voice during the whole session finally raised her hand.
"But what if what I love to do doesn't pay."
Great question. I'm so glad she asked, because I guarantee each of you have thought this at least once, as has every other career-searcher in the world.
I returned volley with this:
"Who's the best florist on planet earth?"
Any idea? Me neither. Until I looked it up. Google it. Some guy named Gregor, who is the Master of all Master Florists -- essentially the Picasso of flowers. This guy has won awards for flowers internationally, has written 30 books, and speaks six languages.
And I guarantee he's not making $30k a year.
A florist, for heaven's sake. Killing it in the world of flowers.
Here's the best part: you can do this with any industry. Trash collectors, plumbers, artists, writers, mechanics, etc. Someone has to be the best. Every industry has someone at the top.
And what makes them the best at what they do is that they love it. There is always room at the top for those who love what they do.
It started with passion. It started with a drive to do it because they were intrinsically motivated by the craft, whatever that was.
So don't give me this "what if I can't make money doing it" thing. Start with passion, add in some consistent hard work, earned credibility, networking, education and training, and do it all over a consistent period of time and you will make money doing it.
Sidenote: Usually when people ask that question, what they're really saying is "what if I can't make money immediately doing that" or "what if I don't have the patience to stick it out long enough to make money?" Answer: you probably weren't that passionate about it in the first place.
Feeling stuck is bad. Having choices is good.
The goal of career searching is to generate as many options as you can that align with who you are. Not having choices is like that Maze Runner movie or the Truman Show where you don't realized there's life beyond the wall. Options open your eyes to what's out there and one of two things happens:
Either outcome is good. The key here, by the way, is to generate these options in alignment with who you are. Unguided, random searching only creates dissatisfaction and wasted time. Focus your search on finding options that are congruent with your Profile of Self.
I guarantee if you aren’t where you’d like to be it’s because of one of these three fears:
Fear of the Unknown
What it is: Uncertainty about options; not knowing how it will all turn out; unsure what’s “out there.”
How it manifests: Revisiting the same options over and over, unsure which one is “best.”
How to know if you’re a victim: You’ve been considering doing something for awhile but keep talking yourself out of it. May also manifest in your spouse, friend, or coworkers saying, “Are you still talking about this?” or “Not this again…”
What to do about it: Clarify who you are and then use that self-knowledge as the lens through which you analyze your options. Does one of your options appear to align with who you are more than what you are currently doing? DO IT. Always choose authenticity and anything that gets you closer to being you more of the time. Everyone wins when you’re you.
Still stuck? Do a force-field analysis. Draw a line down the center of the page. List option #1 on one side and option #2 on the other. List the factors under each that would contribute to you choosing that option, e.g. money, time, great co-workers, better location. Then assign a point value from 1 to 10 to each. Sum the two columns at the bottom and voila! A quantitative way to make decisions. Now, more importantly, pay attention to how you feel about the option that won. Are you excited, relieved, disappointed? That probably says more than anything.
Fear of Failure
What it is: Most fear is this kind. It’s a fear of doom and gloom — a fear that you will make the “wrong” decision, people will laugh, and you’ll prove to be a massive failure.
How it manifests: Lots and lots of excuses. “I’d do that, but…” or “the timing’s just not right” or “I need to get all my ducks in a row first.”
How you know if you’re a victim: You’ve bought a whiteboard recently. Or you’ve said, “as soon as I have _____ or _____ happens, then I’ll be ready.”
What to do about it: Identify proof points in the marketplace — people who are doing what you want to do — and interview them. You’ll boost your confidence and get clearer about a potential path to success.
Still stuck? Make a list of immediate actions that will actually move you forward and attack them. Beware of faux actions that appear to move you forward but don’t, like creating a business plan, rebranding yourself, or organizing your materials.
Still still stuck? Get clear about what success will look like so that you can be realistic about what it will take to “make it.”
Still still still stuck? Let’s talk. I’ve got about a thousand more ideas.
Fear of Financial Insolvency
What it is: A fear that you won’t make enough to support yourself and the decision will lead you and your family down a dark pit of despair and straight into poverty.
How it manifests: An excessive focus on needing to know how much you’ll make in your new venture. It also may manifest as over-inflating your needs, e.g. “I need at least six figures to make this work.”
How you know if you’re a victim: You’ve said, “I’d love to do it, but what if I don’t make any money?” Or, you’ve flat-out blamed money for your risk-aversion — “yeah, I just don’t think I could make it financially.”
What to do about it: The worst thing you can do is guess, as in the statements above. That’s straight-up lazy. Want to know if you’ll make it? Figure out how much you need to make it. Then figure out how much it pays. Then break it down monthly and do the hard work of projecting exactly how much it’ll yield.
Still stuck? Create a survive budget and a thrive budget. The survive budget is just that — how much you need to live minimally for 6 months while you get your venture up and running. It’s an amount you don’t want to be at for long, but you can survive at if need be. We’re talking rent/mortgage, utilities, food, and gas. Also create a thrive budget, a line-item budget that sums to the amount you need to feel like you’re thriving. This is the number after which you can no longer blame lack of money for your lack of happiness.
Oh, and the reason I can write about these is because I’m an expert in all three. I’ve lived them for the past seven years daily. The goal isn’t to ignore them, but to work with them. Or, better yet, to work in spite of them.
Which one is your pet fear??
Proof points are essential, idols are dangerous. They look the same, so it’s important you know the difference as you’re figuring out your next step.
Proof points are individuals in the marketplace who are working jobs that make you say, “That’s my job! I’d love to do that!!!” You should invest time in identifying these people and interviewing them to learn how they got there.
Idols are also individuals who are working jobs that make you say, “That’s my job! I’d love to do that!!!” Hence, why they’re so dangerous.
The difference between the proof point and the idol is the way you perceive them in your mind. Proof points provide ONE WAY that you might consider getting to a job “just like that.” Idols provide the ONLY WAY to get to a job “just like that.”
Proof points build confidence because they help you realize all of the myriad paths you could follow to land in your dream job. Idols breed discouragement because you feel limited in your options, like if you didn’t follow “THE path” you will never get there.
The trick is your mindset. Just because you didn’t pursue the same path doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. Find the proof points, but don’t idolize them. Use them as a benchmark and nothing more.
Then make your own way.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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