A few weeks ago, I picked up my thirteen-year old son from school and experienced one of those rare conversations that a parent remembers for the rest of their life. On the ride home we somehow ended up talking about jobs and “what he wanted to do when he grew up.” Right in the middle of discussing ideas for future career options, he looks at me and says, “Don’t let me settle!” I was a little surprised by the intensity of his declaration. It seemed to come out of deep left field. This was obviously something he had been thinking about for some time.
Seeing a great opportunity for a very special conversation, I asked him what he meant by “settling.” He said he didn’t want to end up doing anything for a job that he didn’t really enjoy. He actually invited me to hold him accountable. He came right out and said, “If you ever see me doing anything I don’t love, call me on it!”
Now this is not the typical conversation we have on our ride home from school most days. As a dad, I was relishing this very rare occasion.
At this point, I was completely absorbed in our conversation. I was feeling that parental urge to seize this fantastic opportunity to mentor my son without spoiling it by my delight. Do you know what I am talking about? Have you ever noticed how teenagers quickly withdraw into their shell if us parents move toward the “teachable moment” too eagerly? Once they have dropped their guard to let us in as a confidant, they will immediately put up their force field if they sense we have suddenly shifted from friend to parent on them.
So, very nonchalantly – acting as if I was distracted from the conversation by my focus on the traffic around us - I asked him, “What do you think it takes for someone to love their job?”
I have to tell you, my seventh grader’s response absolutely floored me with his wisdom. He totally nailed three of the four most important experiences necessary for a person to absolutely love what they do for a living. He ticked them off without hesitation. Fortunately for me, he missed one. That left an opportunity to appear as if his dad might actually have something to offer this conversation.
1. Do what you love.
2. Do what you love with people you enjoy.
3. Have lots of variety in what you do.
4. Do something more noble than make money.
In this new series of articles, I’d like to explore these four important ingredients to an enjoyable career. I hope they serve as an inventory for each of us to honestly evaluate if we have “settled” in one of the most important dimensions of our life – our job. When you stop to consider the sheer amount of time we spend working throughout the course of our lifetime, it really is imperative we enjoy our work rather than endure it.
Let’s start with the very first and most important.
If you are going to enjoy a sustainable love for your work, you have to do something you are passionate about doing. Most people simply say, “I want to do something I love.” Passion, love, dream, desire, or calling – whatever word you use - all of us want to do something that brings tremendous fulfillment and satisfaction.
Unfortunately, passion is one of the most difficult intangibles for most people to identify. I teach a workshop that deals with three important considerations to help volunteers find a “good fit” in a place of service. The exercises I use to help them identify their passion always take the longest because most people don’t know how to verbalize this dimension of their life.
To keep it simple, think of passion as what you love to do or what energizes you the most when you get to do it. Try answering these three questions for starters.
1. What topic would keep you up talking late into the night?
2. What are you doing when “time flies”?
3. What would make you jump out of bed in the morning to go do?
Our passion is that thing about which we most like to think, talk, read, imagine, improve, understand, watch, and do. If you could do only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Interestingly, if you ask people what they are most passionate about, their answer is almost always about a hobby or recreational activity they enjoy when they are not working. Very few people answer questions about their passion by describing their job. I think that’s sad. Imagine what we could accomplish in our careers if our jobs were better aligned with our passions.
If you get out of bed every Monday morning to go do something you love, you’ll never have to go to work another day in your life.
While some people will be fortunate enough to take their favorite recreation and turn it into an opportunity to make a living, most of us will not. So our alternative is to find a career that connects with other expressions of our passion. Let me suggest you think in terms of what energizes you more than the particular tasks of your work.
· To help
· To create
· To design
· To solve
· To organize
· To explore
· To discover
· To educate
· To specialize
· To lead
So you’re reading this and thinking, “If I were to do something I love, I’m going to have to find another job.” For some of you, that’s exactly what it means. Only you can make that choice and take steps to turn your dream into reality. I recommend you take the time to plan your transition carefully. Do the research, get some advice, make small, carefully calculated moves if necessary. You need to be wise, not rash.
If we get right down to it, each of us has one of four options when it comes to aligning our careers with our passion.
1. A different role in our current industry.
2. The same role in a different industry.
3. A different role in a different industry.
4. An enormous attitude adjustment about our current role.
When it comes to your job, the only person who can get you properly aligned with your passion is you. The choice is yours. The decision is yours. The determination is yours.
The time is now.
Whatever you do, don’t settle.