My boss wanted me to help him get a prostitute back to his hotel in Mexico City because he didn’t speak any Spanish. At the office in Charlotte, NC, I noticed he didn’t want to go home in the evenings (he didn’t like his wife). I had just graduated with an MBA and was selling chainsaws and weedeaters to Latin America. My heart wasn’t in it and I’d have sucked at that job had I stayed longer. The chainsaws I sold were used to cut down tropical forest and the weedeater’s were second rate – it just seemed like meaningless work.
If you hate your job, it doesn’t help to know what your boss wants. You’re going to suck at your job anyway, when it doesn’t have meaning for you. If you’re faking the passion (or not even trying), you’re headed for a train wreck. Find a job you can do with real passion, before your boss decides you suck and fires you.
As your boss, why should I care if you’re following your bliss or not? I care because I want a team whose passion for the job can keep us together for 5 years, 10 years or longer. If you don’t know yourself well or fake the passion, you introduce a lot of risk to our relationship, and it usually doesn’t work out for either of us. So search your soul.
When people think about following their passion with their career, often it ends with the money. “Can’t make enough money at that”, we think. And, probably – it’s true. But, before you put the idea to bed, read The Man Who Quit Money – it’s a deeply moving story that changed my thinking.
Why should YOU care whether you’re following your bliss or not? Popular wisdom tells us that who you are is more important than what you do — but what you do can also change who you are. If you don’t find meaningful work, you may end up becoming someone you don’t want to be.
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.
I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.
-Viktor E. Frankl
- Do you crave work like a show horse or sled dog does?
- Are you following your inner voice?
- Does your work feed your soul?
- Does your work feel like part of your life story?
- Do you feel like you found your calling or sweet spot?
- Can you do this for 10 years because your heart is in your work?
- Can you do your job with passion?
- Are the headaches of your job tolerable?
- Are you at peace with your ambition either because you are chasing a dream or have let one go?
- Are you able to resist the temptations of more power, prestige, or money you might get from less meaningful work?
- Are your family and other relationships supported by your work?
- Are you comfortable with the example you are setting for your kids?
- Are your gifts to the world being revealed?
- Does your job give you the chance to do something great or be great?
- Can you hang in like grim death when confronted with obstacles at work?
- Are you working to impress or please your parents?
- Are you surprised by your own productive power?
- Do you take gratification in a job well done?
- Do you feel nurtured by your work and work environment?
Read What Should I Do with My Life? if you want to go deeper and hear how others have answered these questions.
Second, consider what inspires you:
- What skills that you already have do you most enjoy using?
- Do you like working with people, information, or things best?
- Where would you most like to work (geography, environment, responsibility level, field)?
- What cause, problem, or values do you want your life to serve?
- What do you value in a job besides money? This might include adventure, challenge, respect, influence, popularity, fame, power, intellectual stimulation, creativity, helping others, exercising leadership, making decisions, spirituality, etc…
- Would you like to be primarily remembered for contributions to the world made with your mind or body?
This is just a sample of the questions you’ll be asked when you work through the legendary book What Color Is Your Parachute?
Finally, a few more timeless words from Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.
Viktor Frankl on Youth in Search of Meaning 1972: