Know yourself and follow your bliss

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.

we even have one guy who likes his job

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.

passion for your career or just good friends?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

Not sure how to find meaningful work? Answer some tough questions!  First, let’s consider if you are doing meaningful work now:

  • 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:

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39 comments…

  • avatar

    Hannah April 9, 2014, 11:15 pm

    I’ve just spent 2+ hours poring over this entire site. I am gearing up to apply for my first “real job” and before reading this, I was a strange combination of overly zealous and absolutely terrified. I now sit here with several pages of notes, a thrice emptied coffee mug, and a new found attitude towards the job hunt that is both confident and humbled. Thank you!!

    Reply
  • avatar

    Kylah Hudson November 25, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Knowing who I am and following my bliss were two of my biggest problems while becoming a young adult. I always felt confident in writing about who I was, but never in speaking on who I was; therefore making me unsure about myself as a young woman. I always steered away from the spotlight and the compliments because I thought, if no one noticed me then I would never be embarrassed or disliked. That however was mistake number 1. It seemed the more I tried to get away from the spotlight it followed me. As time went on I realized that if you are destined for greatness then there’s nothing you can do about it, and so I accepted who I was and became great at being me.

    Once I was confident and sure about myself I began to realize that I deserved so much more in this world. This is what actually lead to me following my bliss. I was once told “follow your bliss and the world will open doors for you that no man can close.” I apply this quote to all things I do in life and have been granted greatness from that point on. I truly believe that if all people take heed to the concepts of truly knowing themselves and following their bliss, the life in which they live will be much more valuable.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Brandon Puszkiewicz October 28, 2013, 2:15 pm

    When I first told my parents that I wanted to major in social work, my mom said “I always knew your heart would be bigger than your wallet.” At that time, I really didn’t understand what she meant. Now that I’m in my second year of college, I understand what she meant by that comment. Social workers don’t make any money and they work like dogs. Even though I always told myself I would get a good education and land a job with 6 figures, I’m happy with the choice of majoring in social work.

    It’s not an easy major. The things you study in these courses aren’t things you can learn and obtain; they are qualities that you already have as a person. Not many people can learn to be empathetic, compassionate, or open-minded. Some people were just not born that way and it’s okay if you weren’t. Fortunately, I was born that way and that’s exactly how I knew I was meant to be a social worker.

    I never once listened to my parents, teachers, or society when they said to become a doctor or an engineer because I knew I couldn’t conform to something I wasn’t equipped to be.

    “At the end of the day, the person who has to be happy is me.”

    Reply
  • avatar

    dallasje October 16, 2013, 3:40 am

    Knowing my bliss was never really a problem for me. It was finding the courage to do it despite what my family thought of it or what the world thought of it that I struggled with. I have always been able to see music and color as basically the same thing, and since others did not, I wanted to share this with them.
    However, I was not allowed to draw very often for a couple years at a time. Painting was totally out of the question, too. They were considered too messy. Because I did not have art classes and this field is considered to lead to a very poor lifestyle, there was no need to practice it. All this was according to other people, of course.
    It took me a few years and several very different interests for a possible major in college, but I finally settled on graphic design. I hated my freshman year with that major, so I’m now a studio art major as a sophomore. I don’t even care what other people think, because I now rely on myself for strength to do what I dream. I even have the support of those who did not want this major for me. Now, I’m so much more excited about my future because I know that I will have the degree proving that I have the ability and skill to prove that I can enter this field with confidence.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Dallas Elliott October 16, 2013, 1:38 am

    I have always been deeply passionate about studio art, particularly color and movement, since I was around seven years old. I would copy old paintings whenever I could. My family kept telling me that I wouldn’t make it as an artist though, because it’s such a competitive field and I would have to find a way to fame in order to make a living from it. Where else does a “starving artist” come from but from a low-paying field, right?
    So I bounced from interest to interest. First it was marine biology then accounting, then I moved on to criminology and behavioral psychology. I finally settled on graphic design when I became a freshman in college. My entire second semester was horrible. I was taking entry-level courses for my major, and I hated it.
    Now here I am as a very proud studio art major sophomore, and I’m loving it. I no longer care for making a lot of money, I just want to do what I love for a living. I plan to go into illustration with painting as a side venue. I still want to show the world how to see the way sound moves in and out of existence and imagination. I still want to share my lifelong obsession with color and movement. This article reminds me that I made the right choice in changed my course of study and outlook for my future. Thanks.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Donna September 1, 2013, 8:10 am

    Exactly! We need to follow our bliss and never bow to becoming robots or workers without feelings or passion.

    While in my last college, I was a liberal arts major who was completing the basic pre-reqs for the nursing program. I ended up working at a nursing home during this time, and was so disappointed to see how cold and heartless the majority of the workers were. The system is a failure, no doubt, but I could not help but notice how many of the nurses had no heart for their jobs. It was not a calling, but a paycheck. The patients (aka residents) were not people, they were problems. It was an eye-opener!

    I decided I would look inside of myself and do what I loved, whatever the cost. I have always loved the arts, and chose to pursue an art major instead. I certainly have not made any money, and am more broke, but I am happy and doing what I love. When I do my artwork, I can also sleep at night, knowing I have made a contribution to the world that helps others. I could not have done this at a nursing home or hospital nearly as well, if at all.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Joey Dei Rossi May 1, 2013, 6:40 am

    Choosing my major has been an experience that has been both difficult and rewarding for me. The school I currently attend (university of San Diego) has a good business program, so at first I was heading down that path. It was a simple enough choice for me. I thought since my school is good at business, I will find a job that will make a lot of money, and ultimately have a “successful” career.

    My first year of college went by, and it was the most life changing year of my life in a lot of respects. I realized many things about myself, and the main one was that I didn’t want to be a business major. At all. I wasn’t very good at it and I found that my heart wasn’t in it very much at all. It was at this point that I had an existential crisis. I frantically started searching the web, hoping to find my meaning. I googled things like “what is my place in this world” or “why am I here”, and watching videos online that I hoped would help me find my purpose.

    Upon my search, one of the most profound pieces of advice I came from was from Einstein, and it says “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I then realized what I wanted to do. I had always loved math. I had taken every form of advanced math in high school, and was one of those kids who would always be adding up numbers in his head. I also love to create things, and make the things of my imagination become reality. it was this year that I declared Mechanical Engineering, because it consisted of two things that when combined formed the essence of who I was. Although the engineering program isn’t as good as the business program at school, I realized that it is not about the money, but about following who you are and what you want to do with your life.

    I think this article is very important because it encourages just that: follow what you love, and you will be happy. Don’t do it for the money, because then you are just a slave to a system that is flawed anyways.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Karen Hilario May 1, 2013, 2:46 am

    Choosing to go with what you love is always said to be the right way to go. I was especially drawn to the part of the last quote by Victor Frankel that says,

    “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.”

    However, I have learned through different experiences, readings and through testimonies by others that it is not enough to just go with what you love. What if what you love most is money, power, fame – yourself. I think that anything can be done right if it is done for the benefit of others. There is a greater joy found in working in order to make life easier for our fellow human beings than just focusing on ourselves.

    One of my experiences that illustrated this to me was when I was asked to do translation for a team of doctors in a rural village. Being bilingual, this task should have seemed easy to me, but I was unsure of myself and thought that I was too shy of a person for this job. But I saw a need and went along with it. Though that was not particularly something I ever saw myself doing, at the end of that month I loved doing it because I knew that it was benefitting dozens of people in that village. It changed me for the better.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Cynthia H May 1, 2013, 1:15 am

    When accepting a career as a teacher, one should accept the fact that this job will not make you rich in money, but it will make you rich in knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of children each and every day. The job entails endless hours of developing lesson plans, teaching, and grading papers in the evening and carried out into our weekends. However, when one goes into this profession knowing that the outcome reaps great benefits of our citizens of tomorrow, that makes all the difference in the world. When one teaches with that burning desire to make a difference, we are indeed living in bliss!

    Reply
  • avatar

    Chloe Smith March 24, 2013, 7:48 pm

    I love the idea that someone could give up all the money thaty had saved because he was tired of being a slave to money and his job. His passion was to be free from the control money had over him and he pursued this. Now he has found happiness and blissfulness which to me is hard to do which today’s world. People take the jobs they believe will make them money when their heart isn’t in it, which ultimately causes them to do an even worse job. Hearing about Vikto Franikl’s experiences makes me not want to be just another person sludging through life working a job that I hate. I want passion in my field of study and career.

    Reply
  • avatar

    aclay March 19, 2013, 9:00 pm

    I believe it absolutely imperative to follow your passions in your career, for your own well-being, as well as to feel like you are making meaningful contributions to the world and society. For me, this means working in the arts, and spending my life promoting and supporting the arts. My experiences up to this point in my life have undoubtedly had the most influence over my decision to work in the arts and attend graduate school for a degree in arts administration. My time spent at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as an intern in the Public Programming and Community Relations departments, exposed me most directly to administrative work in a distinguished museum. Recently,tutoring elementary students in an impoverished school in the Detroit Public School system has also brought me much joy and satisfaction. I am able to inspire my tutees’ creativity by teaching them how to read and write, so that they may gain exposure to others’ literary works. I also feel that through the America Reads tutoring program, I am indirectly supporting the preservation of the arts by doing what I can to improve the community in which my beloved Detroit Institute of Arts resides. Through these experiences, I have discovered that I truly want to spend my life acting as a mediator between the public and art worlds, either working in public relations or education in a museum, or exploring how art can aid in the renewal of cities like Detroit.

    One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from “Dead Poets Society,” when English teacher Mr. Keating says to his class, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” To write your verse, you need to follow your passion and do what you love in all areas of your life, including your career.I know that I will write my verse by democratizing the arts and bringing the arts to the world, as I believe it is my calling to promote the arts and expose others to art. I know how to write mine, so in the words of Mr. Keating, “What will YOUR verse be?”

    Reply
  • avatar

    hoedc February 26, 2013, 3:10 pm

    this is a very good thing

    Reply
  • avatar

    natsabil December 31, 2012, 5:55 am

    Having passion for your work has become so rare but I do not believe that, that makes it less important. Like this points out, employers want to have a team of really involved employees. Not only is the work done better but it creates longer lasting jobs.

    I’m studying illustration and I knew that by doing this I would have to work really hard in order to find a job that would allow me to be passionate about it. That means I can’t allow myself to settle, and that I might have to create a business for myself.

    My career path is narrow but my skill capacity is large and by finding a larger variety of skills that I really enjoy I have more of a chance of finding a job that I can really enjoy, even if it may not be my dream job at first.

    I want to write and illustrate children’s books. It’s not the most common career path but it is something I have always loved to do. I’ve had countless all nighters trying to perfect illustrations and I may be exhausted and creatively drained but there is nothing more satisfying than holding a finished product that I can be proud of. It’s not just about satisfying a customer or an employer, but also satisfying yourself. I would love to be able to call this my full time job because it is more than a full time hobby.

    I want to create things that have lasting appeal which means my work is never going to be done, so I do not want to start a long process with a bitter state of mind. I really loved this article because it reminded me that I don’t need a lot to be happy. I need to stop worrying about the amount of my paycheck but rather the amount that I’m willing to put into a job. If I put my all in to something, pretty soon the outcome will get better and better.

    Reply

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In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at LatPro.com. Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of JustJobs.com. He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.

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