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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  • adrehwing

    My decision to attend graduate school to become an elementary school educator was at one time hindered by what my definition of success was. Frankl’s words about finding meaning and purpose speak deeply to me. What once was a desire and erroneous passion to want financial success above all – the idea of commuting and working seemingly endless hours, leading to a diminishing, and simply unhappy, unsatisfying lifestyle was one I was willing to endure. I found a love for the field of psychology, and wanted to pursue a doctorate in the field. After a year and a half out of college, I wanted nothing more than the financial reward that mundane, and uninteresting careers would give back to me; then, something changed in me. I began substitute teaching, and spending much time in elementary schools due to the psychology research position I had been working at for months. I came alive when I was in front of the classroom, and naturally connected with children. I had always ruled out the possibility of becoming a teacher, for the difficult to admit fact that it is not a career that is known for its monetary gain. I began an internal, personal, and mentally taxing journey, constantly going back and forth with where I wanted to take my career. My family would comment that they had never seen me so happy as when I was teaching, or around children. I struggled with the decision to follow my true passion, where my true purpose, meaning, and love of life was – in teaching. It was once difficult for me to admit that I had counted out who I was meant to be, and where I was meant to go with my career, simply because of my inadequate and naive definition of success. Now, I find happiness, intellectual satisfaction, and a new level of success that I never knew could be attainable until I started on my teaching journey. Certainly, all of the money in the world could not buy the sheer joy I have found in discovering myself and what my meaning and purpose is in life. Now, I have never been so sure of who I am, where I want to go, and what true success is: it is waking up every single day feeling so happy to be doing what I am about to commence, and not thinking twice about the financial success that may or may not come along with it. I have found my bliss – it has just taken a little bit longer to realize it.

  • Karolina Villagrana

    During a professional development, after
    completing my first year of teaching, we were asked, “If you were not in
    education, what else you would do?” I thought I could come up with a list,
    especially since I held various policy internships. After the time was up, I
    still couldn’t think of anything, it was this moment I realized I was in the
    right field. I know I am following my passion.

    Education is my career and my life. It is not an
    easy path, I face my fair challenges but the last five years energize me to
    keep moving forward. Every day as a teacher, I love to see my students find the
    joy of investing in their academic achievement because they know they have the
    skills to be successful. I love working with parents and showing them ways to
    support their students at home so they are the advocates of their child’s life.
    The endless to do list, the weekend stress over lesson planning, the days that
    are harder than others for me are worth it. It takes a unique individual to be
    in the field of education and it is this uniqueness that keeps me intrigue in
    my work.

    I am consistently told, Karolina, “I never saw
    you as a teacher.” I smile at them and agree with them, I didn’t either. I saw
    my world differently in college because it was communicated that the purpose in
    a career was to earn money, however, one day I heard a different message on how
    to pursue a career: Follow your passion and money will come.

    By embodying this message, I have seen early
    success in my career than I have anticipated. I am more proud though that my
    success impacts the success of others and this drives my motivation every day.
    Education is my life because it feeds my soul.

  • Just Jennifer

    It took time for me to come to know myself and it took changing circumstances to follow my bliss. After 17 years with a large HMO I left an Administrative Clerical career to do just this-follow my passion.

    Early on in my career I had always been tied to healthcare in one way or another: pharmacy cashier, Orthopaedic file clerk, then to the granddaddy of HMO’s. Early on in life I knew I liked helping people and in a way that was tangible and noble. But life is crazy, beautiful and I struggled to figure out what that meant for me or believe that I was capable!

    Motherhood came at 20 years old and I spent 18 years just getting by in different jobs and then in different positions within the HMO but each time advancing. I volunteered within the organization and in the community to fulfill my need to help people; and to show my son the value in people’s lives.

    The last position I held as an Administrative Secretary within the organization was an awesome experience. In time healthcare changed and so did our local regional administrative leadership. Within my department this created a revolving door of managers which left no stability or continuity in department processes, needs and especially conflict of physicians and employees.

    Increasing work load, and responsibility brought me more money but less time away from my son. And without a consistent management style to refer to I no longer found joy in what I did or that I was helping people.

    In the end I was fortunate to be able to take time off to decompress and figure something’s out. Did I really want to leave my job after so much time invested? What would I do if I left? Could I afford to leave?! What can I do to build on the career I’ve established and still find happiness in my work?

    The answer was nursing. Which was hilarious to me because I never thought I was smart enough or able to take time off for nursing school. But I remembered the awesome nurses I worked with everyday and how what they did had such an awesome impact on people’s lives and let’s not mention how knowledgable they have to be!

    I realized how nursing meets my need to work with and help people, to keep learning and to build on the career I’ve already established.

    I’ve just completed my first year of college and man was it tough! But I’ve applied everything I thought I was made of and learned new things about myself along the way.

    Money can’t replace time, fulfillment or make the rough days a little easier. When you search and find what you need and want, money isn’t the main issue, you don’t mind spending your time and you will be fulfilled.

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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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