“My question, and this may be incredibly stupid, is how do I find my passion? I know most of the things I like, but I have no idea how that translates into a career I can use to support my wife and I while she’s in school, let alone be some kind of success at it.”
I received this comment in an email recently and it‘s a great question. In my last post, The New Career Shakedown, I talked about all the things I considered doing as an answer to my own question: “If I could do anything, what would I do?” At the time, I explored many different options from starting a small business to going back to school, before I finally realized I was ignoring what I really wanted to do (travel and be a writer/photographer). I didn’t think it was practical, it felt a little scary, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.
This process for me was over the course of about two years. Now I know there are people who naturally know exactly what they are meant to do. My husband knew since the fifth grade that he was going to be an artist. For the rest of us, figuring this question out can take a little bit more work.
Forget about money
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you live on the street or marry into money. But for the purposes of answering this question, put the concerns about money aside. For years I thought about writing, but the logic loop went something like this: I love writing. I love travel. What about money? Writers don’t make enough. Travel is expensive. Forget it, it’s unrealistic.
I didn’t give myself permission to truly entertain the notion, because I was jumping ahead to the money part. What I should have been thinking was: I love writing. I love travel. What kinds of things would I write? Where would I want to travel to? What can I do now to prepare myself for such career…etc. After you take the time to think through whether this is something you want to do, then you can start figuring out ways to make it work financially.
Assume you will do it
There is a big difference between thinking about it, and planning to do it. If you are just thinking about it, initial obstacles become reasons why you can’t do it. If you are planning to do it, those same obstacles become problems you have to solve. I think we avoid committing to an idea, because we don’t want to waste our time, look stupid or do something wrong.
How to trick your brain out of this self defeating loop? Here’s what you do. Go out your front door, and with all the bravado you can muster shout, “I am a [insert your dream career here].” Feel good? Great! That is all it takes to accomplish something you want to do. The decision to do it. I can’t underline this enough. If you are wavering (like I did on all five of those careers options on the last post) then you‘ll just swim in circles. Do you think Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon.com said, “I think I’d like to start and online bookstore?” No. He just did it. He rented cheap warehouse space and used old doors as desks–he didn’t have reasons he couldn’t do it (like a lack of desks), he had problems to solve. The only difference between the “thinkers” and the “do-ers” is that little decision they make. The thinkers say, “should I?” and the do-ers say “I am”.
Give yourself a chance
Dear perfectionists, oh how the world owes you a debt of gratitude. You make sure our accounting ledgers balance to the penny and our trains run on time. But please do yourself a favor and give yourself permission to be really terrible at something. I found this piece hard, because I wanted to research, prepare and practice my way into eternity. Leaving the corporate world, where I knew my role, and what would happen day by day to take this leap, where I don’t know anything, has been a strange kind of culture shock.
The problem is the “success myth”. We read stories of successful people and they are full of daring decisions, intelligent innovations and amazing accomplishments. What we don’t hear about is those first day, months and years. You’ve got to start somewhere. I just prefer to roll up my sleeves and jump in. The water is fine.
Get a jump start
I’m assuming you have some ideas about what you like, but here are some quick ways to shake it up and get more ideas:
Free write for 30 minutes about things you like to do.
Look up your look community college and peruse the adult education section for things that interest you
Make a list of every career you can think of that is interesting to you. List reasons why you would like it. (Don’t list negatives, that’s your internal critic throwing obstacles at you before you get started)
Find blogs and websites dedicated to areas you are interested in. Online professional groups can give you an insight to what it is really like.
Go to a bookstore and read (don’t buy) books about your field (you can usually get a lot from skimming, and you’re just in the idea phase right now)
Think of the most outrageous careers out there. Astronaut, crocodile wrangler, pastry chef. Then consider if you could instantly learn how to do it, and had unlimited funds, would you like that as a career?
Take a sick day. Use the time to reflect. (Often we’re to busy to even think about what to change).
What else would you add to this list?