The Secret to Doing What You Want in Life

I have a friend who likes to wear button down shirts. He’s a clean cut looking guy but inside lives a Hell’s Angel. Before he ever moved to Israel, started a family, and began a boring career in computers (or some other vanilla profession), this guy used to be biker. He had long hair and a leather jacket, spent many nights just riding the southern highways of the United States of America. Today he is trapped.

We had a conversation a few weeks ago that went something like this: “I’m still looking for work,” he said.

“What do you do?” I asked. He told me passionlessly about whatever boring profession he calls his last job. “What do you love to do?”

“Work on Harleys,” he said without thinking twice.

“So why don’t you do that?” I asked. He launched into a long story about how there’s one place that services Harleys in Israel, and it’s up north, and he didn’t really think he could get the job, and … After enough excuses it all just seems like noise anyway.

His story stuck with me though. Here was a guy who knew and could readily admit what he loved doing, which  puts him ahead of 90% of the people out there who don’t even know what their passions are, yet he still found reasons to lie to himself about why he couldn’t go after his dream. What killed me was that he’s telling me this while UNEMPLOYED!

At least if he had a job with a comfortable security coming in I’d understand. The sad fact is that my friend is trapped in the same hole that so many of us can find ourselves in if we are not careful: letting the world dictate our career path and letting the career path dictate how we see ourselves. Here are some practical tips on doing what you want in life from my own experience.

Tip #1 Discover Your Passions

Get yourself a piece of paper or a Word Doc and answer the following to get at the heart of what you love:

  1. Finish this sentence “If I had only 1-hour in the day to do anything I wanted to do, it would be …”
  2. Finish this sentence “Others think I’m good at …”
  3. Finish this sentence “I know I’m good at …”

In looking at what you wrote, is there anything to suggest the type of job you would love doing? Ask yourself this key question: would anyone pay me to do X? Chance you can get paid to do something you enjoy, which others think you are good at, and you are qualified to do.

Tip #2 Kill Your Fear

Seth Godin says that people are not scared of failure, as much as they are scared of criticism because when your work is critiqued it means there is a hell of a lot more work to do, rather than failure which implies you called it quits. There is no reason to fear chasing after a career that would motivate you. We can make all the excuses for why we are not “following our dreams,” but the reality is we are lazy. And it’s because of this laziness that we don’t perform – rather we wallow in the self pity of not being good enough to achieve our dreams.

Dave Navarro, The Launch Coach, talks about the fear that creeps up when we think that we don’t have anything of value to offer. This is a paralyzing place to be since we justify not sharing our gifts with world because we don’t think they are worth sharing. This leads to feeling worthless. Smash through this lie with some help from Dave. He says:

 

Unless you actually trying to defraud people, you have no reason to see yourself a fraud. You have certain skills you can offer the world, and whether or not you don’t appreciate them, other people can. You may not see yourself as a 10 on the old sliding scale, maybe you’re a 5, but let me tell you this:To people who are a 0,1 or 2, your 5might as well be  10. You have value they need.

I could spend lots of time looking at the guys who are at the top of the social media game and get jealous. These guys advice blue chip companies, make six-to-seven figure incomes, and help shape the direction of things. They are 10s. Rather than look at it this way I get honest of where I am, and then look to offer something to the people below that who can use my help. You should do the same.

Get out that paper/screen again and work on the following considerations:

  1. The worst thing that could happen if I follow the dream above is … [describe the ABSOLUTE worst that can happen – chances are it’s not so bad]
  2. I see my self as a [choose number from 1 to 10] professionally, meaning I can be of most service to people who fall in a range of [choose number from 1 to 9]
  3. My target customer looks like … [list the things your customer needs and how you can possibly provide them]

Tip #3 Make It Happen

There’s not much to be said here. The difference between people who succeed and people who do nothing is that the people who succeed put themselves out there. They make things happen at the risk of them not working because they realize that all failure is an investment into better results in the future.

Last time you’ll need that paper in this post (I promise!). At the top of the page list “the dream” you’ve defined from the considerations above, and then complete the exercises below:

  1. The most important thing I will need to do over the next month to get me closer to my dream is … [list actions which are a reasonable and achievable over the next month]
  2. The most important thing I will need to do over the next week to get me closer to my dream is … [list actions which are a reasonable and achievable in the next week]
  3. The most important thing I can do TODAY that will get me closer to my dream is … [list actions which are a reasonable and achievable today]

Notice we work backwards. That’s on purpose because it is easier in planning to go from big to small. In his book Making it All Work, GTD guru David Allen talks about defining the 50,000 foot view all the way down to the ground level where day-to-day actions happen. By defining our birds eye view of what’s reasonable to accomplish in a month that will get us towards our goal it is easier to define weekly and daily tasks and targets.

As with any course of action there are steps that will get you where you need to go, and steps that are a waste of time. Once you know where you want to be and how you can offer value there, quit procrastinating and get doing. Does that mean opening your own business, tapping every connection you know for an “in” with the hiring partner, or raising a bunch of money to fund an idea? It can be any of those things. The point is once you know where you are heading the path should become clearer. Usually the biggest obstacle is you. So get out of the way and let the dreams begin.

2 Comments

  1. I liked this article and agree with a lot of it. As a spouse and parent though I have to also agree with the Harley man to a certain extent. Once a family is involved I think practicality takes precedence. That being said I think that the Harley man probably won’t attain success until he combines his passion with his practical capabilities. For example I would suggest starting a blog or website as a hobby that taps into his Harley passion while offering advice or a product to other Harley enthusiasts and then utilizing his computer skills to try to slowly build it up.

    Reply
  2. I definitely agree that people should follow their passions and make a career out of it. Or at least try. A person working an eight to four job, five days a week, spends about 2088 hours each year(subtract more for vacation time) working. Another way to look at it is that the average person spends at least 1/3 of their weekdays working. To spend 1/3 of your precious time doing something you do not love, or in the worst case, dislike, is such a shame.
    Let’s look at it realistically, though. Most artists (for example), would not be able to comfortably support a family of 5. Those who succeed are a lucky, select few. So maybe it is not ideal and possible for everyone to be employed in a business they are most passionate about. However, like “the Harley man,” to not even try, if there is no better option for income at hand, seems pointless. What is there to lose? Sir Francis Bacon once said “There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying.”
    I know many people who are in jobs that they are indifferent about. Sometimes it is more important to have a steady income than to love what your occupation more than anything in the world. Yet the ideal would be to find a balance. Especially in a case like “the Harley man,” it can’t hurt to try.

    Reply

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