How To Find and Do Work You Love
It turns out that over 80 percent of the people in the U.S. don’t enjoy their work. That’s the average that Deloitte has done with their studies.
So I wanted to find out, what is it that sets these people apart, the people who do the passionate, world-changing work, that wake up inspired every day, and then these people, the other 80 percent who lead these lives of quiet desperation.
So I started to interview all these people doing this inspiring work. I read books and did case studies, 300 books altogether on purpose and career.
I wanted to find the work that I couldn’t not do, what that was for me. But as I was doing this, more and more people started to ask me, “You’re into this career thing. I don’t like my job. Can we sit down for lunch?” I’d say, “Sure.”
But I would have to warn them, because at this point, my quit rate was also 80 percent. Of the people I’d sit down with for lunch, 80 percent would quit their job within two months.
One Simple Question
I was proud of this, and it wasn’t that I had any special magic. It was that I would ask one simple question. It was, “Why are you doing the work that you’re doing?” And so often their answer would be, “Well, because somebody told me I’m supposed to.”
And I realized that so many people around us are climbing their way up this ladder that someone tells them to climb, and it ends up being leaned up against the wrong wall, or no wall at all.
But as I’ve made these discoveries, I noticed a framework of really three simple things that all these different passionate world-changers have in common, whether you’re a Steve Jobs or if you’re just, you know, the person that has the bakery down the street.
I want to share those three with you, so we can use them as a lens for the rest of today and hopefully the rest of our life.
The Necessary Framework
The first part of this three-step passionate work framework is becoming a self-expert and understanding yourself, because if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it. And the thing is that no one is going to do this for us.
There’s no major in university on passion, purpose and career. I don’t know how that’s not a required double major, but don’t even get me started on that. I mean, you spend more time picking out a dorm room TV set than you do you picking your major and your area of study.
But the point is, it’s on us to figure that out, and we need a framework, we need a way to navigate through this. And so the first step of our compass is finding out what our unique strengths are.
What are the things that we wake up loving to do no matter what, whether we’re paid or we’re not paid, the things that people thank us for?
Next, what’s our framework or our hierarchy for making decisions? Do we care about the people, our family, health, or is it achievement, success, all this stuff?
We have to figure out what it is to make these decisions, so we know what our soul is made of, so that we don’t go selling it to some cause we don’t give a shit about.
The next step is our experiences. All of us have these experiences. We learn things every day, every minute about what we love, what we hate, what we’re good at, what we’re terrible at.
If we don’t spend time paying attention to that and assimilating that learning and applying it to the rest of our lives, it’s all for nothing.
Every day, every week, every month of every year I spend some time just reflecting on what went right, what went wrong, and what do I want to repeat, what can I apply more to my life.
As you see people, especially today, who inspire you, who are doing things where you say “Oh God, what Jeff is doing, I want to be like him.” Why are you saying that? Open up a journal. Write down what it is about them that inspires you.
It’s not going to be everything about their life, but whatever it is, take note on that, so over time we’ll have this repository of things that we can use to apply to our life and have a more passionate existence and make a better impact.
Because when we start to put these things together, we can then define what success actually means to us, and without these different parts of the compass, it’s impossible.
We end up in the situation … We have that scripted life that everybody seems to be living going up this ladder to nowhere. It’s kind of like in Wall Street 2, if anybody saw that.
The employee asks the big Wall Street banker CEO, “What’s your number? Everyone’s got a number, where if they make this money, they’ll leave it all.” He says, “Oh, it’s simple. More.” And he just smiles.
And it’s the sad state of most of the people that haven’t spent time understanding what matters for them, who keep reaching for something that doesn’t mean anything to us, but we’re doing it because everyone said we’re supposed to.
But once we have this framework together, we can start to identify the things that make us come alive. Before this, a passion could come and hit you in the face, or maybe in your possible line of work, you might throw it away because you don’t have a way of identifying it.
Once you do, you can see something that’s congruent with my strengths, my values, who I am as a person, so I’m going to grab ahold of this, I’m going to do something with it, and I’m going to pursue it and try to make an impact with it.
If we don’t know what we’re looking for, we’re never going to find it, but once we have this framework, this compass, then we can move on to what’s next… Doing the impossible and pushing our limits.
Doing The Impossible
There’s two reasons why people don’t do things. One is they tell themselves they can’t do them, or people around them tell them they can’t do them. Either way, we start to believe it. Either we give up, or we never start in the first place.
The things is, everything was impossible until somebody did it. Every invention, every new thing in the world, people thought were crazy at first.
Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile, it was a physical impossibility to break the four-minute mile in a foot race until Roger Bannister stood up and did it. And then what happened? Two months later, 16 people broke the four-minute mile.
The things that we have in our head that we think are impossible are often just milestones waiting to be accomplished if we can push those limits a bit. And I think this starts with probably your physical body and fitness more than anything, because we can control that.
If you don’t think you can run a mile, you show yourself you can run a mile or two, or a marathon, or lose five pounds, or whatever it is, you realize that confidence compounds and can be transferred into the rest of your world.
I want to share this story about a friend of mine to illustrate a point. Three years ago he was on this tugboat in the San Francisco Bay. It’s a rainy, stormy, windy day, and people are getting sick on the boat, and he’s sitting there wearing a wetsuit.
He’s going to try to swim across the Golden Gate. He’s sitting there, and his buddy Jonathan, who had talked him into it comes up to him and could see the fear. And he says, “Scott, hey man, what’s the worst that could happen? You’re wearing a wetsuit. You’re not going to sink.
And If you can’t make it, just hop on one of the 20 kayaks. Plus, if there’s a shark attack, why are they going to pick you over the 80 people in the water?” So thanks, that helps. He’s like, “But really, just have fun with this. Good luck.” And he dives in, swims off. OK.
Turns out, the pep talk totally worked, and he felt this total feeling of calm, and it was because Jonathan was 13 years old.
Of the 80 people swimming that day, 65 of them were between the ages of nine and 13. Think how you would have approached your world differently if at nine years old you found out you could swim a mile and a half in 56-degree water from Alcatraz to San Francisco.
What would you have said yes to? What would you have not given up on? What would you have tried? As he was finishing this swim, he gets to Aquatic Park, and getting out of the water and of course half the kids are already finished, so they’re cheering him on and they’re all excited.
He’s watching people finish and sees this one kid, something didn’t look right. The kid is flailing and barely able to sip some air before he slams his head back down.
Other people were watching too, and they were thinking the same thing: this is why you don’t let nine-year-olds swim from Alcatraz. This was not fatigue. All of a sudden, two parents run up and grab him, and they put him on their shoulders, and they’re dragging him, totally limp.
Then all of a sudden they walk a few more feet and they plop him down in his wheelchair. And he puts his fists up in the most insane show of victory ever seen. The warmth and the energy on this kid when he made this accomplishment.
My friend had seen him earlier that day in his wheelchair. he just had no idea he was going to swim. I mean, where is this kid going to be in 20 years? How many people told him he couldn’t do that, that he would die if he tried that?
You prove people wrong, you prove yourself wrong, that you can make little incremental pushes of what you believe is possible. You don’t have to be the fastest marathoner in the world, just your own impossibilities, to accomplish those, and it starts with little bitty steps.
The best way to do this is to surround yourself with passionate people. The fastest way to do things you don’t think can be done is to surround yourself with people already doing them.
There’s a quote by Jim Rohn and it says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There is no bigger lifehack in the history of the world from getting where you are today to where you want to be than the people you choose to put in your corner.
They change everything, and it’s a proven fact. In 1898, Norman Triplett did this study with a bunch of cyclists, and he would measure their times around the track in a group, and also individually. And he found that every time the cyclists in the group would cycle faster.
And it’s been repeated in all kinds of walks of life since then, and it proves the same thing over again, that the people around you matter, and environment is everything. But it’s on you to control it, because it can go both ways.
With 80 percent of people who don’t like the work they do, that means most people around us are encouraging complacency and keeping us from pursuing the things that matter to us so we have to manage those surroundings.
I found myself in this situation… Personal example, a couple years ago. Has anyone ever had a hobby or a passion they poured their heart and soul into, unbelievable amount of time, and they so badly want to call it a business, but no one’s paying attention and it doesn’t make a dime?
OK, I was there for four years trying to build this movement to help people do work that they genuinely cared about and that inspired them, and I was doing all I could, and there were only a handful of people paying attention.
This is how badly I wanted it, it grew at 10 percent for four years, and I was about to shut it down, and right about then, I started to meet some pretty interesting people.
They had these crazy lifestyles of adventure, of businesses and websites and blogs that surrounded their passions and helped people in a meaningful way. One of my friends, has a family of eight, and he supports his whole family with a blog that he writes for twice a week.
They just came back from a month in Europe, all of them together. This blew my mind. How does this even exist? And I got unbelievably inspired by seeing this, and instead of shutting it down, I decided, let’s take it more seriously.
I did everything I could to spend my time, every waking hour possible trying to hound these guys, hanging out and having beers and workouts, whatever it was. And after four years of 10% growth, within six months of hanging around these people, my life changed.
My business grew by 10 times. In another 12 months, it grew by 160 times. Surrounding yourself with passionate folks who inspire you will change everything, and this is why… you ask what was going on.
Well, for four years, I knew nobody in this space, and I didn’t even know it existed, that people could do this stuff, that you could have a lifestyle and impact like this. When I started surrounding myself with people actually doing it, it became normal.
So my thinking went from how could I possibly do this to how could I possibly not. And right then, when that happens, that switch goes on in your head, it ripples across your whole world. And without even trying, your standards go from here to here.
You don’t need to change your goals. You just need to change your surroundings. That’s it, and that’s why I love being around people that inspire me.
To sum things up, in terms of these three pillars, they all have one thing in common more than anything else.
The Common Theme
They are 100 percent in our control. No one can tell you you can’t learn about yourself. No one can tell you you can’t push your limits and learn your own impossible and push that. No one can tell you you can’t surround yourself with inspiring people or get away from the people who bring you down.
You can’t control a recession. You can’t control getting fired or getting in a car accident. Most things are totally out of our hands. These three things are totally on us. And they can change our whole world if we decide to do something about it.
And the thing is, it’s starting to happen on a widespread level. I just read in Forbes, the US Government reported for the first time in a month where more people had quit their jobs than had been laid off. They thought this was an anomaly, but it’s happened three months straight.
In a time where people claim it’s kind of a tough environment, people are giving a middle finger to this scripted life, the things that people say you’re supposed to do, in exchange for things that matter to them and do the things that inspire them.
And the thing is, people are waking up to this possibility, that really the only thing that limits possibility now is imagination. That’s not a cliché anymore.
How To Find and Do Work You Love – Conclusion
I don’t care what it is that you’re into, what passion, what hobby. If you’re into knitting, you can find someone who is killing at knitting, and you can learn from them. It’s wild and that’s what this whole post is about.
Because when ordinary people are doing the extraordinary, and we can be around that, it becomes normal. This isn’t about being Gandhi or Steve Jobs, doing something crazy. It’s just about doing something that matters to you, and makes an impact that only you can make.
Speaking of Gandhi, he was a recovering lawyer, as I’ve heard the term, and he was called to a greater cause, something that mattered to him, he couldn’t not do. And he has this quote that I absolutely live by.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Everything was impossible until somebody did it.
You can either hang around the people who tell you it can’t be done and tell you you’re stupid for trying, or surround yourself with the people who inspire possibility. I see it as our responsibility to show the world that what’s seen as impossible can become that new normal.
It’s already starting to happen. First, do the things that inspire us, so we can inspire other people to do the things that inspire them. But we can’t find that unless we know what we’re looking for.
We have to do our work on ourselves, be intentional about that, and make those discoveries. Because I imagine a world where 80 percent of people love the work they do.
What would that look like? What would the innovation be like? How would you treat the people around you? Things would start to change.
And as we finish up, I have just one question to ask you guys, and I think it’s the only question that matters. And it’s what is the work you can’t not do? Discover that, live it, not just for you, but for everybody around you, because that is what starts to change the world.