Lacking passion in your job? Here’s the answer
What’s my calling in life? What am I truly passionate about? Where does the world need me?
I don’t know. I am still trying to figure it out.
I look at diagrams like this and I think “YES! That is where I want to be.” Smack bang in the middle. Full of burning red purpose. And then the frustration and confusion creep in. Because I’m not there yet. I am still grinding ahead. Yet I’m a romantic, a believer, and I know my purpose is out there. I just have to find it.
We can spend ridiculous amounts of time feeling dissatisfied or unfulfilled with our current job. We make lists about what we think our passions are and how they relate to existing positions in the market. We wonder if we’ll ever find our calling.
Maybe we all should just quit to pursue our passions and hope this will bring the fulfillment and satisfaction that is so obviously missing from our daily routines.
That seems a tad drastic.
There is another way that can be equally as rewarding.
Your job vs. your project
A couple of months ago I read a post by Seth Godin on the difference between having a job and having a project.
Jobs are finite, specified and something we ‘get’. Doing a job makes us defensive, it limits our thinking. The goal is to do just enough, not get in trouble, meet spec.
Projects are open-ended, chosen and ours. Working on a project opens the door to possibility. Projects are about better, about new frontiers, about making change happen.
Some people don’t have a project, only a job. That’s a choice, and it’s a shame.
If you view your work as just a job, of course it leads to dissatisfaction. But it’s your choice. What if instead you chose to view your job as a project? Or you created a project within your job? Something that excites you, something that employs your passions and your skills. Or better yet, something that compels you to develop new skills.
Getting up in the morning is a whole lot better when it’s for a project, and not for a job.
Stay right where you are and transform your job into a series of projects.
Develop new skills
Designing projects into your job often requires you to develop new skills. Nothing is more satisfying than nailing a skill and putting it to good use.
Years ago I was a summer intern at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. I was staffed in the International Relations Department of the Ship Building Division. This sounded exotic and sexy when I accepted the offer, but the truth was a different story. I was a glorified English editor for a local company magazine called FLiK (Foreign Life in Korea).
I had never been so bored. Most of the time I had nothing to do. The only respite was the frequent Karaoke sessions with my superiors.
But I changed my attitude and created a new project. I decided to become the best “hawk-eyed” editor out there. I began studying grammar and punctuation. I researched best practices for editing. And then something happened.
I began to enjoy editing. Every time I found a grammar mistake, I felt a rush. Every time I improved a passage of text, I felt fulfilled.
I began enjoying myself.
Nothing about the job had changed. The difference was me. I was developing new skills and applying them with gusto in the service of others.
Apply yourself with discipline. Develop and hone new skills. More importantly, use these skills to serve others in your job and you will begin to feel a little more passionate about what you are doing.
Personal development meets service of others.
This leads to passion.
Build something that gives you pride
In the WWII movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, a group of British soldiers are held captive in a Japanese POW camp in Burma. Morale is low and disorder is high. But that’s not the end of it, day after day they are marched out in the suffocating heat to build a bridge as part of the Burma Railway.
Progress is terribly slow and previous attempts to construct the bridge fail. But everything changes when a new battallion of British POWs arrive to the camp.
After some hard negotiation with the new British Colonel, the Japanese agree to give the British complete autonomy over the bridge operation. They are allowed to maintain their ranks and organize themselves. Colonel Nicholson, upon assuming command of the operation, laments the current state of the troops
I tell you, gentlemen, we have a problem on our hands. Thanks to the Japanese, we now command a rabble. There’s no order, no discipline. Our task is to rebuild the battalion. It isn’t going to be easy, but fortunately, we have the means at hand, the bridge…We’ll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing…It’s going to be a proper bridge. Now here again, I know the men. It’s essential that they should take a pride in their job.
Colonel Nicholson tells the troops they are to build a proper bridge, not some shabby half-hearted structure. He realized that the only way to build morale and maintain discipline was for his troops to fully invest themselves in their new purpose. Only then would their woes disappear.
They didn’t have to love the job, or be passionate bridge builders. But they did have to commit to building something that would stand as evidence of their hard work and skill, something that would honour them.
One day the war will be over. And I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it. Not a gang of slaves, but soldiers, British soldiers, even in captivity.
What legacy are you leaving?
Your job may not be what you truly love, but you can most certainly get passionate about doing it so well that you leave behind bridges in your honour.
Delight. Lately I have been obsessed with this word. To me, it speaks volumes. Delivering delight is more than just doing your job. It’s about finding ways to give great pleasure, satisfaction or enjoyment.
There are some people who go out of their way in their job to make you feel awesome. Even outside of customer facing roles, there are others who anticipate and go far beyond what is required of them. We all have been touched by someone like this.
One such person is my younger sister. She moved to Australia to further her passion of writing music. Arriving with very little money, she had to get a “job.” Her days were spent writing music, her nights managing a churro & chocolate café.
Earlier this year I dropped by the café. I grabbed a table at the back and watched. My sister was radiant and happy. She treated every customer like a long lost friend. I was amazed.
She had every excuse to be tired and bored. This wasn’t her “passion.” Frying churros wasn’t furthering her musical career. In fact, at times her music suffered. She would wake up the next day too tired to pick up the guitar and create inspired tunes.
Never once did she complain.
She shows up emotionally and mentally to her job every single day. Whether she is aware of it or not, she makes an effort to delight others.
What does this job offer me? Wrong question. The right questions is
How can I use my job as a medium to serve others and help them experience delight?
If you truly internalize this principle and make it part of your very being, not only will you delight others, but you will experience delight yourself.
While the search for purpose continues…
Maybe I haven’t had that wakeup call or midnight epiphany about what I should do 5 or 10 years from now. Does that mean I should sludge through my daily routine wishing I was filled with passion fire?
How about developing skills and delighting others through over-and-above job execution? Is this not a worthy purpose?
Sounds like a pretty darn good purpose for the meanwhile.
Let’s stop getting caught up about what our true purpose or calling is. Never stop looking for it, but invest yourself in what’s before you now.
Do an astonishing job in your job.
Develop. Build. Delight.