12 Happy (& Successful) People Share How They Found Fulfilling Work

That’s the big question isn’t it?

How to find work that truly fulfills you, I mean.

You want work to be more than just a way to pay the bills. You want it to be an expression of your talents, strengths, and natural gifts. You want it to actually mean something — to make a difference in your life and in the life of others.

If you’re not in the group of people who wake up excited on Monday mornings, you’re not alone. Phew, right? A Gallup survey shows that 70% of all people don’t like their jobs (source). That’s A LOT of people spending their days doing something they don’t like.

But that’s not the group of people you’re destined to be in — both you and I know that.

To help you navigate how to find fulfilling work, I brought in a team of experts. (You’re welcome!). I asked 12 people who are doing work that fulfills them to let us in on their secret. They were all asked, “What steps did you take, or what happened in your life, that helped you find fulfilling work?

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. Oh, and make sure to check out what the big shift was for Steve Pavlina — it made my heart sing.

1. Chris Guillebeau

“I wasn’t satisfied with jobs — or actually, work of any kind — that didn’t support my goals and desire for freedom. I kept pushing and trying things until I found something that was the ideal convergence between what made me happy, what paid the bills, and (critically) what I was somewhat good at.”

Who is Chris? Chris is a living example that you don’t have to live life the way others expect you to. This rebel against conventionality proves to us that more can be found outside of our comfort zones. Well, a man who has visited every country in the world (all 193 of them!) should know a secret or two about living.

2. Derek Sivers

“We’ve all heard that the career we should be pursuing is the one that doesn’t feel like work.

“Someone once asked me, “But of course there are times when you really have to do a lot of hard work to get a new business going, right?”

“I thought about it for a long time.

“I can’t remember anything in my last 20 years of running my own business that really felt like hard work!

“Was it hard work finding band members, scheduling rehearsals, or trying to book gigs in the college market? Not really. It felt like an extension of the creative process of making music.

“Was it hard work answering thousands of CD Baby emails myself for the first few years? Not really. It was good to hear what people were thinking, what problems they were having, and felt great to solve them all.

“I could see how these things would seem like hard work, but when it’s your company or you’re so filled with love for what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work.

“Then I realized a good comparison (even though I’m not a parent):

“Wiping someone else’s baby’s bottom feels like work.
 Wiping your own baby’s bottom doesn’t feel like work.”

Who is Derek? Derek a programmer, writer, and entrepreneur with a view on life that makes people like Tim Ferriss frequently ask for his advice. He is best known as the founder of CD Baby, which he started by accident in 1998 when he was selling his CD on his website, and friends asked if he could sell theirs, too. To make sure he only works on projects he loves, Derek has a “Hell Yeah” or a “Hell No” policy.

3. Jennifer Gresham

“The best thing I did was to take a more scientific approach to career change: being more systematic in my approach, developing criteria to help me rule out options, and testing careers before committing to them. It’s too easy to romanticize what a new career will be like before you’re really experienced it. Take your time and do your homework!”

Who is Jennifer? Jennifer courageously left her top job in the U.S. Air Force to reinvent herself as a writer. She left because it looked better than it felt. And we’re very happy that she did, because today she’s helping many others reinvent themselves and to shine bright.

4. Lewis Howes

“I listened to what my heart was telling me it loved doing the most then I leaned into that.”

Who is Lewis? As a New York Times Bestselling author, business coach and entrepreneur, Lewis has always strived for greatness. But his path hasn’t always been easy. After an injury, Lewis’ professional football career came to a sudden end. Broke, broken and clueless about the next step, he started to learn about marketing and making money online. (All while sleeping on his sister’s couch). Within a few years, he had built a multi-million dollar business. Wowza!

5. Jon Morrow

“I almost had to be “forced” into my ideal career.

“For years, I worked as a real estate executive, and I was totally miserable in the job, but I made great money, so I could never bring myself to quit. When the real estate market crashed though, all my opportunities in the field dried up for the next few years, so I was basically forced into changing careers.

“At the same time, I was also in a terrible car wreck. I had 17 broken bones, and I was in and out of the hospital for about six months. It was an awful experience, but it made me appreciate how short life is, and I had plenty of time to think during the recovery about what I really wanted to do.

“So, when the real estate market crashed, I resisted the urge to go for another high-paying job somewhere. Instead, I started my own blog, which had no guaranteed income whatsoever, but I knew I would really love doing it. The first few years were rough, but eventually I became one of the top bloggers in the world, and my sites are now worth millions, so I guess you could say it worked out pretty well. :-)”

Who is Jon? When Jon was little, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Due to his condition, Jon not only had to fight for his life, he also had to fight to get people to listen to him. Today, people pay thousands of dollars for that privilege. Even though he’s only able to move the muscles of his face, Jon’s used his voice to build several million dollar businesses. His mission? To empower creative people to change the world through blogging — and get paid for it.

6. Barrie Davenport

“I first took the time to learn more about myself by taking personality and career assessments. I defined my core values and pinpointed the skills and aptitudes that I enjoy the most. Then I used this information as a guide for researching possible careers that could suit me.

“After this research, I narrowed the field of possibilities and did more in-depth research. At that point, I had to take a leap and try something, even though I didn’t know 100% that I was choosing the right thing. It’s all a journey and a process of some trial and error. But if you do the foundational work, you put yourself on the right path to find what you love.”

Who is Barrie? Barrie’s passionate about passions — especially about helping others find theirs. Looking for more passion in your life? Barrie’s practical and actionable advice will help to inspire your soul and move you in the direction you desire. She’ll ignite the fire within you.

7. Neil Patel

“Find something that helps others. I’ve found that there is no greater reward than putting a smile on someone else’s face. If you can find a job or a career that allows you to do this, you will be a happier person.”

Who is Neil? If you’ve been looking into any type of online business, you’ve surely met Neil. At the age of 16, he paid a marketing firm to help start an online business, but without any results. Out of frustration, Neil taught himself the right marketing skills. Today he’s one of the world’s top marketers in the world and the co-founder of companies such as Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics.

8. Tim Brownson

“I got to a point where I couldn’t take it any more. Even though I earned good money and had what appeared to be a great job I was thoroughly unhappy and miserable. Money can only paper over the cracks for so long.

“I wanted to help people and whereas sales sometimes allowed me to do that, more often than not it didn’t. Being a Life Coach means I don’t have to ever compromise and it feels greeeeeat!”

Who is Tim? After doing sales for 20 years, Tim did a 180 and became a life coach. His coaching style is both funny and provocative, but most importantly, he will help you become unstuck. Tim has been doing this for almost a decade and we hope he’ll never stop.

9. Mary Jaksch

“My most fulfilling work is as a writer online and as a Zen Master offline. Both of these careers seem to find me; I never envisaged them as a future potential.

“However, the one thing that has enabled me to grab passing opportunities is my willingness to meet good fortune half-way. Life-changing opportunities don’t just fall into your lap, you have to do your part and work hard to make them happen.”

Who is Mary? Mary has many talents on her hands. She started off as a flutist and psychotherapist. Today, she’s a published author, Zen Master and founder of two successful blogs. Oh, and did I mention that this kick-ass woman has a 4th degree karate blackbelt?

10. Steven Aitchison

“When I stopped just thinking about making money in the business and married the two pursuits of doing what I loved, which was personal development and then finding other people who wanted the knowledge I had, everything changed.

“My business took off, my personal life changed and I could finally create a business that was Heart Centered, so there was a win/win for everyone involved.”

Who is Steven? At the age of 19, Steven considered ending his life. But all that changed when he realized that he’s the captain of his destiny — that his thoughts, feelings and actions are his creation. Steven tried many things before he found his true calling. Finally, he realized that it was within the field of personal development and that’s when he started using everything he’d learned to empower others.

11. Henri Junttila

“Looking back, life brought me what I needed, and I simply kept doing what resonated with me. To put that in more pragmatic terms: I worked with what I had, and I was open to opportunities.

“Today, I don’t push myself as much as I used to, because I see that there’s no need to force progress. Life seems to bring the right people, and the right opportunities, at the right time.

“This is where mindfulness comes in, because your mind will want to push, because it thinks that achievement and progress will lead to happiness.”

Who is Henri? Henri spent over $10,000 on programs and coaching, and failed over and over again with setting up a successful online business. Eventually, he became fed up with the ‘get-rich-quick-schemes’ and now he’s an advocate and teacher on how to create a thriving lifestyle businesses with a holistic approach.

12. Steve Pavlina

“The biggest shift happened when I decided to make happiness a higher priority than making money or growing my business. During my first five years in business, I worked very hard and seldom took a vacation. Work came first. Eventually I realized that was no way to live.

“These days I focus on creating a lifestyle that I enjoy. My life is rich in learning, growing, exploring, traveling, sharing, having fun, spending time with friends, helping people grow, and enjoying my freedom. My work supports my lifestyle.

“I pass up obvious opportunities to make money or grow my business if I predict they’ll make my life more burdensome and less fun and fulfilling. For instance, I quit social media in 2014 because it became boring and repetitive, even though it may have attracted more business. Instead I favor projects that are fun and growth-oriented, and I find creative ways to make them financially sustainable. By keeping my business enjoyable to run, my motivation stays high, my stress remains low, and I earn plenty of money with relative ease.

“It took a while to get used to this mindset, but it works. I’m currently typing this from the Acapulco airport, having just spent the past 2–1/2 weeks in Mexico to attend two conferences, enjoy the beach, and spend time with friends. Now I’m filled with an abundance of motivation to dive back into some work projects. I find it crucial to spend a significant amount of time away from work, so I can have the opportunity to miss it. Working with low motivation is a waste of life. I say that from personal experience, having spent years of my life pushing myself to work when I’d rather be traveling. The irony is that I made more money and enjoy a more abundant lifestyle by working less, but when I do work, I’m very productive because my motivation is sky-high.”

Who is Steve? At the age of 19 while locked up in a jail cell, Steve decided to pursue personal growth. He went on to become one of the world’s most successful personal development bloggers. A small warning before you visit his site, make sure you have plenty of time (his content is rather addictive).

13. Jennifer McConnell

“In recent years, my happy, successful life got turned upside down. Divorce, cancer and a job layoff came in quick succession. The perfect storm doubled up as the perfect opportunity to figure out what makes me feel truly alive and what to do next.

“I chatted with family, friends, coaches and therapists, meditated, researched, practiced yoga and nurtured my health. I began to see that my most fulfilling work happens when I’m using my intuition and expertise to help people make positive changes. This renewed clarity motivated me to establish my own career coaching consultancy. I absolutely love what I do!”

Who is Jennifer? Jennifer has experience from a wide range of industries such as financial services, media, technology, travel, and education. (To name a few.) When things fell apart, she managed to build it up again from scratch doing what she does best — helping others to make positive changes in their lives.

Sail Away From The Harbor

Knowing what path to take in life can be confusing, frustrating and overwhelming. Because you don’t just want to love what you do, you also want it to support the lifestyle you desire.

Based on the answers above, here are the key takeaways:

  • Get to know yourself (what you love, what you’re good at and what kind of lifestyle you want)
  • Try new things (explore, take chances and test careers before committing to them)
  • Find people who want the knowledge you have (looks for ways to make money by helping others).

Commit to consciously create the life you truly desire. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, then keep searching. Don’t settle for less than what you’re capable of.

As the old saying goes: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Connect Deeper

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Photo cred: Sofie Stenmark, Model: My Charlotte Lestander

Originally published at fabulousmondays.com on June 12, 2016.