On Igniting Your Energy: Purpose and Passion


Leadership expert Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, is an idealist who believes everybody needs to be fulfilled in the work that they do. He once said in an interview that fulfillment comes from “waking up every morning and feel like your work has value. It means that someone values you and you value the people around you. It means you feel like you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself.”

How many of us feel like that about our jobs?

The common thing you hear around is, “It’s just a job. As long as it pays the bills, it doesn’t matter how I feel about it.”

Whether we’re talking about purpose, passion or meaning, the one thing all these words boil down to is energy. When you’re doing work you’re inspired by, you become energized. It’s easy to get started. It’s easy to get into a state of flow. And at the end of a long day at work, you get tired, but the good type of tired not the one that makes you want to wipe your memory clean.

I once heard there are four levels of jobs you can have;
- Level 1 is a job that pays the bills
- Level 2 is a job that pays the bills and you’re good at (competence)
- Level 3 is a job that pays the bills, you’re good at, and you’re passionate about (purpose)
- Level 4 is a job that combines all of the above and only you can do

Let’s be practical and say in a job market such as Kenya, where unemployment rate is 40 % one must be grateful if they’re at Level 1 especially during election year.

And as a society, we’re told to aspire for Level 2; get a good corporate job that provides you with job security, stick to it for 30 years, get your nest egg then go enjoy your time in the Maldives.

Before I proceed, I must say, operating at Level 2 is not a bad thing <em>per se</em>.

Reason # 1
Many people have no idea what their passion(/purpose) is. It’s actually the premise upon which Cal Newport wrote his book, “So good they can’t ignore you”
The advice he gives is as follows;
- Start with something you’re slightly interested in
- Build mastery through deliberate practice
==> Repeat until the day they don’t ignore you
His idea is, passion would follow after building your skills then gaining autonomy and purpose (you see a trend in all these books?).

Reason # 2
Some people have their purpose/passion defined outside their work so the money they get from their Level 1/2 job fuels that.

That’s all well and good.

But where most people I see stumble is they stick to a job and never bother to grow and build their skills. There are many reasons that may attribute to this; sometimes the company does not support professional development or maybe the employee can’t be bothered because they don’t like it anyway. And sometimes, it’s the opposite, someone might get promoted to a new position that makes them lose touch with developing their core skill.

Operating at Level 2 without growing is where the problem lies.

Because just like the Maldives, the future of job security in corporations is quite uncertain. As millennials, we really need to stop looking at blueprints that have been handed down to us by the previous generation with the blind belief that things will work out if we just stick to it.

The job market keeps on changing.

And soon we’ll be talking about putting together a strategy for “No adults left behind”.

The ironic part is this, the realities of the market are so bad nowadays that it’s actually a good thing…. you can neither count on Level 1 nor Level 2 anyway, so why not try for Level 3 & 4?

Operating at Level 3 & 4 is hard.

Oh, that.

First, you’re going to have to define what success really looks like, and feels like for yourself.

I added ‘feels like’ because a lot of people get so caught up by the image of what it should look like in terms of possessions owned, that they end up living in the big mansion, driving the Range Rover but at the end of the day, they feel miserable inside.

But here’s the catch, many people have no clue what success looks like — or feels like — for them. They know the socially accepted definition of success…but when it comes to what they really want, they’re totally clueless.

Then there are others who can’t fathom the idea of taking responsibility for their own adult lives. Someone actually asked me once, ‘If you take responsibility for your own life, who do you blame if things go wrong?’


Second, you’re going to have to put an unbelievable amount of effort figuring out everything that you need to do. There’s a lot of failure involved…a lot of rookie mistakes. And sometimes you’ll need to ask yourself, “How do I make money from this again?”

Which might mean working multiple jobs, doing free work, not affording anything your friends could…

You might get lucky, and find an organization that actually values your passion enough to hire you for it (Level 3) or find a mentor to help you through at Level 4, but mostly, you’ll have to find a way to figure things out on your own and that’s why it’s hard.

And that’s why people would rather avoid it at all cost.

So ask yourself today, are you in a job that energizes you or drains you? How can you change that?

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