“The new normal is for Millennials to jump jobs four times in their first decade out of college. Today’s college grads don’t just change jobs, they often switch into entirely different industries.” -CNN Money report
Being an entrepreneur I have often been involved in many a conversations about professional fulfillment. This conversation often start with the other person opening up about not being happy with their jobs. On asking why do they do it then, almost always the answer is — for the money. Then they ask me how did I end up doing something I am passionate about and I can almost sense guilt when they say they don’t really know what they are passionate about. To top it up, we have this endless stream of motivational quotes and widespread content on “finding your passion”. First of all, I clarify that I ended up doing what I am doing because of luck or chance. But continuing to do that for 9 years straight was a choice I made and based on that experience I would like to share my knowledge about passion and professional fulfillment in the hope that it helps someone who is seeking it.
The dictionary defines passion to be an intense emotion. So when you say you are passionate about something, you mean you are intensely emotional about it. I had, in an article written earlier briefly touched about the only two intense emotions that exist — love and fear. There is no doubt that in the context of passion, the only emotion we need to address is that of love. It is safe to say that all activities that we love doing and which give us a feeling of fulfillment are our passion. In another article of mine — living full, I had touched upon what is fulfillment. We are fulfilled when we take risks and the risks pay off and adrenalin is responsible for giving us a feeling of rush while taking the risks. Then what does following your passion and being fulfilled mean. It means taking risks in activities that you love doing and the risks paying off. Imagine playing a sport you love, imagine proposing a person you love, imagine saving a puppies life, imagine pitching your idea to a potential client, imagine singing in front of a crowd and the list can go on.
We have absolutely no doubt that profession is something we get paid for since that definition is clearly taught to us since childhood especially coming from a generation raised by boomers. It becomes a no brainer that professional fulfillment is doing things you love, taking risks while doing them, the risks paying off and you getting paid for it. The problem that people face is that how do they keep taking risks long enough that they pay off ? When getting a high salary is more important than doing something you love, the chances of you taking risks go do down dramatically. My own experience is that in such a scenario more than passion, purpose is what helps us focus and keep going. Purpose is your “why” — your reason for the activities you do. It gives you a sense of direction and clarity for your decisions. Now think about iconic artists like John Lennon or Bob Marley. They are outstanding not only because of their passion for music but also for the sense of purpose their work carried. Their work went to give hope to millions of souls around the world. The key takeaway is not just doing work you love, but also doing meaningful (or purpose driven) work.
The part of profession we are not taught is that it is not merely a tool for our survival but also a tool for the society’s survival. To understand this, we need to look at how societies function. Take the case of ants, each type of ant is devoted to a type of work that suits it. Work for them primarily means to serve the society and the society in return ensures their survival. Also worth noting is how their identity is based on the type of work they do. According to me, ideally when asked who we are, rather than saying our name, religion or nationality what really would make sense is what work you do. Once we understand that in general our purpose in the society is to serve it we can tackle the question — how do we find our unique purposes. My key finding is that, we choose our purpose based on the problems we find in our environment. For example, my friend is passionate about teaching. But she feels that the kind of teaching that is taking place has a bias towards logical thinking and this is making kids lose out on precious learning about their own emotions. This is her unique view and she has dedicated her life to solve this problem. She is taking risks while doing work that she loves, for a purpose much larger than her. In her journey, every time her risks pay off, she will feel professional fulfillment.
“People are much stronger than they think they are when in pursuit of their telos, their purpose for living. As Nietzsche put it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” - David Brooks, NY Times