A regular reader asks…
“There are tons of books on finding your passion. They assume you know what you want. Maybe the idea of passion is flawed.”
Tons of books, millions of words and so little wisdom. For the lasting value produced, many of those books would have been better left as trees absorbing carbon dioxide.
The idea of passion is flawed and it’s not personal; it’s cultural. People have been led to expect that their passion is something that will descend on them from the heavens with angels singing. And you should already have had that experience. Like the song says, it’s looking for love in all the wrong places.
You know you’re in the neighborhood of your passion when things that would occur as difficulties for others (like burning yourself on the hot manifold or accidentally deleting a file) are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of what you are up to. Why else would you keep going?
“People don’t know what they need to be fulfilled.”
You’re absolutely right!
And the problem is embedded in how you’ve stated it. It’s backwards. People relate to fulfillment like something they will get – not something they will provide. They don’t “need” anything “to be fulfilled”; to experience fulfillment. It has been turned into a thing; an object to go searching for and found, like lost car keys. People search for fulfillment and expect to find it or get it. Not just expect like anticipate, but expect like a right. Someone or something outside me should fulfill me. My role is to judge whether or not that is occurring. This leads people to say things like, “that doesn’t fulfill me.” While it might be a “common sense” orientation; it’s wrong-headed. Worse, it’s torture if you buy into it.
Fulfillment is always available to everyone, now. There is something next to fulfill in front of everyone; fulfill that. Bring your strengths and gifts to the opportunity or challenge in front of you – the one that’s calling to; the one that interests or excites you; the one that annoys you. No one promised fun or easy so don’t confuse that with fulfilling something. Your job is to fulfill what life is calling from you next. Fulfill that and you experience fulfillment. When you are fulfilling something that requires everything you think you’ve got… and then a little bit more, fulfillment shows up. When we stop searching and start engaging to accomplish something worthwhile the world occurs differently. Fulfillment: you only experience it when you’re providing it.
Do you really give a sh*t about anything?
However, just to cover off a couple of back doors you might try escaping through, consider this: if you are truly indifferent then why care about your passion? You’re equally interested, fulfilled or engaged no matter what you’re doing. So if you don’t care what you do; drop the question and stop bothering yourself.
And, if nothing in your life has ever interested you, lit you up, had you go the extra mile because you wanted to, or had you so engaged that you lost track of time (Wow, it’s that late already!) it’s time to seek professional help.
When you can tell that you’re not indifferent, just notice where you invest your time, money and energy over time. It may be part of your job or maybe not. I’m not a professional photographer but I’ve been fulfilling an interest in photography for over 50 years. Or it could be something that you notice in hindsight. When I switched careers from IT to developing people and teams, others didn’t see the fit. I knew that developing people was the most enjoyable part of my IT jobs; so don’t worry about whether others can see it.
And don’t worry about whether your job is your passion or your passion is your job. Listen to Penelope Trunk as she suggests that, “One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to ‘do what you love.’”
Here are a couple of great comments generated by my earlier post on coaching.
This is a great article that hits on some very real issues. I agree that while not everyone wants to do what it takes to change the game, there are some managers that want to change the game and may even be willing to put their ass on the line for it but don’t see a realistic way of achieving it. For example, I come across managers on a regular basis that have passion for raising the game of their direct reports, but see it only achievable as a trade-off… “I would love to have the time to be able to put my ass on the line, but I have a job to do as well.” They think that it would be easy to double someone’s effectiveness if that was ‘all’ they had to do. In these cases the challenge comes not from a lack of willingness but from a place of misunderstanding where managers do not see their primary responsibilities as ensuring the success of their direct reports. They do not live in a way where it is already their job, with their asses already on the line to have the “work” as the opportunity to engage, inspire, and light-up their direct reports. To live as, “if my staff fail, it is impossible for me to succeed” level of commitment.
This is not surprising as most managers do not and did not have “coaches” that have provided this for them. It is now time to live this understanding (and)… to make this commitment… we have just never been accountable to ourselves and others for doing our real jobs.
Interesting, but I think there are some other angles. What about the other side, the employee has to want and to be willing to commit to improve an equal degree or the manager is pushing an awful big rock uphill?
And what about employees who really are performing well, and the status quo is good for the employee and the company? Perhaps this steady state is the best thing ; the employee may find that suits them, and the company needs that role filled on a perpetual basis. It’s similar to the general business rule that if your company is not growing, it’s dying. I disagree, there are definitely situations where steady-state is the best state.
However, your description of assessments and how they happen is bang on (where I work). Its a hidden system in that the process is shrouded and secretive, and it’s unclear often how evaluations are done. Its unclear if they have any value at all . I think they don’t; I’ve never got anything out of them in the last three years.
There is one thing more powerful than all the coaching models, approaches and certifying organizations put together.
That one essential key is hindered by almost all organizational performance appraisal, performance assessment, performance development or what-have-you systems and processes. The typical performance appraisal system puts the manager in the position of assessing and judging the employee. Separate from them, overlooking, deciding, giving them their score. There is no requirement to make a significant commitment to the employee. Sometimes there is a commitment to provide developmental opportunities but rarely have I seen a manager commit to the employee that their performance will improve.
From the sidelines you watch and judge. “From the French judge, a 6.9”.
Imagine this scenario: A manager says to her boss and her colleagues, “Let this employee work for me for a year and I promise they will be twice as effective as they are now. If they don’t achieve that, cut my pay in half and don’t let me supervise anyone again.”
Now that’s commitment – a level of commitment that’s a game-changer. Now you’ve got something at stake. You are in the game with the employee and with a commitment to improving performance. To make this bet you may need more development than your employee. That way everyone wins!
If you have some employee whose performance needs to improve, and you’re not willing to make the bet, either you or the employee ought to leave now and save everyone from the torture of being stuck in a job going nowhere.
But then, not everyone wants to change the game. Not every assessor, evaluator, judge, Monday-morning-quarterback wants to risk putting their own ass on the line.
In response to a recent post, Malcolm McKinnon writes:
“I disagree with your statement that ‘I don’t know’ is akin to saying ‘I’m dead’, rather I think ‘I don’t care… to advance’ is the sentiment to be damned. In fact, I think ‘I don’t know’ can be a critical element of avoiding groupthink and advancing empowerment and technology.
“Saying ‘I don’t know’ or perhaps ‘I don’t understand’ is a useful tactic for a low legitimate power minority perspective holder trying to expose a group’s weak decision.
“Isn’t ‘empowerment’ emboldened by managers admitting that those doing are best positioned to make change suggestions? Isn’t ‘I don’t know’ an important part of that process?
“In a world of questionably researched / motivated content, written by only self-professed experts, is ‘I don’t know’ an important signal of trust in a message and associated politic infused world?
“While I agree we have an abundance of knowledge sources – and Google seems ‘all-knowing’, I sense the message ‘I don’t know’ is not one to be damned, but rather, in some instances to be encouraged. We should save our criticism for not caring to advance, for accepting ‘status quo dogma’.”
Malcolm, I agree with the sentiment of your comment. “Not knowing” is a far more powerful orientation that “I (or we) already know.” “Already knowing” suppresses thinking, re-thinking, creativity, innovation.
People have a tendency to translate the issue they are currently facing into a problem they already know how to solve – because they already know how to solve that problem. Already know can be deadly.
The issue I was pointing to was the readiness to let not knowing how to be a stop. “Not knowing” is not the issue. Letting that stop you is the issue. Not knowing can be a real source of power – but not if you let it stop you.
If the pioneers (go West young man, go West) said, “I don’t know how to grow potatoes in this ground” – and stopped there – rather than trying things, seeing what would grow, experimenting to find out how, they would have died earlier than they did.
How many people are killing themselves and their organizations with, “I don’t know how”? That’s the part that concerns me.
“I don’t know how” is an excuse to let yourself off the hook. After all if you don’t know how, how can anyone hold you responsible; how can it be your fault? What can you do about it… you just don’t know how.
If “I don’t know how” also includes “yet”… as in “I don’t know how yet” well that’s a different story. But in today’s world it seems to pass without question when people say, “I don’t know how.” If the pioneers said, “I don’t know how” they might as well have been saying, “I’m dead”. When Kennedy committed the U.S. to getting to the moon and back safely; he didn’t know how and neither did anyone else.
Do you really think “I don’t know how” carries much weight when you have so many resources at your finger tips? I don’t know how to solve quadratic equations. Want to learn? I don’t know how to transfer apps to my new iPhone. Really? I don’t know how to change the transmission in a ’57 Chevy. Do you want to know? And how about your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Amazon books and Google searches?
I’m reminded of a Dilbert cartoon where Wally says he does good work when he puts his mind to it. Asked if he’ll put his mind to it now, he replies, “Wow. Good follow-up question.”
“I don’t know how” needs a few good follow-up questions. Here are some to get you started:
Will you find out how?
Who can show you how?
When will you find out how?
What makes you think that it depends on “knowing how”; what if it depends more on your commitment, openness to learning and developing along the way?
What if no one “knows how” and it will require some courage, experimenting and debriefing to discover what’s working and what’s not?
Someone told me the other day that they didn’t know how to be more intentional. Which, of course, is nonsense. Any 5 year old knows how to be intentional. They keep working at it, keep asking, keep trying different strategies, keep practicing until either they either ride that bike or let it go for now. Surely you haven’t taken steps backwards since you were five.
What if it has nothing to do with knowing how and everything to do with your interest, courage and commitment? What if it has more to do with practice? What if your assessment of whether you “know how” is based more on your ridiculous expectation that you should be able to become world class on your third try?
Where are you stopping yourself from trying because you don’t know how? What will you do about it?
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