There’s a mantra that’s become as pervasive in our modern society as cat videos on the internet:
“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!”
Or maybe its cousin:
“Do what you love and the money will follow!”
It’s a beautifully simple idea. It’s also fatally flawed.
There is some validity to the statement, but not enough to make it a viable method for living one’s life. Why? Because it ignores an astronomically important truth:
The market must want to pay for what you love to do.
There are no exceptions to this. If someone is willing to part with their hard earned dollars, you had something they desired. Learn more about creating demand in your business. [LINK: article on creating demand]
Doing something that only you love is called a hobby, or an avocation for you technical Latin lovers. (Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, another definition for “avocation” is distraction or diversion. Take from that what you will.) [LINK: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avocation]
In spite of this, there is good news. It is possible to find something that energizes you, and that people are willing to pay for. More on that in a little bit, but first, let’s talk about what it is you really love.
Everyone wants to do a job that they love, right? Are you sure about that?
The fact is, we all want something much more than a job we love to do.
We want impact. In fact, we need it.
Impact has a lot of definitions, but for our purposes, let’s call it, “the lasting effect we have on the world, and the people in it.” Impact brings true, lasting fulfillment. Far too often people think if they do something they love, it will somehow “complete” them as human beings. References to Jerry Maguire aside, more often than not it ends up being only half the equation, leaving them feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. Only when impact is created by something you love do you truly feel fulfilled.
It Matters that we Matter
I believe we’re hard coded to help our fellow humans. This is impact, maybe the most significant kind in fact. There is a need deep inside each of us to feel as if we matter somehow. We want to create a better world, and know that our actions and words have made a difference. Losing that desire is what often leads people to take on “bad” jobs. Learn more about this and of course, how to regain the desire for impact here.
Many of us in our constant search for impact create businesses, usually around things we’re passionate about. The difficulty is, creating a business centered on our own passions and loves, and not on what people are willing to buy, is… well, there’s no way to be delicate here… it’s a form of business masturbation. It serves only ourselves.
Impact is about creating something greater than ourselves that positively affects the world around us.
Our primary responsibility as human beings whirling through space on this big blue marble is to take positive action – action that helps others. They in turn, do the same, creating a continuous feedback loop that benefits all of humanity.
This sense of creating meaningful impact is what fulfills us IN THE END.
I’m going to repeat that last bit because it sounds like a “Big Idea.”
“…fulfills us IN THE END.”
Yup, that’s a Big Idea alright. The fact is, you’ll have to go through a lot of “road apples” before you get to the point of creating real impact. (That’s horse-sh*t for those who did not grow up around gentlemanly cowboys.)
It’s a fundamental truth: Every career / business has crap we don’t want to do.
This crap is seen as an obstacle blocking our way to fulfillment and happiness. However, when we focus only on doing what we love, we avoid going through those necessary undesirables – and they are necessary.
When we convert our mindset toward making impact, we find the motivation and creativity to get through the obstacles. Pushing through them leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn increases your desire to push forward.
The Difference Between “How” and “What”
Now this all sounds great in the abstract, but you’re still going to need daily actions which energize you in the short term.
Dig me here?
Those “actions” are what I call your proficiencies and strengths. Everybody has access to methods by which they can solve specific problems efficiently. This “toolbox” is unique to each of us, as are the tools found inside.
When we work from our toolbox, that can be rewarding in of itself. Problem solving using our own wisdom and intelligence energizes us. It’s the work we could do all day long and lose track of time. You’ve probably heard this described as being in flow.
Being in flow can happen in both work and hobbies. What the gurus get wrong is teaching that what you do is the most important attribute of your happiness and energy. They argue that once you discover something that makes you happy and energized, you should focus entirely on turning that into a career, regardless of whether a market exists or not.
What’s missing here is the how. How you get something done has many times more impact on your happiness and energy. Why? Because by focusing on the how, you can tailor your proficiencies and strengths to problems that exist in the market – problems that people will gladly pay someone to solve.
Very often the “how” can lead you on an entirely new path, one you may never have known existed before.
The best way to illustrate this is through an analogy, using a chainsaw and a chisel. (I promise this isn’t going where you think it’s going.)
Let’s say I’m very good with a chainsaw. I love using the chainsaw. Now let’s say I’m not really fulfilled by the idea of getting dirty, or trekking deep into the woods – maybe I had a sheltered life or something. Anyway, if I only focus on the what (using a chainsaw), then my options become pretty limited. The market simply doesn’t need a chainsaw operator who doesn’t like being in the woods.
Now let’s focus on the “how.” Let’s say there’s a huge demand in the market for creative and intricate carvings. People will pay top dollar for beautiful and unique wood sculptures. Of course, carving wood requires the use of a hammer and chisel, tools that I don’t enjoy using and are not very skilled with. But what if…? I decide to try and apply my righteous chainsaw kung fu skills to carving. Thanks to my skills and creative nature, I’m able to create beautiful, unique and surprisingly intricate sculptures for which people are willing to pay a premium price.
Essentially, I’ve taken a theoretically lower paying skill that I learned elsewhere and transitioned it into a premium service that meets a need and fulfills me personally and creatively. I’ve created impact by focusing on the “how” rather than the “what.”
The Two Types of Impact
Let’s break down the idea of impact a little more. Impact comes in two distinct flavours: Direct and Indirect.
Direct Impact. In this case, the effect we want to create in the world is directly related to the products and services we’re offering. For example, if I created a product that saved the lives of people involved in car accidents, then that would be direct impact. Creating direct impact is usually a conscious choice and is evidenced by the “disruptors” of the world such as Elon Musk. This may also be referred to as a “calling.” Direct impact is the type most gurus focus on. The idea of “changing the world” and such often runs counter to people’s idea of impact. Many of us simply wish to have impact in our families, or in our careers. Those people are looking for the second type of impact: indirect.
Indirect Impact. This is the type of impact most of us will probably have in the world. People who actively create indirect impact often do not need (or want) to be recognized as a world-changer, but simply want the satisfaction of knowing that their work has in some way helped others. This type works well for product creators who want to build an environment that increases people’s happiness.
Finding your Strengths and Proficiencies
One of the best ways to identify the things at which you’re naturally skilled is through the Meyers Briggs Strengths Finder 2.0 test. [LINK: Do we want to link to the test here?] The results may confirm things you already knew about yourself, but occasionally you’ll find some surprises as well, strengths that encourage exploration. You never know what you might find.
The information I’ve shared with you in this article is very high level. Any real discussion of impact would take far more space than I have available here, but I’d like to offer you a guide that digs into these ideas in far greater detail. Within you’ll find more examples and practical strategies you can use to apply these principles to your own life.
I also show you how to create a business that creates the impact you want and meets the needs of the market, as well as how to position that business at a premium price.
You can download your copy of the guide by following this link. [LINK: Guide]
The world is waiting to see what you have to offer.