Sometimes follow your passion is crappy advice

I just read another article talking about how important it is to love what you do.  Follow your passion it says.  I am not saying that getting paid for doing what you love is not awesome, it is.  But guess what, most people do not have that luxury and telling people to do that usually just makes them feel like a failure.

What is your purpose?

Many people who write articles about following your passion they really mean PURPOSE.  Your passion is what drives you towards your purpose.  People who talk about following your passion also usually leave out or forget about the process and time it took/takes to get there.  I am not saying don’t follow your passion, I am just saying you need to be patient and realistic about finding your purpose.  The real challenge comes in separating out what you want from what you were created for.  You can be passionate about chasing fame, money, etc but they fleeting.  When you are working on discovering your gift THEN you are on your way to discover your purpose.  Once you find your gift and your purpose then your passion cannot be taken from you.

Don’t get hung up on figuring out your purpose it will come.  As we say at work, you need to:

Trust the process

So, what is the process.  I am still working on the details but step one is getting out of your comfort zone.  You cannot and will not grow if you only do things you are comfortable with.  Try listening to people that you disagree with?  I mean REALLY listen.  Find out why people believe the things they do and how they came to that belief.  It is also a good idea to challenge your beliefs.  Many times we build the walls that later imprison us.  Talk to people that believe differently than you.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  This is why things like Spartan Races and Tough Mudders are so popular.  People are finding power in pushing their limits.  Me?  I push my limits through building community with and for others.  Think an obstacle course is tough?  Try pouring into the lives of others or better yet, your own family.  OUCH, I know that one hurts, it hurts me too.  But to me step one is to get kinetic.  Start moving, do something and do it now.

Pay the bills

Sometimes you gotta suck it up an take what is available to you.  I will use my story.  After graduation with a stellar 2.48 in criminal justice I got not one, but two jobs.  I washed cars at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and bused tables at Elijah’s restaurant. Very glamorous, I know.  Family reunions were really fun!

I still remember the Manager at Enterprise telling me that when they have a full time opportunity as a Management Trainee they would interview me for it.  I was smart enough to say that sounded great but the truth is it didn’t.  I did not go to college to rent cars!  But after 3 months of washing cars I learned that they actually taught you about running a business and you could make good money, after a while.  The manager was a graduate from UNC, Chapel Hill.  The rest of the crew had degrees from schools including Duke University and Maryland but renting cars was not my passion.  What is was though, was an opportunity.

Set goals

Setting goals is another thing you hear a lot.  Unfortunately I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I did not have a “passion” that I could tell let alone a purpose.  But through my career at Enterprise I pursued opportunities that allowed me to try new things.  I believe that by pushing through your comfort zones you will find things will help you find your gift.  Mine is helping people and building community.

I am not saying don’t set ANY goals.  Daily, weekly, monthly and career goals are good for you.  You should not feel bad if you don’t have a five year plan but you do want to know what direction you are moving in.  Without a direction on a journey you will find yourself stumbling over the same rock again and again.

Live in the moment

This is both good and bad.  I totally agree that we need to learn on being present.  Tim Ferriss quotes someone as saying:

Anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past

I know several people who have rushed through life working to retire early only to realize that they missed what they really wanted out of life… LIFE.  It is one thing to sacrifice for something you really want; not having that latte every morning to save for a vacation.  But is a whole different thing to not spend time with your family so you work more and retire early.  You need to ask yourself:

Am I doing what brings me life or death?

If what you are doing does not lead to life, then you need to make a change.  My litmus test these days is asking this question:

Does what I am doing create, build or foster community and relationships?

If the answer is no, then I do my best not to do it.  Watching TV?  If I do it with someone else or maybe I then discuss that TV show with others later then it might meet my minimum threshold.  Even video games can pass the muster if I am playing with someone I know.  The trick is to start building community.

Even without movement there is change. But without movement someone else is choosing your direction.
Al Pollard

How to be a good employee

There are few employees who wake up in the morning with the thought “I can’t wait to get to work and make everyone miserable!” Whether this it true or not, I believe it to be true, and believing that makes my life A LOT easier.  Sure, there are those people that always cc your boss and maybe another employee to cover their butt but if you talk to them they will usually tell you “that is how you get things done.”  They don’t see another way.  I wonder if they realize how much damage their actions do, or maybe they just don’t care.

The good employees worry they will be fired, the bad employees are always surprised when they are.

If you ask most people I bet they will tell you that they are good at their job.  Or at the very least they have a litany of excuses as to why not.  Yet we all know people who are “bad” employees.  OK, maybe “bad” it too harsh.  But I know I have been a bad employee before, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Be a little early

I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to people about being late.  Unfortunately some companies have rules that are quite inflexible while others are more apt to treat you like an adult.  Either way, if you know the rules, follow them.  Actually, do a little more than the minimum.

You don’t even really necessarily need to be at work all that early.  Just start your day earlier.  Being a little early allows you to do several things:

  • Plan your day:  Tim Ferriss and many others start their day journaling and setting daily / weekly goals.  If you fail to plan then I guarantee you won’t succeed!
  • Ease into your day:  I don’t think anyone likes coming into work only to be hit in the face with emails that piled up overnight.  If you are able to, I advise checking email briefly before bed and/or when you wake up.  That way you know what you are in for that day.  It is also not a bad idea to reply to the urgent ones with something like “Thank you for the email, when do you need the information?  Would by noon tomorrow work?”
  • Review deadlines:  One thing that backs up a lot of people is not having or not updating time-frames.  A to-do list is one thing, a to-do list with deadlines is on another level.

Be conscious of your brand

There is a lot of talk about branding these days.  Companies have a brand that they promote and so should you.  To me your brand is what people think of when they think of you.  Your brand should emote feelings and adjectives.  When people think of you does it bring a smile to their face or a frown?  What word would others use to describe you?  These all speak to your brand.

Your brand needs to be authentic.  If you are very casual then you probably don’t want to dress at the top end of the dress code every day but that doesn’t mean you have to dress at the bottom either.  A bow tie (hand-tied, clip-ons are for cops and kids) can set you apart from the crowd.  An ascot or a bolo tie… it would be much tougher to pull those off and it could be seen as disingenuous.

Help others

I know this may shock some people but this is generally seen as a good thing to do in life.  No really, it is.  Many people see helping others as a sign of weakness.  It is actually a sign of strength.  But there are limits.  If you help others while neglecting your own work it will not work out well for you.  Even something as little as holding doors for others will help set you apart.  How about picking up trash you see in the office?  Unless you work in a Union environment, helping others will go a long way.

You can also be a resource for others.  This can be as simple as telling people about a good quote you heard or as focused as setting up a Google Alert.  Let’s say you want to move up in the marketing department.  Maybe set a Google Alert for “Social Media Marketing” and/or other related terms.  Then you can receive daily or weekly news straight to your inbox.  That is an easy way to stay on top of trends.

Learn to say no tactfully

I am trying to do what Derek Sivers suggests… it is either “HELL YES!” or it should be no.  True, there are many times that saying no is not an option but you need take control of your to-do list.  Now that you have a deadline for everything, when one of your bosses comes to you and asks you to re-design the cover sheet for the TPS Report you can say “sounds good, where would you like me to put it in my to-do list?”  Then you can walk them through your task list in order of importance.

Be a life long learner

Whether your “thing” is podcasts, books, movies, TV or radio be sure you are taking in some things that actually help you.  Don’t like learning new information?  Learn to like it.  You may first need to do some habit/task bundling.  That is where you “bundle” one thing you need to do with something you like to do.  Or come up with a reward program for yourself.  Maybe you only get one hour of your favorite show after listening to one hour of a professional development audio book.

Life is not as difficult as some make it out to be.
Al Pollard

You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill