“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
We have a relatively short amount of time in our lives to amass the wealth necessary to provide for ourselves, our families, and a comfortable life in old age. Many trials and difficulties face us as we accumulate wealth, and many seem insurmountable. With conventional, rational, linear thinking, they are insurmountable, since a rational person would not endure such hardship without quitting, particularly over a long period of time. It takes something else. It takes an unconventional and unreasonable approach in order to break away from average to achieve something exceptional. It takes supernatural faith.
You must have the skills necessary to create value in the marketplace, and adapt these skills to survive market changes. The key is to do some kind of work you enjoy and something you know and follow the money. It is not sufficient to just follow your passion without any regard to developing the skills necessary to create value. Find the area where your enjoyment and knowledge intersect, so you can create value in the marketplace while following the money. It is still work, but will not feel like it.
This approach is very dependent on your stage of life. When starting your career, you haven’t figured out what you enjoy or developed any marketable skills. Often, young people take the first job that comes along, which takes them in a specific direction whether they like it or not. If you are young, I recommend pursuing areas of interest early in your career while building transferable skills (such as leadership, communications and critical thinking) that you can take from job to job, until you do find the role you enjoy. Don’t forget to follow the money.
At the midpoint of your career, you should be doing what you enjoy, should have marketable skills and should be making good money. If you want to make a career transition, do not quit your current job until you have found something else better. The subsequent financial and emotional turmoil of being unemployed is not worth it. Start a business on the side, or build skills slowly and then make a transition. Keep moving toward the intersection of what you know and enjoy, and what makes money.
If you are near the end of your career, you will likely be at the point of maximum skill level, based on your many years of working, and can aggressively move toward areas of personal fulfillment. Don’t think about retiring, only repositioning. Constantly evaluate your career position and move toward that satisfying and valuable intersection of your knowledge, skills and money. Do it methodically and you may find yourself there more quickly than you thought.
Draw a Venn diagram (three overlapping circles) to best understand how these worlds can work together. In one circle, make a list of all the things you enjoy doing, and in the second circle, make a list of all the things that you are good at doing, in the third, make a list of how money can be made. At the intersection of the three circles, write down the items that appear in all three circles. This is where you need to start your search for a meaningful career.
While it will not happen overnight, knowing and pursuing that sweet spot will bring you much closer to ultimately finding the dream career that will give you the highest probability of future success.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.