The Quest to Finding Work You Love

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You can probably recall the first time you were encouraged to consider the concept of a career. For me, the memory traces back to one simple question I was asked during childhood: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Confident in my mastery of ceramics, I proudly proclaimed that I would become an artist. This presumption, however, would change over the years. 

At some point, whether through a school counselor or aptitude assessment, we decide on a path. On this path, it is assumed that we will mature, learn our strengths and weakness and become a valuable asset to the workforce. So what happens when you can’t decide? This is where confusion sets in.

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With the freedom to choose, I wondered how anyone could find dissatisfaction with their work. I contemplated whether “follow your passion” was actually good advice. These questions led me to the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. In reading the book, it became apparent that people who successfully found themselves doing work they loved, did more than “find” it - they created enjoyable work through acquiring valuable skills.

There are a few main takeaways from the book that I believe to be helpful for everyone at any stage in their career.

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The Craftsman Mindset
Newport describes the difference between two lines of thought: the passion mindset and the craftsman mindset. The passion mindset tells you to discover what you are most passionate about, and find a job that aligns with that passion. He explains that this is bad advice because most people are not born with an unrelenting desire to do one thing. This line of thought usually fails to consider the practicalities of say, leaving a career in finance to become a globetrotting freelance writer. For this reason, and in some cases, people who follow this advice end up in an even more dire financial and/or employment situation than the one they previously escaped. Instead, Newport suggests that you become more concerned with being great. Whatever skills you have or wherever you find yourself, the question should be: “What can I bring to the table?” 

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Deliberate Practice
Deliberate practice is the difficult, repetitious procedure required to improve a task. This might bring to mind the 10,000 hour rule made popular by author Malcolm Gladwell. Researchers claim that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to achieve expertness. This kind of practice stretches you past the point of comfort and admonishes you to accept “ruthless feedback on your performance.” The term was coined by Florida State University professor, Anders Ericson, in the early 1990s and still rings true. Even people who are born with remarkable talent, still need to rehearse or refine their skills. 

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Mission
Superior to finding your passion is having a mission. A mission is what spurs you to avoid the path of least resistance. It begs you to define a goal and bring that goal into fruition. Perhaps this is the cure to the dissatisfaction with one’s work I mentioned earlier. No longer are you only focused on your job and what it entails, but you have prescribed to something beyond yourself.

What do you think? Is “follow your passion” good advice or is it more beneficial to develop a craftsman mindset?

Words by: Rhea Reid
 

Katie KilbrideComment