“Do something you are passionate about“, is often the career advice heard most when encouraging people to make a change. The problem is many don’t know their passions, and this often leaves the receiver of such advice feeling stupid or uninspired. Rather looking for passion, I often suggest searching in interests.
In 2005, at the Stanford Commencement, Steve Jobs never told the students to “follow their passions”, no instead he offered up these lines, “the minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting…. and much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”
I speak from experience on this. On September 14th, 2015 I woke up and decided it was time to leave my agency. For over 15 years I worked in the digital agency space. I started my company in 2002 and successfully grew it to over 24 employees, but that morning I got honest with myself and realized my heart was no longer in it. I told my business partner and the management team that I was out. There was no bigger plans, agenda or next steps. On the 15th, I woke up with a sense of freedom, excitement, and pure panic. In short order, I needed to decide what was next.
As a highly visual and tactile person, I needed a way to sort through the noise in my head in search of my next steps forward. The result was the development of a simple process for getting unstuck and inspired to move forward.
- Find a bare wall and grab a stack of Post-it notes.
- Post the following headlines on the wall to sort the rest of the notes, My Strengths, My Interests, Things Which Keep Me Grounded, Where I Sabotage Myself, and What Inspires Me.
- For each category, time yourself for 5 minutes per category to post as many notes as possible under that header. Stay focused, and get real honest.
- Step back and take on the entire wall. What things jump out at you? Star the Post-It’s that seem to resonate really with where you are at in life.
- Grab the starred notes and stack them in a new column called, Explore This! These are the next few things to learn more about.
For me, the ones that rose to the top were vertical farming, sustainability, mentorship and online products. On September 15th, I started to explore all of these paths. As the months progressed one topic rose to the top, and I became one of the founders of an indoor farming / the Internet of Things (Iot) consumer product company called ēdn. I now wake up everyday excited to see what it brings.
Looking back at it all today I can say with certainty that I was likely “done” with my agency in 2012, but fear kept me in my role for three long years. Fear of doing something I had zero experience in. Fear of letting down my then current team. Fear of trusting myself to succeed because I kept whispering to myself that I was a fraud and unworthy of my place in business.
Career struggles are tough. I hope this helps someone out there finds this useful in identifying that new path to something better.