Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rising of the Occasion of Work or Passion for Work

Today one of my professional peers and a friend resigned.  It was the second one this week.  And there is a void already, though neither has left.  Both of the women are strong and independent, each in their own way.  Both of them people I respect.  I will miss working with them.  I think that they had a passion for what they do, but more importantly a passion for the people for whom they did their jobs.  I started this blog to talk about passion and work vocation.  But now, I am going to talk about passion because you are passionate.  Because you care.
  • "Telling someone to follow their passion -- from an entrepreneur's point of view -- is disastrous," says Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search For Work You Love.
  •  "That advice has probably resulted in more failed businesses than all the recessions combined... because that's not how the vast majority of people end up owning successful businesses.”
  • "Passion is not something you follow," he adds. "Passion is something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world."

After I read this post, it gave me pause to think about the people I know who are passionate about what they do and why.  
  • Career Passions Are Rare  It's easy to confuse a hobby or interest for a profound passion that will result in career and business fulfillment. The reality is, that type of preexisting passion is rarely valuable.
But then again, I have had the fortune to know many who did have the passion at a very young age.  My father knew he wanted to be an engineer.  He wanted to be good at math and science and blowing things up (not so much the chemistry).  He wanted to be involved in space travel and had a career many would envy.  My father woke up whistling every morning, happy to be up at five to take an hour bus ride to the base to work on guidance systems.  As a bonus, he got to watch things blow up!  My husband is another lucky person who knew that wanted to be in wildlife from the time he was a kid.  He became a game warden and loved his job and was passionate about teaching others the beauty and appreciation of the wilderness.

My mother in law is a pianist. She loves playing for her church and for services (funerals included).  She tries to make each performance unique and special for the person(s) affected.  She grew up at the piano and her father was a minister.  So he may have gently guided her through her years.  So perhaps she is one who loved what they did well after years and years of practice.
  • Don't believe me? Think about something you're passionate about. Or something you were passionate about when you were in high school.  Then apply this test: Will people pay you for it? Will people pay you a lot for it?  "Money matters, at least in a relative sense," Newport says. "Money is a neutral indicator of value. Potential customers don't care about your passion. Potential customers care about giving up money." (That same logic, of course, also applies to potential employers.)
This June, there were lots of speeches and advice for graduating youth.  I thought it interesting that there was such a dichotomy of views: do what you love or do something well.  Or do something for money and do it well.  I know of more than one woman who has told me that they work to pay for their horses and their hobbies.
 That work, while rewarding, is really to provide a means for them to participate in the competitions across the nation.  Horses are expensive, and working to support them requires well paid skills.  Both of these women have them: one is a nurse practitioner and the other a financial analyst.  But, my point is they work so they can afford their hobby - not work at what they love to do as their hobby.

I suppose that most people view their jobs as what they have to do to support themselves and their families.  There are many jobs that I don't envy, but I am so glad than people do them. 

One of my peers that is leaving is in Human Resources.  She is the rock of the organization.  We don't always agree, but we always agree that she is genuine and forthright.  She gives great advice and is very organized.  She is the one you want in the interview room and the one you want in the disciplinary hearing.  I don't now if she loves all of her job, but she very obviously loves providing services to the people and caring for their well being.

The other person that left held a difficult pressured job and did it well.  Again, I don't know if it is her passion or if her passion was getting it right.  Hard to tell.  She worked hard and made sure that in the end, her boss and her organization held the right information for complex business decisions.  Her tenacity is marvelous.

Neither job is one I wanted.  Plumbers, auto-mechanics, roadway surveyors, airplane pilots, diesel fuel delivery, septic tank cleaners, electrical engineers.  There are people loading cargo and driving the giant cranes that build the skyscrapers.  People doing jobs that you don't ever think about, but you depend on.  I am sure that they see it as a necessity, not the dream of their life. I was recently touring Boston, wandering through the streets and blocks.  I was taken by surprise at the number of employees smoking outside  of their store doors, complaining about their jobs, their bosses and their low wages. Not to mention, they complained about the terrible supervisors and awful managers.  Unhappiness in work abounds.

 It helps to keep in perspective that whatever your chosen career path, you too, will encounter less than fabulous circumstances, people or situations.  Working in every job from clerk to bigwig, there are jerks all along the way.  There are great folks all along the way.  Hope I am one of the great folks!