“Looking back on your career 20, 30 years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished?” That’s a question Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, often asks prospective employees.
And how would you answer that question? Take a minute and think about it. In other words, what matters to you as you are building your career?
In answering that question, you would probably include the accomplishments that you have achieved along the way. You may include skills you’ve developed and lessons you have learned. Would you talk about the talents you possess? You see, everyone has talent. Often, we simply overlook our talents, because this natural set of skills comes so easily to us, and we assume it’s the same for everyone else—but it’s not.
The connection between talent and passion
There is an interesting aspect about the talents we possess. In many instances our talents are a direct manifestation of our passions: the things we feel most strongly about. Our passions are wrapped up in what brings us joy and utilizes our talents. In other words, there is a connection between talent and passion. Understanding the talent and passion you bring to the table is extremely useful when building a career and developing your unique leadership style.
Think back to your childhood. As a kid if you liked something, you just did it. On the playground, if you liked swinging on the swings, you spent time on the swings. If you liked looking at bugs, you were on your hands and knees in the dirt looking for bugs. And if you didn’t like those activities, you would be spending your time doing activities you enjoyed. Maybe you were good at playing chess, or drawing cartoons; that’s where you would spend your time.
When we became adults, we left many of these activities behind: no more swinging on the swing sets or organizing games on the playground. However, if we delve into the skills we developed on the playground, we may find they can be useful in our adult pursuits. On the playground we may have enjoyed organizing people, creating new games, or seeking the thrill of adventure. Fast forward to an adult career setting and notice these skills can be transferred to providing HR services, developing innovative product designs, and taking risks.
As people choose their career paths, there’s an expectation that success is measured in dollars. Obviously, it is important to choose a career where you can earn enough money to provide a comfortable living. Yet, how many people incorporate their passion into a career path as a means of earning a living? An alternative would be to earn money at a job and then use some of the proceeds to fund your passion.
Identifying your passion
Need help connecting your life, talents, and passion? Try this exercise. Think about how you spend the other eight hours of the day—you know, the hours between the eight hours of work and the eight hours of sleep? How do you like to spend that time? Is this when you do your hobbies, hang out with family and friends, or read? Over the next week, list the activities you pursue in those hours, and you may notice a pattern. How do your current activities compare with your interests as a child? These patterns will provide you with insights into where your passion may lie or how it may be reignited.
Returning to the question posed by Jeff Weiner, how would you now answer that first question about what you want to say you’ve accomplished in 30 years? Use those eight hours as a starting point and revisit any passions you may be ignoring. If they’re a fit with the career you are pursuing, it’s a bonus—but it doesn’t have to be.
Here is another exercise to complete: Clare Booth Luce, a noted journalist and U.S. Congresswoman, once said that “a great man (or woman) is a sentence.” For example, Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union and freed the slaves. How would you write your sentence? Would it include your passion? Passion is heartfelt. If you reread the sentence about President Lincoln, within those words you can uncover his passion.
I’ve always liked uncovering the hidden talents that reside in individuals, and that’s why I like working with business startups and helping people turn their great ideas into a reality. It inspires me now like it did when I was a child, when I created new stories and games with my friends.
The reason that identifying your passion is important is a pursued passion provides a sense of happiness and fulfillment, and it provides meaning and fulfillment. There is excitement with passion that can be shared. Pass it on.