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Reading Career Renegade

January 20, 2010

If I’m going to do this entrepreneur thing, I figure I should study the paths of those who have gone before me. I’ve got a small stack of books from the library, including several by Seth Godin, Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim, and Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields.

Chapter Two is titled “What’s Your Secret Passion” and Fields writes:

Ask an eight-year-old what he loves to do and you’ll get answers like play baseball or basketball, dance, play chess or video games, dress up dolls, paint, cook, build Lego houses, or design chocolate lollipops.

Kids have this ability to tap into what jazzes them in a way that adults find impossible. Sometimes it’s one things, sometimes many.

Until very recently, even thought I’m several years older than eight, I had no trouble telling you what my “secret” passions were. But as soon as I started trying to think about turning one of those passions into a source of income, even on the side, all of them sort of *poof* disappeared and I’m struggling to think of what they might be, let alone how I might monetize one or more of them.

Fortunately, Fields is ready to come to my (our?) rescue. He poses two questions:

    1. What activity would you do for free, purely out of a sense of passion?
    2. Imagine if you woke up this morning to a phone call saying you had just one the state lottery. IT was all yours, but there was a condition: You have to continue to work for the rest of your life and you could use the money to live on, but not to fund any professional endeavor. Now, what would you do? Write it down.

The first question jumped out at me much more than the second, so that’s the one I’m going to answer.

What I would do for free, purely out of passion:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Play with Excel
  • Budget and balance my checkbook (you think I’m kidding. :D)
  • Copy-edit or provide feedback on others writing
  • Watch movies
  • Sew
  • Solve problems, or create solutions
  • Follow my curiosity to find answers to questions (the internet is a wonderful place to live)
  • Provide useful information to others
  • Learn something about everything
  • … I could probably go on, if I really wanted to, but those are the big ones. And all because someone asked me to frame the question in a way I hadn’t considered. Awesome!

    So now I have a list. What’s next?

    The list is a great place to start, of course, but Fields posits that there are two other key components to finding the right renegade path.

    The first is Flow, and the second is People.

    Flow is akin to “the Zone,” as athletes and artists describe it. Fields notes that, while everyone experiences Flow a little differently, there are shared characteristics that have been researched and described by a famous cognitive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Those characteristics are:

  • Working toward a clear goal with a well-defined purpose
  • Cultivating deep concentration
  • Lack of a sense of self-consciousness
  • Altered sense of time
  • Ongoing, direct feedback
  • Task is highly challenging, but doable
  • Control over the means
  • The activity is meaningful or intrinsically rewarding by the very nature of doing it
  • People are important because, in order to be satisfied with what we are doing, we have to enjoy those with whom we do it. Give the same position in two completely different environments, work satisfaction can be drastically affected. I experienced this first hand when I went from working for my mother-in-law (who is awesome, and a wonderful boss) in an office full of other financial advisors, to working for my last boss (with whom I do not communicate very effectively) in an office where, most of the time, I was the only one there. My satisfaction was much greater in the first position than the second, despite the fact that my job title changed not a whit.

    So the next step is to consider which pursuits most often put you in a state of flow, and what kinds of people you most often come alive around.

    The pursuits that put me in a state of flow, in order from most often to least often:

  • Read
  • Solve problems, or create solutions
  • Play with Excel
  • Budget and balance my checkbook
  • Copy-edit or provide feedback on others writing
  • Follow my curiosity to find answers to questions (the internet is a wonderful place to live)
  • And it occurs to me when I put them in order like that, that “Playing with Excel” and “Balancing my checkbook / Budgeting” are really just versions of “Solving Problems and Creating Solutions”.

    The kinds of people who make me come alive:

  • People who are interested in solving problems
  • People who are interested in being entrepreneurs
  • People who are already entrepreneurs
  • People who frame questions in ways that I had not thought of
  • People who are curious about the world
  • People who enjoy reading for entertainment, and watching movies
  • People who aren’t afraid to have a discussion that might get heated
  • So, with my new lists in hand, it’s on to discover how to turn my interests and passions into a Renegade Career. Stay tuned for more interesting tidbits and personal revelations from Career Renegade.

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