Bliss vs Blisters

How do you follow your passion in your life? Through your career, your activities or something else? I’ve been thinking a lot about that these last six months or so and I think I have a few interesting ideas to share which were not things I’d originally considered. Before I get going, though, credit for the title of this post must go to Julian Waters-Lynch, who I shared a few conversations with on this topic when I was thinking through it a lot.

In Wrzesniewski’s research, the happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

This book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You:Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, really uncovered a particular bias I had adopted. It’s commonplace for someone of my generation to have this deeply held belief that we need to find out true calling in life – our passion – to be truly happy. Working, or doing anything for that matter, that isn’t in alignment with this ideal causes us to induce stress on ourselves that leads us to thinking we would be happier if only we were following our passion. This book looks and that and suggests that, in fact, those that are happiest in their careers are those that have worked at something for a great deal of their life. What they started in may not have been their passion in the beginning, but it has become something they’re passionate about over time.

In other words, working right trumps finding the right work

This really resonates with me, and I’ll tell you why. Because it primarly gave me permission to stop worrying about what my passion was. The corollary to believing that you should be following your passion is that you have to KNOW what your passion is. And that, at best, is a myth. Figuring that out is pretty close to impossible. The world is just too dynamic to really come to this easily. I tweeted this recently, from Nick Crocker’s great post about his system for better living.

It served as something quite empowering to me that what I should really be focused on was not figuring out my core passion in life; but instead focusing on the skills and things I’m doing right now and understanding how I can be doing them much better. Because within that I will probably find something I’m truly passionate about.

In the end, I still believe understanding what you’re passionate about is very important to continue attempting to understand. But more important is to continue developing the skills you have and the networks within which you practice them. You get the opportunity to do that, for the most part, every day when you begin spending time working. When you pair this with the approach outlined in the other book I wrote about recently, The Alliance, you’re left with a related number of powerful ideas which I’ve really been thankful for so far these last few months.

Message me and let me know what you think. 

An example of culture effecting strategy

There’s a new post out on Stratechery today which I enjoyed reading this morning. I’ve not really read up or investigated Xiaomi, nor have I been a customer, so many of Ben’s posts discussing the topic are interesting to me. Mostly, this is because my bias’s about the company are fairly low. I’m uninformed and ignorant about their strategy and their products for the most part. In that light, todays post certainly did resonate with me in an area I’d like to think I am less ignorant – organisational culture.

This strategy also explains Xiaomi’s international expansion strategy: India – the world’s 2nd largest population – is already well underway, and Indonesia – the 4th largest – just kicked off. Brazil (5th) is coming soon. True, the United States (3rd) isn’t coming any time soon, but why bother? Apple has the fans, everyone has appliances, and yes, there is a bit of an IP problem.

This may be a long bow to draw, between Ben’s post which is obviously very strategy focused, and my own desire to talk more about operating and organisational cultures here on my blog. But it’s for that very reason that I like what this example displays so much. It’s an overt example of how a companies culture impacts upon it’s strategy. Xiaomi is a Chinese company and so with that comes everything that goes with that culture – including the apparent choices to not expand into the US as a growth strategy. Here in San Francisco, and indeed even in Australia, the general cultural world-view I’ve been exposed to with regards to growing a companies size and profits is to expand to the US or the UK. Yes, there’s been a much bigger focus on doing business with China (and Asia more broadly) in the last decade, but I find most of this bias still extends mostly to the mining and resources sector. Personally, in my experience, our cultural norms keep us focused on expanding into places that we’re very familiar with.

This is true at lower perspectives, too, but they’re less easy to see when you’re in an organisation. The choice to follow one strategic path or another is absolutely a product of the operational culture that your company has incubated over it’s entire life.

Why ‘The Squiggly Line’?

Today’s task for Blogging 101 was to rename your blog (if appropriate) and add a tagline. It caused me to reflect on why I initially started this blog called ‘The Squiggly Line’ and what that has come to mean for me over the years. For the past 7 years or so, it’s been my home online. It’s served as my email address and any other internet accounts where ‘Steve Hopkins’ was already registered. To this day, I still really like it, so I won’t be changing it. I’m curious to know if people think my tagline helps them understand what the blog is about, but I also still feel good about that. I thought today I’d share where it came from and what it means to me.

About 8 years ago, I was part of a small organisation called Venture Tribe – along with people I still consider great friends. In one session early on in the organisations life, we were going through the task of naming it. Venture Tribe wasn’t something we’d come up with yet. So, we were doing some quickfire brainstorming about names. At the time, Cam had scribbled out some of his suggestions and in the pace to go around the table just simply said “…er, er, Squiggly Line.” I really liked it and instantly wanted to use it. I got this sense and image in my mind that it could represent how the world of business was becoming far less linear and much more chaotic and squiggly. We ended up going with Venture Tribe and so after that I asked if I could begin using The Squiggly Line for my blog. The rest, as they say, is history.

Years later, my passion is still around helping people within organisations think more about making their ‘work’ the best thing it can be. I work at Yammer, within Microsoft, where we create a product that millions of people use to make their communications with their team more social, open and transformative. I’m more and more interested in ideas such as Mindfulness and how that can positively impact the world inside and outside of a persons work accountabilities. And, I’m a passionate believer that we’re in the middle of seeing many of our worlds organisations transition to being much more responsive by adopting new was of operating. And amongst all of that, the world has only continued to get more and more squiggly. Thanks for reading.

Introducing myself for #blogging101

As I mentioned last week, I’m taking part in the Daily Post’s Blogging 101 class this month. Today’s task was to introduce myself and whist I’ve been blogging for a while, I thought that it might be fun to say hello again. Last week, I wrote in more detail about what I’ll be posting about on this blog for 2015. I also came across this great post yesterday, with whom I share a lot of similar thoughts about blogging in general.

My blog, on the other hand, is for my opinions and issues I’m passionate about. It’s where I get to articulate my opinions, while, hopefully, inviting others to do the same in a civil and sophisticated manner.

However, there’s one thing I won’t be focusing on in 2015. Something that most people don’t know is that I tried to grow a top knot over 2013 and 2014 and failed. You can see my best efforts above, where I had a bit of fun with our photographer when I was having some profile pics done at work.

Whilst I try to talk about topics that matter to me here on the blog, like mindfulness, organisational culture and tech, I try to do that in such a way that I don’t take myself too seriously. Life’s too short not to have a laugh now and then. Or try to grow a top knot.

For those undertaking Blogging 101, I’m looking forward to meeting and following more of you over the next month. For those that have been following for longer, sorry about the top knot photos.

Reviewing your year

A quick one today. I was rereading David Allen’s Making It All Work last night, to review how exactly I should do a review of 2014. I kept coming back to this quote. I can see David and his wife, in my minds eye, sitting at an old wooden table somewhere in the countryside, going through this process and clarifying both their past year and the next to come. Doing so over a terrific cup of coffee. Enjoy.

My wife and I go through a rather unsophisticated exercise in this regard at the end of every year. First we spend about a half hour taking an inventory of everything we accomplished and everything noteworthy that we did that year. Major projects completed, new places we traveled, significant events that we experienced—all are just dumped out into a long list. We discovered several years ago how well this stock-taking provides a refreshing sense of completion and acknowledgment. During the next half hour we simply ask ourselves what we would like to have on that list at the end of the following year, and capture those goals on another lis