Blisters lead to purpose

Simon Terry and I shared a conversation on CoTap recently about my last post (Bliss vs Blisters) and shared his own post that he’d written about a year ago. Like everything Simon writes, it’s terrific. Here’s my favorite bit. Enjoy your weekend, wherever you are in the world.

More than ten years ago I was doodling on a pad trying to find a focus to my diverse career history. I decided to draw a network diagram of my personal and work interests, the work that I enjoyed most and always chose to repeat. I drew lines where there were connections between these activities and interests. I began to build a map of my past life experience.

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. 

A look at The Alliance and Adam Nash’s latest blog post

A little while ago, Adam Nash – the CEO of Wealthfront – posted a great tweetstorm on why hiring new people was so important for companies. I remember seeing it and retweeting a number of the posts. Today, he posted a simple blog post outlining much of what he said on Twitter, but with more context. It’s a great read.

Every new employee bets on the company, and the company bets on them.  It’s one of the most human and yet often overlooked aspects of technology careers at startup companies.

It reminded me to post quickly about a book I recently finished. The book is called The Alliance and is written by Reid Hoffman. Given Nash came from LinkedIn prior to Wealthfront, it’s no surprise that there’s a strong feeling that the post and book are cut from the same cloth. There’s two quotes I want to share that have stayed with me since reading it.

Remember the underpinnings of the alliance: the company helps the employee transform his career; the employee helps the company transform itself and become more adaptable.

Essentially, in the book Hoffman outlines three different buckets that both companies and employees can use to categorize how they’re growing their career at any given time by completing one of three types of Tour Of Duty: Rotational, Transformational, Foundational. This makes a lot of sense to me. This Slideshare is a great primer for the book so check it out in more detail.

As Nash points out, every employee is taking a bet on the company when they join and vice versa. Being honest about that and being cognisant of how much each party is actually risking by working together allows the approach espoused by The Alliance to work.

As the average time that someone spends working at one company continues to diminish, we can no longer risk being unclear about what we’re looking to get from our employees as employers. We must provide more clarity about the important work that needs to be done in our organisation and how our people can help carry that out. In the same vein, as an employee, it’s on us to bring this mindset into our careers and current jobs to express what growth we’re looking to achieve, and have a conversation about how we can do that together. Which brings me to the final quote I wanted to share from The Alliance.

Never before in human history have so many people been connected by so many networks.

Being a member of the ‘Yam-Fam’ I can relate to this one. Networks exist everywhere now. We’re becoming more and more connected, everyday – be it to the people we work next to, to our less immediate colleagues, to our vendors/partners/suppliers, to our customers and finally to the citizens of the world. Connecting with various communities in a relevant way that adds value to all parties is now, I believe, a core skill of any knowledge worker.

There’s subtlety to this point. To me, this does not mean that it’s healthy to jump from job to job because opportunities continue to abound. For me, this means that the time you spend in one place should be determined by how well you feel you’re able to add value to that community. If you’ve only been around a short while, then the value you’ve provided to that community is probably low. However, if you do find a group of people that resonates with you in the present moment that allows you to grow your own skills and consciousness, along with the continued growth of the company, then you’ll have those connections for life. People like to work with great people. And people move on to new opportunities all of the time. If you’ve been a part of a high-performance team then it’s likely that you’ll get to join those folks again at some point in your career, when the stars align again.

Anyways, the book is great as is Adam’s post. I hope you enjoy reading them. In the meantime, we’re hiring here at Yammer in a number of roles in our Engineering and Product organisation. If you want to work in a high-performance team that’s truly looking to help organizations become more responsive to their staff, partners and customers then please do get in touch on Twitter or email me.