Practical Inspiration

This weekend, I ran across a commencement speech by Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, made in 2005 at Stanford.

Like many commencement speeches, it offered a good amount of sage wisdom and a healthy dose of inspiration to people seeking to start a new chapter of their lives.  But there were two things in particular that he said that made me think about YNPN.

Do what you love

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I think too often, it is assumed that because you are working for a nonprofit, your work must be satisfying.  That just because your organization has a worthy mission, you must be fulfilled at the close of each day.  Unfortunately, not all young professionals have found a good fit yet.  This is not to take away from the good work of their organizations; it is just to say that either the position or the organization is not a good match.  This begs the question: how do you know?

It turns out, your body gives you a lot of information.  Sometimes, you do something that causes you to get amped up – makes you feel like you just gulped down an energy drink, even though you’ve been working really hard!  And at other times, your body will start to get tired and sluggish, or potentially downright irritated.  Clearly, you want to have more of the first and less of the second in your daily routine.

So what do you do if you don’t feel energized by your work?  First, decide if it’s a result of your position or the organization.  Maybe the tasks you are responsible for just don’t excite you.  Talk to your manager about this, and see if there are opportunities for you to get rid of those tasks which drain your energy add new tasks that better tap into your passions. Realistically, you’re probably going to have to keep doing some things you don’t love.  Nonetheless, some small shifts in your responsibilities may make a major change to your level of fulfillment.

If you find that your dissatisfaction extends beyond your job responsibilities, whether it be a lack of passion for the mission or an organizational culture that undermines your energy, then it is time to look elsewhere.  This is best for you as well as your organization – after all, you’re taking the place of someone who could be genuinely enthused about the work!  (To be clear, I’d suggest you wait to submit your resignation until you have something else lined up; though, depending on your situation, you may want to discuss your job search with your manager.  He or she probably already knows you’re not truly happy, and so will likely offer support.)  The best thing to do at this point is to talk to a wide variety of people to find out what they do.  You’ll find some of these conversations quite exciting, and others quite dull.  Start to look more strategically at those types of positions and organizations which make you drool.

Set your own course

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

This follows directly upon the last piece.  Don’t pretend to be excited in your current post just because others find it interesting or because there are other people who would kill for the chance to do the job that you are not that satisfied with.  Along those same lines, don’t pursue certain positions because others feel that they are exciting, or because you feel it would be an expected part on your resume.  You have to put aside everyone else’s expectations, and decide what works for you.  After all, you are unique and your personal happiness is important.  Plus, I guarantee that if you find work you love with every cell of your body, you’ll not only do a fantastic job but be well-positioned for the long-term!

In short: Listen to your body, figure out what excites you, and pursue it with reckless abandon!  The journey is worth it.


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