Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Marc Winitz, who’s a Vice President of Sales and Business Development for a US based information technology company. His thinking about work, which he captures in this fascinating article, turns some of the accepted wisdom about finding meaning at work on its head. Read and enjoy!
Although economic times have been uncertain over the past few years, there is still a lot of conversation going on around “doing what you love” or “pursuing your passion”. To be sure, I am not against the philosophy, per se, but I do find it a little misguided. We all go through peaks and valleys in life, and for a lot of people, that includes their career and work. It is fair to ask yourself “Do I love what I am doing?” or “Does what I do matter?” But I don’t think you have to have to correlate a specific passion for the work you do. There are a lot of ways to innovate and find meaning for yourself and I don’t believe that has to correspond to the way you make a living.
The Echo Chamber of “Passion”
It seems that an echo chamber has emerged and that you can’t read anything these days about a successful business or career without some reference to “pursuing your passion”. Entering that phrase as a Google search term provides over 1 million hits. There are legs to this and with good reason. We are going through historic change in the world in regards to global issues ranging from the interconnected financial system to the environment to our evolving views of race and religion. The world has gotten a lot smaller. And all this change makes people question their lives, and their livelihood. And that is very healthy in my opinion. But I think you can find innovation and meaning in what you do, without having to pursue a specific passion as your way of supporting yourself.
Career Ruts Are Normal
I work as a Vice President for US based information technology company helping large government and private sector agencies solve complex business process problems through the use of technology. I like what I do. It makes a difference in people’s lives. However, even that isn’t enough for me to be fully satisfied with my work environment. For most of us, myself included, it is easy to get in a rut regarding our day to day routine and I think that generally holds true no matter what type of work you do.
Career Fulfillment Can Come From Many Places
I’ve read many stories and know several people that felt they were stuck in their career and decided to make a radical change in their life. In some cases it has worked, but in others it hasn’t. Just by writing this I know there will be strong statements (I hope) in the comments section about a specific person making a radical change, quitting their job to pursue something they loved, and that it turned out to be the best thing they ever did for their career. I respect that. But it represents a small group of people from a success perspective. I am not saying that if you are in a bad work situation you should stay in it. Nor am I suggesting you shouldn’t try something completely different from a career perspective. However, if your work is tolerable, or good, or even great you can still have a fulfilling career – regardless of the ruts you hit or a lack of passion you feel for what you do. You just have to look for the opportunities to invest in yourself to keep your “passion” alive and channel them into your work life.
Extend Personal Interests
So the concept of “career” to me has become something much wider than my day job, or my passions, or anything else for that matter. I look at ways to improve myself and my skillset outside of my career by investing in myself. But I try to do it in way that provides me ways to integrate those interests back into my day job. About 5 months ago I started a personal development blog called Black Belt Guide. I have trained in Karate and also taught it for over 25 years. I always wanted to share the principles of martial arts but in a way that could be useful to anyone. I also enjoy writing. So the blog has provided a creative outlet for me which is something I was seeking.
Build Professional Skillsets Through Outside Activities
But I didn’t just start the blog for that reason alone. I wanted to learn about web 2.0 technology and the social web. Even though I work in technology neither of those areas are part of my day to day job: but they are going to be. So rather than trying to just “read about it” I used the blog as a way to learn simply by participating and working with technology like WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, etc…
Create Options for Yourself
In addition, I wanted to create a “brand” for myself. It was obvious that I could create such a brand in my day job, or that it would be memorable. But by tying the blog back to something that was both a little unusual and important to me, I have started to realize a return on that investment in a very personal way. This now gives me options. The involvement in blogging has served multiple needs personally and professionally. And I can leverage this experience, which I very much enjoy, directly into my work life through multiple areas.
Personal Investments Pay Professional Dividends
I was recently on a business trip and had a meeting with a potential customer. When I arrived my host said “Your blog is terrific, I feel like I already know you. I trained in martial arts as a kid.” I was a bit stunned, my blog is hardly popular (he later told me it is his policy to “google” all his vendors). The meeting went well as the “rapport” already existed even though I had never met this person face to face. We talked for 30 minutes about martial arts, blogging and personal development before we got to the business at hand. It’s not very common in a sales and business development situation where the buyer wants to talk about you as an authority figure.
Find Different Kinds of Work Outside of Work
I hope my approach offers some clues as to how you can innovate in yourself, grow professionally and find career meaning regardless of the work you do. Here are some thoughts to help you start view work and growth a little differently.
- Don’t view your work as the sole definition of how your life is defined or how you are perceived.
- Your career is more than just your day job. Find ways to expand outside your comfort zone to learn and grow.
- Passion is important so find outlets for it. Just don’t misplace its importance for having a fulfilling career.
- Look for opportunities to inject the things that interest you into your current work situation, even if they don’t apply right away or are obvious to you.
In addition to his challenging business schedule, Marc is a 4th degree black belt in Japanese karate, and blogs about personal development at www.blackbeltguide.com. You can follow Marc on Twitter @marcwinitz, or subscribe to his RSS Feed.