LOVE + WORK
Figure out where what you love intersects with what you do magnificently well. Then offer it up.
I’ve dedicated my career to helping people discover their strengths and make the most of them. People often ask me if there was a flash of insight or an “a-ha” moment when I realized I would make this my life’s mission. I really can’t point to one.
All I know is that, from a very young age, I was fascinated by the realization that my brother and sister were both very different from me. They had different talents and different interests, even though we were raised by the same people, in the same environment. And even from a very young age, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a reason for that difference. A purpose.
Then I went to work for Gallup and I started surveying and talking to a ton of people in hundreds of different organizations and different countries. It confirmed for me how unique and wonderfully weird (in a good way) each individual truly is, once you go beneath the surface a little bit. And we’re all trying to find a way to turn our unique talents and gifts into something we can offer up to the world.
I was lucky that I ended up being mentored by Don Clifton at Gallup, and it helped me carve out my life’s mission. I certainly didn’t foresee the path my life would take at age 16. Of course, few of us do see that far in advance. We all need a bit of luck here and there.
But I don’t think we should rely on luck to be able to create our best lives and contribute the best of ourselves. What I’ve learned is that the most successful people, the happiest people, the people who make the biggest impact — they intentionally carve their lives, their careers, by (whether they would put it in these terms or not) playing to their strengths.
Clichés exist for a reason, and our society pays lip service to this noble goal in well-worn phrases. “Do what you love; love what you do.” “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s the goal for all of us. But it’s really hard to have it happen by accident.
It’s much better to be intentional, to be focused, and to be dedicated to figuring out where what you love intersects with what you do magnificently well, and planning how you’re going to offer that up, and keep offering it, and keep offering it, for the good of everyone around you.
That’s why I wrote First, Break All the Rules at the beginning of my public career. And that’s why I and my team created the StandOut technology platform later on. It doesn’t really matter how you get there. The goal is the same either way: find what you love and excel at doing, and keep doing it until you leave a mark on this world.
So, let’s teach people that it’s okay — no, it’s absolutely necessary — to do that. Let’s teach them how to do it. And let’s teach team leaders and organizations that they’re going to win, too, when they encourage people to do it.
I started out by telling managers to break all the rules, but it had nothing to do with iconoclasm or rebellion for its own sake. It’s about getting rid of the things that stifle the originality and uniqueness — the strengths — that can enable all of us to achieve our highest contribution to this world.
Are you ready to begin?