Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is the Work That You Do What You Were Born To Do?

Just last week I had a conversation with a new friend. We met in the Twitter world and correspond quite a bit that way but I’m so glad I decided to give a quick call to say hi. That conversation reminded me that life is really beautiful and the connections that we make along the way make the journey even more beautiful.
We spoke for a bit about our respective vocations and interestingly, like me, she isn’t formally trained in the area about which she is most passionate. Yet still, she has found a way to feed her passion to the extent that it’s now feeding her. So she can spend more time on it. That gave me the idea to write a blog post about this general subject.
Periodically, I check the statistics on who’s reading The Upbeat Dad blog. And consistently two things stand out – 60% of our readers are female and most of our readers (male and female) are between ages 35 and 44. I’d like to focus on the age range for a bit. This range tells me that most of you are in the prime of your careers. Which is great on the one hand; on the other hand, I wonder if each of you is fulfilled in your work.
Way back in the early 90s, when I just started my professional career in the accounting profession, I remember something quite significant that occurred on a work assignment. There were about 8 of us working on an audit at a client’s office. We ranged in experience level from a newly hired person like me to a partner in the firm with over 30 years experience.
I was quite excited to be in the profession. Any accounting student in school today dreams of graduating and going to work with one of the Big 4 firms. And there I was, just out of school with this dream job at one of these firms. I was on cloud 9. I thought that everyone else in the firm had my same mindset – that this was as good as it gets.
Well, this next statement I’m about to make has remained with me since then: none of them really wanted to be there – they were only there for the money. Wonder why I say that? Here’s why. One day, I asked them the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Every one of them – every single one of them – said that they’d quit their job immediately. One of them even stated that he’d just not show up to work for a few days and then mail in a postcard from Tahiti that quotes the country song, “Take this job and shove it; I ain’t working here no more.”
We went on to discuss the topic a bit more and I was quite surprised with what I heard. They’re all really intelligent and were very good at the work that they did. But still, they didn’t find the level of fulfillment that would keep them working if they knew that their financial needs were met. That whole thing bothered me greatly. As I figured then, if you really like the work that you do, getting lots of money shouldn’t influence you one way or the other. Your work should be fulfilling. The money should really be a bonus - a byproduct, if you will.
If you asked me when I just got out of school what my dream job was I’d tell you that I dreamed of being a partner in a Big 4 accounting firm. That was my ultimate goal. As my career has developed, my outlook on life and my vision has expanded. I realized that accounting was just the tip of the iceberg. What accounting has done is give me a thorough understanding of business and how companies function. Knowing how to read and interpret financial statements is really essential to understanding how businesses function.
But here’s the deal: what I love more than anything, is impacting people’s lives in a direct, personal and meaningful way. As an accountant, I do get to impact others’ lives – it’s generally through the area of accounting and taxes. Still, it does allow me to get to know the persons behind the numbers. That part, to me, is what makes the journey fascinating. So many times I’ve met people in the world of accounting and taxes and before you know it we’re talking about the meaning of life and the related issues.
When I went through my divorce in the early 2000s, that really rocked my world. I wrote about the impact of that on me in The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad. But what I’ve been able to do since then is channel the negative energy from that experience and become a better person instead of remaining bitter. And I think I’ve done just fine in that regard.
I don’t believe that the lessons that I learned were for my benefit alone. People go through divorce and broken relationships every day – that wasn’t unique to me. So I thought that if I could share some of the lessons that I learned with others, I could make an impact on their lives in a positive way.
Since I started writing this blog in October of last year, I cannot tell you just how fulfilling the experience has been for me. And I know that we’re making an impact. We’ve developed quite a following – last week we got hit number 20,000. And as I say, each of those hits represents a way in which we can touch the lives of others.
Now here’s the most significant statement I could make in this post. If you look at my resume, there’s absolutely nothing that would cause you to think I could be proficient as a writer. I’m not formally trained in that area. I’m trained as an accountant, remember? It’s not about what you’ve been trained to do – it’s about what you were born to do. One of the greatest singers and songwriters in history, Bob Marley, was never formally trained in music. He said, “I don’t have education; I have inspiration. If I was educated, I’d be a…fool.”
What I’ve been able to do is develop my skill as a writer to do what may have seemed impossible several years ago. At another point, I will write a blog post about how my former ways of stuttering actually helped me to become a better writer. You can’t stutter on paper, right?
Thus far, I’ve been able to balance my formal training as an accountant and my growing passion, which is writing and speaking, while making a meaningful difference in others’ lives. I authored the book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation. When it was released in 2006, that book was on the bestseller lists of Barnes and Noble and Amazon in the self-help section. This whole area is what I enjoy more than anything – helping others. It’s truly priceless to contribute to another’s well-being.
I wonder, is the work that you do fulfilling? Do you enjoy it? Is there something else that you would rather do? I’m not suggesting by any means that you get up tomorrow and quit your job but I am suggesting that you begin taking steps to feed your passion. It’s there for a reason. And just forget your formal training for a moment. If people only pursued areas in which they were formally trained, many of the great feats throughout history would never have been accomplished.
I say all the time that I’m an accountant – a Certified Public Accountant. I’m also a speaker but my greatest gift is writing. So when all is said and done, I believe that my greatest impact on the world will be through the medium of writing.
I challenge you to find out what your true passion is. And take small steps each day to feed that passion. You’ll be amazed at just how things will fall into place as you do this. There are things that you are trained to do; and other things that you were born to do. My hope for you is that you will discover the thing that you were born to do. Until you find that, nothing will be quite as fulfilling as it ought to be.
I hope that this post has given you fuel for your fire. I hope that it’s inspired you to get to work on your life’s purpose. That’s what this whole thing is all about. When you’re at your best, you’ll be more effective in your personal and professional life.
Enjoy your day. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family.

The Upbeat Dad

1 comment:

  1. Great post! You sound a little like me. Until few years ago, I was working in Boston as an accountant. Through a variety of huge misfortunes (or what seemed to be at the time), we decided to move to Florida. We had always hoped to when we retired but then decided - Why not now? We got jobs and moved on. Through some more bad luck the start-up company I worked for went out of business about a year ago. Now I have started a very different venture with a former colleague. Now I have passion for what I do.