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Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Why “Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love” Is Terrible Career Advice

Follow you passion and everything will fall in place!

You’ve heard this kind of career advice many times now –  follow your passion, follow your dream, follow your gut, follow your purpose. They are all variations of the same idea. Thousands of people have followed this advice and have been burnt in the process. However, there are thousands others who have done it and have been successful as well!

What is the right thing to do? Should one quit their current boring job to follow their passion instead? Or not? After all if actors, world famous artists, Olympic athletes, and others have been successful in following their passion, why can’t you and me do the same?

Passion in this context is a word that is used loosely to represent interests, likes, talents, dreams, hobbies, and sometimes even strengths. The end idea is if you are doing work that you love and are passionate about, it is the perceived ultimate career bliss! You will be fulfilled, satisfied, and happy. What else could one ask for? That said, passion is truly an emotional state. Wikipedia defines it as “an intense emotion” or “desire for something.” Is this deep emotional state sufficient to keep you fulfilled and happy especially in your career?

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I hate to burst the fantasy bubble, but passion alone is NOT sufficient to attain that state of Zen in your career.

Your passions change over time

Yes, they do! What you are passionate about today, could lose your interest a few years from now. When I was in my early twenties, I had never cooked a day in my life and couldn’t care less about cooking (eating was a different story of course!). However, over the past few years, I have become deeply interested in cooking. I spend a lot of time cooking for my family. Now I love to cook, but things could change. I have picked up so many new interests over the years, but also lost interest in many other subjects too. I couldn’t drop it all and try to create a career each time I picked a new interest! I have spent time to explore those interests and seen which have persisted over time. Very few of these interests can be referred to as my passions.

Your passion doesn’t have to be the one thing that you do all day

Although I am passionate about cooking, pursuing a career in cooking is not for me! I use cooking as an outlet. It is a way to calm myself and to recenter myself by doing something that I enjoy. Your interest in music or sports doesn’t have to translate to having a career in music or sports. Indulge in that activity a few times a day or week as a way to reenergize yourself. You could volunteer as a sports coach, be a music teacher on the side, or sing at events once in a while. There are tons of ways to indulge in that passion. Learn what about that impassioned activity draws you to it. Is it what it does for you? Or is it what it can do for others?

Your passion could be competitive

If your passion is to win the next season of American Idol, it goes without saying that it will be competitive. Or if you want to be a Hollywood star, realize that it is a tough ambition to fulfill. The top spots are few. This warrants an important question: are you passionate about the act of singing, acting, or are you passionate about the movie industry? If you are passionate about the act of singing or dancing or acting; for example, there are different venues to pursue this passion. If you are passionate about the industry or a particular show, there are other ways to be involved in that industry itself. The possibilities are endless. This leads us to the next thought.

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Your passion is possibly a verb

If you dig deep, with “Why” questions, you will arrive at what aspect of the passion draws someone. To help others, to lead, to make a difference, to take care, to give someone joy, to solve problems – these may be the true aspects of your passion that motivate you. When you look at your passion from the point of view of these verbs, it could open up other possibilities. If my true passion is to solve problems, I could do that in numerous ways, and in numerous settings. I could it achieve this at my current occupation with the skill set I already have honed. If my true passion is to help others, I could do it in a myriad ways: at my workplace, outside my workplace, in numerous settings, with numerous vehicles. Sometimes we get attached to the vehicle itself and call that our passion. Passion can be any permutation of these 3 elements:

To _________ (fill in the verb that drives you – teach, solve, lead etc)

in/to ____________ ( where and who do u want to impact – workplace, volunteer organization, specific industry….etc)

with _________________ (your vehicle – singing, cooking, acting, problem solving etc)

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Examples:

To lead with my public speaking abilities in a youth organization

To bring joy with my singing abilities to senior citizens

You could be living your passion with just a few tweaks

Job dissatisfaction has many factors attributed to it. For example, in my previous job, I loved my workplace and the work I did, but I did not enjoy the 1.5 commute each way! If that factor was removed, I could possibly have been living my passion. I love to plan, organize, and manage tasks. I also love all things people development related, and love to get things done. I had it all in my previous role and I was good at it. However, the commute was the killer. If I could have telecommuted, I could have been living my passion! Identify the aspects of your job situation that irk you. Identify the aspects of your job situation that you love. See if there are ways you can eliminate the aspects on your irk list to spend more time doing things you love. Research has proven that when you love what you are doing, the impact on success is significantly higher.

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Your passion could be staring you in the face at your current work

The reality of our jobs today is that we graduate from college and take the job that we get. Some of us are lucky to have experienced some aspect of our future job through internships, co-ops, volunteering, or simply asking people questions. We may have an idea of what the job may entail. Others land a job that they may have not studied for or dreamed of, but over time they hone their skills and grow in their careers. These jobs could then turn into their passion. You don’t necessarily have to go look for your passion. Your current work could be your passion!

Conclusion

Passion alone is not the key to finding and staying at a job, or for finding that state of career bliss. Our passions change over time and so do our career trajectories. A combination of skills, interests/passions, commitment, hard work, social needs, and impact, govern our career bliss by combining all together!

That’s the end goal, right?

Featured photo credit: Ryan McGuire via magdeleine.co

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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