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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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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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