I’ve been doing a lot of research on career planning as I craft the materials for ACanofCoke.com, my program to provide college- and career-readiness guidance to high school and college students who need additional support. I came across Mike Rowe’s video entitled “Don’t follow your passion. Do this instead.” I don’t agree with his entire outlook though I think his point has value. I think passion is an important part of building a life and career that brings us happiness and fulfillment. But passion isn’t enough; it’s only one part of a more complex equation:
Passion + ability + opportunity = a career (and life) worth having
Identify what you love to do. Evaluate whether or not that’s where your talent lies, or where it could lie with practice and a strong work ethic. Determine the size of the opportunity that could utilize your passion and talent, or develop a plan that creates that opportunity if it doesn’t exist.
Building each piece of the left side of that equation isn’t easy, though it’s the only way to turn that right side from a dream into a reality.
“Never let someone who has done nothing tell you how to do anything.” ~Al Pacino
If I learned anything from my childhood, it’s this: when the Godfather gives you advice, take it. What you’re trying to do right now is difficult. You’re trying to do something new. Something that matters. Something that has an impact. My friend, Sheldon, once recommended a book to me called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Hard things don’t have easy answers. To get them done, you have to persist in the face of adversity. You have to believe more in yourself than anyone else does. You have to vault yourself over the endless flow of hurdles being thrown in your way. Be an artful, graceful dodger. Work like hell for what fires you up. The naysayers and doubters are everywhere.Live out loud. Dream out loud. So loud that you drown them out. Take what they say and let their words and doubts make you stronger, more resilient, and more determined. Watch yourself rise. And take others with you. The world needs you.
One of my elderly neighbors: “How you doing, young lady?”
Me: “I’m doing well. How are you?”
Neighbor (laughing): “Hangin’ on, baby. Hangin’ on. You know what I mean?”
Me: “Yes. Yes, I do.”
Lately I’ve felt like we’re all hanging on through the insanity that is this world today. And while that might sound dire, I think it’s actually beautiful in its own way. Over the past few months, I’ve had so many honest and passionate conversations with friends and strangers alike. For better or for worse, the state of our country has opened us up to speak our minds and to hear from others, too. We’re figuring out what really matters. We’re informed. We’re involved. And we’re staying that way. Hang on, friends, to each other and to what matters to you. This will all be worth it.
On Friday, I was talking to a friend about a new business she’s thinking of starting. She reached out to another friend of hers to ask for advice. Though she has a lot of passion for the idea, she wasn’t sure how to monetize it. Her friend, a very successful entrepreneur in the financial services space, said, “Don’t worry about monetization right now. Just build what you want to build.”
That might sound like odd advice, especially from someone who works in finance. Aren’t we taught that to build a business we must think about bootstrapping or raising capital and an exit strategy? Doesn’t it all start with how to get money in and then how to get your money back out? This is where a lot of ventures fall down – they worry so much about the money at the start that they lose sight of why they’re building a business in the first place. It starts with passion and heart.
At the beginning of a business idea, you’re experimenting and testing. You’re trying to figure out what you can do and who you can help. To do that, you build the smallest possible piece that you can with as little money as possible for a very small number of people. Go ahead and dream big, but build small. You don’t need to save the whole planet in the next hour. All you need to do is make one thing better for one person. That’s the seed. Start there and see where the path leads. Stay curious. Stay hungry. Stay alert. Pay attention. Listen. Try, fail, and try again. Right now, that’s the only work you have to do.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a competitor on the Food Network show Chopped? Wonder no more. Today is my first installment of the “Behind the Scenes” segments for the Breaking Bread Podcast and I’m talking to Chef Demetrio Zavala, Executive Chef at DC’s Lincoln, Declaration, and Teddy and the Bull Bar. He became a Chopped Champion in October 2016. Chef Demetrio tells me what it’s like to be on Chopped. We talked about his love for his work, his business, his team, and most of all, his guests. I visited him at Lincoln to give you a full sense of the fun and festive atmosphere that he creates in all of his restaurants. Let’s listen in…
Can we get real for a minute? Seriously, pull up a chair, grab your coffee, and let’s talk. How many times have you told yourself you can’t do something because of X reason? I want you to cut it out, and here’s why. The Donald, arguably the most unqualified person to ever run for any office, anywhere, whose ego is only matched by his bank account and his tangled mess of conflicts of interest, who is deteriorating foreign relations with his late-night Twitter obsession, who has had a perpetually bad hair day since the 70s, won the electoral college to be President of the United States of America.
And you, an intelligent, conscious, curious, compassionate, hard-working person who wants to make a difference can’t do something? Really? I promise you that you can do this, whatever this is.
I’m grateful to Donald Trump for exactly one reason: he showed us that we can do anything we set our minds to. So the next time the imposter syndrome sneaks into your psyche, please allow me to pop into your mind a split second later, knock the imposter elf to the ground, and tell you to get out there and do the work you’re meant to do. Your grace, talents, and passion are needed now more than ever. Please keep shining.
“I fell in love with my work and dedicated my life to it.” ~Jiro Ono
A friend of mine recommended I watch the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s about Jiro Ono. 85-years-old, he is considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. (Yes, the finest food can be found in a subway station!)
Humble and unassuming in appearance, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious three-star Michelin Guide rating. Sushi fan from all over the world repeatedly visit and make reservations months in advance. Jiro is completely unimpressed with himself. At 85, he says he is still searching for perfection, still trying to get better every minute of every day. He is also a fierce advocate for greater environmental regulations to protect the oceans and wildlife.
His dedication, passion, and commitment to his work is without equal. I enjoy my work but I don’t have what he has. It gave me something to aspire to, to search for. I’m looking.