Are You Passionate About Your Work? If not, how can you be great at your job?

I had lunch with Ken Sim, the CEO from Nurse Next Door, just before the holidays and before our food arrived, he asked me: “What are you passionate about, Natalie?”  I had just met him, so the question felt intimate, but I was able to quickly answer, “I am passionate about helping people be successful in their careers.  I get a real kick out of helping people discover what they are passionate about and helping them to create a career out of it.  And, I like to support people to be successful in jobs that are meaningful to them.”  After my answer, he eyed me up and down and then said, “That’s good.  If you don’t know what you are passionate about, how can you be successful?”
The whole conversation over lunch was inspiring.  Not only does Ken really live the concept of working with passion, he tries to inspire the idea in other people.  He has an initiative in his company called, “The Dream Project.”  Employees can share their passions and dreams with the executive team, and they will sponsor the realization of a few dreams each year.  Some people dream of owning their own business, so the company sponsors an MBA.  Other people want to bring their family back together, so they sponsor family members to travel to Canada.  The whole thing is really cool.
After having lunch with Ken, I went for a vacation in California and there was so much rain that I had lots of time for reading.  I picked up one of my favorite books, Happier, by Tal Ben-Shahar. Coincidentally, it reinforced key parts from my conversation with Ken. Ben-Shahar says that if we want to be happy in our lives and career, we need to recognize that working with passion is not about being idealistic.  There is a large body of research that shows when people visualize success, feel on purpose, use their strengths, and live their passions, they are more productive, engaged, and committed to their work.  The conclusion I drew is that if you want to be successful, you need to work at something you are passionate about.  It is one of the most practical things you can do.

What Are You Passionate About?  Be Your Own Career Coach and Answer These Questions.
  • Does your bookcase or web surfing reveal any topics of interest or themes of passion?  List whatever subjects you discover.
  • What did you really want to be as a child?  (Before you knew better).
  • What career idea is rattling around your head that never seems to go away?
  • What life changing events have sparked a sense of mission for you?
  • Any situations that make you feel alive and invigorated?
  • Think about people you know.  Write down six things that other people are doing that excite you.  (This question worked wonders for me!).
  • What do you genuinely love to do?
  • What are the projects you have truly enjoyed in your life so far?
  • Is there anything you do where you lose a sense of time because you feel so engaged?
  • Any activities or situations that make you feel alive and invigorated?