What’s your passion? Five steps to discovering your calling

There has never been more cultural interest in founders of successful companies. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are nearly as recognizable as Oscar-winning actors, and the persona of a startup founder with a signature personal uniform has its own sex appeal.

Yet what makes the startup founder persona aspirational is not wealth. What makes Zuckerberg and his founder cohorts cool is that they built their own companies, they do something they’re really good at, and they influence people and culture with their talents.

We all know the adage, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But how does a person who hasn’t yet uncovered their “calling” figure out what they’re passionate about?

Kickstart a passion-driven life and career with these encouraging words from business leaders.

See passion as a career-long journey

According to Amy Schofield, a WeWork Berkeley member and founder of Chic Bridesmaid, a bridesmaid dress rental service, you need think long-term.

“The moment I saw passion as a journey and not a destination was the moment I saw what enriches my life, what I am drawn to, what inspires me, and what ignites passion,” she says. “It then became a question of where to focus my energy, now.”

Look for what every job can teach you

Expecting your first few jobs to be your calling would be like expecting one of the first three people you dated to be the one you marry. Instead, use your current job to discover what skills you most enjoy using.

Emily Fletcher spent 10 years acting on Broadway before finding her purpose: teaching meditation. As opposed to seeing her hard-earned musical theater career as a waste of time, her performing experience informs her as a teacher.

“The more you can commit yourself fully to the thing you’re doing right now, the more you’re going to learn from it,” she says. “When it ‘clicks’ and you get clear on what you’re passionate about, then everything you’ve learned up to that point, you can funnel into your new project.”

Fletcher owns the New York-based meditation studio Ziva Meditation and has taught meditation to employees at Google and other companies.

Keep track of compliments

Lois Frankel, author of the bestselling book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, advises those thinking about their passions to keep track of compliments.

“Usually what we’re good at is often what we really love to do,” Frankel says. “If you get a lot of positive feedback about, say, ‘The reports you write are so accurate, so detailed, and really valuable to me,’ then I would have to make the assumption you probably enjoy writing.

Frankel says it’s about the awareness.

“A compliment is not just a compliment, it’s data, and it’s data that I should be paying attention to, saving, and capitalizing on,” she says.

Use creative workbooks for thoughtful reflection

Ayse Birsel, the author of the recently released book Design the Life You Love, advises readers to make lists, graphs, and drawings to reimagine their talents.

“I think of life as a design project,” she says. “In design, everything is about visualizing a new idea. I advocate that we choose to imagine our life and make it our own original design. It’s a creative kind of control that we can have.”

Other excellent workbooks are The Fire Starter Sessions and the corny, but revered classic What Color Is Your Parachute?

Think about what personal missions drive you

One takeaway from What Color Is Your Parachute? is that career changers shouldn’t focus on exploring what subjects most interest them, but rather what skills they most enjoy using. That way they can do what they’re best at in a variety of organizations and industries.

Schofield says that she is most energized by creating community.

“I wanted to leverage technology to bring people together during this exciting (and sometimes stressful) time to help ease the decision-making process,” she says.

Schofield realizes that having this one-liner mission—that she creates community—opens her up to a world of professional opportunity and fulfillment.

“There are many ways one can create a community. This is what drives me.”

Photo credit: Lauren Kallen

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