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How To Find Meaning In Your Career | Harvard Business Review

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The whole article is worth reading but point #2 really resonated with me.

Seek legacy, mastery, and freedom — in that order.

Research from authors such as Daniel Pink (Drive), Cal Newport (So Good They Can't Ignore You), Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman (Startup of You), and Tony Hsieh (Delivering Happiness) shows that there are three primary attributes of fulfilling work:

  • Legacy. A higher purpose, a mission, a cause. This means knowing that in some way — large or small — the world will be a better place after you've done your work.
  • Mastery. This refers to the art of getting better and better at skills and talents that you enjoy using, to the extent that they become intertwined with your identity. Picture a Jedi, or a Samurai, or a master blacksmith.
  • Freedom. The ability to choose who you work with, what projects you work on, where and when you work each day, and getting paid enough to responsibly support the lifestyle that you want.

The order is important. People are fulfilled most quickly when they first prioritize the impact that they want to have (legacy), then understand which skills and talents they need to have that impact (mastery), and finally "exchange" those skills for higher pay and flexibility (freedom) as they develop and advance.

People don't typically have just one purpose. The things you're passionate about — women's health, early childhood education, organic food, or renewable energy — are likely to evolve over time. And it's important to develop a high degree of freedom so that you're able to hunt down your purpose again when it floats onto the next thing. This means being able to do things like volunteer on the side, go months at a time without getting a paycheck, or invest in unusual professional development opportunities.

I really like point #3 as well.

Treat your career like a grand experiment.

In my experience, people who are successful in finding — and maintaining — meaningful work approach their careers like a grand experiment.

All of the things you think you know about what you want to be doing, what you're good at, what people want to hire you to do (and at what salary), how different organizations operate, etc. are hypotheses that can be validated or invalidated with evidence — either from the first-hand experience of trying something (including bite-sized projects), or second-hand from asking the right questions of the right people.

The faster and cheaper that you're able to validate your career hypotheses, the sooner you'll find fulfillment. You don't have to take a job in a new industry to realize it's not for you. You can learn a ton about potential lines of work from reading online, having conversations, taking on side projects, and volunteering.

And a bonus — by doing your homework on what's actually a good fit for you, you won't waste your time applying to jobs that you aren't competitive for. And like any good scientist, you'll achieve a healthy detachment from your incorrect hypotheses — they are just par for the course, after all.

I use the word "grand" to describe this experiment because the reality is that your career is not just a way to earn a living. It's your chance to discover what you're here for and what you love. It's your best shot at improving the world in a way that is important to you. It's a sizeable component of your human experience, in a very real way. As such, it should be an adventure, with a healthy bit of magic and mystery along the way.

So if you're one of the many who find themselves on the path to meaningful work — remember to enjoy the journey, don't give up, and don't settle.

I don't know that I like the word "experiment" associated with my career.

It's true that we should be unafraid to try things, but let's face it, there is no try.

yoda there is no try gif

Isn't all of life really a grand experiment? Of course, I believe it is vital to LEARN from each experimental "trial" so that every successive one has a greater chance of success.

Maybe the use of the word experiment implies a scientific method of hypothesis, testing, and observation.

That's an approach to career I can believe in.

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