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The Secret to Finding Passion in Your Career

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When I was a little girl, my father used to love to ask me, “Nancy, what do you think you’ll be when you grow up?”

I remember wanting desperately to answer his question with something impressive. But truthfully, I didn’t know what to say. I was a well-rounded, happy-go-lucky girl, with lots of friends, good grades and a variety of activities that I liked to do.

However, when it came to a future career direction, I was at a loss. So I’d giggle, bat my eyelashes and promptly change the subject.

Over time, I became a pro at “changing the subject.” I bounced from career idea – to career idea – to career idea, all the while thinking that my elusive passion would eventually surface and point me to my career holy grail.

In high school, I dreamed of becoming an actress (I loved Marlo Thomas in That Girl, so acting seemed like a smart idea until I realized that I couldn’t act). In college, when I was forced to pick a major, I decided to become a therapist. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for that option quickly fizzled too (after realizing most of my professors were in serious need of therapy themselves).

Upon graduation, when I no longer could afford to just speculate about my future, I took a job with AT&T, back when AT&T was the phone company. My first assignment was managing directory assistance operators, who were twice my age and not the least bit amused to be managed by someone their child’s age. I stuck with that job for a few years, but needless to say, that didn’t fire up my passion either.

Finally, over time, and with a lot of thought, I found a career that I really did love and continue to love to this day.

And the reason I love it?

Because I finally gave up on finding my one passion and instead focused on finding a career that combines lots of different factors that I enjoy.

A career that:

  1. Enables me to spend my time doing a variety of tasks that I do well.
  2. I find interesting.
  3. Has value and makes me feel valued.

You see, most of us don’t have one driving, overwhelming, burning passion. And even when we do, there may not be a lot of people willing to pay for that passion.

That’s why the emphasis on building a career around passion often proves so counter-productive.

Sure, there are people like Kobe Bryant, or Bill Clinton, or Billy Joel who are born with such overwhelming talent and drive, that you just can’t imagining them doing anything else. But most of us ordinary mortals have a variety of interests, talents, fascinations, sensibilities – and market opportunities – that can be combined in any number of satisfying and meaningful ways.

So stop trying to find your one and only “passion.” You’ll only drive yourself crazy.

Instead reframe your P.A.S.S.I.O.N as an acronym – or a formula – that pulls together the many variables that you need to have in a career that you can be passionate about. 


  • P = People
  • A= Activities
  • S =Subjects
  • S= Settings
  • I=Issues
  • O=Opportunities
  • N=Needs

For each of these areas, ask yourself a few key questions:

PEOPLE: What types of people do I like to spend time with? Men or women? Children or seniors? Creatives or intellectuals? Entrepreneurial personalities or corporate types?

ACTIVITIES: How do I like to spend my free time? What are my favorite work-related activities?

SUBJECTS: What are my favorite topics to discuss, read or think about? What were my favorite subjects in school? 

SKILLS, GIFTS AND TALENTS: What am I the “go-to” person for? What are my natural talents? What do I find easy that others find difficult?

ISSUES: What are the issues, topics or causes that I find important? What do I consider the most critical issues of our time?

And then, because you can’t turn your passions into profits without finding somebody willing to pay for your services (and poverty tends to put a real damper on passion) ask yourself:

OPPORTUNITIES:What career or business opportunities appear to be a good match for somebody with my combination of skills, experiences, interests and talents?

NEEDS: What needs or unmet gaps in the marketplace can I help fill?

As Aristotle so wisely said, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.”

By investigating your P.A.S.S.I.O.N as a formula that involves multiple components – and by being willing to revisit and road-test your conclusions over time – you will move much faster towards finding work that matters. Because when:

  • You work with people you like
  • Doing activities you enjoy in a suitable environment
  • Focused on subjects and issues that you find meaningful
  • In a way that provides real value in the marketplace

You are bound to be happy and fulfilled at work, whether it is a full-time job or a semi-retirement pursuit.

And that, my friends, is a goal that we can all be passionate about.

Get my Free Downloadable Workbook:

25 Questions To Help YOU Identify Your Ideal Second Act. You'll also receive my free newsletter filled with second-act ideas, tools and inspiration.

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