This I Believe: A Manifesto for a Magnificent Career

contrasts This I Believe was one of my favorite NPR programs. It's raison d'être: "Americans from all walks of life share the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives."

In honor of that spirit, I'll take a step away from our mutual obsession with marketing and analytics and share with you the philosophies and values that guide me when I go to work every day.

My professional career spans three countries: India, Saudi Arabia and the United States. It spans factory work, market research, logistics, automotive, super-computers, broadband, financial services and … I'm not sure how to describe Google, but Google. I’ve contributed at the junior, senior, and mid-level, been a project manager, business analyst, manager, director, and … I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but an evangelist. My career spans customer service, engineering, finance, product development, marketing, sales, and corporate functions. On any given day, I'm working in my office, in a conference room brainstorming new revolutions, standing up on stage to inspire my peer professionals, sitting on a 21st floor board room in London, New York, Beijing or Santiago trying to change complicated businesses, sitting at my desk at home creating ravishing educational videos for Market Motive or writing this post.

None of that is to impress you, I just want to give you a little bit of context about where this post originates.

Going through all of the above, I've developed an overall macro-philosophy that guides my career choices. I've also collected a cluster of personal philosophies and core values that guide my day-to-day work.

My hope is that you'll find my lessons to be of value as you think about your own professional career, both from a macro context, in terms of what you are solving for, and in a micro context, in your day-to-day work.

Let's dive in!

This I Believe: Balance: Passion +/- Money +/- Work

There are three forces in play in our lives when it comes to our professions:

First, there is your passion. Generally speaking, our skills are a collection of things we are good at, and within that collection there is usually one thing about which we are deeply passionate. Discovering your passion is not easy. It took me more than a decade of working to discover what I was passionate about. And that decade-plus of seeking came after decades of learning, living, and all that. It is not trivial to figure out what you are passionate about. You'll know you've identified it when you discover the thing that makes you mad with joy and fulfills you like nothing else in the universe. Then you'll recognize: "I'm good at x, y, z, but I'm passionate about q."

Next, there are the skills that companies value and will pay for.

Finally there is a thing, or a collection of things, that you do as a part of your professional career.

You have to juggle these three distinct elements in your career/work.

Companies often want to pay you for what you are good at, but what do you do if what you are good at is not the same as what you are passionate about?

The standard answer you'll get from most people is that you should find a way to monetize what you are passionate about. Life is too short! (By the end of this section of the post, I'll tell you that exact thing.)

But in isolation, this advice does not accommodate for the reality that surrounds us. What if no one wants to pay you to do the thing about which you are passionate? Then what do you do? Still do what you are passionate about, because it makes you happy? That is, after all, what everyone will advise you to do.

Here's a simple Venn diagram that illustrates what happens in this scenario:

work passion effort poverty

It is less than fun to just do what you are passionate about, if no one wants to pay you for it. It leads to poverty. This is really sad.

If you have time and some savings on your side, give the above strategy your best shot for as long as you can. But leave open the possibility that if you can't make it work, there is no shame in giving up – at least for a time. I know that seems like a heartbreakingly cruel thing to say. Still, look at the above diagram. Is poverty OK? Usually, in the real world, it might not be.

Remember, a time of poverty is good. I've had a bunch of it. Builds character. But you need to grow up.

So, what is a better option at the intersection of passion, work and money?

Many of our peers on this planet are most likely living a professional life best represented by this Venn diagram:

work passion effort happy compromise

They get to do some of what they are passionate about at work. They have to do some things that they are ambivalent about and some things they are not passionate about because these are things/skills the company values.

It is a compromise. Depending on the day, you might be slightly depressed to quietly euphoric.

Not every job is like this.

Sometimes the overlap between green and orange is huge, and it has very little blue. If you find yourself in that position, keep working and making money and taking care of your life responsibilities; however, it might be time to quietly look for a different job inside or outside the company.

If, upon self-reflection, all you see in your profile is green and orange, it might be time to try a lot of different things, make leaps of faith, explore shops/jobs/cities/lives/newspapers/friends/strangers/internships/school courses/Googling to figure out what your blue is all about. (As I mentioned, this took me more than a decade and during most of that time I did not even know I did not have a blue! I was just working hard at things I was good at and for which I was paid well.)

If your Venn diagram looks exactly like the one above, with a large blue (passion) not at work, find avenues outside work that allow you to do what you are passionate about. With the web, there are so many avenues to express your passion. Find an outlet to build your own passion platform. (This blog started exactly as that for me. And since 14th of May 2006 , this has been my safe harbor, my warm place, and my escape when work was all green and orange.)

So what's the ideal state?

It might seem difficult to believe this, but I have had the privilege of meeting a handful of people for whom the Venn diagram perfectly overlaps:

work passion effort happy nirvana 1

I call these people lucky dogs! I sit at their feet and learn how they figured out the blue and found the orange that so perfectly overlaps with the green. A majority of these people, in my experience, are entrepreneurs. But that is not the only path to nirvana. There are other opportunities, no matter how few, where people find a perfect overlap between passion, work, pay.

Like most people in the world, I'm not in the nirvana scenario.

I'm deep into my professional career at this point. I feel incredibly blessed/lucky that when I draw my own Venn diagram it looks like this, for now:

work passion effort happy me

Most of the time I get to do what I'm really passionate about (and get paid for it, OMG!). Some of the time I have to work on things I'm good at, but not necessarily passionate about. But that is quite okay. I'm grateful for the opportunity I have. And, as I mentioned above, I've worked hard to create a collection of platforms — this blog, my Google+ outpost , my new LinkedIn influencer channel, my start-up Market Motive — where I can do all the blue things that I can't do at work.

I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be able to monetize a bunch of my blue at work, and give rest of the blue away for free in non-work existences. It makes me incredibly happy.

I'm sure as my career evolves, as is the case for everyone, the circles might drift apart or become more overlapping. As long as I know what each bucket contains, I'll be fine because I'll make deliberate choices.

My call to arms for you: Find your blue . It is a bigger challenge than you might imagine. Then, work as hard as you can to find the most overlapping orange for your blue. And because life is more than just work, remember to leave lots of green for your family.

Nirvana would be fantastic, if you can find it. Until then, start with the happy compromise, and aim to get as close to nirvana as you can. And remember, your employer (even if you are self-employed) does not owe you anything and definitely does not owe you a job where you can express your deep passions. The cool thing is that with the web, you have a ton more possibilities to find other avenues to do what you are passionate about – either with other employers or by building your own platforms – while you are in a happy compromise scenario.

Go. Find your blue.

This I Believe: 12 Rules for a Magnificent Career.

Here are a dozen personal philosophies and core values that guide my day-to-day work. They are lessons learned, sometimes painfully, from practicing this career thing across three countries and a dozen different jobs!

1. If you don’t know where you are going, you are going to get somewhere and you’ll be miserable.

I don't believe in five-year plans or lifetime career plans; the world changes too quickly. But know your blue, and have a passion plan. Have an idea of what you love now, how you will stay in love with it, or how you'll find the next thing you'll love doing.

2. "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." -Will Rogers.

Too many meetings at work? Email inbox constantly stuffed? 16 straight quarters of missed bonuses? Difficult relationship with your peer/boss? Nothing seems to be going your way from a product/hiring/deadlines?

The first things to do is to stop digging. No, that not right. First learn to recognize that you are in a hole – it seems like common sense but this is so hard. Next, stop digging . Then, be honest with yourself, reflect on what's really causing these situations. Finally, look for different solutions and be brave and ask for help (from your friends and perceived non-friends).

It takes a very long time to get good at this — at least, it took me a very long time. But I'm a better person/employee/father/husband/friend for having learned to recognize when I'm in a hole and to stop digging!

3. The last people to get laid off in a company are the ones closest to creating revenue.

This might sound controversial to people in operations, support, corporate finance, analytics infrastructure and all the other teams that are critical to functioning of any company. When push comes to shove, they are the first to be laid off. I should know. I’ve been laid off twice, from SGI and DirecTV Broadband.

I've never made that mistake again. I pick roles as close to directly making actual money for the company as possible.

4. 70/30 people will rule the world . Spend 70% being spectacular at your core focus area (accountant, lawyer, perl programmer) and 30% being good at everything in the immediately adjacent areas (marketing, finance, digital, real estate).

The web has broken down traditional job silos in companies. The web demands immense agility and flexibility within every company. Those two things mean that being a one-trick pony limits your capacity to help your companies think smart and move fast.

Deliberately identify the areas immediately adjacent to your job and invest your own time and effort to build out your 30% (your company will not do this for you) skills.

5. This seems ironic, but the less you worry about your next promotion, the higher the chances are that you’ll get promoted.

Everyone wants more money, the next promotion at work. One way to get it is to focus everything you do on your next promotion by plotting strategy, "building network," creating "a bank of goodwill," stepping over those that need stepping over, and only taking shiny object projects. This does work. Even at Google, this strategy yields results. But often, this leaves a bad taste even in your own mouth and creates a bad vibe around you.

So my lesson is to focus on adding value. Take on tough projects. Solve meaty challenges. Do good work. It is almost guaranteed that you'll get promoted. But in the small chance that politics inside your company mean you are not, you'll still be able to look yourself in the eye every morning and smile – and the people around you at work will love you.

6. Solve for scale. Point solutions don’t scale, frameworks scale (and people are grateful you've taught them a different way to think).

The single biggest difference between good people and magnificent people is that good people work hard and solve problems, while magnificent people look for patterns, dig deep to identify root causes, and look for scalable answers. Often this means new processes, new frameworks and new structures that drive a new way of thinking across the organization. That is glorious impact. Solve for scale.

7. What’s your one thing? The thing you are better at than anyone else in the team/sector/company/world.

Now this one is hard. Especially if your blue is entirely separate from your professional career (which is all green and orange). But people who know the one thing that they are really, really good at — better than anyone else — stand out in any organization. The way to get there is to know your green and blue, and then invest your own time in constantly trying to get better.

Most people stop learning once they leave college. Don't do that. My personal goal is to spend four hours every single week learning something new – mostly in the blue area (which is easy) but also in the green area.

8. Self-awareness is the single biggest gift you can give yourself. Become a feedback junkie.

Will it surprise you if I guessed that you think very highly of yourself? No. Because it is true. :) And perhaps it is. But I've learned the value of self-awareness, knowing what you are really good at and what you are not good at. At regular intervals (weekly, monthly and quarterly) I ask for feedback from my peers, our leadership teams and complete outsiders.

Feedback allows me to see myself as others do (perception often matters more than reality). I use that feedback to find opportunities where I can amplify my strengths, and I use it to ensure that my weaknesses are not deal-breakers.

9. 99% of all arguments are based on a difference between what each person is solving for. First, get to a shared vision. Then disagree. Then get to the best solution.

It took me such a long time to learn this lesson. I'm embarrassed. In typical business situations you hear/see something and you are like "how can that be, that other person is such an idiot, how can they possibly have such insane opinions and make these crazy decisions, I must stop them/give them a piece of my mind!" Ok, I exaggerate a little. But you get my point. Off you go to argument land.

I've learned to stop myself. I find the person/leader/being and ask: "What are you solving for?" Then I outline what I'm solving for. Incredibly, it usually turns out that we are solving for different things. I learn (or they learn) that I have different context than they do. We both feel like such dolts. We then agree on what we should solve for. Now finding the optimal solution is simpler.

Before you argue about small or big things, ask the other party: "What are you solving for with your decision?"

10. Nice guys/girls might not always finish at the top, but in the long run jerks will always finish last. Karma.

I'll just leave it at that. Karma.

11. If you are a leader, remember it is never about you. It is always about the team and each person in it.

It is such a cliché. But it is so incredibly true. A superstar you working at max awesomeness can solve for a local maxima. If you work with your team of individuals and help figure out how to make the unit function at max awesomeness, you solve for a global maxima. And I mean team of individuals – because each one is unique – and not the generic "team."

Bonus: Also see #5 above.

12. At the end of the day always remember that it’s just a job. On their deathbed, no one wishes they'd spent more time at work.

No one.

That's it. My dozen personal philosophies and core values that guide my day-to-day work (and life).

If you would like you, you can download a summary version as a pdf: This I Believe – Career Edition.

As always, it is your turn now.

If you were to draw your passion-work-money Venn diagram, what would it look like? Do you know your blue (deep, unabiding passion)? If yes, how long did it take you to figure it out? If no, what are you doing to figure it out? Do you agree with my dozen philosophies and values? Got a favorite one? Or one you disagree with? Or, even better, a personal philosophy or value that you would add to my list?

Please share your perspectives, critique, life lessons, insights and what you believe in, via comments below.

Thank you.

PS: This is my second This I Believe post. In case you are curious, here's the first one: This I Believe: A Manifesto for Web Marketers & Analysts

Comments

  1. 1
    Rick Noel says:

    Great post Avinash. I have traveled to india and the Kingdom for work and both are beautiful places in their own right.

    #11 is a great value/philosophy and my favorite of your 12. Great managers understand that by promoting their team, its members and their accomplishments, they are promoting themselves and their leadership ability.

    This relates to one of my favorite quotes, "Its amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit." (Harry S. Truman).

    Great real leaders understand that the currency of leadership are these simple, underused words: "please", "thank you" and when appropriate, "sorry" and these same leaders are not afraid to over spend.

    Still working on finding my blue in a way that overlaps with the green and orange. Hearing that it took a long time for you to find yours too makes me feel better :)

  2. 2
    Carmen Hill says:

    Thank you, Avinash!

    I always love your posts, but this one landed with perfectly timed relevance and insight. I actually had someone ask recently, "What would be your nirvana job?" and I've been pondering that question a lot.

    Great lessons here for individuals and managers, alike!

  3. 3
    Niels says:

    Wow, I love this post!

    The venn diagrams are just the perfect tool to explain this sort of stuff.

    I just hope I will remember this 10-15 years from now, when my kids are old enough to value this advice…

    • 4

      Niels: I might come as a surprise (or not) but I created the venn-diagram for my daughter. She is still small, but I wanted to find a way of both telling her about the reality of life and what to aspire to.

      -Avinash.

  4. 5
    Tom Murdoch says:

    Great post; gives me a shot the arm today.

  5. 6

    What a great post! And real good explained by the Venn diagrams.

    It leaves me though with great curiosity about your Passions. Maybe you can write about this in a next post?

    • 7

      Harry: Simplifying complexity. Creating new ways/frameworks to challenge current thinking. Teaching. Making gigantic change happen in companies.

      At the moment it is applied to digital marketing for the most part, with strong streaks of data/analytics.

      I'm sure the application will change with time. :)

      Avinash.

  6. 8
    Adam Howitt says:

    Outstanding article Avinash.

    I'm fortunate to be able to work full time on the project of my dreams but find myself in the typical tech founder entrepreneur conundrum of feeling like I need to hire people to do the development I love so much because of the way the business is growing. Hiring a CEO would mean losing some of the vision and control if my business I've nurtured to profitability.

    • 9

      Adam: : )

      It is a tough balance. It is so difficult to 1. truly know what you are passionate about 2. what you are really good at and 3. what the right thing to do for your business is.

      Then the hard part, is there at least some overlap between #3 and #2.

      As you become really successful, and you will, there will be a limit, regardless of what you are passionate about. You'll have to hand over some control to others. Hopefully people whose vision has big overlaps with you!

      Avinash.

  7. 10

    This one is just wonderful. Nothing else to add. :)
    I love both the pictures and what you say and totally relate.

  8. 11
    Jacob says:

    You can tell this was written from hard-won experience, Avinash. Worldy but with some idealism too; I enjoyed it a lot. And your poverty Venn diagram is hilarious.

    I disagree with #10. Sadly, some horrible people live long, happy lives and then die guiltlessly; whilst nice, talented people labour on in obscurity due to circumstantial reasons entirely beyond their control, often dying poor and unhappy. The latter was the fate of many scientists, whose blues and oranges remained separate over their whole lives.

    I would add one lesson:

    Don't think you've always got to be the smartest guy in the room

    When you've found that thing that you're really good at, let your arguments and evidence be your authority. And realize whoever you are, you'll be wrong sometimes. That is entirely okay. To draw an anology, even the best 0.0001% of the world's golfers miss six-inch putts occasionally.

    Even if you are right most of the time, one of the quickest ways to annoy people is to go around acting like you know best because of who you are. You come off as a lot more secure and authoritative if you're at least somewhat open to challenges from others.

    The very best experts make their listeners feel like geniuses. They impart a feeling of power and clarity of understanding, and they're much much more persuasive for it. Take Paul Krug's Don't Make Me Think!, or Richard Dawkins' popular science books. They don't make their readers feel small and stupid. They don't bully them with abstract terms or flowery demonstrations of superior skill and intellect. They instead make their readers feel like better, more knowledgeable people.

    Keep in mind too, that people completely outside of your field can still, very occasionally, offer some good insights. As Winston Churchill acerbically put it: “the greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

    • 12

      Jacob: You are right in your observation with #10. But that can't be the reason that we ignore rule #10. What a sub-optimal world would that be.

      I totally agree with your lesson! In fact I feel that the moment one feels like they are the smartest person in the room is precisely the moment they stop being that (if they were in the first place!).

      Thanks so much for sharing your advice.

      Avinash.

    • 13
      Gour says:

      Hello Jacob,

      excuse me for jumping late onto this train…I'm learning about SEO and only today found out about Avinash's blog where I read some really great content.

      Now, few points in regard to 'philosophy'…

      > I disagree with #10. Sadly, some horrible people live long, happy lives and then die guiltlessly;

      Without knowing more, one can become frustrated why there are 'bad guys' not being punished appropriately. It can be very confusing indeed.

      However, the answer lies in Vedanta philosophy, or let's focus on Bhagavad-gita only which should be part of Avinash's cultural upbringing, I hope so. ;)

      Similarly as in #12 it's put that job is not all in all, similarly this life(time) is not the only one and karma works perfectly or "As you sow, so shall you reap…" – no need to worry, Jacob. ;)

      As far as other points and/or diagrams, I'd like to stress that nirvana is not optimal since it's just result of acting in the mode of passion of 'raja guna' which, according to Bhagad-gita, "..appears like nectar at first, but poison at the end…" (Bg.18.38)

      Therefore, even working 100% according to our passion (blue cricle) that won't make us happy if we're neglecting our prescribed duties (sva-dharma) and perfection is to tailor our work in such a way that green circle becomes blended with the yellow one representing 'What God values'. ;)

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom/knowledge.

      Sincerely,
      Gour

  9. 14
    Dominic says:

    Brilliant!

    I have the perfect quote to go along with #5: "Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value" – Albert Einstein

    Over the course of the last 7 years I have continued to steer my career in a direction of overlap between what I am good at (and get paid for), with that in which I am also passionate about. Like you I have not reached Nirvana, but damn I have a pretty good relationship overlap between the three diagrams.

    I always try to keep the quote I mentioned above when evaluating the direction of my career. It seems to keep me moving in the right direction when I am not so focused on the money/title piece. The money and promotion just naturally comes as a by product of being awesome at what you do and delivering tons of value.

    Thans for another great and relevent post!

    Dominic

  10. 15
    Josh Braaten says:

    I couldn't agree more with what you posted and would say that my circles look about the same, thankfully. Would you believe that I too have been a business analyst, project manager, manager, and director in my career? Small world!

  11. 16
    Kerry Marin says:

    Thanks, Avinash. This post came at a very strangely good time. I have been struggling with the fact that I am not using my 'blue' in my current position. I've been beating myself up, telling myself I have a great job and I work for a great company, I make great money…why in the world would you want to give that up? I called myself stupid, irresponsible, you name it. Ironically, during my commute this morning, I was trying to think of a way to make this work. I was thinking how my quality of life could be so much better. So opening my email this morning to see your post was almost eerie.

    The problem is I still don't know if I can make the leap to my blue. I know that I want to do consulting, I did it for a short time while I was between jobs, but I stopped because I couldn't refuse the offer when this job came around. I've done great work for many companies over the years, I have always stood out as a valuable employee. I want the excitement that comes from helping companies make money. I want the ability to have the freedom of working from home every now and then to spend time with my family – although I know that being self employed can lead to more work, I owned a printing company for five years and worked a full time job as a marketing director at the same time, it wasn't pretty. The bottom line is that I want to do what I'm passionate about – which also happens to be what I'm good at – I want to make good money doing it, and I want to have more control over my life. It took me a lot of years to realize that being away from my kids 12+ hours every day is not where I want to be. I am working less hours now than I was previously, but I still have a long commute so my days are long, there's not much family time left.

    I guess I just don't know where to go from here. I can't up and leave the security I have to start a venture like this, even though I have a lot of faith in it. I started out 14 years ago in SEO, built a couple websites, made a little money, then I moved into PPC, affiliate marketing, email marketing, conversion optimization, and made a few companies a ton of money in marketplace sales. Somewhere in that mix I became a skilled graphic designer and I have 12 years of experience in the printing industry, in which I still have a few resources where I can get beautiful commercial offset printing for less than I could produce it myself. I've worked in B2B, B2C, government, software, retail, weapons, services…I have broad experience across many industries. I have also been promoted from ecommerce Marketing Director to Marketing Director, so I became skilled in multimedia marketing, including television, radio, billboard, cooperative advertising, you name it, I've probably done it. My point is that I have a lot to offer, I've been involved in so many areas of ecommerce. And I've failed A LOT over the years, but I've learned A LOT from my mistakes, I think failing has made me into the professional I am, because now I win A LOT.

    Now where I've landed is I am a web analyst that also manages the SEO and PPC divisions for a medium size company that does well. I like my job, I love the company I work for. I'm just not excited about it. I get no 'high' from what I am doing. I honestly feel like my skills are being wasted, and I don't feel that the opportunity I am looking for is here. But it comes down to security every time. I am a risk taker, an entrepreneur…but we rely too heavily on my income. Sometimes I wish I made less.

    How does a person in my situation make the leap? If I could do both for a while until the other takes off, I would, but is that even possible?

    • 17

      Kerry: Be very careful accepting advice specific to you on any blog. The person replying simply does not have enough context about your unique situation.

      When I've faced your predicament I've used the option you mention at the end of your comment. Look for ways that I can explore my blue (passion) in parallel, even if part time, while I do the job where I'm paid to do what I'm good at. Sometimes you can do this as part time consulting gigs outside your work (I started the first one with a non-profit). Other times there might be an opportunity to do it at your current job itself (different department, focus area).

      You can still do what I first started with years ago, use the great internet to figure out how to express your passion. For me it was starting this blog and sharing my experience with others. I was still the Director for Research and Analytics at Intuit at that time (a full time job with full time large team and did the blog on nights and weekends!).

      Good luck!

      -Avinash.

  12. 18
    Amit says:

    Thanks.

    I am inspired and doing similar kind of thing..finding and financing my blues from orange and green… :)…will take much time as i have to rebuilt everything.

  13. 19
    Carl Allan says:

    Fantastic!

    And really great use of Venn diagrams.

  14. 20
    Terry Hayden says:

    Great post! You 've inspired me to keep looking for the blue. It was just what I needed to hear today! Thanks!

  15. 21
    Anna says:

    This was a really great read, thank you!

    I'd like to know more about finding your "blue." I really have no idea what mine is and it's soul-crushing. Ugh. I'm good at a lot of things and successful in my work, but it's not right, nor fulfilling, because I'm not passionate about it.

    Any ideas?

    • 22
      Dominic says:

      Hi Anna,

      I personally think it is a bit of trial and error. You just need to experiment and try things that are of interest to you. Like Avinash mentioned, it took him a decade to figure out what he was passionate about. What kinds of things to you enjoy on your personal time? If money was no object, what would you do with your time? What excites you in any area of your life? What problems exist that you think you could solve and enjoy the process?

      I think these are some of the questions you should be asking yourself. Often times people try to find the monetary piece and back into the passion…but in reality that is often a route to never finding passion, because it is wrongly motivated.

      Hope that helps.

      Dominic

    • 23

      Anna: I'm sure you've already heard of this, but you just have to try different things. Just keep trying.

      But here is a "cheap trick." Write a email every day, 300 words, to your mom/husband/wife/spouse/bff/co-worker/santa. The topic should be something you think you are passionate about.

      If you find that it is a freaking pain to write every day, you have the wrong topic. Try something different. Rinse, repeat.

      You will bump into a topic where you look forward to writing the email every day. You will skip dinner, you will miss dates, children's baths, works, to write because you don't want to break the chain (miss a day). You will seek out new information, to learn more, to keep your emails going. Boom! That's your blue. :)

      #goannago

      Avinash.

      • 24
        Anna says:

        This is GREAT! I've never heard that advice before, to do some writing in that way to help figure it out. I like that so much, and I will start today. Thank you so much!

  16. 26
    Insa timite says:

    Great post!… This I believe is one of my favorite show on NPR. It give us an insight from different people ,different perspective, various background on many topics.

  17. 27
    visitor says:

    #12…true story

  18. 28
    Kelly Rusk says:

    Love this post!

    I love my job/career but lately trying to figure out exactly what my blue is so I can define a clearer path of where I want to go. Definitely easier said than done. This has provided much needed fuel to keep me going though.

    Thanks!

  19. 29

    There are junctures in life when you've to choose between your job and your passion. When you are not sure whether to give importance to bread this year and to your agitated entrepreneur soul today. There are times when need to choose between high-paying-painful job and lower-salary-happier job. I personally feel that one should do whatever makes them Happy. Choosing anything else other than happiness may buy you some time but then you'll be at crossroads again and life will prompt you to choose again. Choose happiness.
    I wrote a small post on this: http://hoodasaurabh.blogspot.com/2013/01/deciding-factor.html

    • 30
      Joshua U says:

      It's rarely the issue of choosing happiness or money. It's not that simple. EVERYONE knows and wants happiness out of their work, but HOW? This argument has been going on in self-help for years and I feel so frustrated by it. The real issue is what's presented in Avinash's model of Nirvana.

      Robert Green's Mastery has helped me figure out my journey to mastery.

  20. 31

    Wow, I have been blown away by a lot of things this week, in work and life. This helped me to put a lot of things in perspective.

    Thanks for sharing! Add career counselor and life coach to your resume.

  21. 32
    Joshua U says:

    This is a perfect time for me Avinash. The model you created verbalizes what's been stuck in my head for years. Thank you.

    For 5 years out of uni I taught social skills online, ran workshops, wrote books, videos, and interviewed experts for my company but was just getting by (poverty in your first model). I lost interest after a few years – a compromise I suppose in your model.

    I started another business teaching League of Legends players how to get good at the game after we were beating US players like DoubleLift. This has been fun and okay return wise.

    In the past year dedicated myself to doing SEO, CRO, analytics, and PPC full-time for a company in Australia. This is what I'm good at. These are invaluable skills I've used to double leads and sales of any business I touch… But I am utterly miserable. Most of this I feel is attributed to a bad workplace with no rewards, no feedback, no empowerment, no culture, no fun.

    I also don't like working for others so I'm currently launching such a business offering these services. I feel this will be my best compromise to date (bit lack luster in passion).

    The last day in my current position is in 9 days. I go to the beautiful Whitsundays on the Great Barrier for a week then return to get qualified as a security guard and work my way to become a bodyguard. Who knows, my experience in communication and body language could tie into high-level intelligence work. No idea if I'll enjoy it, but it interests me.

    Felt for years something is wrong with me because I can't find my Nirvana.

    • 33

      Joshua: First let me assure you that there nothing wrong with you that you can't find your nirvana. Only the luckiest few do.

      But it is important to figure out what, deep inside you, is your blue (passion). You are definitely on the right path in putting yourself in different positions so that you can figure your blue out.

      Being your own boss, your currently chosen path, can often help you discover your blue – because it is such a pain to be self-employed otherwise.

      Good luck on your trip. We spent a few days at the Whitsundays in December, such an amazing place!

      -Avinash.

  22. 34
    Ilonka says:

    Best post ever, Avinash!!!! I LOVE IT.

    If at any point things go south with analytics, just know that you can have an awesome career as soul evangelist!!!

    Life is indeed too short. You hear people saying "do what you love, love what you do", and while it is impossible to have it all… 100% of it all is utopia, it is soooo important that both things (what you do and what you love) overlap to a big extent. Otherwise it is just not worth it.

    I guarantee that most of us reading this post can live with so much less in comparison to most people in the world. Same as in business, the key is where you started… (which is always the most difficult step): to know where we are headed and to identify what we are passionate and care about.

  23. 35
    Vikas Disale says:

    In the morning reading your post mail in my phone and it awake me that I still need to find my blue.

    Great post Avinash, you are an inspiration for lots of people like us.

  24. 36
    Jitendra Gursingh says:

    Dear Avinash,

    This is truly great advice! It is a must read for all including entrepreneurs, people who are working etc. I would really like to you to post this at therodinhoods.com , an entrepreneur network started by Alok Kejriwal from India. This would truly be great advice for them. If it would not be possible for you to post there, I would like to do so with your permission.

    Thank You once again..

  25. 37
    Ankit Jain says:

    Thank you for the great post. So much value.

    A quick question. For self-awareness, what questions do you ask your peers and friends? How is the entire idea executed?

    Thanks!

    • 38

      Anikit: It depends on the context. But after a lot of my keynotes or talks I ask this question:

      1. What worked?
      2. What could I have done better?
      3. Was there anything you expected me to cover that I did not?

      In other contexts, it is a variations of what the above three questions try to get at. You want the good and the not good and your blind spots, and you want specific feedback.

      -Avinash.

  26. 39
    Kai says:

    Hey Avinash & followers,

    I'm in the start of my career and trying to find out what it is that really drives me – in combination with the thing(s) that'll make companies want to get in line to hire me once I finish college.

    I really like your #8. It is so important to know yourself best; know what you're good at – and even more important – what you're not good at (yet). This way you can always keep improving yourself and you'll know what kind of people you need/want around you, in your carreer and in life, to complement you and fuel your passions.

    For people who are reading this and are still in college or at the brink of their careers; I've uncovered many of my strengths by taking steps sideways in school. I study Commerce and did a minor in Internet Marketing, mainly because "I don't know, I'm a tech kid and I've had it with all these theoretical models about marketing that you can never ever validate" – and haven't regretted it ever since! Whenever I finish a presentation I always ask for honest opinions about good and bad aspects so I can learn from it – whenever I'm in a group for a project I try to collectively discover each members' strengths and weaknesses so we can work the most effectively.

    I'm not saying these things will fit everyone's personality, I'm just trying to say: find out what's most effective for you. You don't necessarily have to fail at things before you get good at them, just control the process. The most important part of life, I think, is communicating. So many mistakes and false interpretations are made because there's simply a lack of communication. Professionaly but also personally I always try to speak my mind and ask loads of questions so there are no false interpretations, and you uncover small irritations before they get out of hand.

    Thanks for starting my day with an inspiring article! Greetings from the Netherlands,

    Kai

  27. 40

    We can go a little further to help our kids to find their "blue" faster.

    Transferring this into business – leaders must help all the team members to find at least the "happy compromise".

    Thank you for advice!

  28. 41
    Puneet says:

    Nice post.

    But I feel like that everybody has to think for himself. Job is not the first/last thing to do in life. In fact the people are lucky to have their Blue intersecting well with their jobs.I don't know how much of this is true but some how it became a common belief that what we like may never make enough money for us and that is difficult to fight with. I think that most of the people just learn to love and live with their job.

    Loved #10 Karma it is :)

  29. 42
    Allie says:

    Awesome Post! – a real 'Pearl' and so well written!

    Thanks Avinash this is a Joy to read.

    It's so easy these days to get caught going around in circles; multi-tasking; work, family, money, home, la la la without really giving any thought to where you are headed longer term. This gives great perspective, clear visuals to keep us mindful of our decisions and motives amongst the business of pressures and responsibilities; and is a fab stimulus for thought re finding your blue… Like most I sure don't want to find myself in an unhappy place in years to come!!

    I am both lucky and cursed as I have many passions, but run my own business in a non-related area so struggle to keep my passion engaged 9-5. Now finding ways to apply my passions in daily life as much as poss, and I feel much more fulfilled as a result…

    How have I come to know my passions?: I have stopped looking so hard, experimented with things I like and taken time to 'feel' – just as Avinash suggests. I live mush more in the moment and have made it my goal to relax more in every day life & allow time to enjoy the little things.

    I make enough space in my day to really appreciate what I have, even though I am usually very time pressured.
    I delegate more and develop others (at home and at work) and this brings a new level of fulfillment, which in turn gives me space to think and feel.

    Now that I have done these things I notice what it is that I do that gives me the greatest sense of enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment.

    I now see stacks of ways to apply my passions to my life and work, make the most of those opportunities and enjoy being thankful for them all. Maybe one day if I continue to focus on enjoying the small things I will come across a way for my creativity to earn me my fortune!!! But until my Nirvana I am fulfilled through a new understanding of my real value, and offering that out to family, friends, colleagues, team, clients, and anyone who needs it!

    Thanks Again! – good luck to all in recognising your Blue x

  30. 43
    Peter says:

    Great post.. as always :)

    "…difference between good people and magnificent people is that good people work hard and solve problems, while magnificent people look for patterns, dig deep to identify root causes, and look for scalable answers".

    That's so true….

    Thanks!

  31. 44
    Nikhil says:

    This post is amazing. Keep posting

  32. 45

    Beautiful post. I found out my blue part isn't missing at all. It's still small that's for sure, but either way it's there. Most of the tips you described are part of growing up and many people do not come to realize those even when they're old enough to stop working.

    Anyway, nice break. =)

  33. 46
    Florencia Porcaro says:

    Great sharing, thanks Avinash, and so true on investing on what you are passionate about.

    My belief… when I am about to retire, I want to look back and be happy with my path on what I did, what I learnt and on how I impacted others and vice-versa.

  34. 47
    Nathan says:

    Great post, will be checking out your blog regularly!

  35. 48
    Patricia Boswell says:

    Simply delicious post, Avinash.

    One thing I would add about passion is that sometimes it can sneak up on you while you are busy doing something you're good at. I think this is especially true when you start paying attention to *why* you are good at that thing, because then you really connect with it, and from there it's easier to identify those nuanced corners where your particular gift shines.

    Just give those corners a little care and feeding, and they will take you on an amazing journey. But it won't happen if you don't pay attention to what you're good at and be curious about it. Maybe the point is: wonder is the catalyst to passion.

  36. 49
    Waldo Conti-Bosso says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I would say, in my perception, it is a philosophy of Indian life and a little bit more of the world, your life experience in the world.

    As written by Jorge Amado, Brazilian writer: "The global is the local without walls."

  37. 50
    Hugh Gage says:

    Such an interesting post but I have to say I think that the word passion, in this context, is in danger of becoming over used by many people these days (I don't say that to any intended detriment of this post). I think compulsion is perhaps something else to consider as well as passion.

    I think people spend a lot of time looking for and possibly even misdiagnosing their "passion" because so often we hear successful people talking about "their passion in life" and so often we are all told to seek it out in order to be happy and successful. It's almost as though if you don't have a passion then you're some kind of misfit.

    There are people who rise to very considerable heights not because they have a passion but because they are compelled to do something that must be done and which they inherently feel is the right thing to do (and which they also happen to be good at). I think these people are rewarded in a different way, not in the sense of having reached nirvana but in the sense of knowing that even though what they have done was hard and sometimes / often unpleasant, it was overall for the general betterment of both themselves and more likely in these cases, of those around them. I think these people receive a very different kind of gratification which probably only occurs after the fact. I think war photographers may fall into this category.

    So I'd say that if you can't find your passion, consider the things that you feel compelled to do even if they may not seem as immediately personally fulfilling as those lucky sods who live out and make good money from their passion on day to day basis, and see if your skill-set has any cross over there. The personal reward may be delayed but I'll bet it's as good. Perhaps the ven diagram could have a fourth circle added to it.

  38. 51

    Wonderful post Avinash

  39. 52
    Tim Hodge says:

    Great post, Avinash.

    It's something I've been thinking about for a while, since I graduated from university a couple of years ago. I felt despair at the prospect of not being able to make a decent living and even more so about not being able to find what I loved.

    Now, I've moved countries and got a good job doing things I enjoy. I'm still not sure what I am truly passionate about but I feel closer to discovering it.

    I've realised (I remember someone telling me it a few years ago – probably my parents but who listens to them, right?) that the best thing you can do is try new things, try everything, grasp opportunities that come your way and approach it all with an open-mind and the willingness to learn. I also think it's important to practice the things you're good at (something I'm guilty of neglecting) because you may well learn to love them.

    Thanks again!

  40. 53
    Dare says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I accidentally came across your blog and this post in particular is inspiring. You will be good being a life coach and a motivational speaker ( that's the truth).

    The venn diagrams are a complete summary of the entire post. In life, I discovered that 90% of people are working and laboring at a place and environment they are not happy with ( partially involving myself), and trying to create balance between family and work.

    Finding one's blue might not really equate to what is sustainable for you and your family.

    Your post is inspiring and I hope that I will be able to align with the blue and be proud of my green.

    Thanks

  41. 54
    kola says:

    Avinash looking forward to the day you will publish your auto-biography.

    Wonderful insight. So helpful.

    Thank you

  42. 55
    Gary Garth says:

    Thanks for another great post Avanish. As often I feel like you're writing directly to me!

    I completely agree with your arguments, and I can relate because I allow myself to work 70-80 hours weekly on my projects – only because I'm passionate about it.

    My question to you is, what can you do with managers or senior personnel who don't share the same passion??

    My belief is that you can't reach momentum as a unity without sharing the passion for what you're doing or trying to accomplish.

    • 56

      Gary: It is a complicated question. Let's split it into several options.

      1. You can't change your job, but have a little flexibility. Look for work in other divisions, parts of the company (including geography). If you can move on a full time basis, do that, if you can take on some 20% work in other areas from your boss/team, do that.

      2. You can't change your job and you have no flexibility. See if you can do something outside. In the post I talk about how I started my blog and over the years this has served me well as a place to express my passion and be happy (even on the rare times when work was not a happy existence).

      3. You have an opportunity to change your job. Keep working hard at your current job, quietly and respectfully look for other alternatives out there.

      You are not looking for this answer, but let me give it any way. Some bosses are terrible, but most are not. Sometimes I look inward to see what I can do to understand where my "terrible" boss is coming from. Often it is not that they are terrible, the challenge is that we are solving different problems. Or that I'm working on something I feel is important, but is not aligned to what my boss is measured/compensated on.

      Then it is simply a matter of figuring out if what I'm passionate about lines up with what will make my boss and company successful. If not, see the three options above!

      -Avinash.

  43. 57
    Yago Gonzalez says:

    Great great article.

    I agree with you at 110%. You have put in words my own feelings clearly. Thanks!

  44. 58
    Sam says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Really nice of you to share something personal like this.

    A saying that I've always liked along the same direction is:
    "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got"

    If you're not happy with your orange, green and blue mix, make sure you change it up.

  45. 59

    As always, this is a fantastic post. But one thing I'd like to point out on this whole "follow your passion" is something that Cal Newport (of StudyHacks) talks a lot about.

    It's not always about figuring out what your passion is and then trying to pursue it. Sometimes it's about becoming great at what you're doing and the passion will follow.

    For example, my guess is you didn't grow up longing to do digital analytics (I could be wrong but I'd be surprised). Instead, you were exposed to is, liked it, studied it, became great at it, and realized you then had a passion for it.

    So I might suggest to everyone out there thinking about finding or doing their passion that they start by mastering whatever it is they're doing right now.

    • 60

      Matt: There is a subtle thing to consider here, in context of passion.

      It is less that you should figure out what specific area you like to work in, say analytics or dish-washing or pharmacy. Rather try to figure out what your passion is in terms of the type of work you want to do. For example, teach people. build objects, raise money, etc etc. Then figure out where you can do that type of work. Usually there are so many options for each of the aforementioned three for example.

      That is how I ended up with digital analytics. It is not what I was looking for (you are right!), it ended up a place/area where I could do the type of work I like.

      -Avinash.

  46. 61
    Adine says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I am a loyal reader and learn something new in each of your posts. This one resonates especially for me as something I would like to share with the young members of my team (individuals!), for them to think about as they navigate their careers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  47. 62
    Matt says:

    Love this post and I find rules 4, 6, and 9 personally resonant.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and all the great ideas, frameworks and vision you provide!

  48. 63
    Aline Arruda says:

    My favorite one is "8 – Self-awareness is the single biggest gift you can give yourself. Become a feedback junkie."

    Months ago I was feeling kind of stressed. Maybe in the middle of a 25-years-old crisis and adapting myself to a unnexpected – but in the end very welcome – promotion. I got sick and had to stay at home for four days. During this period, when I was forced to stop, I felt able to see things from another perspective. I didn't feel sorry for myself because of the difficulties and tried to find my own responsibility in every single thing I was struggling to solve, wondering about new attitudes I could take to improve in everything.

    So now and then I am doing it, having conversations with myself, and trying hard to be a better person everyday, as cliché as it may sound.

    Thank you for sharing these personal philosophies and core values with us.

  49. 64
    Scott says:

    I really appreciate this post and (like you) really enjoy where my career choices have lead me. It has always been about the journey.

    #5 I think that you cannot stress that politics may get in the way of promotion enough. You may be the best at what you do and a key employee for your team but the politics of your organization will sometimes work against you. Sometimes your manager will work against you.

    Look yourself in the eye and be proud of your work but sometimes it might be better to look for another job.

  50. 65
    Cliff says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog, It is such an eye opener and so full of wisdom. Personally, i am experiencing a trough in my life and career and have been trying to look for answers from within. This note really makes me think and in fact gives me a guideline for introspection.

    Thanks and do continue to inspire!!

  51. 66
    Landin says:

    Great points Avinash. Good to put things back into perspective.

  52. 67
    Rajasekhar V says:

    Thanks for this post. I really liked "Then you'll recognize: I'm good at x, y, z, but I'm passionate about q." part of it mostly because I am at such an inflection point in my life myself :)

    What you mentioned seems more like common sense to me. But as common sense is, it is unusally difficult to figure out, being caught in the mundane things of life. After all, it is so easy to see now that Apples fall on ground due to gravity but to have figured it out in the first place would be the key!

  53. 68
    Nicola says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I hadn't read the blog for a while and decided to today and after reading that, am I glad I did!

    Before reading it I had JUST had a conversation with my husband as to whether to make the (perhaps small) jump from marketing manager to marketing analyst. Not exactly life changing perhaps but I have found myself increasingly frustrated and unhappy in my current role to the point where I fear that soon I will no longer add value. I know deep down that am all about numbers but my job role is to constantly look at web and email content which I know is a weakness of mine (although I don't look at any web content before I've looked at the relevant data, naturally ;)).

    I'm not going to do anything rash until I have made a plan but this blog has inspired me to start putting the wheels in motion. Thanks!

  54. 70
    Theo Erwing says:

    Most excellent read.

    Very inspiring.

    Cheers, T.

  55. 71
    My Say says:

    Hello Sir,

    Its been over an year since I am visiting your space ..although these days its quite frequent as I wish to dive into the sea of analytics and google says you are one of the best. :) . A portion of your Venn Diagram indicates that there are some things which you are passionate about and companies value too yet you do not do and I feel, probably , its the time constraint.Once we recognize the blue time seems flying away.Hope you would agree.

    This article comes to me at the rightest time when its just been 2 years I have realized what I am passionate about and trust me every sentence I read was exactly what I have gone through since these last two years and till date. I gave up on my passion until recently(just for the time being and as nobody pays for it and I know am still not too good to get paid :) ) just to make sure I attain 'nirvana' someday.But as you said , its so true, recognizing my blue (after 7 years of doing what I was good at and was never even close to my passion) makes me a content man.I have downloaded your philosophies as I could connect with every bit jotted down here.This article assures I have started walking on the right path.

    Words may fall short as to how much I loved reading this.

    Explains why you are a genius of analytics.

    Thank you again , Sir!

  56. 72
    Andre Niemeyet says:

    Brilliant and thank you!

    I would add a twist: people-centric efforts.

    Often times we get trapped into seeing work as a task check list rather than a venue to positively touch people's lives. As I see it, any company worth working for is ultimately aiming at the latter. And if we let that drive us, then it's much easier to find the alignment between work and passion, at least in my experience.

    At the end of our lives, I hardly think we will be thinking about how well we tackled our task check list. Instead, we will likely think about the people we've touched, the trusts we've built, and the community we've served.

    To quote Hunger Games: life is not measured by the number of years lived, but by the number of lives we touched.

  57. 73
    Dominic says:

    Nicely put Andre! Life is about having a meaningful & lasting impact. Really liked the quote.

    Dominic

  58. 74
    Rajat Khatri says:

    Avinash Sir,

    The biggest advantage of the web world is that one can follow his mentor/ teacher/follower even without seeing him (that's how we are connected and yes I follow you being a Dronacharya for me in field of Digital Analytics). With this post you have highlighted all the critical points that one should know not only after landing in a job but may be when he is between his late teens. This post should be made mandatory in schools/ colleges.

    After spending 7+ years in corporate world and in field of Analytics, I find doing a self Analysis to figure out what am I aiming for. Worst part is it's not only me but millions of people who are doing the same. From the last 6 months am reading a lot to figure out answer to my question and thus your post has come at the right time (atleast for me). Homework for me is to create Venn diagram.

    Tough to say which among the 12 points mentioned is the best one, but for me most critical at the moment were #1, 7 and 8 since they are connected. #1 is a problem for me and 7 & 8 is what am doing to find a solution.

    I might be incorrect in suggesting but these 12 points should be in different order where the post should start with #1,7,8 since that's what you want to highlight and should end with #3, 10 and 12 since they are important but not as critical as other points and based on individuals, rest of the points can have their order. For myself, I have copied the pdf, changed the order to 1,2,7,8,11,4,6,9,5,3,10 and 12 and pasted in front of me.

    Thanks again for being an unseen mentor and keep on guiding through your posts.

    Regards,
    Rajat Khatri

  59. 75
    June Dershewitz says:

    On #8:

    Years ago I attended a talk you gave. Afterwards you dropped me a note asking for feedback, and I sent feedback. Since then I've watched your presentation style grow and evolve, and I know it's due in part to those little requests for feedback.

    Whenever I'm trying to drum up the courage to ask "So, how'd I do?" (whatever it was I just did), I think back on the success you've found in that practice.

    June

  60. 76
    Bryant Keefe says:

    #3 should be considered by all employees as important. It is OK to ask those in charge what the business is doing to grow, succeed. To ask how you can help and take the initiative to help bring in revenue. Everybody is in sales and should be rewarded for this mindset. Do not wait for others to do the work. And if you are on a sinking ship by all means try your best to right it but know when to get out. Become known for your hustle.

    On a side note: How wonderful that we live in societies that give us this chance to explore passions and work choices. Many people never get to have this conversation and it was not that long ago that very few if any had these choices. Not that long ago you just did what your Dad did and his Dad before him.

    Thank you for writing smart stuff.

  61. 77
    Seema Gupta says:

    Nice thoughts Avinash

  62. 78

    Great post! I tend to agree that those take the long road tend to capitalize better in the long term, than those that took a short route to fame and success.

  63. 79
    Serge says:

    It was extremely interesting to read!

    I do agree with your philosophies as I have the same viewpoint. And I actually did succeed in managing to get my life/work into the overlapping area. Though this is not the ideal yet but I'm working on it.

    What I can add is that sometimes you think that this is your nirvana, you're already in the area of confluence of three colors but only later with experience you start to realize that it wasn't really the perfection. So, you pick new goals and start moving to that direction.

    Conclusion: don't loosen up too early, think twice.

  64. 80
    Madan U S says:

    "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." -Will Rogers.

    LOL! Yeah, that sucks – most times we are unable to stop digging… Guess we value stupid action more than being right and doing nothing.

  65. 81
    Vang Lian says:

    Avinash, I really liked this post of your among all others.

    I keep combing back again and again to this article. I have shared it to some of my circles as well. Really helpful for someone like me who is into the early years of my career.

    Thanks a lot for the thoughts. I have learnt a lot from this.

  66. 82
    Deepak Bhaskaran says:

    Brilliant post Avinash, agree to almost all the points.

    The point I live by: Always sign up for projects that you love and believe you will succeed at. And celebrate everyday, by giving your 100% in what you sign up for.

  67. 83

    Hi Avinash,
    Great to meet you at Google during the summit! Loved your presentation! Especially "suck less…" We are now in the process of setting up our new site based on your model.

    Your post is right on! I have guidning principles similar to yours and I have them to guide my life.

    If you find yourself in Stockholm let me know!

    //Pär

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