A to Z of Loving Work (condensed)

This is the condensed version of my first book – you can get the full version on Amazon or at Completely Novel

Introduction

No doubt you’re like all of us – you want to do something you love for a living.  Life’s for too short to spend half your waking hours doing something that doesn’t bring you joy.  Yet somehow, it’s all too easy to slip off the path isn’t it, to end up doing all sorts of work that you don’t really choose, to become a Busy Fool?

I started writing this little book to provide other individuals finding it hard to focus on the work they love, other people in business finding themselves torn between making the money and enjoying life, in short, other Busy Fools like me, with a guide to understandig all the many aspects of doing what you love for a living.  And in the process, I found a number of ways I could improve my own working life, and get even more joy from making a living doing work I love.

My core focus for the last few years has been Focus.  Getting business owners and entrepreneurs to focus on their best opportunities, the opportunities that they will enjoy doing and will get them where they want to go.  Because it’s that focus that creates results, giving enough attention to their core activities, that they love and will produce their success.  It’s clear to me that a major factor in how successful people are, is how much joy they find in their work.  So I’ve made it my business to understand what makes work enjoyable for people in business, and to share that those who need to know.

The book is written in the form of an A to Z, which means that it’s not something that you have to read through from start to end.  Each letter can stand on its own, so you can come back and re-read any of them individually and it will still make sense.  And it is designed to be read in order the first time through.  Some topics are restated in a slightly different way – that’s deliberate, and that should give you the clue that they’re important.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve already that about this or that, and skipping over it – there’s something new in each letter.

I believe we are all holistic beings, we can only be truly successful if all aspects of our lives are full of joy.  Work, in wahtever form it takes for you, takes up a large part of our lives, so it’s vital that you find a way to find joy in it – because how you feel about your work will spill out into the rest of your life – you’d better make it joyful!

A = Action

If you want to love what you do for a living, and make a living doing what you love, you’re going to have to take action. I don’t agree with the theory that if you just do what you love, the money will come. There’s lots else that has to be right – a way of adding value for others by what you love doing, for instance, and a product or service that people want and will pay for. But “doing what you love for a living” starts with doing.   As Will Rogers once said: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there!”

B = Busy Fool

There is a big difference between loving your work, and just doing lots of fun things during working time.  It’s very easy to get drawn into all number of activities that don’t really contribute to you doing what you love for a living.  That might be ‘interesting’ projects that you get invited to join, or it might be tasks that no-one else wants to do. You have to know where to draw the line, when to say “No”, when something you’re considering doing is a valuable addition to your dream work and when it’s just a distraction. And the most important person you need to enforce those boundaries with is … yourself!

C = Clarity

If you want to make a living doing what you love, you need to be completely clear on what it is – really – that you love to do.  Without that clarity, you will struggle to set appropriate boundaries for yourself and for others, and you will find it too easy to drift from your purpose.  The first thing to understand is what your Values are, the things that are truly important to you in your life. To help you with this, there’s a ‘values elicitation’ audio available at www.opportunity-matrix.com/values – it’s free, just sign up. The next is to understand what you’re doing when you are really at your best – the method I use is called Core Process (you can find more details about it at TheBusyFool.com).

D = Decisions

Decisions are much easier to make when you have clarity about what you’re really trying to achieve. Wealthy people tend to make decisions quickly, and change their minds rarely, while unsuccessful people hesitate for ages before making a decision, and then dither about actually putting it into practice. So how do successful people get to make the right decisions, and make them quickly?  By doing their homework; there’s no quick-fix, no silver bullet answer. And here’s their trick – they only do it once.  They focus, so everything they learn can be re-used for their next decision.

E = Enjoyment-Performance Theory

We perform better at tasks that we enjoy. And we enjoy tasks we can perform well – that’s why we can perform them well, because we do them a lot. And because we enjoy them, and we do them well, we practice more – and become even better at them. And the virtuous circle continues! Even if it’s not completely what makes our heart sing, whole most people start out in life doing things they enjoy, at least to some extent.  Then people get ambitious, and get themselves promoted, so they take on other stuff, that maybe they don’t enjoy so much. After all, you have to progress, don’t you? – it’s not all about having fun, you know, it’s serious stuff, this business lark! Except that there’s something far more serious than business … Life!

F = Fractional Work

For many, the work that we really love falls into a very narrow band.  So narrow that the only way to do that and nothing else is to work for a very large business. Traditional work’s answer to that is to give you some similar work to do as well.  If you’re lucky, this “filler” work is stuff that you can at least manage to do with good heart.  Though more often than not, the makeweight work is stuff you really don’t enjoy at all.  It might even be stuff you hate – but you have to do it, don’t you, to fill up your time. This is where you can take advantage of the situation.  If any one employer only needs a part of your time (the part spent doing what you love), that means you have a part of your time available to do other stuff, either doing the same thing for other companies, or something completely different.

G = Goals

Goal-setting is one of the most misunderstood aspects of loving your work.  I can think of nothing less enjoyable than recording all those goals you didn’t hit.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals – of course you need to set yourself objectives – any fool can just bumble along with no particular aim in mind, and say they’re loving their work.  After all, who wouldn’t enjoy doing work that it’s impossible to fail at?  Well, most people actually – while it might be enjoyable for a while to have such undemanding work, it would pretty soon become very dull. So set yourself some ‘milestone’ goals, and reward yourself for hitting them, along the way to your big life goal.

H = Higher Purpose

Many people think that they will be happy in their job if they can just get paid a bit more.  In my experience, and from what clients and colleagues tell me, that’s rarely the case.  The whole point of my mission to help you to do what you love for a living is that it’s something that you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid at all! Where people have most success in turning what they love into a living, is where they’re doing it for some higher purpose, something bigger than themselves.  That can range from all-encompassing goals like ending hunger or creating world peace to projects that just affect your local community or your spiritual group. Or it may be as simple and powerful as wanting your family to have everything they need.

I = Intuition, Inspiration & Intellect

Following on from having a higher purpose, if you want to make a living doing what you love, it helps if the actual work is something that gives your heart a lift.  Finding what that is, is where intuition and inspiration come in.  They are how your heart and spirit find expression in your work.  Intuition is that little voice in the back of your head, that feeling in your gut that something is good (or bad) for you to do.  Inspiration, on the other hand, is that clear feeling that this is something you have to do.  So it’s not just go with your heart, your inspiration – you also need to check in with your gut, your intuition, to make sure it feels right for you.   And also with your head, your intellect, to check that your dream job or business will actually succeed, that you can make a living doing work you love.

J = J.O.B.

There’s a frightening phrase you’ll hear all over the personal and wealth development field: “J.O.B. Stands for ‘Just Over Broke'”.  In some respects, it’s true – if all you’re doing is holding down a steady job and somehow hoping that it will look after you when you’re too old to swap time for money, then you are probably setting yourself up for a pretty lean retirement.  Nonetheless, I think the ‘Just Over Broke’ concept is one of the most dangerous out there, because it turns a job into a kind of dirty word. And leaping out of paid employment before you’re properly prepared is a very good way to end up completely broke!   With my clients, I prefer to describe the J.O.B. as a “Judicious Opportunity to Breathe” – all in all, the J.O.B. is a great way to bank some cash to fund an eventual – and planned – move into your dream life.

K = Kindness

If you want to love your work, you need to have people around you who you enjoy being with.  One of the great things about kindness is how infectious it is.  When you appreciate the people around you, in no time at all they will start to appreciate you back.  Unfortunately, the same goes for the negative emotions like jealousy, resentment and fear – people you are suspicious or fearful about will quickly start to be very nervous around you.  So to enjoy going to work, a great start is to be kind to your colleagues – keeping your attitude positive and full of kindness. You can also make things better with your boss, and the business as a whole, even people beyond the organisation like clients and suppliers, by setting out to be kind to them.

L = Life/Work Balance

Of course, if you love your work, the whole concept of life/work balance flies out of the window.  When what you do for a living is what you love to do anyway, all of your time is just life.  But I don’t think the life/work balance question goes away completely just because you’re having fun at your work.  It’s still important to set aside time for family and friends, for loved ones, and for yourself.  All work and no play, as the saying goes, makes Jack a dull boy (remember the film, The Shining?).  When you look carefully at that saying, you realise that ‘dull’ has a double meaning – dull, as in uninteresting, and dull, as in blunt.  By concentrating excessively on just the business or career aspect of your life, you can actually become less good at it, because you become one-dimensional.  Creating space for a richer variety of inputs is essential.

M = Mastery

The phrase “Jack of All Trades and Master of None” is frequently used in a pejorative sense, implying that being a “Jack” at something isn’t enough.  In the old craft guilds, a ‘Jack’ was the term for a journeyman, who had completed an apprenticeship, and was skilled but still honing their craft.  And journeymen made a decent living performing the craft they loved without ever becoming a master.  These days, we see many successful generalists, and we see specialists – or masters – in specific sectors, or functions.  The most value – and enjoyment in work – lies in specialising on both functional and sector lines.  A subject master who is also an expert in a sector becomes a trusted advisor.

 N = “No”: learn how to say it

One of the best ways to lose your love of work is to agree to things that don’t excite you, that leave you feeling bored or hassled as you try to summon up the enthusiasm to do them.  You know the sort of thing, that project that your favourite client gave you, because “I know it’s not what you normally do, but I know I can trust you to do a good job of it”.  And it then takes you twice as long as it should have, because you don’t have all the answers readily to hand (after all, it’s outside of your usual work), and because you keep putting it off, because you know it’s not something you’re going to enjoy.  A far better solution is to make sure your network includes colleagues and collaborators who are great at – and enjoy – the kind of work that sits either side of yours, the sort of stretch of your normal remit I just described.

O = Opportunities

Making a living doing what you love involves picking opportunities to say “Yes” to, that satisfy two major criteria: that they involve you doing work that you will love, and that you can make a living doing them.  Or at the very least that they’ll make a contribution to your success that is commensurate with the amount of time, money, effort and resources that you to commit to them.  In other words, they have to answer the two “Big Business Questions” (“Q”): • How much do you want to do this? • Will you make any money at it?  I use a simple 2×2 matrix to decide which opportunities to focus on.  On the vertical axis is “Passion” (how much you’ll love doing them) and the Horizontal axis is “Profit” (will you be able to make a living from them).

P = Pay

If you’re going to make a living doing what you love, you’re going to need to be paid.  Otherwise it’s just a hobby – maybe one you absolutely love, but a hobby nonetheless.  My friend and guide Nick Williams, who runs the Inspired Entrepreneur community, says there’s a difference between working for pay, and getting paid to work.  Working for pay is, literally, just that – the pay is the only reason for the work; if you weren’t getting paid for it, you simply wouldn’t do it.  All you’re doing when you work for pay is swapping time (and energy, and spirit) for money.  Getting paid to work is a whole different proposition – the reason for doing the work is because it’s your passion, your purpose, your mission.  Not the money.  The money is what’s going to allow you to carry on with the work – what Nick calls ‘the work you were born to do’.

 Q = Questions: ask better ones

I believe there are only two questions that need to be answered about our work: “How much do I want to do this?” and “Will I make any money at it?”  Everything else is detail.  If the work passes the first test (can you love it) but falters at the second (will it pay enough), questions about why it won’t pay well enough are not good enough.  The better question is not “Why won’t I be able to make enough doing what I love?”, but “HOW could I get paid enough for this work?”  Your unconscious mind is very obedient: when you ask yourself “why can’t I …?” your unconscious mind dutifully seeks out things to confirm the presupposition in that question: that you can’t.  And when you ask yourself “how could I …?” then your unconscious delivers ways that satisfy the positive presupposition inherent in that question – that you could

R = Resentment: avoid it like the plague

One of the best ways not to love your work is to spend time worrying about what people have done to you.  What if XYZ Co hadn’t turned me down for that job?  What if my boss hadn’t given me that impossible deadline to meet?  What if … ?  What if you just focused on the future, instead of on the past?  What if you focused on what those experiences taught you, instead of the supposed harm they did you?  Isn’t that a better question?  That’s not to say I agree with the concept of “No regrets” – refusing to regret things that you’ve done implies refusing to get the learnings from them.  There’s a big difference between regretting stuff you did (or didn’t do for that matter) and feeling bad about stuff that others did that harmed or hurt you.  So yes, I regret loads of stuff – and I resent nothing.

S = Self-Awareness

Knowing what matters to you, and knowing how you tick is an essential part of loving your work.  When you understand what sort of person you are, what you handle well and what you prefer not to have to deal with, then it’s far easier to relax into the right sort of work – for you.  Apart from deep introspection, the best way to understand yourself is through profiling systems.  These are often, mistakenly, all called psychometric testing – in fact some are personality-based, some preference-based, and some behaviour-based.  None of them give a complete picture, so I always recommend using a variety of them, depending on what you need to find out about yourself.  One thing to be very cautious about when using any profiling system is the tendency to use the results to put yourself in a box and identify yourself as the profile – you are so much more than that!  My favourite tools for self-awareness: Talent Dynamics & Core Being

T = Trust

There are three ways that trust is important to loving your work – trust that your colleagues, clients and bosses will treat you fairly, trust that others have in you, and trust that you have in yourself.  If you’re constantly on your guard against people taking advantage of you, doing you down in some way, or generally not playing fair, then it will be incredibly hard to relax, find your flow and enjoy your work.  And having confidence that others believe you will do a great job makes it far easier to get into your flow doing the things that you love.  You can focus on the joy of doing your work, without worrying about whether others are happy with how you’re doing.  And the ability to focus purely on the joy of doing the work you love, is made even easier when you are able to trust yourself to deliver a superb outcome for clients and employers.

U = Umbrella

When I speak about Focus, I usually start with the mnemonic: “Follow One Course Until Successful”.  Many people misinterpret that to mean sticking to just one activity, a tight niche, restricting them in what work they can do.  For a lot of people, that would actively get in the way of loving their work – they need a certain amount of variety in their working week to allow them to feel fulfilled.  But that’s not what Follow One Course Until Successful means – it’s one general “course”, not path, not track, not single line.   A course is a general umbrella under which everything you do fits.  For me, that’s making people happier and more effective by helping them to focus on their core opportunities and activities, that they love and will produce their success.

V = Value-Add

To make a living doing what you love, it’s essential that you find a way for it to add value for others.  You need them to be exchanging their hard-earned money for what you have to offer.  Money is the best way we have (at the moment, anyway) of keeping score, and the more value added, the higher the pay.  A corollary of that is that the more people are going to pay for your work, the more value they will have had to provide to earn that money.  And the more value they will expect in exchange for it.  Remember, it’s not you who places the value on what you provide.  You get to set the price, but that’s not the same as value.  Value is determined by the buyer – Roman scholar Publilius Syrus famously said “A thing is worth whatever a man is prepared to pay for it”.

W = Win-Win (-Win)

Business is not a zero-sum game.  It’s not a case of grabbing your share of the pie, and the more you get, the less your client gets to keep.  Just bake a bigger pie!  And the way to do that is to work together with your clients or employers to add more … value.  The important thing is to look for ways that you can both win.  And what about that third win?  That’s the client’s (or employer’s) customer.  The pie’s not going to get bigger unless they’re getting a better deal too, so they buy more of the product or service.  And the people they come into contact with win too, because they have more money or they’re just happier – we could add any number of extra wins really.  In a world that’s governed not by jealously guarding our little gain, but by growing a bigger pie, everyone can win.

X = eXperience (OK, I know, it’s a bit of a cheat – I don’t think you wanted me talking about enjoying all the “Xylophone” tones of work?)

If there is something that you feel you would enjoy doing for a living, there’s nothing to stop you from setting out to gain experience in doing it.  In a job, you can ask for assignments or projects that give you the experience.  And if you are in business, you could take lower-paid work that allows you to gain it, or even go back into a job for a while.  Another aspect of experience that contributes to you loving your work is your ability to learn from it – so make sure you’re not one of those ‘veterans’ who’ve been in and around business for decades, but they have just one year’s experience – repeated many times! The last part of experience as a factor in loving your work is requisite variety – organising your work life so that it provides just the right amount of new experiences for you to satisfy your natural curiosity without it overwhelming you.

Y = You-nique

There are about seven billion people in the world.  And you are just one.  That makes you rarer than the most precious of gems, more singular than the most iridescent of pearls, more unique than the finest of art.  So the last thing you want to be is just like everyone else!  Most of us have heard marketers speak about needing to identify our USP, our ‘Unique Selling Point’.  Writer and success guru Harv Eker takes the concept further, and talks about each of us having what he calls our ‘You-nique’ Selling Point.  Because no two of us are the same, every single one of us is different in some subtle way from everyone else.  And that’s what makes employers and clients want to work with us – because they genuinely cannot get exactly what we offer anywhere else.

 Z = Zeal

Zeal, passion, enthusiasm, no matter what you call it, if what you do for a living doesn’t absolutely light you up with excitement every workday morning, you haven’t found the work you love.  I’ve left this most important aspect of loving your work until last, so if you remember nothing else, remember this.  Far too many people drag themselves out of bed on a Monday morning thinking ‘Oh God, I’ve got to go to work today!’; when you’re making a living doing the work you love, when what you do for work is what lights up your heart, you leap out of bed on a Monday morning, shouting:  ‘Oh good – I get to go to work today!”

 

Summary

Doing what you love for a living needs a number of things to be in place, each of which is important.  From practical issues like actually making a living, to spiritual and emotional fulfilment, it all has to be present: focus and clarity, a higher purpose, adding value, giving you certainty and control over your working life, mental and spiritual stimulation, and most of all you have to be enthusiastic about it.

If you are clear in your mind about what kind of work you enjoy, and you can explain simply and concisely what kind of work you want to focus on, then employers and clients can start to bring it to you.  And focus will give you a framework to avoid becoming a busy fool, and to make the right decisions to keep you doing the work you love to do.

Loving your work is rarely about the money.  There’s always some higher purpose that the money is for – ranging from providing for your own family, to making the world a better place for our global family.  And on aeroplanes, they always say to fix your own oxygen mask first, before trying to help others; the same goes for your higher purpose – to make the difference you were born to make, you first need to make a living.

The way to make a living doing what you love is to find the way that your passion adds value for others.  The more value you create, the better a living you’ll be able to make.  It’s not about making sure you grab your share, it’s about working with others to create more value, to bake a bigger pie, so there’s enough for all, and you can enjoy your work without competing for a living.

Knowing exactly how you add that value will give you certainty in your working life.  Because you are you-nique, once you understand the value that you add, you have a greater level of control over what work you do, and how.  New working methods like fractional jobs can allow you to manage the balance between your work and the reason you do it.

Ensuring your working experience is positive plays a big part in loving your work.  Creating respectful and pleasant work environments, getting the right balance between right-brain and left-brain processes, having a deep understanding of what is important to you and how you ‘tick’, and using experiences to learn and grow will all help to create a fulfilling and meaningful working life.

And more than anything else, making a living doing work you love requires – and inspires – enthusiasm and passion for and in your work.

So above all, have FUN!

 

Resources

Declaration: the author has a financial interest in some of these recommended products and services, and some links are affiliate links upon which the author is paid a commission.  The financial benefit is not the reason for the recommendation, it’s the reward – see “P” for “Pay”.

Opportunity Matrix

Created by the author, this is a deceptively-simple method of determining which of your portfolio of possibilities to focus on, to identify the core opportunities and activities that you love and will produce your success.  Available as a DIY online tool, or a choice of facilitated programs.
WEB: www.opportunity-matrix.com  Email: info@opportunity-matrix.com  Phone: +44 (0)20 8144 7494

Wealth Dynamics

Created by Singapore-based entrepreneur and trainer Roger Hamilton, Wealth Dynamics is a profiling system that helps business-people understand their easiest path to success. Based loosely on the i-Ching, Wealth Dynamics highlights 8 main profiles, each of which plays a different role in the success of a team or a business, and only by finding a role that fully utilises your main profile can you be truly fulfilled in your work.  For a brief article about it, see Web: www.TheBusyFool.com/wealth-dynamics or use this link to go to the main website: www.thebusyfool.com/WealthDynamics

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