If you are looking to do creative work

Finding your purpose & being present in the journey

In my profession of connecting people with jobs, I often hear about people who randomly fall into their career and are questioning if its actually what they really want to be doing.

These are the same people that have watched the Steve Jobs convocation speech a million times (yes, myself included!) and know that they aren’t doing what they love now but they don’t want to “settle” until they find it!

So, I often think and discuss with candidates, where is the happy medium between making money and doing something that you love?

Well first off, I think there are three parts to this:

  • How to actually find your purpose
  • How to be present while searching for the thing that you love
  • Understanding that your love may take time to come to fruition


The best piece I’ve found written on this topic is a summary of Van Gough by Maria Popova on her famous site branpickings.org (check it out, you can spend days reading her articles).

The article is entitled:  How Van Gogh Found His Purpose: Heartfelt Letters to His Brother on How Relationships Refine Us.

You can find it here:  http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/01/van-gogh-purpose-letter/

In my opinion, the most important sentence to me that Popova writes is about Van Gogh is:


Reflecting on having spent the past five years “more or less without a position, wandering hither and thither,” Van Gogh revisits the question of finding his purpose. In a sentiment reminiscent of Picasso’s remark that “to know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing,” he offers a magnificent counterpoint to the myth that so frequently paralyzes people, especially young people, who set out to live a life of purpose — the idea that the path must reveal itself before you embark upon it, that you must “find yourself” before you begin your creative journey.


I think embarking and taking small steps is the best thing someone can do.

Here is another post by Maria Popova that is a great read:  http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

A few books that help on this topic as well:

  • Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson
  • Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J Palmer

Disclaimer:  I’ve read all of the above and still haven’t “found it”.  The reading has helped point me in the right direction and to be present while doing so.


 If you are wondering how to be present in a role you don’t love while you are doing what you love on the side, check out this podcast with Lewis Howes who runs the school of greatness podcast and Marie Forleo who runs B-School, an 8 week online video-based training program that shows you how to build a unique and profitable brand.

Check out the podcast here:  http://lewishowes.com/podcast/marie-forleo/

Marie does a great job explaining how to be present while searching for the things you love to do.

The big takeaways for me:

  • Marie kept thinking “this job isn’t for me”. She felt like she had a ton of potential but time was passing her by.
  • Her big mantra. “Clarity comes from engagement and not thought”.  Whenever she felt like she should do something, she took small steps to get there (it didn’t involve quitting her job).
  • Took her 3 years to graduate from a life coach course. After she finished she didn’t feel compelled to get certified.
  • Thought process for her journey: For her its been a 10+ year journey.  How do you dream big and be realistic?  She is driven and ambitious.  There is the want for instant gratification.  It often sets us up to be unhappy.  She wrested with reconciling the fact that she had big dreams, was not there yet but didn’t want to be miserable until she gets there because she is smart enough to know when she gets there her dreams will just get bigger!
  • Thanks goodness she discovered a set of practices for living in the moment. It helped her get out of her head and live in the here and now.  This is it.  Making whatever is happening in the moment, you attack it.  Bartending, scrubbing floors, personal assistant etc.  She didn’t want to be a desperate life coach because she didn’t want to be needy.  If she could make money, she could be less desperate when she did what she loved.  Love the moment and be super pumped about where you are going.  You strike a balance between being here and now but also being pumped for the future.


If you are currently doing something creative on the side and it has yet to yield real results, check out this 2 minute thought by Ira Glass:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbC4gqZGPSY&feature=youtu.be


FYI, I found this video through following Mitch Joel and the six pixels of separation blog which if fantastic:  http://bit.ly/1BBe2xC


Big point:  For the first little while of doing something creative, your taste is killer, but your work isn’t that good.  Keep going!

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