I have a confession to make: I am terrified of calling people. I don’t why, but something about not seeing people’s faces and expressions when talking to them makes me feel extremely awkward. At the same time, I am actually quite shy and often at a loss for words and those weaknesses are magnified when being on the phone.
However, I set myself a challenge and interviewed a few brilliant minds in the blogosphere and business world and I will give you excerpts of those interviews here on the blog and on the podcast. If you’d like to read the entire interviews you should wait no longer and join my email list.
The series is being kicked off by no other than Penelope Trunk. It was a huge honor to be talking to her and to say that I was nervous would be an understatement. However, the interview turned out great and I had tons of fun hearing her unique perspective on following your passion, life and doing work you love.
I remember the exact moment I first heard of Penelope. I was talking to Torre DeRoche at a meet up in Melbourne hosted by Farnoosh Brock. She was mentioning how Penelope Trunk had given some extremely honest advice to someone on a Podcast. I had no idea who Penelope was, shamefully, but ever since that moment I read her blog and was very intrigued by her brutal honesty.
Penelope is the co-founder of Brazen Careerist, which is her third startup and a networking tool for young professionals. So, the topic of finding work that you love and finding a career that fits your lifestyle are topics she is an expert at.
Does the topic of living your passion matter to you at all or is it something that is foreign to you?
Well, I’ve always had to support myself and I’ve never been married to a guy who can support the kids and me. So if I had unlimited money I would have a Pilates teacher and a yoga teacher live at my house and I’d probably have a chef that would be next to me while I cook so I learn to cook really well. And I also would have two full time nannies living in the house. So it’s hard to say this like I’m living my passion. I think people mistake living their passions for their dream life. Like what would we do if we had unlimited money is so, so different than what we would do if we had to support ourselves.
I don’t actually think there is any evidence that people who have unlimited money make better decisions about how to be happy. So then, the whole thing about living your passion, I don’t know it just seems like a lot of bull shit. We should all just try to do something that we are engaged in all day and support ourselves so we don’t starve to death and be surrounded by people who love us. I think doing that is super, super hard to do. No one has time to worry about if they are living their passion or whatever, it seems like a question out of a Mel Gibson movie. Is that a terrible answer?
No, absolutely, that’s a great one. Actually you kind of went into the next one too. That was, is it even realistic to do meaningful work and to do work that you are very passionate about? Do you think we can pursue that? Or is it like you said, just stuff that happen in movies?
There’s no evidence that people need to do work that they are passionate about. There’s very good research about what makes the best workers because it’s so cost effective for companies to dump money into that research because then it gets more work out of employees. This is extremely well research terrain here. What makes the best employees are the happiest, most engaged, most connected employees – obviously those are the ones that want to work. The way you get those employees is by creating challenging goals for them to meet and giving them control over their workload.
So that’s all people need it is absolutely, completely irrelevant if you’re working at something you are passionate about. It’s relevant if you’re doing something that’s challenging and interesting and it’s relevant if have goals that you can meet, but the whole passion thing, I don’t know, I mean people should just be passionate about finding someone who loves them, that they love and putting a roof over their heads. Right? That’s pretty hard to do. We should talk about that that’s not hard to do, but I don’t see anyone having an easy time, I don’t see anyone saying “Oh yeah, raising kids is a cinch’ and I don’t see anyone saying that having a healthy marriage is easy. I’m pretty sure that that is really, really tough. And when we have to feed ourselves.
So the idea that we also have to have some miraculously passion filled life, I don’t know it’s just such bull shit, it’s so ridiculous. I feel like that actually is what makes people crazy. It what makes people go in mental wards because they feel like there’s this huge meaning to life that they are not getting yet. There’s not, I mean to say that you are having a life where you do your passion it’s just gibberish. No one even knows what that means. We know what makes people happy and it has nothing to do with doing stuff you are passionate about. It really, truly does not – in anyway, it’s not measurable, it’s not definable. So people should just shut up, and the advice – now I’m on a tirade, you can edit – the advice that people should do what they are passionate about is by lifeless soulless, crappy career counselors and parents who are unhappy with what they are doing and so are making an incredibly high and unreachable bar for everyone else.
So, you think that trying to achieve the state of doing something you really love and are passionate about is a way of making yourself essentially very unhappy because you can’t really reach this goal?
Well it’s an unreachable goal. We know that people who set challenging but reachable goals are happy. And we know that saying you have to do something you’re passionate about is undefinable. It’s an undefined goal, anyone who sets that as a goal at IBM would be fired, right? It’s an unreachable goal. So it’s just going to make you crazy. And anyway you don’t have time in your life to set crazy goals. If you go to the gym every day to stay healthy and you are in a healthy relationship and you can support yourself, you don’t have time for anything else.
There are no other big things, and that’s like someone who doesn’t have kids. Someone who has kids, forget it, they aren’t even going to get those three things done. Very few people, if you look at the world like, look at the people who chased their crazy passion throughout their life – you see Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Muriel Spark – she’s my favorite example right now because she shipped her kid off to someone else to write novels because the kid was distracting and it’s like, people who are completely absorbed in their own passions are like being in the book Lolita. The guy Humbert, the quintessential man who lives by his passions and he can’t support himself, he’s a child molester, he’s ruining people’s households, he can’t hold down a job. So the idea that you spend your life chasing your passions is totally childish.
Anyone, you can watch in the world who did that had a person behind them cleaning up the mess.
You know but still, we are all also running around and trying to fulfill whatever it is that society wants us to be and I know I did that all of my life. I tried to please my parents, I tried to please society and I tried to be someone I’m not. So do you have any tips, anything for my listeners, my reader who are so sick and tired of living up to society’s standards and would like to just change that?
Being something that you are not is totally a separate issue than doing what you are passionate about. Because you can’t even talk about what you want to do until you know who you are. The first thing is to go take a Meyer’s Briggs Test, most kids are, most parents think their kids are either ENTJ’s or INST’s or INSJ’s. Parents don’t have the capacity to imagine their kids as the other types of personalities. It’s just too complicated. Parents don’t ever imagine that they’re raising a kid who’s Einstein because that’s socially unacceptable, they would want Einstein with good social skills but that doesn’t exist.
Parents never imagine they are raising an accountant, they imagine they are raising a CEO. But in fact more people would be happy being accountants; very few would be happy being a CEO. Or even the caretaker types, like those sensitive, like a lot of woman are very sensitive and parents imagine they are going to grow up and be great moms but actually they’re not, they are too introverted. Having to take a kid to school will drive a lot of people crazy even though they are very sensitive. The first thing is to take a personality test, especially for people who have never done it; they are blown away by reading a description of themselves that actually fits themselves. So liberating, and I remember the time that it happened to me where I’m a very male personality type.
I am a type that should be running companies, so I shouldn’t be good at dating, I shouldn’t be good at taking my clothes, I shouldn’t be good at having friends and I should be power hungry. And all of those things, to read it back to me and to hear that it was OK to be that – it was so, I was in shock. I was like “oh, yeah, it’s true, I’ve been actually trying to pretend that I’m someone who is good at doing stuff I’m not good at!” So the first step is to read that to yourself, what your personality type is. And then just start doing what any good personality test will just give you a list of things that you will be good at and just start trying that. Forget what you thought you should be good at, just start trying those things that the personality test says you’d probably be good at.
Odds are that one of them you are going to feel really good doing. It’s not going to be – very few people will come up with saving starving children in Zimbabwe and then running the UN. Right? In fact, someone who can save starving children would not like running the UN and vice versa. Most people are going to come up with very humdrum jobs that they’re going to be happy with. I’m actually happy going to meetings all day. It’s not like my parents raised me to be someone who loves going to meetings, but that’s just who I am. I think it’s not about finding your passion, and finding your calling. It’s finding what you’re good doing. What you’re going to be good at because that’s just who you are and accepting that most people are going to be very happy doing very unglamorous jobs.
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