My Framework For Finding Your Passion in 24 Months or Less
Anthony Bourdain’s television career started after he wrote a short article while working as a chef.
Facebook began in a college dorm room as a website for ranking fellow students based on their looks.
Big things start small. We know this from nature itself—a tree begins as a seed, canyons from small creeks, a human from a cell.
Careers are no different.
An entire career can start from a single online course, a project, or a freelance gig. But instead we’re taught that a career must be a meticulously planned ten year roadmap.
For many of us, this is not a realistic manner of approach. When you aren’t sure what you want to do in life, it also causes confusion and anxiety. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, what chance do you have at creating a 10, 20, or even 30 year plan?
The Main Career Struggle
I’ve talked to hundreds of people via emails, coaching calls, comments, and direct messages about changing their career. One of the most common obstacles they deal with is fear of making the wrong decision.
What if I waste my time?
What if I realize this career isn’t for me?
Can I really get a job doing this?
There are plenty of reasons why people don’t find what is meaningful to them. But this fear and indecision is usually the main culprit. It causes us to lose time by just standing in the same place, fear of making a change.
What I’ve found that’s helped me and others overcome this fear is through what I call Experiments of Interest.
What’s an Experiment of Interest
An Experiment of Interest is a project where you explore an area of curiosity for a set amount of time. The time and manner in which you explore are up to you. It could be browsing through YouTube and Reddit threads for a week, taking an online course that takes you a few weeks, or trying to find freelance gigs for the next three months.
Whatever method you choose, the main thing to understand is that it is an experiment, so you don’t know if it’s going to work out or not.
You’re simply testing a hypothesis. The hypothesis could be:
“I think I’d like data analytics.”
“I wonder if I could freelance my graphic design skills”
“Maybe I want to be an accountant?”
The Benefits of an Experiment
Small Projects = More Action
When you decide you’re going to do an experiment, there’s a lot less pressure than making a massive career move. You don’t have to spend years studying. You don’t have to quit your job right away. You don’t have to commit when you simply don’t know.
There also isn’t the pressure to be correct or succeed. You are simply trying something. Will it be your next passion? Will it lead to a full-time job? You can’t say. There’s no way of knowing until you try. And doing small experiments means you’ll get to try right away.
Useful Skills No Matter What
When you do a small project, you learn a new skill. Maybe it’s excel, social media marketing, copywriting, design, project management, or a software like Trello or Photoshop. Being exposed to that skill for even just a month means you can leverage it for later opportunities.
For example, say you take a course in data analytics and at the end of the course you decide not to pursue it. You now have a sought after skill like Excel that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
But wasn’t the experiment a failure?
Well, you learned more about the area itself, what you like, what you don’t like, and you came out of it with a relevant skill. Sounds like an overall win. The alternative is drowning in information and online reviews of bootcamps you’re considering.
What’s important is not if the project is a success and leads to a life-long career. What’s important are the skills, experiences, and relationships you gain from it. Those will endure longer than any momentary success or failure.
A Timeline Keeps You
Oftentimes when people decide to take a course or job, they feel like they’re embarking on a life-long career, something that is supposed to last for the next 20, 30, or 40 years. Because they don’t have a clear timeline, they just default to forever.
What if instead you view it as a 60-day experiment? What if you saw your next job as a one or two year endeavor?
When you define a timeline for how long you’ll try something, it makes taking action a lot easier. This results in learning skills, gaining experience, and pursuing your interests and curiosities.
For example, say you get an offer to interview for a job but you’re not sure you want to take it. You worry about it so much you turn down the interview. But what you weren’t considering was the networking opportunities the interview would provide you. Even if you were right about not wanting the job, the recruiter or hiring manager you interviewed with could have been a bridge to your next career move.
Another important point: once you choose that timeline, make sure you go all in. I don’t mean work 12-hour days (in fact, you might only be able to invest 30 minutes a day.)
I mean go all in mentally. Try not to second-guess yourself the entire time. This might mean you can only commit to a 30-day project because any longer and you’ll feel anxious about it. That’s perfectly okay. You’ll accomplish a lot in 30 days when you can keep your head down and work.
Or else you’ll be interrupting yourself by going back to the drawing board or doing hours of research and end up with 40+ chrome tabs open.
In the past when I would start something like a course or project, I made the mistake of second guessing the decision the entire time. This cost me time and energy I could have invested into what I was doing.
Instead, track how you feel during that time.
Create a document for the project and write down how you feel as you move forward. Feeling anxious? Wondering if you should quit? Feel like you should have chosen something else? Great, write it in the document.
Document your feelings, don’t engage them. Anytime you doubt yourself, open the document and write it down.
The Benefits of a Finish Line
Viewing things as a project means you have a finish line.
Most people start working on something and don’t step back to reassess for several years. They wait until they experience enough pain or a tragic event to assess their situation.
But once the timeline arrives, whether it be two weeks or three months, you can treat it as a finish line. When you get there, step back and assess if you want to continue forward, completely stop, or make some adjustments.
Having a finish line is also motivating. For the month of May, I’m going to learn everything I can about copywriting. This way when you are doubting yourself you can also think about how it’s only for a short time period that you’re doing this. Afterwards you can step back and give the doubts air and consider them.
Creating Your Experiment of Interest
Choose a Method
First you have to choose how you're going to experiment. Will it be an online course? Doing a freelance gig? Interviewing someone?
Below are some common ways you can experiment with an area of interest. I tried to order them from least certain to most certain (see the image below). So if you’re considering graphic design but you really aren’t sure about it, start with online research for a week or two, then move on to taking a short course.
If you are pretty sure your next career move is data analytics, try taking a certification or interviewing someone who’s in the field.
Note: Being certain doesn’t mean that you’re certain you’re going to do this for the rest of your life. It just means that based on the information you currently have, you know that this is the next step you want to take.
Online Research (articles, YouTube, Tiktok, Reddit)
Short Course (Udemy, Skillshare)
Certification (Coursera, Edx)
Freelance the skill
Apply for Jobs
1-4 Year Degree/Certificate
Choose a Timeline
Consider how many hours the project itself will take as well as how much time you can realistically invest per day or week.
If you’re doing a short Udemy course, it might only take you a couple of weeks of thirty minutes a day. If you are doing a Coursera certification course, those can take anywhere from two weeks to six months.
Whatever you choose, I recommend putting the time you’ll dedicate in your calendar.
At the end of the experiment, do a journaling exercise to make sure you integrate the lessons learned.
If you hated it, there’s something you can learn about yourself that will help you find your passion. You’ll learn 100x more from how you feel in a situation than taking yet another personality test. Don’t let it go to waste.
Did the experiment teach me anything about what I value?
Did the experiment teach me anything about what I don’t value?
Did I learn anything about what type of people I like to work with?
Did I learn anything about what type of tasks I enjoy doing?
Did I learn anything about what type of tasks I don’t like doing?
Did I learn anything about what type of environments or industries I prefer?
This method of finding your passion is rooted in the principle that the only way you’ll find out what work you find meaningful is by trying things. You need to have direct experience to know whether a certain path is for you or not, and the best way to get experience is through experiments.
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