Where does money come from? For the vast majority of us, it comes from work. It’s earned.
Once you’ve earned and saved money, you can create investment income that can be passive. But for our conversation today, let’s talk about doing meaningful work you enjoy that will earn you a living.
A recipe for a happy life is this; earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can.
Over the course of a 40 to 50 year career, it makes sense to try to earn as much as possible. In a perfect world, you’d get started as early as possible in the right situation. The alternative is hopping from job to job, never really sticking to something and developing mastery.
Far too many of us struggle to find meaningful work we enjoy. In fact, most us dislike our work (depending on what survey you read), and that sucks because we spend most of our time working.
When I was a kid, I literally had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up.
My mom, while incredible, was a single mom who was a schoolteacher. My grandfather was a successful insurance executive, but had retired long before I was old enough to learn about his career path.
When I got to college, my plan was to go to law school. Not because I wanted to be a lawyer (I did not know what lawyers actually did), but because I perceived it to be a worthwhile profession where I could earn a good living. I took the LSAT and to be admitted to several law schools.
Thankfully, (no offense to lawyers) I ended up not going to law school, and moved to a new city to find a job.
As an undergrad, I can remember talking to a girlfriend and hearing her say “I’m not interested in financial services.” Hand on heart, I did not know what financial services were.
Today, I’ve been in financial services for 20+ years and it’s been a brilliant career for me. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Point of the story is this; I happened into it. There was no one in my life when I was a kid who talked to me about careers. My goal is to help you be a lot more intentional about finding meaningful work you enjoy.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The value of hard work
- A career you love
- Beliefs about work and career
- Clarifying your goals
- Finding the right fit
Let’s get started.
The value of hard work
Have you ever done hard work? Do you do it now?
Could you be working harder? Should you be? If you’re not, why aren’t you?
Who’s in charge of your success? Is it you or someone else?
Those are questions I asked myself frequently, subscribing to the idea, “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
I’m a member of Generation X. Every day, I count my blessings, which include but aren’t limited to:
- Being of sound mind and body
- Being born and living in the United States
- Having a grandfather who fought for the US Army in WWII and the Korean War, which set the stage for the opportunities and success I enjoy today
- Possessing a strong work ethic and desire to be the best possible version of myself
Bottom line, I’m a very fortunate person.
So what’s the point?
I believe hard work is good. I believe it’s required. And I think you should embrace it.
“I will get you what you want, and it will cost you nothing.” – Steven Pressfield
That’s from Steven Pressfield’s wonderful book, Turning Pro. He refers to it as the bill of goods we’ve been sold, and it’s a lie.
A successful and rewarding life has a cost, and that cost is hard work.
Technology and innovation have made many of us knowledge workers. We’ve become obsessed with “hacks” and shortcuts. We’ve outsourced a lot of our “real” work to other countries; a dangerous practice we’re waking up to.
We’re trying to work smarter and not harder. Many of us have become entitled, complacent, and lazy.
The Great Resignation began in 2021, and only time will tell how history will view it. But from the outside looking in, it appears to be an indictment of the work ethic of many people.
Could this be me screaming, “Get off my lawn!” at Millennials and Gen Z? Maybe.
“There was a historian in the 14th century who wrote a book about what he knew of the world, and for that time it was pretty good. One of the interesting observations he made is that all the tribes that have difficulty feeding themselves are lean and healthy, and those that have plenty of food are fat, lazy and unhealthy.” – Dr. Michael DeBakey
Who does that sound like?
Have you ever heard the term “immigrant mentality?” It means doing whatever it takes to be successful. I’m always amazed at stories of people who arrived in the United States with no money, no connections, and no English, who became millionaires. It’s the American Dream.
I’m also saddened and aware of the many problems in our country. Racism, sexism, ageism, inequality, and many other terrible human behaviors are real and present. As a society, it’s imperative we stamp these things out wherever they are.
Despite all the bad things, people from all over the world still want to come here. Despite those many bad things, people overcome them every day on their way to success.
So, is hard work good, or is it bad?
Hard work is neither good nor bad. It just is.
What many people recognize is that it’s a tool. Can’t speak the language? Outwork everyone. Don’t have the connections? Outwork everyone. Didn’t come from money? Outwork everyone.
The way forward
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Teddy Roosevelt
Let’s talk about how to find a career you love.
What does it mean to have a career you love?
There’s a lot of talk about finding your purpose and that’s great for people who can actually find it. If you’ve found yours, congrats.
Here’s a different perspective. Find work you consider to be meaningful and important. Once you’ve done that, work hard and get good at it. When you do that, purpose will follow and you’ll love what you do.
I believe that our worth is found in our work, and that meaning is found in responsibility. Does that mean your career will provide you with all of those things? Maybe. Maybe not.
You may get some of them from your career, and others from your family, community involvement, or hobby. The key is to figure out what you want, and to make a plan for getting it.
How do I find a career I love?
Don’t take a siloed approach in thinking about careers and work. Instead, talk about integrating a career with every other aspect of life, such as family, friends, social life, and hobbies. While I’m not specifically talking about work/life balance, that certainly has something to do with it.
Where do you want to be? Finding the career you love
- Your ideal life and lifestyle. Think big, deep, and honestly about this. What do you want your life to look like? How will you spend your mornings, afternoons, and evenings? Where will you be and who will be there with you? What will you be doing? Consider the role of your family, friends, social life, hobbies, and anything else you find important.
- How much money will it take to fund that lifestyle? Work backwards to figure out how much everything will cost.
- There are a lot of ways to make money. You can make a lot of money being an employee of a company (estimates suggest there were over 1,000 millionaires at Google at one point). Working in sales can provide the ability to earn a high income while providing time, freedom, and flexibility. Starting your own business has historically been the best path to becoming financially successful in America.
- Do your research. What does it mean to be an engineer at Google? What does a typical day look like and how do you get that job? What do salespeople really do? What does it take to become an entrepreneur? Ask similar questions of whatever career you’re considering.
- Get as much real world experience as you can. Once you’ve narrowed down careers that interest you, dig in deeper. Are there internship opportunities? Can you shadow someone doing it? Can you speak with someone doing it? Getting as close as you can to doing the work to determine if it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life.
Beliefs about work and career
Everyone has core beliefs about work and career. You formed yours by observing your parents and others, and from your life experiences. It’s important to figure out what your beliefs are.
Here is a list of prompts about work and career. As you talk through them, write the first thing that comes to mind; don’t overthink it.
This exercise can help uncover any negative or limiting beliefs about work, and also give you direction on preferences and or fears.
- Work is
- A career is
- I’d have a career I love if
- My parents thought work was
- In my family, work
- Work equals
- If I had the career I want, I’d
- If I could afford it, I’d
- Doing work you love is
- Having a rewarding career is
- Hard work is
- Loving work is
- When I think about work, I
- I think work
- People think work
- My career is
Spend some additional time talking about any that really stood out.
Clarifying your career goals and the work you want to do
When you take the time to reflect on what you want your future to look like, when you create a plan of action, and then execute that plan, most any reality can be yours.
It’s time for you to create the future you desire.
For each prompt, think about and write about how you want (Add/subtract/substitute anything you’d like).
- What do you do for a living?
- What is your job?
- How much money do you earn?
- What impact do you have?
- Where is your office?
- How much time do you spend working?
- Who do you work with?
- Who do you help?
- Why do you do what you do?
- How does your work make you feel?
- How does your work make others feel?
- What does your family think about your work?
- What do other people think about your work?
- What do you think about your work?
- How long will you work for?
Finding the perfect fit
We’re in a fortunate moment when we can choose to do work that not only rewards us monetarily, but can also fulfill us. That being said, it won’t happen on its own.
In order to find rewarding work we can be compensated for, we need to work to figure out what it is.
The Japanese concept of Ikigai can help with this process. It asks you to think about your passion, mission, vocation, and profession. At the intersection of these four things is what you ought to pursue.
While there’s certainly no guarantee you’ll discover what it is, or that it even exists, I submit it’s worth going through the exercise.
Work through these questions:
What do you love?
- What do you never get bored with?
- When are you happiest?
- When was the last time you lost track of time?
- What leaves you feeling energized?
What are you good at?
- What do people ask you for help with?
- What comes naturally to you?
- What are you great at without trying?
What can you get paid for?
- Can you make a good living doing this work long-term?
- How saturated is the space? Can you spot a niche?
- Which careers, jobs or positions spark your interest?
What does the world need?
- What can you do that will have a positive impact?
- What problems would you like to help solve?
- Will your work still be relevant a decade from now?
- What is the world lacking?
- How could you be more involved in the community?
We spend most of our lives sleeping and working. When you figure out what kind of work you want to be doing, and you do it, you’ve positioned yourself for contentment. Life is too short, and too long, not to do meaningful work.
Get to work figuring out what you want to be doing.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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