Chapter 5: Seek

From Duty to Passion

One of the most eloquent descriptions we’ve encountered of the sweet spot between passion and possibility came from Jim Collins, author of bestselling business books Built to Last and Good to Great. Tom ran into him at a speaking event many years ago just as Good to Great was hitting the market. In his talk, without a PowerPoint or even a whiteboard, Jim began by drawing a Venn diagram of three overlapping circles in the air, challenging the audience to follow along using “theater of the mind.”

The three circles represented three questions you should ask yourself: “What are you good at?” “What will people pay you to do?” and “What were you born to do?” If you focus on just what you’re good at, you can end up in a job you are competent at but that doesn’t fulfill you. As for the second circle, while people say, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” that’s not literally true.

One of David’s favorite activities is tinkering in the studio above his workshop; one of Tom’s dreams is to travel the world, collecting stories and experiences from different cultures. So far no one has offered to pay us to do those things. The third circle—what you were born to do—is about finding work that is intrinsically rewarding. The goal is to find a vocation that you’re good at, that you enjoy, and that someone will pay you to pursue. And of course it’s important to work with people you like and respect.

The audience members that day all seemed to have the same burning question: how do you know what you were born to do? We believe the answer is related to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, an expert in the field of positive psychology, calls “flow”—that creative state in which time seems to slip away and you are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake. When you are in a state of flow, the world around you drops away and you are fully engaged.