MY NAME IS GREGG. I’m 48. I have a cushy homelife, a view of the forest out back, and plenty of food in the fridge. I’ve been working since I was 15 and picked up a couple of degrees along the way. I’ve worked in some great jobs and great cities and now work for one of the best brands in the world. I won’t say there were a lot of hard times throughout my career, mostly some bumps and minor bruises.
There’s never been a better time to start your own gig. You’ll find shelves of books on how to start a business and design your own career. They’ve always been there, but the internet has made much of it possible. Finding work has never been easier. Choosing how, when and whom you work for has never been easier. You can do bookkeeping during the day and shoot weddings on the weekend and make a killing at it. It’s an exciting time if you can figure out what you want to do.
The formula for finding the right job, business or career has never changed. You decide which things are most important to you, figure out what you’re good at, and find something you like to do that feeds both of those needs. Values + Skills + Interests = happy career. Here’s how it works.
Values. People value different things at different times in their lives. One thing I value is education. I believe education can dig us out of most of the problems get ourselves into. It’s one thing that gives people a shot a something better. More of it usually leads to more opportunity. I like that. I can pour a lot of myself into the pursuit of education because I believe in it. I don’t believe in selling shit people don’t need. That’s why I’m a terrible salesman. But helping others get better at something is worth sinking my teeth into.
What do you value? Is it money or time? Family or freedom? You can do anything for a short time, but you can’t do something you don’t value for very long. Do you value sports? You don’t need to be the athlete to manage, market, or endorse them. Do you value order? Find something that allows you to put things into nice piles or rows of numbers. Order keeps us in our lanes and we need people like you to manage the traffic. Do you value your family? Then consider ways you can build something at home that allows you to spend more time with them.
I value honest education. I’ve been designing great learning experiences for more than 15 years because I value its intent. Right now, more than 4.5 Billion people have access to an education once reserved for the prized and privileged. Phones and broadband connections give us access to each other, and I want to use those connections to help people do bigger and better things.
The things you value can take awhile to discover and even longer to accept. When you find it, working on that thing doesn’t feel like much work at all. My father said, “You’re going to prostitute yourself to something or somebody.” You might as well make it something you value.
But values aren’t enough. To get anything done you’re going to need some Skills. A friend of mine got a little deep into his drinks this weekend and decided to play a little game with us. He pretended he’d just discovered Utopia and had final say over who got to stay, and who got launched into the sun. “What do you have to contribute?”, he said. “What natural skills do you have that the rest of us can use?”
I can design, build, manage and launch great learning experiences. I can interview people and turn their words into ideas. I can turn those half-baked ideas into coherent stories and designs that people can see and touch. I can find the right experts to use, manage them, and keep them all moving in the same direction. I can wield technology. I can present our designs to the important people, answer their questions, justify our decisions and tweak things to please most of the people most of the time. I can build a brand for our idea, market the hell out of out, and make sure people are using it the right way. I can tell you why some things are working and others don’t. And I can relieve you of having to think about any of these things along the way.
Let’s be clear - skills aren’t the things you know, they are the things you can do. Things you take for granted because you assume everyone else can, or should, be able to do them. Well, they can’t. People can’t do those things like you. What are your natural skills? What would you say if someone put you on the stand and asked, “What do you have to contribute? What can you do?”
Fortunately, things aren’t that dire and my friend is not taking over the world anytime soon. We still have choices. We still have our Interests.
Interests are the third part of the formula. The things we love above
all else. The moments in which we get lost and lose track of time. When left
unchecked, my son will look at maps on his iPad for hours. He sees something in
the streets and rows of houses that I don’t see. He never gets tired of it and
I’m always reminding him to take a break. Am I raising a cartographer? Maybe.
Is the kid interested in maps? Definitely.
I met a guy this weekend who told me he hated his job. Flat out hated it. “But, they pay me well.”, he said. I dug deeper and found out he really likes working for the family-owned company. He likes the fast pace and being in a place where people rely on him. He also loves leaving the office at 4 PM and spending his fat paychecks on his house and fishing trips. That’s one way to crack that code. But not my way.
I need to work on things that interest me. I want to get lost in what I’m doing. I was recently working at a great, interesting company full of wonderful and interesting people. But the work bored the hell out of me and I couldn’t pretend to like it. I love designing. Building. Creating. PowerPoint decks and meetings filled with opinionated blowhards didn’t interest me. I tried. I failed. I was let go.
Years ago I was travelling in places where people didn’t have the luxury to pursue their interests. They were too busy staying alive and finding ways to make a couple of dollars. It made a lasting impression on me. I have an opportunity and an obligation to pursue the things that interest me because so many people on this planet can’t. I love photography and design. I can spend hours writing and reading. I feel great when I’m building things from scratch. Looking back… my best work was always a combination of those things. We all do our best work when we enjoy the work we’re doing. What work do you enjoy? When do you lose track of time? How often are you doing those things? I bet you could do them more than you’re doing now.
I worked at a bookstore while I was pursuing my Master's degree. I was in my mid-thirties working with a bunch of 18-year-olds who were in between high school and their next move. We worked in a high-rent community and most of the kids were stressed over what it was going to take to be a doctor, lawyer or computer scientist. Those were the only jobs they were considering because they figured it was the only way to pay for a house in mommy and daddy’s neighbourhood.
It was sobering to find they never considered pursuing something they really enjoyed. Each one of them thought about the money first. I don’t know if money was the thing they valued most, but I know their choices weren’t lighting up their eyes full of hope. I think a lot about those kids. They were under a lot of stress to choose right. Mom was a doctor and Dad was a lawyer. How could anyone choose to be an artist or teacher under those conditions?
Next time you are making a career move, take a good hard look at your Values + Skills + Interests. Don’t expect much if one of those pieces is missing. It takes some of us longer than others to get the formula right. You’ll know it when you do. And you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it a long time ago.
Thanks for reading.
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Gregg Eiler is a Master Course Builder helping creatives take over the world one course at a time.