Thursday, July 21, 2011

What You Were “Meant” to Do

A lot of people talk about their “calling” in life.  Tiger Woods was ostensibly put on this planet to tear through blondes like Hugh Hefner be the best golfer in the world for over a decade.  Warren Buffett was born to make money.  Steve Jobs had something innate inside him that helped revolutionize countless industries, ranging from computers to music to phones.

Each of these people obviously had talent within their chosen field.  Maybe they were actually the most talented people on the planet at their chosen activity.  What people often don’t realize is that the ultra-successful also put in a lot of hard work, are driven to be “the best,” and have the stones to pull it off.

I’m sure there are probably a few things that come easily to you.  You might even consider yourself “a natural” at one or two of them.  But until you make the conscious decision to maximize this potential, you’re wasting your valuable talents.  Did you put in the extra legwork on that side project of yours, or did you choose to play videogames instead?  Do you have the confidence in yourself to keep knocking on doors even when people are telling you to “go to hell,” over and over again?  Do you have that extra charisma or chutzpah to get your foot in the door, where so many others have failed to do so?

I guess what I’m getting at is that there’s not necessarily one thing on this planet that you were “meant” to do.  There are things that you have a natural aptitude for, and things that you probably should never really pursue in a million years.  Even for those activities where you possess some measurable, distinct talent, there are probably a few where you simply don’t have the drive or passion to give it “your all.” If you choose to make one of these activities a career, though you may see some professional success, other areas of your life will be sorely lacking.

What you should do is pick one or two areas where you have some natural ability, work on maximizing that ability, and make that your profession.  I think this is what people are getting at when they say they “love” their job; what they really “love” is the unique set of skills that they bring to their job and enjoy using to solve unique and challenging problems.  If you find yourself in this situation, congratulations, you’ve found what you were “meant” to do, at least in one reality.

What you were “meant” to do doesn’t even have to be a career.  I know plenty of people that have jobs that they find “okay” enough, and allow them to otherwise pursue their passions on the side.  This is totally fine, too.  Generally, these side projects are some kind of “art,” be it purely creative (painting, drawing, etc.) or more functional (elaborate woodworking projects, fixing up antique cars).  What you were meant to do need not be a full-time gig, though, I’m not going to lie, if you can swing it, it’s pretty tough to beat.

But if you find that work is a slog, and it is repeatedly unrewarding or hinders your pursuit of an activity where you think your true talents may lie, it may be time to at least give something else a whirl.  After all, how are you going to know if it's what you're "meant" to do until you give it a good, honest try?

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and former attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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