I grew up in a small town in Louisiana with a population of 5,000. The majority of people were blue-collar workers, there were a couple of factories and there were a handful of very small businesses. My mom was a teacher and my dad was an attorney and politician. With only a few exceptions, every adult I knew talked about work like this:
Sound familiar to you? I’m sure it does. This is the status quo of “work” in our society. There are certainly people that love what they do, but that is not the norm.
How we got here is a really long story that I don’t even fully understand myself. It includes things like the fact that we tend to work longer hours because we live in a consumer-based society, where we’re constantly being marketed to every second of every single day, making us want more “stuff.” So we have to work more to buy more stuff. Then there is also the history and concept of factory work that has shaped so many industries: stand here on the assembly line and put this one part on this one machine. Don’t use your brain at all. Don’t make any decisions. Be a complete cog in this giant machine.
I always assumed that when I grew up that’s how work would be for me too. I never even questioned it.
I had restaurant jobs in high school and college, and this reaffirmed how I thought work should be.
Then I found coaching. I started coaching CrossFit classes and I noticed that most of the time it didn’t feel like work at all. It felt like I was playing and experimenting and following my own curiosity. Then I became a strength and conditioning coach at universities, and I felt those same things again. I started to believe that if I could feel this so early in my career, then it must be possible for me to maintain and even expand upon it going forward.
Over the past six years, I’ve had a consistent 8–9/10 satisfaction in my career. The way that I’ve done it is that I follow my curiosity and do what feels fun and exciting to me until it doesn’t anymore, and then I move on. At this point, I’ve rewritten my story about what work is, and I can’t even imagine going back.
These are some of the ideas that have helped guide me along the way, and if you desire more out of your career, then I hope they’ll help you too.
Before we get into those ideas, why even care about this in the first place?
Consider that there are 168 hours in a week. The average job is 40 hours per week or 24% of your week. That’s a quarter of your life. The only other thing you do for a quarter of your life is sleep. What you spend or invest your time on in your career will have a profound impact on your outlook on life in general and it will shape you in so many ways. It’s imperative to pick something that you enjoy or at the very least don’t dislike. You may never be able to avoid some amount of mundane or boring tasks, but it is possible to do something that brings you joy and satisfaction.
Succumbing to the status quo could lead you to become bored or apathetic (or maybe you feel that way already). It can keep you from being present with those that matter most. It can zap your energy so you don’t even do the things that you love to do when you’re not working.
I believe that one of the fundamental ways to get what you want out of your career is to, first and foremost, NOT put too much pressure on it to completely fulfill you in life.
It’s a little like a romantic relationship. If we don’t have friends outside of our intimate relationship, if we don’t have hobbies and other interests, if we don’t know how to take care of our own mental health, then we will undoubtedly put too much strain on our partner, expecting them to be all things at all times to us. I’ve never seen this workout.
If we expect our careers to completely fulfill us and be the sole reason we feel we have a meaningful life, we could be setting ourselves up for failure.
Here’s an analogy that I’ve heard a dozen times: It’s like building a house on a single pillar. It will stand as long as that one pillar is intact. As soon as that one pillar starts malfunctioning, the house collapses. So it’s better to build a house with many pillars so even if one becomes rotten and you have to replace it, the house doesn’t come crashing down in the meantime.
If you make your career your only pillar then you are very vulnerable in life. If your career doesn’t go the way you want, your entire life isn’t going the way you want. You may also put unrealistic expectations on your career to make you happy in and of itself. Don’t do that. Have more pillars. Invest in your health and relationships and explore different interests.
This completely changed the way I thought about my career.
In his book Drive, Daniel Pink describes the three fundamental human motivations in their careers. The three things, he says, that we all want.
The first is autonomy. We want to do things the way we want to do them. Sure, we can be good teammates when we need to be, but we don’t want to have orders barked at us or be micromanaged. Long gone are the days where we’d sign up to work in a corporate setting where we clock in, follow a set script, and clock out, like a cog in a machine. We want the freedom to create something new, to use our full skill set, and have the freedom to think outside the box.
The second is the ability to strive for mastery. We want to grow and learn and deeply understand things. We are innately curious, and learning new skills and building new capabilities is one of the most energizing things to us. It’s what keeps us feeling young. It’s what makes life exciting. Without it we feel complacent, we literally feel older. Over time if we aren’t challenged or given opportunities to strive for mastery we may even feel like we’ve LOST our curiosity and youthful nature forever. In my experience, there is no way to kill that part of us off. It may lay dormant after years of neglect, but as soon as we get the opportunity to strive and learn again, it can awaken like a giant.
The third is that our careers MUST give us a sense of purpose. With meaning. It’s almost a cliché at this point, but it’s becoming crystal clear—we deeply desire to do meaningful work. We’re not satisfied with being a cog in a machine. We want, at the end of the day, to feel like we’re improving the lives of human beings in some way. Some people do that by building software that saves people time and allows them to spend more time with loved ones, some people do that by teaching and investing in young people, and a growing number of people are doing that by helping people take control over their own health and their own bodies.
So, how do you know specifically what YOU want to do? What you want to BE when you grow up?
One thing that really helps is identifying your Unique Genius. This is a term I learned from one of the top business coaches in the world, Dan Sullivan.
Your Unique Genius has the following characteristics:
Your Unique Genius will also likely translate to what you will be compensated the most for because it’s the thing that you are likely to reach the highest level of proficiency in.
For instance, one of my Unique Geniuses is being a “guide.” I know this because I’ve been told my entire life that I am a leader and that people naturally follow me. I’ve been told I am a safe person to talk to and that people really value my opinion. I know this because I love to mentor others. I know this because those closest to me say that this is one of my greatest strengths.
Some questions to help you identify your Unique Genius:
Once you have the answers to those three questions, you can triangulate to find one or two things they all have in common.
There are a couple of things to watch out for here:
If you had money and recognition but none of the rest, would you consider yourself successful? What if you had all of those but very little money and no recognition?
Luckily you don’t have to forego either entirely, but according to most major world philosophies and religions, striving for money or fame at the expense of those other things usually leads to turmoil.
What makes the most sense is to come up with your own definition of success and make sure that the career you choose aligns with that definition. Let money and recognition be a by-product of doing work that you love rather than ends in and of themselves.
Now, once you’ve identified your Unique Genius, how do you turn that into a career? For instance, one of mine is guiding. While that is essential to know, it doesn’t exactly narrow down what I should be doing with my life.
Here are some things to think about that can help you narrow it down:
Lastly, human beings are ever-evolving and what works for us today may not work for us in a few years. In fact, these days people will have over 11 jobs in their career on average. No matter how much you enjoy what you’re currently doing, regularly ask yourself if this is your highest calling. Ask yourself if there is something else that you’d love to be doing EVEN more. Something that would allow you to have an even greater impact.
If you operate like this in your career you will almost certainly become materially successful. You will be fully engaged, moving toward, and maybe even achieving mastery in a discipline. Beware that you don’t fall into a “success trap” (also known as golden handcuffs), which is the hardest trap to get out of. A success trap happens when you stop loving doing what got you successful in the first place, and you feel like you can’t quit because of that success. You are afraid to try something new because you may lose the money, recognition, and identity that come with being so successful.
As you identify your unique genius and strategically move toward only doing work within that genius, you can expect your work to not really feel like work much of the time. Instead, it will feel like you are doing something you are passionate about and you are scratching your own itch of curiosity. You will naturally become very proficient at what you do because you love it. Opportunities will open up all over the place for you and you will be sought after for the skills you’ve developed.
If you are passionate about nutrition and fitness and you think your Unique Genius may be in coaching, then you may be interested in the WAG Nutrition Coach Certification.
Being an online nutrition coach gives you the autonomy to work with WHO you want, HOW you want. It gives you the freedom to work any time and from anywhere.
It provides you the opportunity to strive for mastery and gives you a cornucopia of fields to study and learn, like nutrition science, the psychology of eating, behavior change, and more.
And most importantly, it not only makes you feel like you’re doing something meaningful, the work actually IS meaningful. Some of our clients have lost hundreds of pounds and added 10 years back to their lives. Some have saved their marriages as a result of working with us. People’s confidence and self-esteem can go up, along with their overall sense of well-being.
Growing up, anytime I heard someone ask, “How’s work?” the person on the other end, almost without fail, would say “Busy” or “It’s work.” Not very inspiring. What I internalized is that work wasn’t supposed to be something we love or find passion in. It was supposed to be something you do to pay the bills. It would probably be pretty boring or, worse, it would be miserable. But that’s just how it was. You sucked it up.
I had no idea how wrong I was. Not only can we do something that we’re deeply passionate about, but with the rise of the digital age AND people’s interest in fitness and nutrition, online nutrition coaching can become a lucrative business or side hustle.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an online nutrition coach, check out this FREE training course we created. The course is made up of three educational videos that will teach you how to actually get clients massive results, how to attract and find your first clients, and so much more. Again, it’s completely free with no strings attached.
In the series you’ll hear my wife, Adee, talk about the three human drivers just like I did at the beginning of this article. After that, it’s all original content.
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