Finding Your Passion

For most of us, finding our dream job is a slow and uncertain process.  Recently I spoke to somebody who indicated that the reason he wasn’t working was that “I’m not sure yet what my passion is.”

It occurred to me that perhaps some folks may be confused about following their dreams and fulfilling their passions.

First of all, let’s get something out of the way.  It is the very rare person who has a deep driving passion to paint, sing, write, prepare exotic foods or dance.  When somebody does have such a drive, and that drive is matched with talent, we call him or her a genius.  Most of us are a mix of talents and abilities, some stronger and some weaker than others, as you might expect when there is a random combining of the dna from your father and mother in to the human being you are.  Some things you may wish you could do but aren’t very good at, like singing.  Other things you seem to have a nack for like woodworking but the nack must be developed through much discipline and at it’s best you can build a nice coffee table.

You may enjoy speaking and have a nack for keeping the attention of audiences but struggle with the creation of really top notch speeches.

Or, perhaps you have talent in managing people because they respect you, but find that the details of management simply aren’t your strong suit, so you spend hours forcing yourself to master the details of projects.

I describe each of these scenarios to you in order to help you understand that this is the human condition.  This is how most of us find ourselves.  Some mornings we wake up with little drive and little interest in changing the world and other days we’re certain that we can leap tall buildings with a single bound.  But, on both types of days, we trudge off to work because we have learned that life is about the valleys and the mountains and that both must be crossed in order to reap the reward of fulfilling accomplishment.

Finding one’s true passion may take a lifetime of trial and error.  You may discover that the thing you were certain was your passion simply proves boring and uninteresting.  And, you may discover that some mundane and not-so-glamorous task turns out to be richly rewarding to you.

The point is, you often won’t know any of this ahead of time.  Life is about “doing something, even if it’s wrong,” as the old saying goes.  The more you do, the more chance you have of finding things that match your talents, skills and aptitudes.

And, the final point I would make is that some of your daily work should be difficult.  It should be hard and frustrating for you.  It should stretch you.  It probably won’t be fun and it probably won’t be glamorous.  That’s the nature of life.  The reward for doing all of these boring activities is that along the way you will also find that some of them become the expression of your inner self and that, as you grow, you do truly find your passion and fulfill your dreams.



Magnifying glass searching job listings in the newspaper
This is a great time of year to look for work.  Everybody who is actually in their office is in a
good mood because of the summer and not too busy to talk with you.  This is the time of year when creative CEO’s and directors are recharging their batteries, formulating plans, and analyzing shortcomings.

So, what about you?  Are you meeting with them?  Are you networking with them?  Have you written a thought provoking article lately about your field?  Have you developed a new program idea?

If not, you should know that the economy doesn’t really care.  No, no, I’m not being snarky or negative.  I’m making a point.

The economy is currently producing the same level of Gross Domestic Product now that it was in 2007 with fifteen million fewer workers.  The reason for this is in part that the economy is more efficient now than it was then.  But, whatever the reasons, you should be aware that you aren’t needed in today’s workforce unless you demonstrate unusual drive and skills.

Lest you think there “Aren’t any jobs,”  I refer you to the monthly data from the Department of labor that indicates there were three million openings in May of 2011 and that the labor turnover was about three percent.  So, in your local company with 200 people, six of them either left, died, got fired, or something last month and there were vacancies needing to be filled.  The question is, will they be filled by you?

Are you really networking with the people who know about new positions?  Are you demonstrating your value to them by creating articles, developing new ideas, really staying connected with the middle management folks who do the hiring?  These are the folks in positions of effect–that is, what they do creates new positions, sets goals, determines strategies and carry out the accomplishments of the company or organization.

Are you excited enough about your chosen profession to read new articles every day?  Do you keep up with trade publications, blogs, magazines and listservs to put your finger on the pulse of current thinking and opportunities?

Do you have a sense of what makes you special, unique or better than the next person?  If you don’t, how will others know what it is?

With today’s employee surplus, its a buyer’s market.  Employers can pick and choose amongst possible applicants, knowing there is no shortage.  If you aren’t quite right, somebody else will be.

If you have a severe disability there are other issues.  The world’s message to you is, “stay home,”  “You’ve got it hard enough already” and,  “the government will take care of you.”  So, If you want to work, you’d better be prepared to do what the experts do when they look for jobs, not just be one of the herd.  Nobody I know who has employed the techniques listed above has ever failed to find meaningful employment, but, many I know who simply send out resumes and fill out standard applications are sitting at home and probably will be for the foreseeable future.  So, if you really don’t understand the modern work finding process, hook up with somebody who does and do what they tell you.  Stop using worn out old methods that don’t work and learn the newer and more effective methods of how to link with others.  When you do, the process will become interesting and fun and … Well, it’ll be all the things you hoped your profession would be.


NCIL’d and Dimed

Tyler Kutner smiling warmly and triumphantlyWhat do you do when you hate your disability and are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of other people with disabilities? That’s what I was trying to figure out while staring at my scooter’s steering wheel during the opening plenary of the annual NCIL conference in Washington, DC.

Everywhere I looked in that conference room I saw wheelchairs, scooters, canes, deformed limbs, and hearing aides. It made my stomach churn to think that I tried so hard to divorce myself from any notion of having a disability, let alone the idea of a broader disability community. My hands started to tremble lightly as I realized that the people around me were actually friendly, but still I felt out of step with their general air of solidarity. The voice in my head that always said to me “I couldn’t possibly be one of them” was louder than ever. I just wanted to jet out of the conference room and find the quickest way back to Baltimore.

NCIL organizer Mark Derry’s rallying cry silenced that voice as he boomed, “What do we want?” and the whole room answered “Freedom!” Mark was different from the other talking heads on the panel. Instead of talking about how our friends Senator Harkin, Secretary Sebelius, and President Obama were our greatest allies on Capitol Hill, he was vociferous and pissed off. He showed me in that moment that I could use all of the anger I’d bottled up over the years to make a difference. It was the same ethos that attracted me to punk rock, but with a sense of earnestness and relevance that I’d never seen before.

After bumping my scooter into wall after wall, slamming my foot into a restaurant doorway, and swerving past the potholes of DC’s streets, it was time to bed down for the night and prepare for the next day’s protest.

In the hotel lobby as we were leaving for the march, I met a guy named Barry from Savannah, GA who also had CP. I told him that my sister lived there and that I’d been feeling very isolated before I came to the conference. In his comforting southern drawl, he explained that he felt the same way when he was eighteen and that it was completely normal, whatever the hell “normal” meant.

As we filed into line and headed from the Grand Hyatt to Capitol Hill, I began to think of what my disability meant to me emotionally and politically. I have one glaring thing in common with thousands of people. People who’ve been treated like invalids and told they were stupid, who’ve been stared at, rejected, and ostracized because of something they couldn’t control. It’s all I can do just to be a part of the independent living movement. I may not always follow NCIL’s party line, but at least I know there are more people like me.