When I was in college, I had one goal: make a lot of money. Then, after I was rich, I could do what I really wanted to do.
Throughout high school and college, I kept asking myself that question: what is my reason for being here…and I could never come up with a definite answer. I was interested in many things: personal finance, entrepreneurship, education, and music. How was I supposed to find out my primary passion when I had so many different interests?
I started to think differently after reading “The Monk and the Riddle” by Randy Komisar. Randy believes that focusing on just one passion will actually polarize you. You’ll be forced to give up things you genuinely enjoy. The result: lower happiness and decreased productivity.
This made a lot of sense to me. I realized that part of my frustration was that I was afraid to give up interests. Lots of people say that you’ll never be great at something unless you focus on it one hundred percent. Randy challenges this assumption and instead advocates focusing on a portfolio of passions. Find several things that you enjoy and work towards achieving goals in all of them. Our purpose on earth isn’t just to do one thing; there is plenty of time to pursue meaningful opportunities in different areas.
So how do we prioritize? How can we identify a group of activities that makes us happy while still providing us with a good income?
The answer came to me while I was reading Good to Great, the business classic by Jim Collins. Collins talks about a fascinating idea called “The HedgeHog Concept.” The basic idea is to figure out a company’s future strategy by analyzing the intersection of the following three things.
- What are your strengths? What are the things that you’re really good at, and with practice can become even better?
- What are you passionate about? What are the things that you really enjoy doing?
- What is your economic engine? Simply put: how are you going to make money?
While Collins’ book focuses on large organizations, I realized that the hedgehog concept can also be applied to individuals. Looking at the intersection of these three areas can help you define career and life goals, setting you on the path towards earning more money.
Figuring out your strengths
I’m a big believer in playing to your strengths, but it’s not always easy to figure what they are. In general, people aren’t good at self-evaluation – we think we’re good at the stuff we WANT to be good at, not the stuff we’re actually good at.
The best way to figure out your strengths is testing. Don’t just assume that you are good at something. For example, I used to think I was good at memorizing facts. It took a couple of bad grades in my college history classes to teach me that I wasn’t actually that good.
Understanding your passions
When Thomas Stanley was researching his bestselling book, The Millionaire Mind, he found that 80% of millionaires believe that their success is at least partly due to pursuing their passions. Money and security are motivators, but they’ll only get you so far. People who are passionate will go above and beyond to find success.
Conceptualizing your economic engine
This is simple: how are you going to earn money doing what you do? There is no shortage of ways to make money. If you are more entrepreneurial, you can create and market a new product or service. The world today encourages new and unique business models.
For example, there are more than half a million people in the U.S. who make a living blogging. Many people have leveraged the power of the internet to develop personal brands in niches. With tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, it is easier to get in touch with the right people to grow your business.
But entrepreneurship isn’t the only way to make money. There are plenty of organizations – companies, universities, nonprofits – that need diverse talents. Don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities – do some research and reach out to the organizations where you can really make an impact.
No matter who you are or where you want to be, you CAN figure out a way to make money.
What do you love, and how are you going to get paid for it?