I felt like I had finally made it: in summer 2016, I graduated from a top management school and started my career as a Big Four strategy consultant.
A few weeks later, I gave a speech at my graduation ceremony. I told the audience that as a graduate of a top school, “you have the freedom and opportunity to pursue the things in life that give you meaning”.
One week later, I reflected on what I’d said. I realised I had been a complete hypocrite because I wasn’t pursuing the things in life that gave me meaning. Ever since this realisation, I have been striving to live a meaningful working life.
Three years later, I left behind my daily job to fully pursue my passion: working as a trainer, consultant, and life coach to help people thrive in our changing world.
Just like my graduation speech did for me, COVID-19 has acted as a wake-up call to many of us (I discussed that in a previous article). Working from home has given us the mental space to reflect on what we want from our work. My clients and friends are now asking questions like: “do I really want to work in this company next year?”, “How can I transition to more meaningful work?” “How can I start a side-hustle?”. These are the exact questions I asked myself four years ago. Here are five things I learnt during my journey:
When you start pursuing your passion, you might have little experience or expertise in your new field. I was 22 and had just read a few books on personal development. Who was I to support others to live more meaningful lives? Who was I to charge people money for that? However, everyone likes something for nothing. Founding Extraordinary Life and working as a non-profit enabled me to gain experience while building my expertise and reputation. Do that, and, eventually, someone will recognise your value - and offer to pay you for it.
2. Have fun!
Pursuing your passion can be challenging, but it should also be wonderful! If you’re not enjoying it most of the time, it’s probably not your passion. I had to spend many evenings working on Extraordinary Life after a long day of work. If it hadn’t given me energy, I wouldn’t have put in the effort required to make it successful.
3. Combine it with your daily work
If possible, showcase your passion to your colleagues. You might just find them to be more receptive than you expect. I remember giving a workshop to my boss, who enjoyed it so much that he asked me to coach his wife, his best friend and two senior partners at our organisation.
Showcasing my passion led to a changing of my job description – regularly giving workshops, hosting company events and being the coach for our team. I had initially worried that my superiors would frown upon me doing other activities on the side, so I found their reaction incredible.
Perhaps your passion is something less applicable to your work context, but even so, share it. Sharing something you care about with your colleagues helps you to connect better with each other, and they’ll appreciate why you spend your evenings on something they might consider work.
Try out new things. It’s liberating to disconnect money and passion. While you still have a stable income, you have the time and resources to experiment. For me, that was coming up with new workshops and event formats. Alongside developing your offerings, you also learn about yourself. I didn’t know I wanted to be a life coach until a workshop attendee asked if I would also work with them individually.
And I had no idea people would want a community around our workshops until participants said it would be nice to meet up with everyone again. This is our celebration for providing 10,000 development experiences:
5. Start now
Wherever you are in your life, the only time you have is right now. Time flies, and before we know it, we’ll all be turned to dust. When I’m old, I want to look back on a beautiful life doing meaningful work. I’ve been privileged to start my career with no debt, no family dependents and already working in an excellent job; but however your life looks, the time to start pursuing your passion is now.
Whether you can spend 15 minutes a day, or devote all your time to it, start now. Trust me, it’s worth it.