Don't Wait for Work You Love

"We don't FIND our calling - we create it." - Sam Horn, CEO of the INTRIGUE Agency and author of IDEApreneur People talk about finding their calling … as if it exists out there somewhere, intact, and all they have to do is look long enough and EUREKA, there it will be, hiding behind a tree.

I think our calling - doing work we love that matters - emerges from doing and pursuing things that matter to us.  It is a result of turning our passion into our profession and our joy into our job.

As former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner said, "I've had a good life and it's because I stayed busy doing things that mattered to me."

Some people tell me they wish they could turn their joy into their job and do work they love. 

I tell them, "Stop waiting and start creating. They often push back with, "I agree with that in theory, but HOW do I do it in practice?"

I share the backstory of how I got into this career when I didn't even know it was a career. I am doing work I didn’t even know existed when I was in college. There was no major in this. No degree in it.  No newspaper ads featuring this as a job description.  There was no map, no instructions, no directions.

I just navigated my way to my ideal work/life by honoring The Four I’s – Instincts, Interests, Integrity, Lights on IN our Eyes – which are our Career Compass.

The work I'm doing is an accumulation of intuitive steps I took along the way.  When I didn’t know what to do, I checked in with my Four I’s and they  pointed me in the right direction.

Here's what I mean. When I speak for organizations, people often come up afterwards and say some version of this: “It looks like you really enjoy what you do. I wish I could do work I loved. How'd you get started in this?”

Here’s how I got started creating my ideal career  ... and how you can too.

Years ago, I was reading The Washington Post and noticed that the word “concentration” was used six times on the front page of the sports section.

Tennis player Chris Evert said her ability to concentrate and stay focused despite the planes flying overhead was why she’d been able to win the U.S. Open.

A golfer who missed a gimme putt on a sudden death playoff hole said he’d lost his concentration because of the clicking cameras of nearby photographers.

A baseball manager blamed his team’s 7-game losing streak on the fact that players were thinking ahead to the playoffs instead of concentrating on that day’s game.

I was intrigued. (I’ve since come to understand that when we’re intrigued, opportunity is knocking on our heart.)

I thought, “We all wish we could concentrate better but no one ever teaches us how. Concentration is key to just about everything – success in business, relationships, sports and life – but I’ve never seen any books on this topic. I’ve never heard any speakers on this subject. And it matters.”

This topic interested me. I felt it was an important personal and professional skill that would benefit people, so it was in alignment with my integrity. And myinstincts were telling me there was a commercial need for this and people would pay to learn how to do it better.

So, I decided to do a deep dive into the topic of concentration, focus and flow.   I  interviewed athletes, artists, executives, inventors, entrepreneurs and “everyday people” to glean their insights and examples.  Sample questions included:

1.  How did you learn to concentrate?

2. What do you do to stay focused even when you’re busy, distracted or tired?

3. How do you motivate yourself to focus when you don’t feel like it?

4. How do you regain your concentration if you lose it?

5. Do you have any special techniques you use to set up flow and to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your attention span?”

Based on my research; I developed a step-by-step approach on how to pay attention - no matter what - and offered it for Wash DC’s Open University.

At the end of the program, several people came up to ask if I would speak for their conference or company.

That one workshop launched a rewarding career that has taken me around the world and given me blessed opportunities to do work I love that matters with people I enjoy and respect. It even resulted in a book called ConZentrate that’s been featured on Diane Rehm’s popular NPR show, taught at NASA and endorsed by Stephen Covey and Dr. Ed Hallowell ( a leading expert on A.D.D.)

What’s this got to do with you? Would you like to do work that matters to you and to others?  Just ask yourself:

1. What do I find Intriguing?  What interests me? 2. What is something that calls to me  that I think is in Integrity because it would benefit people and add value for them? 3. What is a problem, need or opportunity that has caught my attention and myInstincts are telling me, ‘Somebody should DO something about that?” 4. What puts the light on In my eyes when I'm doing it?

Please understand …you’re as much a somebody as anybody.  Why don’t you do something about it?

Choosing to pursue opportunities that are alignment with your Four I’s can catalyze a life of SerenDestiny where the light is on in your eyes.

From now on, remember, work we love is not out there waiting.  It’s a result of us creating. Pay attention to what honors your Instincts, Interests and Integrity, and Lights on IN the eyes.  

Then,  get busy doing and pursuing what matters to you. What lights you up is your GIFT and gifting that back to the world by getting paid to teach it TO people or do it FOR people is one of the quickest paths to a meaningful career where you earn a good living doing work you love that matter.

-     -     -     -

Sam HornIntrigue Expert, TEDx speaker, author of IDEApreneurTongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – feels fortunate to do work she loves, speaking for National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One, writing books that add value, and helping consulting clients craft quality projects that scale their impact – for good. Want Sam to speak at your next conference? Email for details. steve jobs

The Desert of Your Dream

desert “I didn’t think I would play tennis again at one point. I just wanted to make it out of the hospital.” – Wimbledon Champ Serena Williams

“After winning her fifth Wimbledon championship to snap a two-year drought of major titles, Williams clambered up the Centre Court stands to her guest box to share the triumph with the loved ones she said made it possible. Those people in that box were with me when I went through everything. I just felt I don’t say ‘thank you’ enough.’” - article by Liz Clarke in Washington Post 

It has been inspiring watching Serena come back from what she thought were career-ending injuries, including two foot surgeries and a pulmonary embolism. As mentioned, she thought she may NEVER play tennis again.

What kept her going in the desert of her dream?  How did she keep the faith when it looked like she might not have the opportunity to pursue her passion and profession?

Starting a business, writing a book, pursuing our personal legend, is often a roller-coaster ride. Ups and downs. Highs and lows.  What can keep us going in those lows?

Hanging out with people who have our back and front can help us keep moving when we're in the desert of our dream.

Another non-negotiable is to continue to SEE ourselves achieving our dream … even when it's not apparent to others, even when we’re stalled and it looks like it may never happen.

Keeping the faith, and moving forward no matter what, is a non-negotiable.

If you stop. if you give up and abandon your vision … it will not happen.

It is up to you to hang on to your belief that what you’re trying to create is possible and worthwhile. Doing so keeps it alive and gives it a chance because you are doing your half.

I know this may sound woo-woo, but when you do your half, the universe steps up and does its half.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Looking backwards, every successful person will tell you there were setbacks along the way to pursuing their dream. At the time, those obstacles may have seemed insurmountable. The setbacks could have drained their will, conviction, and caused them to doubt.

Instead, they transcended their doubts and continued to live and look forward. They carried on through the doubts and down times.  In doing so, they re-established momentum and moved closer to realizing their dream.

I can only imagine that Serena was tempted to give up when she was in pain, when she could hardly walk, when she got the bad news that she was going to have to go back for another surgery.

But Serena wasn’t finished. She believed she still had greatness in her, she still had championships to win.

She re-dedicated herself. Instead of abandoning her dream, she re-committed to being and doing her best.

As a result of persevering through the desert of her dream, she reached a much-welcomed, well-deserved oasis.

The beauty of this is; her success was not a mirage; it was a result of her forward movement .and faith  It was an earned reality.

How about you?

Are you in the desert of your dream?  Are things not working out the way you hoped?  Have you received bad news?  Are people around you not seeing what you're seeing, not believing what you're believing?

Could you choose to “pull a Serena?” Could you re-dedicate yourself and live and look forward, no matter what?

Your dream is still attainable if you keep it alive by persevering in spite of this temporary down-time.

If you keep on keeping on, the universe will say, "All righty then, you're doing your half ... we'll do ours."

Beat-the-odds opportunities will show up that never would have happened otherwise.

As Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."


-    -     -     -     -

Like this post?  Want to receive inspiring stories and insights on how to create the life of your dreams? Subscribe to Sam Horn's SerenDestiny blog where she posts weekly updates from her YEAR BY THE WATER.  Sam, America's Intrigue Expert, helps people create one-of-a-kind projects that scale their impact for good.  Her work - including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - has been featured on NPR and MSNBC and featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, BusinessWeek, Huffington Post.