Listen. That is the best business advice I’ve heard and heeded in my lifetime. Listen to the spark that lights inside of you. Follow that spark and nurture it. Listen to your market, whether your market is clients, people you mentor, those you serve through volunteer work or members of your community. Your market will tell you what works and what doesn’t. Your spark, you will find, aligns with what your market tells you. Effectively serving your market will fan that spark, which makes you more effective and more powerful, which only feels amazing. It’s a feedback loop that is one part tactical, one part magical.
I often meet people who are stuck, unsure how to find a job or hobby or service project that really lights their spark. Here is my advice to them and you:
Don’t take time off to think about your life path, or stay put until lightning strikes. Get out there. Try new things. Be active. Meet and spend time with new people. Travel. Explore. Work—work really hard. As famed chef Julia Child said, “You must have discipline to have fun.”
All of the science is with me on this: Humans are happiest when they serve others. At every juncture of your passion-finding, ask: How are my time, energy, focus, skills and talents best used for a greater good?
See Julia Child’s quote above. Never feel guilty for spending time on something that gives you joy.
Related: 3 Ways to Discover Your True Passion
Listen to the spark that lights inside you. Follow that spark and nurture it.
44; founder of TalkingInClass.org; Austin, Texas
I have long been aware of the dire credit and debt problems Americans face, thanks to working in personal-finance media for a decade. But when I spoke with my son’s fifth-grade class about credit, it really ignited my passion for making a difference in financial literacy. I was blown away by these 10-year-olds’ interest in the topic and the thoughtful questions they asked. I realized that with my connections to the personal finance community, I have a powerful Rolodex of influential, money-savvy people who could have similar experiences to mine in classrooms in their community and have a real impact on the future lives of kids who rarely get the basic tools they need to make smart financial decisions. That inspired me to launch TalkingInClass.org, an organization dedicated to recruiting personal-finance experts to volunteer in classrooms across the U.S., to make a real difference in childhood financial literacy. When I recruit my colleagues for this effort, I see the same passion I felt when I spoke to that first class.
35; speaker, author, traveling yoga instructor, entrepreneur and life coach; Hamilton, Ohio
At 24, my life had become a string of negative thought patterns and why-am-I-even-here? moments. I tried to find comfort in food, which led to an 80-pound weight gain. I found myself disconnected from all of my relationships and in debt up to my ears. A few months after a suicide attempt, I faced death again from two blood clots in my lungs. I made a commitment to no longer live my life in fear, to say yes to risks and opportunities, and to follow my passion—no matter how scared I might be. Through teaching yoga and my coaching practice, I found that helping others, as opposed to focusing on my own problems, gives me the greatest joy. Since then, I launched my first business, became a yoga instructor and studio owner, and began living a mobile life committed to wellness advocacy and personal growth. Today I am free.
35; occupational therapist; Plymouth, Massachusetts
After college, I worked in one of the nation’s largest advertising agencies as a senior media planner until my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I knew there wasn’t much medicine could do to stop the disease, but we could improve his quality of life. This led me to research and find strong evidence between Tai Chi, yoga, boxing and improved sense of balance, strength and confidence for those living with Parkinson’s. I also looked at my quality of life and satisfaction with my career. This was the catalyst that called me to do something more meaningful with my professional life. I contacted a friend at Massachusetts General Hospital who set me up to shadow nurses and physical and occupational therapists, and I immediately fell in love with the art of occupational therapy. I gave my two weeks’ notice at the advertising agency and started the arduous process of beginning a new career. In the past several years as an occupational therapist, I’ve received multiple awards, become an advanced clinician and created multiple programs specifically for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. It was a scary process, but each day when I help make someone’s life better, I know it was all worth it.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Emma Johnson is a business journalist, gender-equality activist, and founder of the world's largest community of single moms, WealthySingleMommy.com. Emma and her best-selling book, The Kickass Single Mom, and her organization, Moms for Shared Parenting, have been featured in hundreds of national and international media outlets.