Nollind Whachell

Researching Creativity, Social Innovation, & The Future of Work

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Discovering Your Emerging Passion, Purpose, and Vision

About a month back I was playing around with Workfu when I stumbled across a couple of patterns that made me laugh out loud when I saw how evident they were. You see when using Workfu, it asks you to enter in keywords that relate to your professional life. After entering in those keywords though, I felt like it would be better if they were organized in some way, rather than just being a jumbled display of keywords. When I started to organize them intuitively, I suddenly realized that the two repeating patterns that I was organizing them by were my passion and purpose in life!

Taking this into consideration, I realized that if someone actually didn’t know their passion and purpose in life, they could potentially figure them out using this exact same approach. That said, while this worked for me because of my insights and research within this field, it might obviously not work for someone else for a variety of reasons. That said though, I thought it was significant enough to share with others anyway.

Just a few words to set the baseline of understanding though. Your passion is your energy, your natural talent. Your purpose is the direction with which you release or express your passion. Your vision is that which you hope to become, your passion and purpose working in harmony to achieve your life’s calling within a specific scope and context. It’s important to realize though that you may not have enough knowledge or experience at this time to fully realize your ultimate vision in life but at the very least it will hopefully reveal the next step within it. In addition, feel free to use titles outside of your work as well, as they may reveal more of who you truly are since many of the jobs we do today are to just pay the bills rather than being something that we’re passionate about.

First off, list your job titles with your current job at the top and oldest at the bottom. Remove any descriptors, so as to achieve a title of just two words (i.e. senior web developer = web developer). In addition, if the meaning of the title doesn’t seem evident with a quick scan, try to summarize it down to its core meaning that feels right to you (i.e. clerical clerk = organization support)

Life Researcher*
Web Designer
Community Support (Customer Support)
Web Developer
Team Leader
Community Architect
Business Advisor
Systems Support
Body Therapist (Massage Therapist)*
Culture Creator*
Community Founder*
Guild Leader*
Systems Support
Organization Support (Clerical Clerk)

* Signifies a personal title outside of my professional life

Now look at the first word in your job titles and group them together, removing any duplicates if you want but at least make the duplicated keyword bigger or bolder so as to relay the importance of it. These are your passion keywords.

Life, Web, Community, Team, Business, Systems, Body, Culture, Guild, Organization

Now look at the second word in your job titles and group them together, again removing any duplicates but making the duplicated keyword bigger or bolder. These are your purpose keywords.

Researcher, Designer, Support, Developer, Leader, Architect, Advisor, Creator, Founder

Now this is where it starts to get really tricky because you need to see below the surface and understand the pattern as a thread that weaves through your life and these keywords. This is the point where you have to let go of logic and start to use your feelings more. For example, if you’ve been having positive or negative feelings throughout your life, particularly within work environments, try to draw on those. For example, I’ve notice throughput my life that I dislike corporate environments because they often have an unnatural culture that makes a person feel useless, disconnected, depressed, and machine-like at the end of the work day. Whereas I want to work within an environment that makes me feel valued, whole, happy, and alive like a human being.

Taking this in mind, I looked at my passion keywords and notice a pattern right off the bat. All of these keywords relate to systems, be they technical (i.e. computers, Web), organizational (i.e. business, community), or organic (i.e. body). Again this was much easier for me to see this pattern, as I had already figured this out earlier in my life. So based upon this though, my passion appears to be systems.

Looking at my purpose, most of the keywords related to building or creating something. So my purpose seems to be a creator which does relate to me as a cultural creative. Yet while I found this to be somewhat true, it didn’t feel perfectly right to me for some reason. To figure out why, let’s see if we can put this all together using my passion and purpose keywords, as well as my feelings, to come up with my visionary job title. One key thing to remember though is that your vision defines the specific scope and context of your passion and purpose at work. Put another way, it helps you figure out if you want to work on a large scale or a small scale. For example, some people prefer helping others one person at a time, while others prefer helping many people all at once.

For me, while I enjoy deep interactions with one person, I have this strong innate desire to help many people all at once. Thus in terms of the scope and context of my passion, it feels like its on an organizational scale or even on a societal scale. Thus in looking at the variety of system keywords that I used to figure out my systems passion, culture to me seemed like the best word that relates to the scope and context of my passion in detail. In effect, I believe my best systems approach is using culture to help change the world around me at a grand scale.

In terms of my purpose keywords, as I said before, none of my job titles seem to articulate what I’ve naturally been doing or wanting to do in my work with regards to my purpose. Being a creator is very close, as playful creativity is at the heart of my life, but it still doesn’t seem to be the perfect word. In looking back on my feelings, it almost feels like I want to help “heal” organizations and the people within them, so they they can release their full potential. While saying I’m a healer does feel right and even relates to my Keirsey personality profile (i.e. Healer), it just sounds too much like a New Age title. “Hi, I’m your organizations new Cultural Healer. Let’s have a big group hug!” Uh, I don’t think so. One word that did jump out though in my thoughts, and seemed more business-like, was an Integrator. Integration within systems is a common buzzword today so it felt much closer but still not perfect. For now, I’ll live with it though until something better emerges.

So all said and done, my visionary job title for what I want to be doing is a Cultural Integrator. If this seems to be a little far fetched at this time then you might want to read a book called Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken (or even another book entitled The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge). It describes a job title that is somewhat similar to what I’d be doing as a Cultural Integrator and what I’ve already been doing intuitively throughout my work life. But why not just use Chief Culture Officer for my job title then since it’s something that’s already emerging within the work force? Primarily because I dislike the corporate connotations it implies in its use which in turn could distance me from the type of non-corporate companies that I’d like to help.

In a future post though, I’ll try to explain how you can break down these patterns into even more specific details, thus allowing you to see the skills that got you where you are today and the skills that you will need to get you where you want to be in the future. Even more so, I’ll reiterate again the importance of scope and context to help you understand how your skills are like languages or lingo that help you to communicate your passion and purpose to others around you thus allowing you to interact and relate to them better, particularly within your work life.

Update June 21/2012: In thinking about this a bit more, I’m growing fond of the title Cultural Designer more and more. The word designer corresponds more closely within my purpose keyword of creator and it also probably seems much more human and familiar to most people as well. While the healing and integration connotations aren’t as noticeable, they are hopefully still implied deep within as great design both simplifies and empowers those whom interact with it. Best of all, Cultural Designer sounds much more grounded and accessible, particularly in comparison to a Chief Culture Officer which sounds very elitist and inaccessible.

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