The sweet spot of your work

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iStock_000008884326XSmallToday has been a good day.

Thanks to a nice plug in Guy Kawasaki’s blog, I have gotten all kinds of new visitors and supportive comments on my recent post.  It made me realize that at this moment I am getting closer to what I once heard Jim Collins refer to as the sweet spot.  This is the intersection of three interlocking circles: the first is “what people will pay you to do” – marketable skills and abilities that you have developed over your working life.  The second is “that which you have great passion for” – areas of interest, hobbies, ideas or causes that make your heart race.  And the third, and most elusive, is “that which you are genetically encoded to do” – the things that you were brought on this earth to accomplish that no one else on the planet can do as well as you.  Where these circles interlock is your “sweet spot” and place that you should spend your working life if you want to feel alive and full of joy.

I have been quite happy with my work in the 10 years I have been on my own, as I always have had interesting projects and smart and supportive partners.  But in the last couple of years, I felt my enthusiasm wane, as I saw what an uphill battle it was to make positive change inside corporations.  Upon soul searching and reflection, I realized that what I loved about my work were the deep conversations with individuals about what work they were meant to do.  I also have great passion for being an entrepreneur since I relish the challenge, freedom and creativity it affords every day.  Thus was born a new business direction and Escape from Cubicle Nation.

So based on this very fresh experience, I encourage you to think about the following things to get clearer on your own sweet spot:

Who am I? As esoteric as this question is, you must get to know yourself deeply and completely if you want to act from a place of truth and self-confidence.  Martha Beck calls this your essential self which is your true, raw, unedited and unplugged self, versus your social self, the one that diligently slogs away at a job that you loathe or a marriage that feels dead just to keep up appearances. You often get very disconnected from your essential self in a corporate environment and need to make time to reconnect.  If you are considering starting a business, you may also want to follow Jeff and Rich Sloan’s advice and write a Personal Manifesto.  Here is mine if you want a sample idea.

Who are my people? These are not just those that would grudgingly fork over money for your product or service, they are people who would clamor to do business with you because you are the exact answer to their problems.  These are people who you like to spend time with, who embrace you despite your perceived warts, mistakes and flaws and who are deeply affected by your work.

What work do I love to do? In order to really be able to name this for yourself, you may follow Jim Collin’s advice and carry around a notebook where you can write down observations about your reactions to work as if you were a science experiment.  In his own life, Jim had a notebook titled “A Bug Called Jim” where he would scribble down observations about when he felt passionate or incredibly bored at work.  From 15 years of paying attention, he found that he was most happy as “an entrepreneurial professor” rather than a Professor of Entrepreneurship, the post he had held at Stanford.  Thus was born his business.

How can I push myself to take risks to grow my business? Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users urges us to Do Something Scary so that we continually learn and grow.  The more clear you get about the work you want to be doing, the more bold you get at approaching clients or mentors that may seem far away and out of reach.  I had a bit of trepidation when I sent my email to Guy sharing my post (the insecure part of me thought “He won’t have time to read your email!  He must get hundreds from people every day who want to catch his interest!”).  But I did it anyway.  My true intention was just to share it with him since I thought he would enjoy it.  And to my delight and surprise, he did enjoy it and shared it with others.  Take a risk and ask for what you want.  You really have nothing to lose.

I am more convinced than ever that the pursuit of a meaningful life is worth your time.  Let me know what else you have found that helps identify your sweet spot.

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11 Responses to “The sweet spot of your work”

  1. […] visually portrays this framework. I am not the first person to come up with this framework (I love Pam Slim’s article on finding her sweet spot), but I believe it is the perfect formula for how to choose a great business idea. The concept was […]

  2. […] Before I started my business 14 years ago, I had heard people talk about the joy of getting paid to do exactly what you were put on earth to do with the exact people you were meant to do it with. Jim Collins calls this the sweet spot. […]

  3. Paul Hobcraft says:

    It is gratifying that a blog written some time ago, lives on and gives benefit to others searching for their enlightened path- thanks for a timely and nicely written piece and the responses that equally give others insight into this.
    Let this rumble on

  4. Working4Me says:

    Finding the Sweet Spot of Your Work

  5. argos says:

    Josh- it wasn’t Mike Johnson who wrote the essay you are refering to, it was argos. My real name is Jeff Klisares.

    As for moving, if you are living in your hometown, I would definately consider it. Otherwise, geography has no bearing.

    Even Jesus said “no man is a prophet in his hometown.” The lesson is this- too many others may find it hard to believe that you can do what you (are going to) do and, your friends and family (same people) do not appreciate others changing their relationship contract with them. They’d just as soon keep you the way you are. That’s how they love you.

    As for how it’s done, (finding your love) you already know what they are, you have to re-discover them somehow. This takes courage, self-reflection and obviously time.

    As I stated in my previous comments, “I sat down at a table and waited, became quiet, still….it took several months.”

    But the answers eventually came regarding what I loved. You also have to give yourself a break here. This precious understanding does not come quickly or cheap for, when you have it back, you will know it is yours to command.

    When you were a kid, you discovered something about this world that you liked. That is it. That’s the thing. The gift. You will know it in every fiber of your being when you rediscover it. It was something you understood, you were drawn to, thus the passion comes back in. You will know the gift wasn’t meant for you but, for you to give to others. To us.

    Start writing. Read everything. This will help lead you to it. I am a Joseph Campbell fan. “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” is a great place to take the leap from. You will be reading about the hero’s journey and, you will also be on it.

    After the rediscovery, it is as if you are rising from the ashes, greeting your true self like a long lost lover, after a long and costly war. (attributed to Robert Bly, from his book “Iron John.”)

    Read this too. Read everything worthwhile. In one year give me a report on your status. Godspeed.

  6. josh says:

    Pam, a great topic! The ‘sweet spot’ makes sense. But I want to know: how does one go about finding their love (of their career)? Give us some specific steps.

    Mike Johnston wrote a great essay – he mentioned “journal and began to write everything that was important to me. I began to read voraciously. Soon, I new exactly where I was ( I had clawed my way to the middle) and just what I was meant to do.” Can you dig into this process a bit? Perhaps ask our readers for stories. I want to hear from a few people have succeeded at the quest, as well as those who haven’t yet.

    A specific question: if you haven’t found what you love doing for a living, does moving help? my intuition says it does.

  7. trendoffice says:

    What a strange coincidence to stumble upon this post and the long argos comments just on the eve of my Nth birthday! If we only could always learn from other peoples’ wisdom gained through experience…

  8. AlfredTwo says:

    Career Sweet Spot

    One last post before the weekend. I will be travelling Sunday and will most likely be busy all day on…

  9. John G Agno says:


    Jessica Duquette of told me about your blog today and after reading this post, I can see why.

    I, too, believe that we are each born with a job to do and the tools to do it. Knowing who we are and what we are meant to do allows us to focus our energy and push us forward.

    Yes, it is “elusive” discovering our life purpose or life signature but we can get there with the help of a guide(s). Books like “Now, Discover Your Strengths” provide some of the tools for understanding our innate signature talents. Self assessments take a picture of us from different angles so we can become aware the whole person that lives within us.

    It is sad that most people don’t change and spend their life in their comfortable and predictable cubicle. But those that seek their life signature to live a life of passion understand that life is limited and definately not a dress rehearsal.

  10. argos says:

    Since discovering you yesterday via Guy Kawasaki, I have done nothing but smile. I dropped out of the corporate world seven years ago. It just seemed like slow death to me. Slower than smoking.

    I became an artist…oil painter. Through five years of wagging the brush, I discovered my true, original self. One day, I sat down at table and just did nothing. Got real quiet. Then…the world unfolded at my feet. This took several months.

    I bought a little moleskin journal and began to write everything that was important to me. I began to read voraciously. Soon, I new exactly where I was ( I had clawed my way to the middle) and just what I was meant to do.

    While living out on the margins, I took two years to study the industry I was born to command some space in, uncontested.

    The writing began with a personal manifesto, what I would do, what I would not ever do.

    Here are some examples:

    I do not want a local business (been there, done that)

    I do not want a family business (been there, done that )

    I will never use a resume again.

    I will never pursue a job again.

    I will never take a personality test again.

    Through my passions and beliefs, I will lead my life into the sovereign state it was meant to be.

    I also wrote everything I learned from reading business books, etc. I went back to my university and studies four years of curriculum in one year, unaccredited.

    Suffice to say, the writing became a business plan. I gave myself plenty of time to be thorough and cautious. Today, I am days from primary beta launch and just as happy, busy, scared and excited as I could be. Just what I wanted. No more idleness and, absorbed by what I love, what I command, what I am unwilling to consider the word “no” over. Life is now that fantastic journey I always dreamed it was and, I percieve myself as on top. There is nothing left to do but keep learning everyday and, have fun doing it.

    Here is the most precious advice I can share: ( borrowed from Ray Bradbury while giving a speach at the LA Book Fest last year)

    1. Fall in love.
    2. Stay in love.
    3. Declare your love.
    4. Don’t let anyone talk to you about your loves.
    5. If your friends don’t love your for your loves, get new friends.

    and finally he said: “Jump of of the mountain and build your wings on the way down.”

    Lastly, I can say that; re-inventing oneself is a full-time job. It is the best job I have ever had.

    A few words of comfort for those who are struggling to find a job, a place: the reason you are rejected or ignored out there in the corporate world is because you simply are not the highly trained dog they are looking for. So, stop trying to be one. You were meant to be a master of something of your own creation. Go do it. Give up the mortgage if need be. Someone once said that “every overnight sucess is 15 years in the making.” Give your self those 15 years. You may just do it in ten! Remember that most successful businesses are started by people in their fifties and sixties. Heck, I am 49. My best is still way out in front of me.

    I am now looking for talented, creative people to give the reigns of my business over to, and run it as they see fit, while I dream of the next phase of enerprise. This, is life… perfectly lived.

    From one revolutionary to the other, Viva! Feel free to write.

  11. Right on! It took me a long time to learn those lessons. The better part of the last year I was aware of the answers and still ignored them. Though the “who I am” still takes a bit of searching daily, the other answers are truly crystal clear these days.

    Becuase of this my life has become more fruitful and I am better for it. I appreciate Guy letting me know about your blog as well.

    Let Technorati know, you have one new subscriber.