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Find Your Calling: How to Ask Yourself the Right Questions

What are you good at, and what can you be passionate about for a long, long time?
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If your first thought is ugh when you wake up on Monday morning, perhaps it’s time for a change.

After graduating from Cornell, I followed the herd and became a Wall Street investment banker. I was beyond unfulfilled. 

Then 9/11 happened.

My subway stop was 2 World Trade Center and I was supposed to be there that day, but for the first time ever--and the only time still to this day--I slept through my alarm clock.

I was spared. Two people in my office died and this was the day that changed my life forever.

I knew I had to stop doing the whole banker thing (much to the chagrin of my Asian parents) and "find my calling."

The problem was actually finding my so-called "calling."

It was a tough place to be, but I knew I wasn’t alone. Statistics show that 70% of Americans hate their jobs.

Clearly these people need to find their callings, too.

So how did I go from being a miserable 100-hour-per-week investment banker who was overworked and unfulfilled to a happy social entrepreneur and author?

I asked myself two questions:

  1. What am I really good at?
  2. What can I be passionate about for a really long time? 

Start by asking what you're really good at.

It's not easy telling yourself that you’re a terrible singer even though you'd love to be Mariah Carey. Especially when you sound so good in the shower.

To think about this question, you have to articulate why you’re great: 

  1. What tangible skills do you have that others don’t have?
  2. What skills has someone (besides your mom) complimented you on? 

I'm skilled at connecting people, coming up with super random marketing ideas, getting people excited about the things I’m working on, and solving problems fast. People other than my mom have complimented me on all of the above. Don't be ashamed to voice what you're great at--only the harshest self-critics will find it obnoxious. Forget them. 

Now ask yourself what you can be passionate about for a long time.

Pick a passion based on something you're terrific at, because realistically, no matter how much you love singing in the shower, sometimes you just can't be Mariah Carey. No matter how hard you train.  

Here’s how to narrow it down:

"The last thing I’ve done that I’m proud of is [your answer here]."

"The communities, people, places, or issues that I care about supporting are [your answer here]."

Once you can answer this, you should be willing to fight through the crazy ups and downs and the years (yes, years) of potential struggle in business and life. Because you'll be waking up with a sense of purpose daily. When you find that sense of purpose, the pain of the process all becomes worthwhile.

So what’s my calling?

I believe it’s to make a big dent in creating true gender equality. It’s intolerable to me that women are treated with such brutality around the world. So if I can make a real difference in this space, I'll consider myself a success. I'm especially proud of my business (THINX), which solves a major gender inequality issue through an innovative product for women.

Think critically about these two big questions. Then think some more. No doubt they can bring you one step closer to figuring out what's important, and then pursuing it doggedly.

See you next week--I'll discuss how to eliminate negative relationships in your life in order to create room for inspiring ones. 

Last updated: Sep 23, 2013

MIKI AGRAWAL | Columnist | serial entrepreneur

Miki Agrawal is a serial social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and television personality. She founded the farm-to-table alternative pizza concept called Wild in New York City and partnered with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to open the concept in Las Vegas. She was a recipient of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival's Disruptive Innovation Award. Agrawal is also a partner in Super Sprowtz, a children's media company. Her book, Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After, came out in August 2013.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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