At the conclusion of his last major public presentation, Steve Jobs paused and said, "It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that make our hearts sing."
I believe that turning Jobs' observation into a question will transform your career or spark an idea for an innovative new business. I've seen it happen.
Two years ago an entrepreneur contacted me to say he had started to ask himself that very question after reading about it in one of my books. He asked himself, "What makes my heart sing?" The answer inspired him to start a podcast and to write a book. Today he is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts one of the top self-help podcasts on iTunes.
What makes your heart sing?
It's an empowering question that leads to a better result than simply asking, 'What's my passion?' A passion could be anything, a passing interest or a hobby. I'm passionate about golf, but I'll never reach the top of the profession (or even my club).
Backstage at a business conference in Paris, I learned the difference between following a passion or pursuing an idea that makes your heart sing. It began as a conversation with another speaker, the man Vanity Fair called the world's greatest chef--Ferran Adria.
"What is the secret to success?" I asked.
"That's impossible to answer. There are so many paths to success," Adria responded.
Adria looked away and I assumed our conversation was over. But he quickly turned back.
"There is one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common," he added.
"Tell me about that glass of wine. What do you see?" Adria asked as he pointed to a glass on the table in front of us.
"I see a drink," I answered.
"Exactly. You see a beverage. I see a vineyard. I smell the grapes. I can picture a family meal. I see them smile. I hear them laugh. Carmine, where you see a drink, I see something that makes my heart sing with joy."
My conversation with the famous chef was a transformative moment in my life and in my career as an author. I realized that the most interesting communicators and the most innovative entrepreneurs don't follow their passion; they pursue the field that makes their hearts sing. It also makes a difference in how entrepreneurs articulate their vision. I tried this experiment on an entrepreneur who is revolutionizing a healthcare category. I asked him a series of three questions. You'll notice that each of his responses became more interesting with each question:
"What do you do?"
"I'm the CEO of a healthcare startup."
"What are you passionate about?"
"I'm passionate about patient care."
"What makes your heart sing?"
"Hmm...that's a good question. I received a call from an oncologist whose patient only had a few months left to live. The doctor had tried everything. He heard about our product and decided to try it. The results showed he had been treating the wrong type of cancer. He changed the therapy. Today the patient has no detectable cancer. It's those stories that keep me burning the midnight oil."
After the entrepreneur finished his story, there wasn't a dry eye in the conference room. He had inspired his team and raised everyone's energy level. It started by asking better, more empowering questions.
If you're not pursuing what makes your heart sing, you might still be successful. You might make money and build a perfectly fine business. But I find that entrepreneurs who have built truly transformative businesses have, at one point in their careers, asked themselves a version of the better question: What makes my heart sing?
What if you don't have an immediate answer? Steve Jobs gave us advice on how to handle that, too. In his now famous Stanford commencement speech, Jobs said: "As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
What makes your heart sing? It's the most profound question you'll ever ask.