What do Cody Bellinger, center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a low-level cleric with the propensity for healing have in common? Both are positions I would hold today if I had held out and pursued my "passions" as a youth.
All our lives, we are told to focus on activities or ideals that bring passion to our work, with the idea that passion is at the root of a successful career or profession. That is all fine, but the problem for me was that I could never effectively hit a curve ball and seating up with a table full of D&D characters hardly paid my bills.
So how do we square our passions with finding meaningful work that still provides a means of sustenance?
Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a leadership institute that promotes a strengths finding program called CliftonStrengths. It is a practice of identifying core strengths and understanding how to apply them to find a career for which we are best suited.
CliftonStrengths is an assessment developed by Don Clifton, the former chairman of Gallup, an organization that uses data and insights to help organizations better understand and utilize their human resources. After conducting a survey and collecting data on millions of professionals, the assessment ranks strengths on 34 themes of talent, which can then be used to organize, understand and lead teams and "maximize human potential by developing people to become great at what they're naturally good at," according to the Gallup website.
After doing the assessment myself, I did not see center fielder or magic in my rankings, but I did walk away with a much better understanding of my strengths, which turned out to be very suited to my passions.
Although taking the survey requires a fee and at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, it is incredibly useful in guiding you to organize and interpret your strengths. You can start for free, however, by at considering the four individual characteristics Gallup uses to describe how people and teams best use their talents.
These are the types of people who absorb and synthesize large amounts of information well. They find connections between ideas and data points and can effectively analyze large amounts of information and apply the results to making better business decisions.
This talent relates to the type of people who are very effective at getting things done. These individuals are dependable and able to act with certainty and quickness, especially when an important action and deadline is looming.
Individuals with this talent are great communicators and able to simplify complex information or abstract ideas and turn them into meaningful actions. These are the people you depend on to motivate and inspire a team to achieve goals, even when the vision or strategy is not clear.
Team members who prioritize the inclusion of others and get satisfaction from reducing conflict, motivating and encouraging colleagues fall into this group. These are typically the people who are nurturing and supportive and hold a team together.
From reading these descriptions, you can probably determine which category you fall into. Of course, the temptation might be to include yourself into all of them, but after years of collecting data, it has been shown that we are strongest in one or two. In these cases, you should focus on goals and actions that fit to your strengths, which will ultimately help you find work that you are passionate about -- because you will be great at it.
For me, my leaning toward "strategic thinking" may not fit into my dream of becoming a demigorgon-fighting center fielder for the Dodgers, but it has definitely helped me focus my goals on finding projects and work that I excel in and, as it turns out, I am passionate about.
Where do you fall into these categories? Share your thoughts and insights with me on Twitter.