Let your why guide your what

Earlier this week the show MadMen took a mid-season break. If you aren’t familiar with the show, the main character is a genius advertising executive named Don Draper. When Don is at his best he’s better than all his competition. Don is a combination of charisma, creativity, and charm that doesn’t lose. Despite his genius he also has a self destructive streak that is often the only thing that can bring him down.

In a turn of events brought on by his own poor choices he is brought low. He has to deal with consequences that include being kicked out of the company he formed. He is given a second chance to be a rank and file copywriter reporting to someone he recruited. In a change of character he chooses to be humble and submit. He agrees to abide by the terms forced upon him and does all the grunt work expected of him.

Later Don explains an epiphany of this process to a peer considering leaving the business. Don explains that when he was liberated from the non-creative parts of his work like office politics and management burdens he remembered what first drew him to the work. “And I realized the work was what I always loved” he states.

Your why can be a guide

This phrase resonated with me because after figuring out what your why is – the driving reason behind your decisions – it is much easier to figure out what kind of work you should do with your time. You’re also more likely to find something that you love. Something that when reduced to the core part of the work you can still say that you love it. Your why becomes a compass to lead you to work that make sense for your personality and passions.

If I were to be in a line of work that required constant in-person interaction that would contradict the part of my work dealing with travel. If my work had me jetting off Sunday nights and returning Friday nights that may fit my travel requirement but would go against the requirement of time with family.

Knowing your why helps you choose your what

Building commercial plugins and doing freelance ecommerce work fits comfortable inside the constraints of my why. Programming is creative, involves problem solving, and helps people.

I’m lucky to be able to do work that I love that also fits the outline of my why. My work isn’t just something that provides money so I can have food to eat, necessities of life, and a place to sleep. It’s a fulfilling occupation that makes me excited to wake up every day.

If you’re outside your why – make a change!

Because I am able to state my why in one sentence I have a clear target to aim for. I’m able to avoid some opportunities that are clearly out of bounds and dismiss others that are close but not an exact fit.

I left one job because it required me being physically in an office every day. I left another when I realized I’m not cut out for supporting other people’s code. If you’re outside of your why outline know that you can make a change! Keep changing your aim until you’re direct center of your target and you’ve found work that you love!

How about you – are you doing work that fits inside the outline of your ‘why’? Or are you feeling the discomfort of a vocation that isn’t the right fit and are ready for a change?