Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do

by Chris Guillebeau

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101903995
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 110,647
File size: 17 MB
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About the Author

CHRIS GUILLEBEAU is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The $100 Startup and The Happiness of Pursuit, and is creator and host of the annual World Domination Summit, a gathering of cultural creatives that attracts such speakers as Susan Cain, Brené Brown, and Gretchen Rubin. Guillebeau speaks at dozens of events, companies, and universities, including Google, Facebook, SXSW, Evernote, LeWeb, and more. He recently completed a personal quest to visit every country in the world (193/193).

Read an Excerpt


Flip the Script

Objective: Choose the Winning Ticket to Your Career Lottery

There’s more than one possible path to career success, but you want to find the best one—­the thing you were born to do. You want to win the career lottery and discover a job or vocation that doesn’t feel like work. Achieving this goal will require changes in mindset, strategy, and action.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, how would your life be different?

Some people might dash straight out to the luxury car lot, and then drive home in a shiny new toy before booking a Caribbean vacation.

Others might pay off their debt and invest the rest for a comfortable future.

Still others might shrug and give the money to charity.

When it comes to their jobs and careers, different members of our group of hypothetical lottery winners would probably choose different responses. Some people would quit immediately, walking out with no notice. Others would use the experience to reflect on what they really wanted to do, and then proceed with the security of having all the money they needed to take the risks to pursue the thing they always dreamed of—­whether it’s opening a surf shop in Bora Bora, founding a nonprofit in sub-­Saharan Africa, or building a tech startup.

Some people, perhaps the truly lucky ones, would look at their lottery winnings and say, “You know, this money’s great, but I like what I’m doing enough to stay. Maybe I’ll take that vacation on the beach, and maybe I’ll buy that car I’ve always wanted, but then I’ll drive it back to my office after a week of sunbathing.”

In case you’re wondering, none of these answers is the single “right” one. When you win the lottery, it’s your money to do with as you please. And even if you love your job, winning the lottery would probably encourage you to reevaluate. Do you love your job so much that you’d do it if you didn’t need the money?

Work isn’t everything in life, but we spend a great deal of our lives at work. Some people, it seems, really do have it all. These people take to their working roles as if it’s the absolute best possible fit for them—­it’s as though they were born to fulfill a certain role. If you’ve ever worked on something you took great pleasure in, yet you also got paid for it, you know what this is about. And if you haven’t experienced this career bliss yourself, you may have observed it in others.

Ever come across a childhood friend that you’d lost track of for many years? Maybe he pops up on a social network, or maybe you run into her at the coffee shop. Wherever it is, you hear what that person is doing, 10 or 20 or more years later, and you realize it makes perfect sense. Of course she became a lawyer—­she was always detail-­oriented and inquisitive. Of course he went into teaching—­he was always patient and methodological.

These are the winners of the career lottery; they are people who found what they were meant to do. They’re happier because of it, and they are likely more successful, too.

Whatever it was, those people have essentially picked up a winning lottery ticket to the world of work. That’s the goal for all of us: to find work that feels like play, yet also has meaning and a good paycheck attached to it.

Winning a gazillion dollars in the lottery would be nice, but finding what you were meant to do is far more important. This book will help you win a different kind of lottery—­not the kind where someone descends on your doorstep with a oversized check, ready to send you straight to that car dealership or Prada store.

It’s better.

“What Do You Do for a Living?”

It’s the question you’ve probably heard a thousand times, whether at parties, networking events, your kid’s soccer game, or any other number of places. Depending on what’s happening in your life at the moment, the question may fill you with excitement, dread, or something in between.

The question, of course, is “What do you do?” In these situations, it usually means “What do you do for work?” As I was writing this book, I asked this question of hundreds of people. Here are a few of their answers, presented here in abbreviated form.

The acupuncturist: “I help people who have health problems that conventional medicine has been unable to explain or treat, and those who are looking for a more natural approach to health and well-­being.”

The online community manager: “I play a game of whack-­a-­mole all day. In real-­life terms, I’m a community manager. I do everything from business owner seminars to media liaising, party planning to event sponsorships, speaking socially on community marketing to late-­night troll fights.”

The potter: “I tell people I’m retired. After working for ‘the man’ for so many years, I do feel like I’m retired. Don’t be fooled—­I actually work harder now than ever, but I love what I do, so only about 20 percent feels like work, and that is the marketing and bookkeeping.”

The nomad: “I don’t have a standard answer yet. Sometimes I say I’m a writer. Other times I say I’m a filmmaker. If I’m feeling particularly bold, I might say I live in an RV and travel, and leave it at that.”

The answers to “What do you do?” can be so much more diverse and interesting than most people realize, especially when these answers are more than just vague descriptions like “I’m a teacher” or “I work for a magazine.” Even more interesting than the answers to “What do you do?,” however, is the rarely-­asked follow-­up of what led them to their answer. After all, with all the countless career paths and options out there, how do people find that one thing they were born to do?

“How Did You Get There?”

There may be a few superhumans out there who know from age five exactly what they want to do when they grow up, and what form it will take. For the rest of us, it’s almost never that simple. Jobs and careers don’t fall from the sky to land at our feet, where we simply pick them up and accept them as the perfect fit for life.

Simply put, the process of discovery unfolds a bit differently for most people. As we advance throughout a career (or series of careers), most of us have a number of different work experiences ranging from frustrating to awesome. You can learn something from any job, of course, but most of the time we learn as much about what we don’t want as what we do.

When I asked hundreds of people who found the work they were “born to do” what paths they took to become the acupuncturist, the civil servant, the teacher, or whatever their current profession is, one theme ran through all their responses: the search took time and effort, and the path had lots of twists and turns, but they all kept working toward it. They believed in the goal, and when they encountered obstacles, they found ways around them.

You may be familiar with “The Road Not Taken,” the classic poem by Robert Frost. The poem is about arriving at a path that diverges and having to choose a single direction. In the end, the poet chooses “the road less traveled,” and we’re told that it “made all the difference.” Great poem! But guess what? Maybe the choice of road didn’t matter after all. Because in real life, there are many possible paths that can lead us to that lottery-­winning job or career.

What if there was a sequel to “The Road Not Taken,” written from the perspective of going back in time and making the opposite choice? It probably wouldn’t be as poetic: “Hey, everyone, I went back to that road I ignored before. Turns out I got to where I wanted to go anyway! Either choice would have been okay.”

The Pulitzer Prize belongs to Frost, not me—­but the point is that when it comes to the life choices we make, there really is more than one path.

Not only is it true that there’s more than one path you can pursue in life, it’s also true that you can be happy any number of ways. Even so, some paths are better than others. Sure, you could be happy in a variety of situations—­but couldn’t you be happier doing some things as opposed to others?

And if it’s true that some paths are better than others, then there’s probably one path that’s best of all. There’s a perfect fit somewhere, one that leads to a feeling of total fulfillment and satisfaction that only comes from waking up every day and getting paid to do something you love.

That’s why our goal here isn’t just happiness: it’s to find the thing you were born to do.

Joining the Circus

Let’s say your dream is to run away and join the circus. Maybe you’ve always been enchanted by clowns (“How do they all get in that tiny car?”), or perhaps you’ve been practicing your tightrope act in the backyard when you should have been doing your homework. Great. So what are your next steps?

Your quest will probably begin with some sort of research. You may visit a traveling circus and ask to speak to whoever’s in charge of hiring. You may go online and search for circus jobs. Somehow you’ll uncover more information on qualifications (must be good with animals), working conditions (never a dull moment), salary (enough to live on, but not much more), benefits (free peanuts), and the hiring process.

Soon you score an interview for the role of elephant trainer, and ultimately land the job. Congratulations! You report to the elephant tent to begun your inaugural assignment, full of joy and hope. After a few weeks on the job, however, you realize that joining the circus isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The running away part was fun; the cleaning up after the elephants, not so much. You learned what you liked and what you didn’t.

So you move on and change roles, getting a job in the ticket sales department. At first you appreciate the new set of responsibilities and the freedom from cleaning up after elephants. But you soon discover that work in the ticket office not only is boring but also requires you to report to duty several nights a week and every weekend. You then decide to leave the circus altogether and do what your parents suggested in the first place: you get a cushy office job in ad sales.

But—­and this probably doesn’t come as a surprise—­working for a big corporate company isn’t the right fit for you, either. You spend the weeks counting down to Friday night, until one day you’re in a meeting with a client who runs a boutique clothing line. A lightbulb goes off in your head. Finally, you realize that designing circus-­themed ­T-shirts was the work you were “born to do” all along.

This is a highly simplified example, but the point is that when you’re starting out in the world of work, you probably don’t know exactly what you want, at least not right away—­and that’s normal. Figuring it out takes time and experience, and probably some setbacks along the way. Finding the work you were meant to do is rarely a linear journey. It’s a process of exploring many little twists and turns that lead us to the place we ultimately belong.

The Winning Ticket

Let’s go back to our group of lottery winners. How did they get so lucky? Does it all come down to chance, or did they make smart decisions along the way that led to the appearance of luck?

The first thing to notice is that even in a retirement plan as unreliable as the lottery, you still need to enter to win. Without a ticket, you have zero chance of success.

Also, lottery winners didn’t just purchase the ticket—­they also had to follow up with at least a few actions. If they bought the winning ticket and never checked the numbers, the choice to buy the ticket was meaningless.

Finally, they had to present themselves as winners, sign all the disclosure forms, agree to pay all required taxes, and have their photo taken while holding up that ridiculously oversized check.

These actions may seem simple, but every year millions of dollars in winnings (real money!) are never claimed. Even lottery winners determined completely by luck have to make all-­or-­nothing choices to ensure they collect their winnings.

Now for some great news: while the actual lottery is nearly impossible to win, the career lottery isn’t. This is very important! If the actual lottery is set up properly, there’s no way to hack it. You win or you lose—­and most of us lose, of course—­according to the laws of probability and other variables that are completely outside your control.

With the career lottery, however, you have a great deal of influence over the results. The actions you take now will directly affect the opportunities available to you in the future. That’s why it’s so important to take the right kinds of actions. If you plan strategically, you can greatly increase your odds of tremendous success.

In short, we want to be lucky—­at least as much as we can control our luck—­but we also want to make the right decisions along the way.

The Path to Lottery Winnings

Decisions: make the right ones

Luck: increase it wherever possible

Our Goal: Flip the Script

Consciously or not, many people tend to choose paths in life by following a preexisting script. By “script” I mean any expectation or assumption on how we should act. Whether in the workplace or greater society, some scripts and norms are important for social cohesion. For example, regardless of our politics, most of us pay taxes because we understand that public goods cost money, and because we don’t want to go to jail. This is a good script to follow, generally speaking.

Many other scripts and norms, however, exist merely out of tradition, regardless of whether they’re still relevant, or to preserve an existing power structure. Even worse, some exist for no discernible reason whatsoever. And when it comes to careers, social scripts can be particularly unhelpful. You may be discouraged from the kind of thinking or actions you need to find your dream job or career. For example:

•Script #1: Entry-­level positions should lead to junior management positions, which should eventually become higher management positions (sometimes regardless of the skills of the employees in question), with the goal being to work your way up to the “C-­suite,” or the corner office.

Table of Contents

Plan of Attack 1

Terms of Engagement 3

1 Flip the Script 9

Objective: Choose the Winning Ticket to Your Career Lottery 9

2 Your Money and Your Life 25

Objective: Have Both 25

3 Always Bet on Yourself 57

Objective: Beat the House 57

4 Prison Break 101 77

Objective: Master the Right Skills 77

5 The Answer in Your Inbox 101

Objective: Find Your Thing 101

6 Life Coaching from Jay-Z 123

Objective: Expand Your Options, Then Limit Them 123

Next Steps: A Menu of Options 140

7 Side Hustle 143

Objective: Make More Money 143

8 You, Inc. 175

Objective: Build a Small Empire 175

9 How to Become a Firefighter (or Whatever You Want) 195

Objective: Play the Came That Will Increase Your Odds 195

10 The Self-Employed Employee 221

Objective: Become Indispensable 221

11 DIY Rock Star 243

Objective: Recruit a Small Army of Fans and Supporters 243

12 How to do Everything You Want 263

Objective: Refuse to Choose 263

13 Winners Give Up All the Time 287

Objective: Pursue the Right Opportunities (and Say Farewell to the Wrong Ones) 287

Appendix 1 Tool Kit 303

Appendix 2 "Here's How I'll Make You a Lot of Money" (Email Pitch) 306

Appendix 3 Never Lose at Tic-Tac-Toe (Bonus Lesson!) 308

Index 310

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Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Time will tell if reading this book will be a life-changer for me, but I’m hopeful. At the minimum, I am motivated to wake up tomorrow with a new outlook on life and a renewed drive for success.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He does it again! - An amazing read that is so incredibly helpful. - I've already put Chris's suggestions into practice and the book has only been out for a week!
anneb10 More than 1 year ago
Chris Guillebeau's new book, Born For This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do reads more like a conversation than a how-to book. An easy, engaging on how to take a more ...unconventional approach to finding the work the reader is (wait for it) born to do. It's filled with anecdotes on how both Chris himself and other people found fulfilling work that hit the sweet spot between joy and money. It certainly gave me a lot of ideas. It's definitely worth your time, especially if you're hitting a wall at work and want to find a meaningful way out of a job you hate. Full disclosure: I received my ARC of the book as I am on his mailing list, and I was randomly drawn from that list.
-Bibliotraveler More than 1 year ago
Similar to his previous work, like The Happiness of Pursuit (which inspired me to go on my cross-country trip last year), this new book is full of inspiration for the entrepreneurial lifestyle with successful examples. It's not just for online entrepreneurs; Chris offers advice and examples of "hacking one's job" or improving your current career. I liked that, instead of giving the popular advice of finding a niche, this book acknowledges people who have multiple interests. Sometimes the interests have a common thread, like me with genealogy, archives work, and antiquarian bookselling. One takeaway for me was the "side-hack," or creative side job that could either become a future career or just provide near-term financial support. Born for This is great for a secular book about finding meaningful work. I'd love it if Chris could combine his energy and world-traveling insight with somebody spiritually grounded like Rick Warren into writing that provides practical steps with heavenly priorities.
DebbieD-Berkeley-CA More than 1 year ago
Hands down the clearest book I've read on finding the perfect work for your personality and skills, and I've read a lot of them! Buy it now and save yourself years of wondering, teeth-gnashing, and wasted time. You'll thank me as soon as you read it (and Chris!).