This week someone asked me what I share with people who ask for career advice. I haven't had a very long, steady, or successful career, so I'm not quite sure I'm the best person to ask. I also really struggle giving generic advice because I don't know the idiosyncrasies of everyone's life and circumstances. But if my general response can help anyone here, I'm happy to share:
Most people will either tell you to 'follow your passion' and just go do that. Or to 'build a unique set of skills' and go do that. I think the path for most people probably lies somewhere in between those two extremes of pure passion and pure practicality.
Perhaps a better question is, "What questions and problems fascinate you so much that you could spend a large portion of your life looking for the answer and be excited to do that?"
Some people want to become 'generalists.' Some people want to become 'experts.' While I think those are both outcomes, I'm unsure if the generalist or expert label is goal itself. I think both of them come from excitedly peeling away layers of a topic or topics you enjoy learning about, resolving problems you enjoy untangling, and helping those you enjoy supporting. I'll be the first to admit how lucky I was to stumble on my 'big question' at age 23: "How can I best help the world to create a new generation of leaders who are heard, respected, and understood?" That question alone still puts a fire in my belly every day, no matter how rainy it is outside or how lousy I'm feeling.
Just speaking from personal experience, I don't think I would have felt or feel the same way if my attitude was only, 'follow your passion.' There are days (and there have even been weeks!) when my passion was even hard to detect in myself! And that's scary to even write down for myself to see, let alone other people. I also don't think that set of skills I have now (which I think are comparatively unique 'in the marketplace') would have come about if I just asked tried to 'build a unique set of skills.'
Rather than asking myself how I can 'win the game,' I'm asking myself, 'what do I want to learn about?'
It's amazing how quickly learning turns into satisfaction, and a constant stream of energy. I think it largely depends on the problems or issues you're spending your days trying to solve.