“Many people die with their music still in them.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
If your life work is a music, what would it sound like?
More importantly, who’s listening to it?
Are you currently doing what you love, or are you finding for your career sweet spot?
For the past two years in my coaching and consulting work, I help leaders and producers succeed in the financial services industry, locally and abroad. Many of them make a great living with high income, or on their way to doing so.
On numerous occasions, my associates or clients were curious why am I “just a coach” and not in the business field like them, having seen how lucrative the income can be.
I found that amusing.
Some of them attempted in recruiting me to be part of their business team.
There’s never a doubt in my mind that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this point of time.
The questions I asked myself in navigating my career path has not been around how much money I can make. I mean, make no mistake, that’s important too, but it’s just not the center of my decisions. For me, the heart of the matter are these questions:
“Where would I create the biggest impact?”
“What kind of work would I be doing to make me come alive (to have my heart singing)?”
If you’ve read my earlier post on my coaching journey (read it here), you know that it has taken me a while to finally dive into becoming a coach. I’d been living in parallel careers – the tension between what my qualifications and background dictate who I should be and who I want to be. It was an inner struggle I loathed.
Oliver Wendell Holme’s full quote goes like this: “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”
“What a great waste, what a tragedy!” I thought to myself the first time I read that quote.
At the same time, it hit me hard as it was like a mirror to me. I saw that I was one of those “getting ready to live” folks!
I was getting my musical instruments ready, busy doing all kinds of unnecessary preparations, except doing what matters the most – playing my music and getting it out there to be heard.
I had financial concerns. I justified my delay thinking I should have X amount of savings in my bank before I feel safe going into doing what I love.
A delay is still a delay nonetheless. It falls under the “getting ready to live” category.
Now that I’m a professional coach, making a bigger income doing what I love, suddenly all the fuss and struggle seem like a distant memory.
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” ~ Steve Jobs
Back to my earlier question: “Where would I create the biggest impact?” I wanted to focus my craft on making a positive difference in the world without losing my identity and values. I explored further in that direction. I asked myself:
What does it actually look like to create impact everyday?
What happens when I imagine myself doing just that?
Who would I be serving?
What has to happen for me to do that?
Frankly, I also had some nagging fears about whether I would be good in doing what I love and would people take me seriously. But my passion and belief in this work drown away my fears. I spent much time, effort and investment in getting good at it.
When I’m fully immersed in working on my craft, I don’t pay attention to those inner voices of fear. I had a really good time in my learning journey. I still do.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Finding Your Sweet Spot
Where are you in your journey of finding your career sweet spot? Is your music being heard?
Your sweet spot is where you would be creating the biggest impact. A useful analogy is a tennis racket. The center of the racket is the sweet spot – the area where the ball would bounce most effortlessly and accurately off the racket. It gives the most power and feeling, and a great sweet sound!
Your sweet spot is where your ‘best music’ is heard. Imagine the ‘E’ string of the guitar, for example. It’s at its optimum best sound when it’s tuned to ‘E’. You can tune it to another note but the further it is from it’s originally intended ‘E’ note, it becomes too tight or too loose, the sound quality deteriorates.
I love the illustration above on finding your sweet spot which is pretty much self-explanatory. Sweet spot is where you operate at your best doing what you love and getting paid handsomely because the marketplace needs it.
Having said that, it’s not an easy path finding your sweet spot for many people.
In reality, you can’t clearly see the three nice-rounded circles as illustrated because they have no form. You have to discover and define all that by yourself. You’ve to skilfully navigate your path towards your sweet spot while coping with present realities.
You’ve got to talk to people around you. You’ve got to experiment. You’ve got to sell what you do. You will likely be rejected. You will fall. There’s a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. And you will meet mentors and teachers along the journey. You will meet fellow learners and explorers. It’s a beautiful journey.
It’s easy to listen to the ‘music’ of the world blaring loudly rather than the softer music playing inside you. It’s tempting to follow the trend, be where everyone is and dance to the rhythm of what’s out there.The more you tune in to your inner music, the louder it grows and the world will hear it. Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, you’ve to examine and ask yourself what kind of impact are you creating and is that okay? Is the music still hidden inside undiscovered or is the world enjoying what you have to offer?
The Journey Beyond
The journey in moving to your ultimate sweet spot is more important than arriving there. Because as Hemingway said in the quote above, we’re all apprentices and students in this journey. Mastery is a life-long quest.
I’ve always been inspired listening to Jim Rohn, especially in his latter years. To me he was already the master of helping people create a wonderful life. After decades of doing what he did best, he said that he was still “working on his craft”. What an inspiring guy!
The journey is the home, not the destination.
If you’re looking for a book on finding the work that you love, I’d highly recommend Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do.