About a year ago, I fell in love with an incredible book by Susan Cain. It’s called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and it’s made me very happy as an introvert and as a human being overall. In the 9th chapter of her book, she discusses the advice she gives to other introverts about how to find a successful career path in a world dominated by loud, extroverted people. One concept she offers is the “core personal project,” based on the idea that we should re-examine what makes us happy and what kind of work we really want to be doing.
I like this concept a lot, so I’ve used it as inspiration for a new setup. This helps me figure out a lot of questions, like what to read next or what story I want to write next or where my career should be going. And now I’d like to share this strategy with you.
It boils down to 3 key questions that I ask myself all the time.
1. What did you adore when you were a kid?
It’s true that we don’t stay in love with everything we enjoyed as kids. I grew up as an avid fan of Batman and Power Rangers, but I don’t follow them religiously as an adult. But there is something about being young and having your first passion.
For me, it was making up stories. My Dad and I would spend whole trips in his truck making up fun, oddball tales about people we knew, or about imaginary characters. And I had entire narratives planned out when I lay on the floor, playing with my action figures. Since I never lost that original joy, I’ve been slowly transforming it into a real-world career as a freelance writer and blogger, helping other people tell their stories through website landing pages and SEO marketing.
For someone who loved playing dress-up as a kid, they might find their joy in designing costumes or tailoring outfits in a boutique or even becoming a cosplay expert. It all depends on what you liked as a child, and whether or not you still enjoy it.
2. Who are the people that you admire most?
Everyone has their role model, whether it’s a parent, a teacher, a celebrity, a co-worker, or a good friend who seems to have their act together. But role models aren’t simply the people who we try to model our lives after. They can also be the people whose success we want to imitate.
Susan Cain has a good way of describing this reaction in her book:
“Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire” (Cain, p. 218).
In that sense, it’s helpful to stop and ask yourself on occasion whom you envy, especially if they’re in a field of work that you’d enjoy. For Susan, it was writers and psychologists whom she envied in her career as a Wall Street lawyer. For me, it’s Web content creators like the original team behind Rooster Teeth Productions, and online reviewers like Doug Walker, Linsday Ellis, and Kyle Kallgren. I look at their work and their fanbase, and I think to myself, “Yeah, I could spend the time and money to do what they do. I want that kind of an audience, too.”
3. How or where do you see yourself as talented?
Not everyone gets the same inherent talent as a pro athlete or a famous musician, but we all have something that we’re good at doing. And if we’re lucky, we find ourselves doing what we good at in one or more jobs along the way.
For one person, it’s their ability to crunch numbers in their head. For another, it’s being able to speak off-the-cuff at a meeting or close a sale. And for quiet, sensitive types like me, our gift is absorbing everything we read and watch, staying organized, and putting all we’ve learned into a fast writing schedule to deliver a fun and coherent message. It’s also worth noting that not everyone does the same job in the same way. One writer or artist can work in solitude, but a more sociable type might need the energy of a crowded room to achieve the same results.
All it takes is being able to find your talent—or multiple talents, even if they’re unrelated—and making them work for you wherever you go.
These questions, inspired by Susan Cain’s 3-step process, helped me figure out that I enjoyed making people feel good when I was a kid, that I look up to online critics and Web content creators, and that I’m talented when it comes to helping others tell their stories. That’s why I write reviews on this blog, why I like being a freelance writer for different clients, and why I find it so easy and fulfilling to edit and promote other people’s work.
For more about Susan Cain and other advice about life as an introvert, I highly recommend you visit her website, Quiet Revolution.
So now, it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Do you think they’ll help you figure out how to best make use of your passion? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.