Four Basic Areas of Need

I think I have a slight addiction to constantly looking at the same problem from different perspectives….

The general approach I have been taking up to this point is basically this:

  • Find out what I am best at
  • Use it to say or do something important
  • Turn that into a career
  • Become incredibly successful!

Easy right?

In my latest iteration of trying to figure out what I should do I decided to abandon the constraint of immense success and get right down to the very basic needs of my life. What is the simplest perspective I could take for determining my requirements for happiness?

In doing so I came up with the follow four basic areas of need and a description of what each entails. They are, in order of importance:

  1. Health of the family unit – Relationship with my wife and children, with our extended families, having sound parenting tactics & strategies, having regular activities, and being a family that eats well
  2. Being a good provider – Have a functioning home where repairs are done promptly, keeping our cars well maintained, doing my job well, and having a balanced budget
  3. Having an outlet for Self-Expression – Having a creative outlet like blogging or video editing, and dressing nicely or in a way that is more reflective of who I am.
  4. Having fun along the way – Going to movies, building a home theater, taking full advantage of living in Ottawa/Manotick, planning more date nights, building and cultivating friendships.

After coming up with this list I wondered ‘If each of these four items were functioning at a high level, how would I feel?’ The answer was that I would be pretty damn happy!

I don’t need this immense success I thought I desired. I don’t need to change the world. I don’t need massive accolades or financial success. I really just want a simple life where these basic needs are met.

I think that when there is a feeling of helplessness in any one of these categories you begin to overcompensate in the others. Having a young family can certainly exacerbate such a feeling.

Having kids definitely was a shock to the system. All the free time I had for simply having fun went ‘Poof’! Much of the extra money we had for unplanned house repairs is now spoken for. And the level of stress in our home went way up with a dramatic decrease in sleep quality, not to mention the constant attention required during daylight hours.

The way I reacted was to hone in on that ‘Self Expression’ aspect and try to make it solve all of my problems. If I could do something that would lead to extreme success, then I could leverage those results to fix everything else, right???

But upon reflection I don’t really want that at all. I am very optimistic about looking specifically at those four aspects and making sure I am always doing something that is helping me improve in each one. It seems so much more achievable, and that in itself is all the motivation I need.

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Your Performance is not the Problem

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It was late summer back in 1998 and I was finishing off the final work term of my Industrial Engineering degree at Dal. And as everyone is aware, with every single job that you will ever have there is some kind of performance review process to go through.

Judgement day was here and it was time for mine.

Ahead of this meeting I was given a multiple choice questionnaire to fill out that basically described how I thought I did. I filled it out and brought it to the review meeting with my boss. We went through it question by question and he gave his selections for my performance level. Most of his answers were lower than mine, none were higher.

In the discussion following the questionnaire my boss went on to say “When I think of the people that I can count on in this department, your name doesn’t come to mind.” Further he said something to the effect “You don’t really fit in to this environment, and maybe a Government job would be more up your alley.”

Now, I am not going to say I did a great job during that work term, or that I was terribly engaged with the work I was doing. Because I didn’t, and I wasn’t. But there was a serious lack of depth to his analysis of what was going on, and the commentary of what my life direction should be was completely out of line. As well, having just found out I was going to have to write a supplementary exam for one of my courses, he caught me at a particularly vulnerable time.

I had two other work terms for which I had good reviews, but it’s funny how it is always the shitty stuff that sticks with us. That single meeting had an impact on many life choices I made over the next several years. A huge part of my issue with performance reviews is exactly what I described above. The amplified impact of negative feedback.

When you spend the majority of your waking hours at your workplace a poor annual review can haunt you for months. Your self worth takes a hit, your bank account, your mood, it can trigger anxiety and depression. All for what? It seems that many of the side effects of negative feedback can sabotage your ability to improve future performance.

An often overlooked fact is that a person’s performance doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you are doing and why you are doing it are VITAL components to how well you do it. Are you accessing your Natural Skillset? Do you have a clear purpose?

This is why finding your passion is so important. When you are chasing your passion, performance management almost becomes irrelevant. Where you need to improve a skill you find a way to teach yourself how to do it. When your tools aren’t good enough, you save up and invest in new ones. When you have no time, you simply get up earlier, stay up later, or stop binging on Game of Thrones. When people criticize you, you tell them to go f**k themselves and you keep moving forward. You are on a mission and nothing else matters.

True performance management is a one person activity.

Yes, there are probably dozens of people that can help you do what you do more effectively. But your actual performance, the level at which you work with what you have in the immediate now, can not be improved by someone else.

But everyone wants feedback. Most of the time I believe people just want to make sure they don’t have the terribly awkward and painful conversation at the end of the year.

What I’ve discovered since launching ‘The Passionate Why‘ is the incredible value of real time feedback.

  • Facebook provides instant info for every post telling me how many people have seen it and how it compares to every other one. It tells me when my viewers are most likely online and even breaks it down by gender.
  • On Twitter a sudden jump (or dip) in followers or re-tweets lets me know immediately when I have done something with an impact.
  • On WordPress I know how many people have read my post, which country they live in, and the search terms that were used. I know the best day to post, and the best time of day.
  • And on YouTube I can track the amount of money that is generated from each video. Very minuscule at this point, but the impact is still powerful and even addictive.

I will take this live, ongoing, unbiased, impersonal, continuous feedback any day over an uncomfortable annual performance review.

Image courtesy of:LeoWolfert/Shutterstock.com

 

How To Discover Your Natural Skillset

One of the biggest breakthroughs I had during this entire journey of finding my passion happened when I decided to take a very specific look at my own history. In the interest of finding out exactly WHAT I should be doing, and HOW I should be doing it, I decided to make a list of all of those skills, or areas of interest, that I had completely taught myself with very little outside help.

These could be things that you did on your own time and never have told a single person about. Or it may be well known that these skills are your specialty. Be sure to leave out any skills that came natural to you without practice. While these provide a certain insight they lack an element of choice which is key in this approach.

For the purpose of this exercise I suggest that you now make a list of at least 10 skills, or areas of expertise, that were self-taught. This may take some time. I would expect anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes as you think back over your childhood, your teen years, early adulthood and so forth. To assist you in developing your own list I have included my list below. It will help provide an idea of what you should be looking for.

  1. Play the guitar
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
  3. Video editing
  4. Become a ball hockey goalie
  5. Started writing a blog
  6. Maintaining a detailed home budget
  7. Taught myself about Spirituality
  8. Creating Presentations
  9. Beating Mortal Kombat on one quarter
  10. Hip Hop dancing – at least the early 90’s style 🙂
  11. Performing lacrosse type floor hockey dangles
  12. Designing fun trivia questions

Now that you have your list I want you to go through each item on your list and come up with 3 or 4 reasons of WHY you decided to learn that particular skill or area of expertise. Again, to assist you I will provide my list with the reasons for each item.

  1. Play the guitar
    • Coolness factor, Could replicate the work of musicians I admired and the songs I loved, play songs at parties
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
    • Loved reading them, Fun to Share, Liked creating stories
  3. Hip Hop dancing – at least early 90’s style 🙂
    • To have fun, to impress, create a show, do what others couldn’t
  4. Video editing
    • Simply Loved it, Enjoyment, Coolness factor, To impress and entertain
  5. Become a ball hockey goalie
    • Enjoyed it, Influence the result, Was good at it, Independance
  6. Started writing a blog
    • Enjoyed expressing myself, Liked to write short articles, Integrating with other social media, Liked the immediate feedback
  7. Maintaining a detailed home budget
    • Necessity, Enabled me to relax about finances, Could plan big expenditures
  8. Taught myself about Spirituality
    • Soothed the intensity of my depression, Was very profound, Offered explanations for the deepest questions
  9. Creating Presentations
    • Showmanship, to impress, to be interesting, to be profound
  10. Performing lacrosse type floor hockey dangles
    • Coolness factor, the challenge, Recorded on video to create a show, wanted to impress

Don’t continue to read past this point until you have finished your why’s for each item. The next portion is what provides the most insight and I don’t want to influence your why responses based on how it impacts what happens next.

Now that you have completed all of your why’s we need to look deeper. Which of the items now seems to stand out from the rest. Of all the why’s you have given, which ones resonate most deeply with who you are. The method I used for doing this was that I looked for the word “Love”. If one of these skills could evoke such a powerful emotion than I needed to pay close attention to them. You could use this approach as well, or try something else if you don’t toss around love in this context like me. Look for words that indicate that something deeply visceral is happening here. Maybe the word ‘joy’, or ‘happy’.

Regardless, I took the three items with the word ‘love’ and exclusively focused on them. They are:

  1. Play the guitar
    • Coolness factor, Could replicate the work of musicians I admired and the songs I loved, play songs at parties
  2. Write a choose your own adventure story
    • Loved reading them, Fun to Share, Liked creating stories
  3. Video editing
    • Simply Loved it, Enjoyment, Coolness factor, To impress and entertain

The next thing I did was look at all of the other why’s I gave for these skills. I saw things like Coolness, playing at parties, sharing, creating stories, enjoyment, entertaining.

It didn’t take long for the idea of starting a YouTube channel to come to the forefront of my mind. I would definitely enjoy making cool & entertaining videos and sharing them with others online!

This approach definitely seemed to work out well for me. I am patient zero though. If anyone reading this decides to give this a try I would absolutely love to hear how it went. Please tell me whether or not it provided any insight into what you should be doing with your life. At the very least it should help create a deeper sense of self awareness and act as another big step down this road towards passion.

The next step is about content. In a future post I will tell you how I decided what my YouTube channel should be about.