TL;DR: Discovering and sharing your gift with the world is perhaps one of the most important ways you can increase your satisfaction with life, while increasing the impact you have on the world. Your gift lies at the intersection of something you enjoy doing, that you do uniquely well, that people value. Figure that out, and life will get a lot easier. It will feel like play.
I talk a lot about discovering and sharing your gift with the world. It’s worth taking a moment to put on paper what I mean by that. In short, I am talking about finding that thing that has three key characteristics – it is:
- Something you enjoy
- Uniquely easy for you
- Something people want
I believe finding this ‘thing’ is one of the most important pursuits. Finding it will allow you to turn work into play for the rest of your life. If you’re doing something you love, you’ll naturally do it really well, and experience greater personal satisfaction and material success.
But how do you find that intersection? Paul Graham has written extensively on the subject, and I like his thoughts around finding something that seems like work to others, but doesn’t seem like work to you:
Few people know so early or so certainly what they want to work on. But talking to my father reminded me of a heuristic the rest of us can use. If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for. For example, a lot of programmers I know, including me, actually like debugging. It’s not something people tend to volunteer; one likes it the way one likes popping zits. But you may have to like debugging to like programming, considering the degree to which programming consists of it.
Another approach he suggests to find your gift is to use the mantra of ‘Always Produce’:
“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.
This is a great approach, because too often in life we have idealized versions of our interests and desires. Many people will say they want to be a rock star, but far fewer will consistently put in the time to practice, play gigs and produce tracks. If you fashion yourself a musician but never produce any music, then you should ask whether that’s something you actually want, or whether you’re in love with the idea of being a musician. You need to be in love with the process, not the outcome.
Of course, assuming you find that thing you naturally gravitate towards and do with pleasure, you must still ensure it’s something people want:
the reality is there’s no skill called business what you’re actually trying to figure out is what product or service does society want but does not yet know how to get. You want to become the person who delivers that and delivers it at scale so that’s really the challenge of how to make money.
It needs to be something people / society value but don’t yet know how to get. You need to deliver something uniquely valuable. Fortunately, because you’re doing something you love, you’re more likely to go deep enough to find and solve a problem that matters.
Discovering and sharing your gift is not something many people will ever do. Most will go through life accepting the path they chose many years ago, whether or not it actually lives up to their greatest hopes and expectations of a fulfilling life. Part of this preoccupation is driven by the need to keep up with the Jones’ and meet the basic needs. Some folks just never get time to come up for air until it’s too late. Fortunately, the idea of Ramen Retirement is all about freeing up your time and energy to do just that. With the basics covered, you can afford to step back, explore a little, meander through your interests and see what pulls you. Then, go deep enough to find the unique value only you can offer the world through your gifts.
Through it all – enjoy the journey!