• Date November 08, 2011
  • Author Gretchen Schmelzer

 You have to find what you love…Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005

In the wake of the death of Steve Jobs, this commencement speech has been sent around the web and I was struck by his message in the context of the work he brought to life. Steve Jobs clearly loved what he did: but the “what” he did is bigger than any one role or profession.

He was great at computers, but clearly loved design and style. His passion for aesthetic in its most beautiful and practical application was and is inspiring. He is famous for paying attention to the last tiny detail in every Apple store, including the light switch plates or hooks on the wall.

I can recall bringing home an iMac about 8 years ago and putting on the desk in my living room with it’s sleek, clean design—and thinking, “I want everything in my life to be that sleek, useful, brilliant.”

I think that more than loving what he did—he brought his love to what he did. And this distinction is important for all of us because I believe that not everyone can, at all points in their life, do exactly what they love.

Some tasks at work, some roles we fill, aren’t tasks or roles that we love. Sometimes they are a part of a larger picture we do love, or sometimes the job meets the important needs of providing for ourselves and those who we love. Steve Jobs loved to work with computers, and so did a lot of people. He did what he loved. Yes. But it was the passion for what he truly loved that he brought to a role or a job that made it transformational.

We can’t always choose what we do, but we always have a choice of bringing our passion to what we do—regardless of what it is. For some people, passion operates at a big picture level. At Teleos, we work with leaders to identify their Noble Purpose—something that moves us, drives us, and compels us to bring our best to the world.

I have been moved by research leaders in the Pharma industry who talked passionately about the difference that their drug could make in the life of patients—which inspired them to engage themselves and their teams at work with a heightened sense of inspiration. Their Noble Purpose was saving lives. But there were research leaders in the same firm whose passion was the elegance of solving problems. These leaders talked about the joy of getting it right and getting things done. They loved when they could get the science in perfect harmony. Their passion was scientific creation. Both groups of leaders brought their passion in action to their work.

Recognizing your passion or Noble Purpose is only the first part of the task, though. The second, most important part of the task is to recognize ways that your bring this passion to life—in the daily actions of your work.

This year I met a leader named Cory Bryant, MSW, in a community mental health organization that serves abused children in Anchorage, Alaska. Her passion for creating a healing environment was striking. I have worked in many health settings, but I have never seen or felt such environment which demonstrated such high collegiality amongst the staff. This collegiality created an overall environment of care and safety for the children. Cory was calm, thoughtful and caring in her interactions with her staff. She was both respectful and funny. She treated each person, each interaction, with the same high level of care. In what could have been one of the most stressful workplace environments, there was an ease and lightness that supported everyone in their work.

Three steps to bringing your love to what you do:

1. Identify your Noble Purpose or your greatest passion. Use these questions to help you:

  • If I could accomplish one thing in my life, it would be…
  • If I could make an important contribution in my work, it would be…
  • My Nobel Purpose is:

2. What are 3 things I can do each day to bring my passion into action in the work I do? How can I bring my passion into action for myself? For my team? For the customers or clients?

3. What can I do to support myself so that I can sustain my passion? Do I need more time to think, do I need to pay closer attention to relationships? Do I need to take better care of myself physically?

What are some of the ways you have found to bring your full self and sense of purpose on the planet to work everyday?