Passion, Purpose and Clarity Unpacked

03/01/2013 12:04 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2013

When considering a career path, I'm sure you've been told to"follow your passion," right? If you're doing something that inspires and motivates you more than anything else, it's probably a good road to be on. But this question likely has left you wondering: what is my passion...?

Luckily, you're not alone. Finding your passion, and making work intersect with life isn't always trivial, but it doesn't need to be a luxury for the rich. With enough drive, anyone can make a career out of their passion. So, how do you find your passion?

1.) Discover Your "Why." I recently heard a talk, and chatted with Simon Sinek where he taught our group how to discover our reason for being -- our "why." The trick is simple. Ask your closest friend (though not your partner or spouse) why you are friends. Ask them what is it about you that makes them want to be your friend. It can take time to coax it out of them -- "you're loyal, a great friend, nice, funny, generous" or some variation will all come out. But we're trying to go deeper. You want to push this friend until they start talking about themselves -- about the way you make them feel. For Simon, his friend eventually told him this:

"Every time I'm around you, I feel inspired"

As you can see, there's no direct career path here. There's no answer to the nagging question we all ask ourselves throughout life (i.e. what am I supposed to be doing with my time). But, rather simply, the answer to his question: Why are we friends? This answer taught Simon that his calling, his "why" is to inspire people to find their calling. When your friend starts talking about the way you make them feel, you've hit gold. Call up your best friend right now and start digging -- because this stuff is important.

2.) It's Okay to Fail. Failing is one of the most humbling learning experiences you can have. You'll learn more from your mistakes (though you might make them again) than you will from success. Failing reminds us of our flaws as humans. This could be in school, athletics, relationships or business. There is always a lesson to be learned out of failure. Failing gives us a good reason to either carry on and persist, or quit. The more quickly you can have these moments of clarity, the better.

3.) Do Something Good for Others Everyday. I don't expect everyone to have the same philosophy about "doing good," but I can tell you this much: the more good you do in the world, the better you will feel. Don't get me wrong -- I still intend to be successful and retire by 35 (just let me dream, okay?), but I also intend to help millions of people out of poverty while doing so.

Paradigm Shift
A new wave of social entrepreneurs is emerging. It's a small, but passionate community of people who see poverty as an opportunity both to "do good, and do well." Philanthropy and profit are not mutually exclusive. The line between a charity and a for-profit entity are no longer clear. This community of ours builds companies with the primary aim of doing good. It's often tempting to set your sights on the money (study economics in college, get an internship at a hedge fund, work your way up, buy things, do less and so forth), but I urge you instead to pursue your passion at all costs. Doing good for others feels infinitely better than accumulating money ever could. Evidence shows that once you have attained a "comfortable standard" where you have what you need to function and be content, additional income actually will not lead to extra happiness.

The trick, I have found, is to find what you're passionate about early, and figure out how to make it pay the bills. In a world where 80% of people live on less than $10 a day, I believe that it's our moral obligation to help others in need. Think about how good it feels just to give someone a compliment? Try this: Today, tell a colleague whom you admire that you see them as a mentor, that you value their insights and that you really appreciate them. It will make their day, and also will make you feel really good.

4.) Trust Your Intuition. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but those feelings that cross your mind at work about your present happiness, passion or frustrations are typically spot on. Do you feel dread at the thought of work on Monday? Do you feel as though your talents are being wasted? Does the little voice in your head yell at you everytime you eat unhealthy food? These are pretty good indicators that something might be off. I believe, deep down, that we all instinctively know the things we should or should not be doing/eating/saying/writing,etc. The difficulty, of course, is acting on them -- making real, lasting change. However, as soon as you do -- as soon as you put your eye on the metaphorical "prize" and seek it with every ounce of your being, you will be greatly rewarded. This isn't religious, or mystical. This shit is real. It's passion and drive unpacked for you to grab. Seek out the things that make you feel good, then acknowledge, and gently nudge away the things that don't. Trust your gut and remain open minded and neutral to your daily emotions. The truth? They're not real.

5.) Live in The Present. A friend recently told me that we're becoming progressively addicted to technology, but we seem to be ignoring the warning signs. I of course laughed it off and kept texting. Google Glass, iPads, iPhones AND a laptop...really? Do we really need all of these things? Must we pull out our gadgets on the train, at dinner, while pooping or even while having sex (yep -- it's happened to me)? I'm guilty of this addiction too. We need to take that picture, or "research" that restaurant we're currently eating at just to make sure it got good Yelp reviews. This addiction is only getting worse. When will we say enough with the electronics and just be with one another? Recently I have been trying to shake my iPhone addiction and be present as much as possible.

Tips to Become Human Again
Look people in the eyes when you're talking to them. Don't let your mind wander when you're having a conversation. Give people your undivided attention always -- even if they seem boring. Whether you think that life is long or short, people are what give this trip we call life meaning. Other humans validate our existence and purpose -- they remind us of why we are. Your iPhone and iPad are just distractions from the elegance of the mind boggling world in front of your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and wake up!

Now you can discredit this as sophomoric philosophical ramblings, or you could consider your present emotional and physiological state right now. Dig a bit deeper for just a second. What motivates you right now? Look up from your computer and look around you. What's happening in the room? Notice the details. When do you feel most happy? Are you excited for work tomorrow? Do you love what you do? Do you love yourself?

Who and how will you be tomorrow? Everyday is a new opportunity to decide which path to take -- because there are not just two. There are infinite ways to live the good life. You just need to take that first step, and be prepared to fail. Good luck.