Passion With a Purpose: From Industry to Innovation

03/12/2015 05:36 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015

"The world no longer cares whether you are smarter than a fifth grader or how well you do at Trivial Pursuit. What the world cares about is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know."
--Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University

Are you passionate about your career? If not, it might be time to dust off your dreams and think about your future.

Although mastery is essential for success in the 21st century, it's just not enough to be an expert anymore.

Knowledge is ubiquitous and free. One in every five people now owns a smartphone; that's an increase of nearly 1.3 billion users in four years. To give you an idea of the warp speed of change, consider that it took 39 years for landline telephones to move from 10-percent to 40-percent market penetration in the United States; smartphone companies achieved this goal in less than three years.

Like it or not, we are living through a global transformation. We've evolved from the industrial age, when labor skills were valuable, to the information age, when knowledge mattered most, into the 21st century, the golden age of innovation and problem solving.

Routine jobs are being lost to automation even more quickly than Thomas Friedman predicted in his classic book The World Is Flat. Kevin Kelly, the author of What Technology Wants, predicts that 70 percent of the jobs that exist today will be phased out with technology by the end of this century.

The paradigms of the past are not working. It's estimated that more than two thirds of the American economy is based on unsustainable consumer spending, and our annual garbage output is now more than 17 times the collective weight of the entire adult population of the U.S.

We simply cannot stay the same. The mundane routines of the past are being absorbed by the bright light of a future where the term "status quo" has no relevance.

Although it seems impossible to imagine, the rapid speed of improvement in technology means that computers and robots will soon be used to replace any job that does not involve actual people solving a real problem.

In the future a clean floor, stocked shelves, and routine copy writing will not require human involvement. If your work is exacerbating, rather than solving, the world's problems, how long do you think your career will actually last?

The next logical step has arrived.

Cutting-edge solutions have replaced mindless consumer spending as the golden currency of the 21st century, and real problems, rather than invented needs, are the new job creators. Innovation is not only a minimum requirement for career longevity; it is a baseline need for the survival of humankind.

"Going from PayPal, I thought, well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity? Not, what's the best way to make money?"
--Elon Reeve Musk, Co-founder of PayPal, CEO of SpaceX, and Chief Product Architect of Tesla Motors

Passion with a purpose is the new foolproof formula for success.

You might not be as bold as Elon Musk, who envisions space travel as a solution to our environmental problems (he is working on building cheaper, faster rockets so that humans can potentially inhabit other planets), but you can certainly make the important difference you were born to make. We all matter when it comes to solving the problems of this world.

Ask yourself four critical questions:

  1. Am I continually learning new skills in case my job is outsourced to automation?
  2. Do I know who I am and why I am doing this?
  3. Am I passionate about my work?
  4. Am I engaged in a solution to a real-world problem?

If your answer isn't "yes" to all four questions, you're likely to be left behind in the new, innovative, solution-based economy.

There is a brilliant silver lining to all of this: While there are more problems than ever, there are also more solutions. Technology now allows for worldwide collaboration and revolutionary impact with almost no barriers.

So get busy. Find a problem that matters to you and become the change agent you were meant to be.

Look deep. Find your passion. Discover your unique reason for being here. Why are you working? What are you meant to do? Without this discovery, we will all fail, because your unique contribution is not replaceable. Only you can be you.

The word "passion" has its roots in the Latin word "pati," which translates as "suffer." Whether you know it or not, either you are burying your heartfelt desires by numbing yourself with routine or you are feeling your passion and using it for good.

Passion is the force that drives people toward solutions that are not achievable in their current mindset; it is the intrinsic motivator that inspires us to collaborate with the outside world and achieve our goals.

You have to stop being afraid of being you.

When passion is disciplined with firm purpose and intentional action, we achieve self-mastery. We become willing servants to our hearts rather than stern taskmasters for our souls.

We need you. Bring yourself and your dreams into this world with heartfelt passion and honest discipline. Let your presence become one of the profound influences that propel the great tidal waves of change to crash onto the shore of the familiar and alter the world for the better, forever.

Make the difference you were born to make.

Be passionate. Be disciplined. Be you.

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
--Albert Einstein