Work/Life Fit: A Framework for Finding Your Dream Job
What happens when you find a career that blends perfectly with your passion and lifestyle
In the startup world, there’s a term that describes when a company has reached the promised land: “Product/Market Fit.”
Product/Market fit is what happens when a company delivers a product or service that is so in sync with what a market needs that it creates exponential growth.
Every metric goes haywire. Revenue. Growth. Retention. Customer support emails.
Customers want your product so bad, they’ll rip it out of your hands.
Every billion-dollar company in existence has experienced this moment in their lifetime, often more than once: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Telsa, Tinder, WhatsApp, etc…
I think this exact same principle is something that can be applied to our own lives. I refer to it as “Work/Life Fit” and it describes the moment when you find a career path that is such a good fit for your passion and skill set that it completely changes how you live.
When you experience “Work/Life Fit”, you’ll never have a hard time waking up and getting to work again. In fact, you’ll crave it.
Work isn’t something that you have to do, it’s the thing you get to do.
There’s another word for “Work/Life Fit” and I think it’s one that more people are familiar with. A job that perfectly aligns with your passion and what you’re good at is often called your “calling.”
There’s an excellent parable that I first heard about in Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit” that best captures what it means to have found your calling.
It describes three bricklayers (A bricklayer being someone who lays brick to help build the foundation for a structure). It’s tedious work that involves repetitive movement for hours on end.
“Everyone has the same occupation but their subjective experience- how they themselves viewed their work- couldn’t be more different. The first bricklayer says, ‘I am laying bricks.’ The second bricklayer says, ‘I am building a church.’ And the third says, ‘I am building the house of God.’ It’s a choice.”
The first bricklayer has a job. The second bricklayer has a career. The third bricklayer has a calling.
I can’t think of a better analogy to help describe the difference between someone has and someone who hasn’t found “Work/Life Fit”.
For those who have a calling, their work is their life. No matter how medial it may seem to others, it pulls on their curiosity. They obsess with every last detail just as a painter obsesses over every stroke or a violinist meticulously feels every note.
It’s the first thing on their mind when they wake up and the last thing on their mind when they go to sleep.
For these few individuals, their work gives their life meaning.
While not everyone who has a calling changes the world, everyone who has ever changed the world has found theirs.
Just like you can’t mistake when a company has found “Product/Market Fit,” you can’t mistake “Work/Life Fit.”
You’ll know when you’ve found it when there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.
The Job Fallacy
Individuals who view themselves as having a job, rarely enjoy their work. For them, it’s a means to end. They go to work so they can make money to do the things they love.
But if you’re one of the few that finds their calling, then it doesn’t really matter how much you make because you’re already doing what you love.
In “The Incredible True Story”, the Maryland rapper, Logic, samples a quote from the legendary Alan Watts, a philosopher who so perfectly captured the importance of doing work you love:
“We’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets. We’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows — we can’t earn any money that way. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him you do that — and uh — forget the money. If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time…
You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid! It is absolutely stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is — somebody is interested in everything — anything you can be interested in, you will find others who are…”
Finding Your Calling
If you had to draw two lines, one that represents all that you’re passionate about and the other representing the skills that you’re better than most at — the intersection of these two lines is where your calling lives.
Most people will never find their calling. It’s not that they’re not talented at something or don’t have anything that they’re passionate about…everyone does.
It’s because it requires taking some risk. And that risk terrifies us. But as the legend Tim Ferris puts so elegantly:
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do”
From what I’ve observed, individuals who find to get to Work/Life fit are able to take these four steps:
1. Stop following “golden” opportunities
Just like any type of optimal matching, finding Work/Life fit is extraordinarily rare. So rare that it can often feel as hopeless as searching for gold.
As we all know, finding any hidden treasure is difficult. In 1849, individuals from all over the world left their homes and voyaged to Northern California in hopes to find wealth of their own.
However, of the tens of thousands of miners who left their homes and families to find unimaginable wealth during the gold rush, very few were successful — largely due to the amount of competition that existed.
In fact, the individuals who were most likely to find wealth were not miners themselves, but the business owners that sold food and equipment to the miners.
All throughout history, we see a mass exodus of individuals taking on whatever the “golden” career is for that era. In 1849, it was being a gold miner. Later it became “advertisement,” “finance,” and today it might be “software engineer.”
Admittedly, I’m a software engineer by training, but I can’t say that it was ever my calling.
So many are caught up in chasing enormous wealth that they forget to stop and ask themselves if it’s worth what they’re giving up.
The first step in finding your calling is to forget all preconceived notions. It doesn’t matter how lucrative or well-respected a career is…The only thing that matters is what you think of it.
2. Educate yourself
Earlier this year, I moved to a new apartment. And as you do when moving to a new place, the very first thing I did was assemble my bed.
It involved me sliding underneath the bed and tightening some screws, but because of the dim lighting, I could quite get the screwdriver to fit into the grooves.
After struggling for a few minutes, I decided to pull out my phone and use it to illuminate the screws. With sufficient lighting, it was trivial to get the screws tightened.
Once I could clearly see the grooves of the screw, it was quite obvious what needed to be done.
The same with our quest to find Work/Life fit. Only when we enlighten ourselves with knowledge does it become clear what we need to do.
Before you can possibly know what the perfect career is right for you, you’ll have to put in the work to explore. Read, converse, listen, etc… Discover for yourself what’s out there.
So much of our time in grade school and even in college is dedicated to this; but for some reason, this exploration stops when we graduate.
Industries are evolving rapidly. Faster than ever before and new career paths are emerging left and right.
If you don’t take the time to explore them, you’ll never know what’s out there. Just because your dream job isn’t out there today, doesn’t mean that it won’t be there tomorrow.
3. Learn by doing
Take note of the things you enjoy doing and give you energy. You’d be surprised by the number of things we do every day that make us unhappy yet we do them anyways.
This is what college is for, but it doesn’t stop there. Our job is to keep trying new things and following our curiosities.
Are you creative? Do you enjoy problem-solving? Or do your strengths align more with face-to-face interaction?
The perfect job for you might not exist. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create it for yourself.
For the first time in history, do we the opportunity to invent our own jobs.
Enjoy writing and fashion? Then become a fashion blogger. Enjoy building online communities and gaming? Become a video game commentator.
These new world careers allow you to monetize unique skills and interests.
Li Jin, a partner at A16z, has an excellent article that dives deep into the world of passion economy jobs.
4. Commit for the long-haul
The last part of achieving “Work/Life Fit” is to commit. It’s impossible to make real progress in any craft without giving it your all.
Just think of it like this…whatever it is you do for a living, be the best at it in the world.
This is why side hustles rarely become full-time careers. It’s only when someone makes the leap to giving something they're all can they truly start to see progress.
Most people will never commit, but those who do have a real chance of finding Work/Life fit.
A Journey That Doesn’t End
Like the end of a feel-good 2000’s rom-com, I wish I could tell you that getting to Work/Life is a “happily ever after” moment. But it isn’t. Nothing in life will ever be that.
Jobs change, economies change, and more importantly…we change. Jobs that were right for us three years ago, might not be right for us today.
An individual, on average, will change careers 5–7 times in their lifetime. This just goes to show that learning and experimenting should never stop. You should always be following your curiosities and exploring what’s out there.
The steps I’ve outlined here are not meant to be a “one and done” solution. They have to be continually applied over and over again.
Just because your dream job isn’t out there today doesn’t mean it won’t be out there tomorrow.
Let’s be honest. Life is too damn short to be doing anything else than what you love.
Originally published on medium.