Categories
Life

5 Questions That Will Help You Figure Out Your Purpose in Life

I came across this video, embedded above and on YouTube here, and wanted to share it.

But first, a caveat: I belive that “follow your passion” — or worse yet, follow your bliss — is often terrible advice for life and careers.

What if following your passion provides no value to the world? Or if doesn’t make you enough money to support yourself? Or what if you’re just not very good at your passion? Or, like many people, you just don’t really have a single passion?

For an alternative take on such issues, I suggest reading a book by Cal Newport called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to the video.

In this ten-minute TEDxMalibu talk from 2013, movie producer Adam Leipzig says five questions can help you define your life purpose — provided, of course, that you know what you’re good at, why it’s valuable, and who you do it for.

They are:

  1. Who are you? 
  2. What do you do?
  3. Who do you do it for?
  4. What do they want or need?
  5. How do they feel as a result? 

This is a really helpful way, as Leipzig explains, to envision your professional output in terms of who your audience is (or who your clients, or users, or readers, etc. are) and how you can help them.

In a post on Leipzig’s blog, he explains how these questions came to be, and why they matter, especially to creative professionals:

For my talk, I decided to adapt a series of questions I’d developed in my business consulting practice, when I work with companies finding their way and developing new products and services. For these companies, the challenge is to get out of their self-enclosed bubble and reach out to their market. Would the same approach work for creative entrepreneurs? Because artists need such congruence between their life purpose and their work, they can become too inward-facing, more focused on their own process than on their audience, and audience that hungers for brilliance, passion and the sublime.

This is, I think, a really useful mental framework.

Categories
Books

Richard Scarry, 1963 vs. 1991

2015 11 12 scary

These photos from Flickr user alan taylor show how editions of the popular book for children, “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever,” changed between 1963 and 1991.

Males in the kitchen, less overtly obedient kids, fewer “handsome” airline pilots, the addition of menorahs, gender neutral professional titles and more.

A fascinating study.

Via Kottke. There’s more over at Fusion.

Categories
Misc.

Productivity Tip: ‘Iterate Toward Perfection,’ But Forget Perfection Exists

Matt Might, whose account of having a disabled child I mentioned previously, also has an interesting post on productivity tips for academics.

The advice can be applied to people working in many professions, though, not just academia.

I really like this bit:

Iterate toward perfection

Treat perfection like a process, not an achievable state. Perfectionism is crippling to productivity. I’ve known academics that can’t even start projects because of perfectionism. I know some academics that defend their lack of productivity by proudly proclaiming themselves to be perfectionists. I’m not so sure one should be proud of perfectionism. I don’t think it’s bad to want perfection; I just think it’s unrealistic to expect it.

The metric academics need to hit is “good enough,” and after that, “better than good enough,” if time permits. Forget that the word perfect exists. Otherwise, one can sink endless amounts of time into a project long after the scientific mission was accomplished. One good-enough paper that got submitted is worth an infinite number of perfect papers that don’t exist.

Yes.

Categories
Misc.

Moving Account of Having a Disabled Child — and What’s Important in Life

This post from University of Utah Computer Science professor Matt Might is very much worth reading.

Might saw a question on Quora from a 16-year-old who said he wanted to have a successful career in computer science or medicine, but feared getting married and having a disabled child.

Might wrote:

First, your question is trivial to answer: to minimize the risk – to zero – that you’ll have a disabled child, don’t have a child.

Any attempt to have a child will incur risk, although you can take measures described in other answers to lower it.

But, let me tell you a story – my story.

I am the father of a “disabled child,” yet I’m a professor in computer science at the University of Utah, and also currently a professor at the Harvard Medical School.

Hopefully I’ve just dispelled your fear that having a disabled child is not compatible with “a strong career in computer science or medicine.”

In fact, what if I told you that much of what I’ve done was the result of my having a disabled child? Because I too (naively) believe in love, and love my wife and son dearly?

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Misc.

Ann Friedman’s Visual Guide to Dealing with Criticism

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Journalist Ann Friedman created this excellent graphic, which she calls the “Disapproval Matrix.” It helps determine how you should deal with criticism based on who’s giving it.

As she writes:

The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you.

Sounds like good advice to me.