Finding Soulmates to Make a Living With

Lately I’ve been having a lot of sidebar discussions with readers about finding that way to make a living at the intersection of What You Love (your passion), What You’re Good At (your gift), and What’s Needed (your purpose). Knowing your Genius (where your gift and passion intersect — areas 2 & 3 in the above chart) is helpful in providing focus — it helps you to set aside self-indulgences (things you love but are not acknowledged as very good at by others) and unfulfilling options (things you’re acknowledged as very good at, but don’t really have any passion for).

That may not be enough, however, to get you identifying area 3 opportunities — or, as Dick Richards puts it, getting your genius “on purpose”. If you’re like me, you can find lots of things in area 2 (like writing fiction, for a lot of people) but nothing in area 3. I’ve said that finding the opportunities in area 3 probably requires us to get away from our comfort zone, our regular routine, what we know, and explore some areas that appeal to us but which are uncharted territory. Volunteering is one way to do that. Travel is another. 

But here’s another idea: Instead of starting with what you think you might want to do, what about starting with who you’d like to do it with? My top advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is don’t try to start a business yourself. The biggest problem with navel-gazing around the chart above is that it inevitably starts you thinking about working alone, doing it all yourself. Maybe the perfect work for you is working as a partner in an enterprise that does things that are wildly beyond your personal competencies and even knowledge, but draws on your skills and passion in ways that are essential to the enterprise.

So suppose you start by answering the question: Of all the people I know and think I would like to know, who would I most like to work with? Then maybe you need to think about some possibilities of work that you might want to do with them. Or maybe not — maybe the next step is just to call them up and say:

“I’ve decided I would like to work with you. I think together we would be a force to be reckoned with. We have some complementary strengths and interests, and I think the chemistry between us would be good. I have no idea what we would do, but my instincts tell me whatever it was it would be successful, and a lot of fun. What do you think of the idea of getting together and talking it over?”

Scary thought, perhaps. Imagine me getting together with some other people I know who have ideas and energies for making Canada sustainable within a generation, and then us writing a note to David Suzuki suggesting that we want to work with him, when his site says severely there are “no openings” in his organization. What if the people you’d like to work with are already working for someone else, seemingly happy or at least committed to their current jobs? What if you don’t even know who you might like to make a living with — where and how do you look?

Think of it like looking for any other kind of partner — a boyfriend/girlfriend, or just asking for a date. Yeah, we all know “the best ones are already taken”, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for something better, something that fills that empty place inside. I think you’d be surprised how many people working hard at respectable jobs would be flattered, and perhaps very interested, in exploring opportunities that could let them find the work at the intersection of their passion, gift and purpose.

And as long as you’re just sitting there, what harm would it do to ask? The worst that could happen is they’ll say ‘no’.

And if they say ‘yes’, then what? Then you change the task from finding how your (singular) passion and gift can find its purpose, to finding how your (plural) passions and collective gifts can find their purpose, together. This is a more complex task, but if it were easy we would all be doing it intuitively. Its complexity is the reason most of us are doing work in area 5 (unhappily), area 2 (unsuccessfully), or area 4 (incompetently), and working with people we are indifferent to, or worse. When we wait for others to take the initiative, to ‘offer us’ a job, we either wait forever, or settle for much less than we had hoped for.

I’ve written about several techniques that can be used by groups to grapple with complex problems, but they’re mostly designed for larger groups. Assuming your group of potential co-venturers probably has between 4 and 10 people, some modification of this approach may be needed (especially if you haven’t even identified some of the people for the group). I’m going to talk with some people (including some people I wouldn’t mind making a living with) about this, and suggest a methodology, or at least an approach, in a future article.

In the meantime, if you’ve done this, or have some ideas how to do it, please let me know. And tell me what you think is the right size group for imagining and giving birth to a new enterprise — small enough to let each partner “get her genius on purpose” (and not end up creating more dreaded area2, 4 or 5 jobs), yet large enough to have legs.

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6 Responses to Finding Soulmates to Make a Living With

  1. Dave,I like this article. However, I would point out that it is easy to form a bad partnership; it happened to me in part because of my desire to work with other people was a little too strong.

  2. Paul Howson says:

    Fifteen years ago we moved from the big city (Melbourne, Australia) to a rural town of 10,000 people in Queensland. Living in a small country town is very good for the lifestyle. But it limits possibilities for finding other people who share your particular interests. The smart young people from this town all head off to the big city when they finish school. They know that is where opportunity lies. How to make it work? — living in a small community away from the rat race, while still having meaningful work opportunities (I don’t mean employment, I mean opportunities to create with others).

  3. Martin-Eric says:

    Funny timing. It matches recent findings in my personal life, about how wrong life can go when you share it with the wrong person. As incredible as it sounds, the old adage about finding a spouse with similar goals and values is golden. Taking chances with someone too unsimilar is tantamount to heading straight for a shipwreck. By contrast, sharing life with the right partner provides endless opportunities for jointly enjoying life and for mutual support. Now, the real question is: where to find the right partner and how to approach them? Maybe it’s just me, but I find it much easier to pitch a potential business partner than to do the same with a life partner. Part of it might be that working in certain gender-biased fields severely reduces someone’s chances of running into a suitable life partner. Ideas, anyone? Dave: Would it be possible to configure this blog to specify UTF-8 encoding in the HTML headers? Leaving it unspecified ensures chaos, whenever someone inserts foreign accents in their comment. Thanks!

  4. theresa says:

    Your purpose is in a book called “Then Smug Minority” by Pierre Berton. Copywrite 1968, probably out of print but surely available in any used bookstore wherever you live in Ontario. I don’t know WHAT it is, I just know WHERE it is, (also I don’t know where the bold or italic thing on this thing is either). Here is a hint from the book: “The march of social progress is like a long and straggling parade, with the seers and prophets at its head and a smug minority bringing up the rear…”

  5. theresa says:

    oops, I meant “The Smug Minority”

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for the comments. Martin-Eric, sorry, I don’t know how to do that. The comments server is ‘owned’ by Radio Userland, and all I know how to do is post some HTML and delete spam and abusive posts. I’ll ask Radio Userland and see if they can help. [I answered Theresa’s comment off-line.]

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