Several days ago, I recorded a podcast with FreelanceAdvisor.co.uk. One of the questions I was asked was about how we go about finding the essence of our livelihood. Here’s part of what I said:
You know, that was also a huge learning for me: learning the difference between essence and form. Essence really starts by becoming aware of when you feel the most creative and the most powerful and the most inspired, and what are the situations that lead you to feel that way. Finding the essence often is about looking for the intangible quality.
As we identify those kinds of things that really enhance what we’re doing, all of sudden, the possibility starts to explode because it goes way beyond just a single way of making that happen. And we realize, for instance, that the essence of what I love to do is help other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is inspire other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is teach other people. And then we can start asking ourselves the question, “How many different arenas can I create for doing that?”
As if to confirm my thoughts, a mailing arrived today from Rick Steves who is best known as a travel expert. However, I once read that when he’s asked to fill in his occupation his answer always is “teacher.” So here’s a bit of his story:
I’ve always taught what I’ve loved.
I spent my high school years as a piano teacher. I was well known among parents in my community for taking kids with tear-stained cheeks to my piano bench, starting them out with boogies and pop songs…and eventually getting them turned on to Bach and Beethoven.
Eventually, I had my own piano studio with a recital hall. In 1980, while I was teaching a piano lesson, a truck dropped off 2,500 copies of my first guidebook — Europe Through the Back Door. During that year’s Christmas recital, parents sat on boxes of travel guidebooks while their kids banged out carols, boogies, and Bach.
By the following Christmas, I’d let my piano students go. People were still sitting on boxes of books, but now that recital hall was a travel lecture hall filled with eager students preparing for their European adventures.
From that point on, I would be teaching European culture off the keyboard…to otherwise smart people who assumed Toscanini was a pasta and Botticelli was an intestinal problem.
For twenty-five years I led our tours while apprenticing hand-picked tour guides. Before long, they would apprentice another “generation.” We carry on that personal-passion-for-teaching tradition to this day.
Do you know the essence of your ideal livelihood? If not, that’s your next assignment. It’s so much easier once you know.