You know where you want to be. You know where you are now. Here’s how you draw your own personal career map.
The journey of 1000 miles must begin with some idea of where you’re headed. Whether you’re picturing yourself as a CEO, an Instagram influencer, or as the person who makes the best puttanesca sauce in the foodie universe, you’ve got to hold that thought in your heart and let it grow.
The vision of where you’ll end up can push you toward all the things that will get you there: books on management, photography training, cooking school. I’m not talking just about year-end goals or financial goals but the trajectory of your life and career and what you want to look back on someday: your life’s purpose.
1) Know where you want to end up.
If you want to build the passion for your values and goals, both in yourself and those you work with, you need a plan that you and others excited about. A very influential book in my life has been Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. He calls meaning the single most essential driving force for human beings, more than money or power.
2) Forget step one (at least temporarily).
What if “where you want to end up” is not actually where you ought to be? Sometimes we find ourselves living other people’s goals and expectations, not our own. Are you hearing your parents’ voices, your teachers’ judgments of you, or the lure of money over your own inner voice? Empty your brain of all those competing agendas, because you need to leave room for your own.
3) Now, focus on what you really love to do.
What makes your pulse race, your days fly past, your confidence and love of your co-workers grow? What do you want to get up in the morning and do your best at?
Notice, this isn’t “What will pay the best?” But it also isn’t “What will satisfy me personally but bankrupt my family?” It’s “What are my ideals?” Think about what you’re convinced you can do better than anything else, that people need, that will let you live a whole, connected, happy life.
4) Think about other people you respect, and figure out why.
Everybody knows rich, successful people who are miserable examples of how to live, and you probably have at least one relative or friend who has very little money and influence but who is universally loved and admired.
I think it often comes down to energy. You love the way these people approach challenges, care about others and show it, and make their principles clear and obvious every day. Ethan Agarwal, founder of workout app Aaptiv, told me his father and mentor, Vinod, advised him to “Take care of your team and everything else will sort itself out.” So Ethan does. He is the lowest-paid person on his executive team, because he wants people to take risks because they see he is doing the same.
Who can keep your journey on the straight and narrow like that? Find those people and watch them.
5) Know what it means and build that meaning into the path.
In my own career, I’m not looking just to do what I want; I’m looking to do that in the service of people who love what I’m doing. I focus on what they need–encouragement, great service, a really killer puttanesca sauce. I give it to them with the absolute conviction that I’m serving them well. I’ve found that I end up each day knowing I’ve made the world a tiny bit better, and that my efforts mean a tiny bit more.
You want your work to mean something? Serve other people. Those people will get behind you and fuel your success. Build those positive relationships with the people you’re serving, and that all on its own will create momentum.