I recently sat next to a man on a flight who was a banker. Oh, and he was a hairdresser too.
“You see,” he explained. “I own my own bank, but I still cut hair. I do each one for different reasons: banking for money and hairdressing for creativity and enjoyment.”
Talk about showing up differently.
The exchange reminded me of a commercial I can’t seem to get out of my conscience. This 30-second Prudential spot has me obsessing about the question it poses to passersby: “If you could get paid to do something you really love, what would you do?”
That’s a weighty question, implying that, chances are, what we’d choose to get paid for would be radically different than what most of us are currently doing. People’s answers in the commercial include “yoga instructor,” “pie maker,” “pilot.” Interestingly, doctor, lawyer or even, PR executive weren’t mentioned.
I believe that the opportunity to marry what we love into our daily lives makes us better at whatever we may be doing in our daily jobs. In other words, the fact that my financially astute seatmate is also able to express his flair for hair makes him a better – and happier – banker.
In a recent New York Times article called A Formula for Happiness, writer Arthur C. Brooks states, “Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others… If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work.”
Upon my college graduation, I remember my older (and wiser) sister gave me a card in which she scribbled the well-worn words, “Do whatever you like, but like whatever you do.” Those words have stayed with me my entire life, even – or especially – in times when my work was more of a chore than a pleasure.
At a recent gathering at my home, a successful pianist\composer friend of mine decided to sit down at the piano and engaged guests in a sing-a-long. I didn’t ask him to, but was delighted when the smiles and song filled the house. I remarked to my friend how fortunate he was to, well, get paid to do something he really loves. He seemed to suddenly understand that, for most of us, we must look for what inspires us and work to find time to do more of it. We must strive for our own backslash, like the banker\hairdresser, the doctor\chef, the accountant\ballet dancer.
If asked, I would answer the question (in question) by happily admitting that I’m doing it right now – writing. While it’s not in any way the primary function of my job, I consider myself fortunate to be able to do it in some small way. A colleague recently commented to me, “I can’t believe you find the time to write in addition to your job?” Without skipping a beat, I responded, “I can’t believe I have a job that allows me time to write.”
So what’s your backslash? What would you do if you could pay yourself to do what you love? In this New Year, here’s hoping we can all find – and make – the time to do precisely that.
Gail Becker is Edelman’s president of strategic partnerships and global integration. You can read her blog at http://www.edelman.com/conversations/yes-i-can-walk-in-these/