The Talent + Passion Trap

Written by Mike Shapiro | | February 8, 2017

I think it started — like a lot of mistaken thinking — with a sports analogy. World-class athletes spend their time working where their passion and talent intersect. If they can do it, so can those of us who pursue less glamorous careers.

This is a poor analogy and pursuing it can get you in trouble.

Sports figures work in an arena where the table is already set for them. The desired result is part and parcel of the game itself. What it takes to win is clear.  Everyone knows the skills required to get there, and there’s a lot of competition for who can do it best.

If you go into a work situation with the attitude “Hey, this is what I’m good at and what I like to do, and I mean to do it” you’ll often find yourself doing work that’s not required, and more importantly, missing important tasks that are critical to getting the very results you want.

In business, the situation is always different, and it’s up to you to set the table — every single time. The starting point always has to be: What desired results do I want to achieve? Then, you’ve got to scope out the project. What kinds of skills will be required to get the job done? Who are the people that have those skills? Not hiring? Consider strategic alliances or joint ventures or consulting arrangements to bring them to the table for the time you need them.

Now consider: What’s still not going to get done? THEN consider where you can make the best contribution. Sometimes it will involve doing something you’re really good at and passionate about. More often, it will be something that just plain has to get done. And that might be a stretch for your skills, talents and your passion. But do it anyway.

And here’s the thing about making a habit of doing whatever the situation requires: You’ll improve your talents and skills. You’ll get better, more versatile. The constraints of “letting the situation be the boss” can unleash a lot of creativity. You’ll find you can do things you never thought you could do. Best of all, you may even find you become passionate about whatever you happen to be doing that moves you in the direction of your goals.