There’s a lot out there about the importance of finding your Purpose, that Passion drives Success. That without passion and deep belief in your purpose you will never be happy at work. I’ve even quoted Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

So today, we’re going to flip it, and take a look at Cal Newport’s, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. The book was recommended, and reading it (twice) has resulted in an interesting way to approach the Follow your Dreams mentality. Now, Cal’s book doesn’t necessarily say that purpose isn’t important, or that you don’t need purpose to be successful, rather, he somewhat rethinks the order of events, and instead of having passion lead your next job hunt, he has “career capital” lead it.

Let me share with you a breakdown of the steps briefly:

  1. Don’t Follow Your Passion – Wait until you understand what you’re good at. I.e. I may just love puppies (I DO!), but, that may not mean I should become a professional dog walker. I may not like picking up poop multiple times a day.
  2. Claim a Skill/Career Path – This may seem a little like find your purpose, but rather than focusing on this big manifesto, you think about the things you are good at and enjoy doing. I.e. if I love taking dogs for a walks, maybe I consider becoming a dog walker. And, no worries if I find out that it isn’t for me, I can switch to something else, no pressure.
  3. Master that Skill – and create a “craftsman” mindset. As in, get really into your craft.  Ira Glass talked about how this applies to creativity: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” Simply put, through repetition, continued generative effort and constant feedback you’ll create some very serious career capital. Maybe you’ll become a dog walker that is so good everyone in town wants you.
  4. Negotiate Control – once you have the grand master of skills, you can start asking for the things you need to make you happier. You have negotiation power now to start thinking about what you need to be happy in your workplace. Maybe you want to only walk dogs on Mondays – Fridays from noon to 7pm. Now that you’re the hottest dog walker in town, you can do that. People will be a-okay with you only working those hours because you’re simply the best.
  5. Define the Mission – now that you’re living that beautiful life of working how you want, you can take all that mastery you’ve created and apply those important skills to a bigger mission. Maybe you want to start a dog-walking business that walks rescue dogs or dogs that are up for adoption so they can get outdoors and meet potential new owners.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that passion should be tossed out the window. Instead, the focus is building up skills to support that passion, to understand that passion, and to execute on it. At first, it may seem overwhelming to consider what your skills truly are. One thing that can help is to start thinking about all the things you do in your day to day life, the ones you enjoy, and the ones that challenge you that you like to iterate on. This may help you start thinking about which company will let you build up those marketable skills a bit more. Good luck!

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Excited to introduce Annie to you, a brilliant creator of the arts who, if you’re in the Seattle area you should try to catch one of the performances she works on. Read on for Part 1 of Annie’s interview!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
I’m Annie Paladino, and I am an educator and theater artist. Originally from Orange County, CA, went to college in CT, lived for four years in San Francisco, and then moved to Seattle (two years ago). Currently I work in program coordination (after-school activities and summer camp) at a private K-8 school in Seattle, and I am the Associate Artistic Director of Akropolis Performance Lab. I’m also a freelance actor/director/playwright/producer and a teaching artist.

As Program Coordinator at a small(ish) independent school, I am responsible for basically everything that happens after school or during the summer. Hiring, program development, outreach, a little marketing, program administration, budgeting, teaching, scheduling, procedure/policy development…these are all things I do on a regular basis. The position was brand new when I was hired, so I’ve had a lot of freedom to design, develop, and run these programs the way I want to. I also teach several day camp programs during the summer. It’s a LOT of variety, which I love.

I have worked with many different theater groups both in Seattle and San Francisco, but this is my first time in a leadership position, which is both exciting and scary. Scary because I don’t tend to be artistically monogamous, but I was instantly at home with APL. APL is a very small company with virtually zero organizational infrastructure. We have no operating budget, the “staff” consists of me and the two Co-Artistic Directors, and all performers/company members are paid a small stipend on a per-project basis only. We seldom produce in traditional theater spaces; our most recent production was performed in the basement studio of the Co-Artistic Directors’ house, for audiences of 10 at most. So although I carry a kind of fancy title, it doesn’t come with a salary or 401(k).

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
Well, I kind of cheat. A couple years ago I realized that I have two careers — one in education and one in theater. One of them makes me money, and one of them (usually) doesn’t. But they’re both careers. It doesn’t seem fair to my work in education to call it a “day job”, when it is totally work done from passion and care. But it’s also not fair to call my work in theater a hobby — it is absolutely a career and my life’s passion. In many ways, it’s actually wonderfully freeing to not be earning my income from my art. It means that I choose projects based on interest/passion/”artistic need”/whatever, rather than on my need to make rent. This works both ways: I can prioritize projects that I wouldn’t take on if I didn’t have another source of income, AND/OR I’m not forced to take on projects simply for the paycheck. This means, generally speaking, that I’m not as busy and overworked as other theater artists/performers. So yes, I’m not acting in 12 shows every year, but good lord, I wouldn’t want to.

I work hard to keep balance in my life, and I’m sometimes successful. In both my current job and my previous job (in education research), my hours have varied between 75%-100% FTE, generally staying at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week). I mostly got lucky in my first job that the position they were hiring for was 30 hours/week and included full benefits — it turned out to work fabulously well in conjunction with my work in theater. Enough time to earn a (very modest) living and have significant investment in the work, but with a little extra padding so as not to lose my mind during tech week for a show (which might end up being an extra 25-30 hours/week for a week or two). My current job was originally 50% FTE, but I asked for my time to be increased to 75% after my first year. Again, the extra hours are vital to maintaining any semblance of sanity.

Thank goodness for maintaing sanity! Thanks for checking out the details about Annie! Next week we’ll learn about what she prioritizes, and the importance of “well-roundedness”

If you’re hankering for more information about Annie in the meantime, check out these links: 
I’m sporadically on Twitter @anniepaladino
You can find info about my artistic work at
And Akropolis Performance Lab is online at

This lady is pretty damn cool, and I’m excited I was able to nab some of her thoughts on work/life/passion balance. She’s got the kind of job that most of us drool over, and her beautiful weaving of interest/work/relationships is even more drool-worthy if that’s even possible.

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
Hi! I’m Katey Rich, and I’m the Hollywood editor for I’m responsible for all of the Hollywood-related content that winds up on the website, which is everything from movie trailers and TV casting news to longform reported stories to photo galleries to interviews to recaps . . .it’s a wide gamut. Vanity Fair the magazine obviously has a longstanding relationship with Hollywood, and it’s my job to keep up the magazine’s tone while also getting in synch with the tone of the Internet– which is how we’ve discovered surprising things, like how Vanity Fair readers are huge, huge fans of Emma Watson and Game of Thrones.

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?

When you work on the Internet it’s very easy to start thinking that work time is all the time, and there are definitely days when I’m kicking off work from 7 am on my couch and not leaving the office until 7 pm (or, if I’m going to a screening, getting home at 10). But I have a husband who’s very very good at reminding me when to shut things off, which helps me just walk away for a little while from even the parts of work that I love. And the world of movie writers is fairly close-knit and full of great people, so even work events wind up being social and relaxing. Right now I’m at the Toronto International Film Festival, which in some ways is as much about catching up with friends as it is seeing movies.


When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I definitely wanted to be a writer from an early early age, but what that meant changed a lot over the years– I wanted to be a novelist for a long time, like any kid who thinks that writers can only write books. In high school I started working on the school newspaper and realized that was something I really loved, and a little bit later got into movies just as a hobby, and had some vague notion of wanting to be a film critic while never thinking that could actually happen. What I do now is a little different from being a film critic– pretty much no one anymore makes their living only writing reviews– but I have written lots of movie reviews, so in a way, I did wind up  achieving that dream.

Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?

Hopefully better at organizing my life than I am now– not exactly a great trait for an editor who’s supposed to be in charge of a lot of things.

Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you? (or regular, there’s my stuff and lots of other great stuff there too). I’m on Twitter at @kateyrich too. And you can listen to me on two podcasts: Fighting in the War Room and The Film Experience.

Anything else you want to share?

Pitch me if you want to write about Hollywood! We don’t take many of the pitches we get but I love getting them.

Sometimes a wonderful daydream can be truly enjoyable to give yourself up to. Who hasn’t enjoyed a cup of coffee while imagining thanking your parents for your Academy Award, or running into an old coworker and their eyes glitter green while you tell them you were just promoted to Director of Everything? It can be difficult mid-fantasy to also assess just how much work is involved to get to that celebratory moment. So here’s a fun perspective to take when you’re enjoying that fantasy world:

  • Write it down. While you’re enjoying this imaginary work goal, write it down. And don’t just write it down, get the specifics down there too. If we’re continuing the Academy Award train, start writing your actual thank you speech. Consider what the award would be for – was it for Best Screenplay? Best Director? Best Costume Design?
  • Break it down. After you’ve written down all of those details, start sussing out the specifics. Are you noticing a trend that all of your daydreams include spending more time creating, analyzing, starting some thing new? Look for these specifics and start thinking about how your current skills align.
  • Map it out. As you’re reviewing the trends, and thinking about your current skills and how they relate, note the skills you don’t have. Maybe check out job postings for similar roles, or find someone who holds a similar position on linked in and snoop on their background. It’s possible that a coursera class, online course or workshop could help bridge the gap. Or, you can even set up some informational meetings with folks that you really admire and learn more about their path.

It’s good to let your daydreams become reality by busting your butt and getting some extra work in to make your zone-out moments your everyday moments. By breaking down your daydreams into reality you’re giving your brain a little nudge into reality. Or, you may find yourself zoning out about accepting and Academy Award less often…

Gosh, I am overwhelmingly excited to introduce Kate to all of you. An incredible human being who not only is insanely talented but just all around the best. Seriously the best. She moved to Richmond which I don’t love, but I still love her. Without further ado… Kate!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
Hi! I’m Kate. I’m a creative director & graphic designer currently working for my own design company, Camp Studios, as well as at a full-time freelance gig for a big financial services company.

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
I didn’t so much find balance as I toppled head first into it (plus, if you’ve ever seen me do yoga, you know from one tree pose that balance isn’t one of my natural abilities). I worked for many, many years for many, many hours a week fueled purely by a passion for good design and a fear of disappointing others (clients, managers, teammates, my parents — you name it). Then one day, after a particularly ugly 36 hour stretch of work building an app we hated by that point, where we’d only been back to our apartments to shower, I tried to send the designers home, saying I could finish up. And the response I got was “If you’re doing it, we’re doing it.” And that’s when it whacked me right in the face: I’m setting a TERRIBLE example! What am I really teaching these designers whom I adore and cherish? That jumping to every unreasonable demand was more important than our health and wellbeing?

And that was really it. That was the tipping point of a long-simmering, rarely-acknowledged sensation of: there’s more to both life and work than this. It’s not that I didn’t want to be a designer any more, it was that I realized that being a designer on my own terms was infinitely more attractive. So, in fairly quick succession, my husband and I decided to do the following things: quit our jobs, start our own design firm, move out of Brooklyn and down to Richmond and, in between moves, take the entire summer off and live at the beach to regroup and recoup. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

That was just over a year ago, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It certainly wasn’t without second-guesses and stumbles along the way, but on the whole, I’m so much happier now than I ever have been. Right now I’m balancing fairly well my fulltime freelance gig (read: dependable paycheck) and working on half a dozen clients of my own. It helps that good design is my passion, so work and passion bleed together and make the longer hours ok. I also have a much healthier attitude towards the amount of time I should spend on a project; it was liberating to finally realize that some of the things I was killing myself over went largely unnoticed by the client. Now I can decide whether I want to put in that extra two hours on a detail that will ultimately make me satisfied and proud of the work, or if it’s something I’m ok letting go.

Overall, what has helped balance me the most is putting my time and energies into the things that matter. In the last year, we moved states, took a two-month vacation, started a business, got married, bought a house and (juuust under the wire) got pregnant. I can’t say I necessarily want every year to be full of such massive changes, but I have a sense of momentum and accomplishment that helps generate the desire to keep growing and trying new things. I’m not even that stressed about the huge changes the baby will inevitably bring (she says optimistically). Talk to me in a year, though.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Definitely not a designer or artist. I took art classes here and there but I certainly wasn’t an “art kid.” I was certain I was going to be a lawyer—I even went into college as a pre-law major. It wasn’t until I saw my roommate’s (a graphic design major) classes that I thought, “hey, that looks fun.” So I signed up for an intro to graphic design class my second semester and never looked back.

The best part is, when I called my parents to let them know I was switching majors, there was a long pause and they replied “Thank god you figured it out! We always knew you should be in the arts.” That was a huge relief (my folks are the best). Plus, I like to think that I’m always creating a solid, rational, evidence-based case when I present work to the client, so that’s how to work in some of that lawyer-y stuff.

Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?
I’ll always be a designer. It’s in my heart and brain and soul and hands. With luck and hard work, our company will grow into something that will be sustainable for our family and allow me to achieve a great balance of work and motherhood.

Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you?
Our company site is, and our twitter handle is @camp_studios.

Anything else you want to share?
One article and one book resonated strongly with me around the time I was deciding to make all these big changes: “Why Designers Leave” on and (don’t gag at the title, it IS self-helpy but totally worth reading) “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher.

And this will always and forever be my go-to moment of zen: YouTube

Meet this fancy lady, Danica, who I appreciate not only for her solid approach to work and life, but her constant support. She’s amazing.
Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
Name is Danica Pantic, and I am a production designer. I would love to tell you the name of a company I work for, but unfortunately I am a freelancer.
For those who cock their head in confusion at my job name, a production designer is basically a set designer for film. We decide what everything on camera will look like.
Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
This is kind of an issue for me. Shooting days are generally 12 hours. Since I work on smaller projects where I often have to execute my designs, this means that  I will often completely disappear when I work. I find it important to surround myself with friends who also have different lifestyles from me. Maintaining these relationships can be difficult sometimes, unfortunately and that’s the frustrating aspect of having an erratic schedule.
This uncertainty has helped me rely on myself to zen myself out. In other words, I have to listen to myself and figure out what will help me recharge. Often that means that after a long day of work, I just want to come home, take my pants off and drink a beer on my couch. Other times, it means booking a crazy trip somewhere.
I am still struggling to find the balance, and I have not found the answer yet. I will get back to you when I do figure it out.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I thought I was going to be an archeologist. For some reason, my grandfather had a collection of National Geographics, and I loved flipping through them and seeing people so focused on brushing dinosaur bones out of the ground. It seemed like an interesting way to get to travel the world and learn something about our history.
Yup, I was a dweeb.
Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?
I think one day I am going to lose my mind and go work on a horse ranch in Montana.  I don’t know if that counts.
Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you?
You guys can check some of my work out at, and if you want to see the buffoonery of my instagram, check out @panticsantics
Anything else you want to share?
For me, working is like dating. I have to constantly evaluate what I am doing and chase after new projects when the old guys are done. This can be a grueling process, but ultimately I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Every new project poses new challenges and new ways to look at the world. I have, in a way, found my version of archeology. After reading a script, I have to figure out who the characters are, and decide how they would build their environments. This is the most fun part for me. I am constantly on the look out for exciting picture books that I can mine during the research period. And, come on, who doesn’t like getting paid to look at pictures?

Hey! We’re back to Jean-Pierre telling us all about his work style and what he enjoys in his day-to-day. Read on!

How do you feel about working a lot of your time. Is it sustainable?
Not necessarily. But let’s first step back and define work. “Work”, “Labor” at its root in Latin, didn’t express a joyous activity but one related to the painful exertion of the body. So I don’t really think you’re ever supposed to enjoy work.  Obviously there are tasks you’ll enjoy more, but I don’t think you should expect continuous ecstasy from work. It has ups and downs, and we have preferences with respect to the tasks, but in my experience it’s not a place of constant joy.

So how do you feel about your current tasks?
I enjoy them – Wheeli is a place where I can exercise my creativity. I always thought of creativity in the most obvious sense: painting, playing music or cooking, but after a while I realized that my creativity is different. Building a team, handling a meeting, creating partnerships, understanding the dynamics of a situation – that requires serious skill and creativity to handle. I love challenging myself to see a problem and think about how we can solve it. How to make things happen.

What gets you going?
I like what I do now. I like transactions, I really like dealing with people to find something to agree on. I really enjoy the complexity of building products, relationships, partnerships between parties and understanding how to build bridges between us.

Are you having fun?
Absolutely, no regrets. There’s no such thing as failure. This experience is like a 9 to 5 on steroids. Most people have to work in the corporate world for 10 years before they have access to the lessons I learn on a daily basis. It’s hard to remember that when you’re deep in the grind, but it’s good to step back and be impressed with what we’re doing.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
There was a time when I wanted to be lawyer. Watching movies where they argue and debate, I thought I should be out there litigating. I took a fundamental of business law class through which the professor helped me realize that I like the topic, and would be good at it, but I wouldn’t enjoy the other requirements: writing 100 page contracts and reading long briefs. And he was right. So now I focus on business; I just spend a lot of my free time debating with my friends. I also like politics.

Any extra advice?
You have to define things for yourself rather than seek to mimic someone else’s life. How someone else succeeds is unlikely to resemble your success We all come to this life with different tools, backgrounds, experiences and it’s up to us to define what works for each of us on our own. Define what success means for you (not for others and/or society) and pursue it.

Want to find out more? Check our Jean-Pierre at these links:
Twitter: @jpsourou

Thanks for chatting with us and hurray for your newest venture!

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