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An unusual career

One of the things we teach people on the coaching/training side is how to find that new job, career, or mission, rather than just taking the next best thing to make money, which may really not be what people will be happy with long-term.

Losing a job may be difficult, but it can be used to great advantage, if you use the opportunity to get into something that really matters to you, rather than just finding another 9-5 job that you hate and can't wait to get out of on Friday night. A lot of us chose our first job because of the expectations of our environment, our parents, relatives, friends, or just a general feeling of what "should" be done, and then we got stuck in that job for a lifetime, never feeling truly fulfilled, even if we succeeded at a high level.

We teach people not only to re-discover what they are passionate about, but also how to plot a course to get there. Both may be surprisingly difficult, especially later in life, but that doesn't mean it's impossible, you may just have to make some sacrifices in the short term to gain a truly fulfilling life in the long term.

Take re-discovering what you are passionate about, for example, what is so difficult about that? Well, there may be reasons why you are not remembering. If it is a true passion, it will likely be an undercurrent in some way in your life, even if you never find a direct vehicle to fulfill that passion, but you may not be consciously aware of it.

I can take myself at an example. What was I passionate about growing up?

There were lots and lots of things I liked, like sports for example, but there were only two things that really made my heart sing: conservation and performing.

As to the performing bit, I played the piano, the clarinet, the saxophone, sang in various choirs, played in various orchestras, marching bands etc., I took opera lessons, and I made some extra money during university singing in a 60s band. So I was probably passionate about that.

But I was also passionate about conservation, both in terms of animals and the environment. This was more of a hidden passion, though, because pursuing it did not only hold the promise of joy, but also the promise of pain. I was so distressed at seeing the forecasts about climate change 35 years ago already, and what it would do to plants, choral reefs, and a gazillion of animals I cared about, that I started taking the bicycle 3 miles uphill to school, rather than taking the bus, which used fuel, including in winter when it snowed. I would start fights with much older kids to protect an animal they were trying to hurt or kill, say a bug, or a spider, because I saw animals as part of my family, and it hurts to see parts of your family suffer and die, especially if there is no reason for it. Later, I did not study biology, although that was what I was really interested in, because in order to study biology one had to kill animals and dissect them - and that was the direct opposite of what I believed in, I wanted to save animals, not kill them. There were no courses in conservation at the time.

Of course, there was also an incredible amount of joy - the amount of connection and love I could get from animals was immense, and I was proud of my contribution when taking the bicycle rather than taking the car, but when thinking about taking up a profession associated with that passion, it produced quite a bit of fear, fear of getting hurt.

So I studied law instead. It seemed a safe choice. It really did not excite any passion in me, but because I had always read lots of biographies, and lots of influential people seem to have been lawyers, and it was a very broad education, I thought it may come in handy, no matter what I'd end up doing, even if I hated every minute of studying it. It also had the added bonus that it fulfilled the expectations of my peer group - you gotta have a university degree in something proper, and the two most difficult courses at our university were said to be law and medicine. I didn't want to cut anybody open, so I studied law. At least criminal law had some promise of excitement.

Was that a good reason to study law? Probably not, but at the time, I didn't have anybody who gave me the guidance to do something I was passionate about. It was all about doing something that is "reasonable". So I got reasonably stuck in law.

Of course, at some point I realized that it was a huge mistake, but I thought I should at least finish it, otherwise the pain would have all been for nothing, and I did - just before I went back to my first passion: entertainment. Everybody thought I had gone completely nuts, including me, but guess what - in hindsight, it was probably one of the best decision I've made in my life, even if I never ended up being particularly successful financially - what I learned during the time in entertainment not only made my life livable later, it also added skills that were surprisingly useful working in other jobs later - including being able to think outside the box, project management (because that's really what a producer does), and bringing a creative angle to whatever you are doing, even if it is negotiating ISDA Master Agreements.

So how did I end up in investment banking then?

Well, my first passion had given me great skills and great experiences, but also great debt, so I needed money. I wasn't particularly picky when I called 30+ agents to get me a job due to the urgency at the time, but when the agent called me and said I had an interview with an investment bank, I wasn't particularly excited. I had never been interested in civil or corporate law, and I had sworn myself a few years earlier never to work for an investment bank, after a good friend of mine had turned from friendly, funny and laid back to incredibly aggressive. I was so desperate for money, though, so I thought I'd at least looked at their Web-site.

Guess what? The advertised with having a nature reserve. My second passion.

I decided that had to be a good bank then, and I was in.

Of course, the job turned out to be slightly different than I thought it would, although they did indeed own that nature reserve, so why did I stay? Because the credit crises had just hit. Not only did I still need money, but I saw people lose their homes, and animals ending up in shelters, which got overrun and threatened to kill the animals - so I took in a whole lot in my home and resolved to make investment banking a safer industry, so that the economy would not melt down, even more people lose their homes, and their pets would not end up being killed by the thousands.

True story.

Believe it or not, I did work in investment banking for years to help animals. I wanted to help people, too, and did, but in this case, people would have a hard time but be helped some way or another eventually, at least within the social system in Europe, which is what I saw at the time, but the ones who would be killed were animals. Animals wouldn't get a second chance.

That's how your passions will still manifest themselves in your life, even if you don't directly work for them. And you know what? That's a good thing. Passions aren't a thing to get rid of, something that gets in the way of logic, it's what fuels your life and adds fun, joy, and excitement, and if you pursue your passion as a job, also drive and determination. My second passion not only gave me the determination to stick it out in my job, no matter how hard it got, I also ended up caring for a whole lot of animals in my own home, and since I needed the house to protect them, I put up with the politics at work, to be able to finance the house. In addition, I volunteered with the first bank in an animal rescue place, and organised volunteering for the second bank as well, as the second bank had no kind of animal volunteering in place.

Was I entirely conscious of being driven by that passion? Not really. But it was always in the back of my mind - until someone attacked those I loved. Then it came to the forefront of my mind, and it became clear that I had to quit the industry - working there was no longer protecting those I loved, so it had lost its purpose for me. I still did a couple of projects while I was searching for something else to do, my heart wasn't in it anymore.

Does that mean that I immediately went back to pursuing passion 1 or 2 directly?


It took me 2 years and several events to really uncover and flesh out what passion 2 really was and how I could potentially manifest it in the world - not because it had not always been an undercurrent in my life, but because I was afraid that I'd get hurt if I pursued it. That's another reason I chose investment banking. You don't see animal cruelty in the bank itself, and you can block out what various people do in their free time. So while people were literally tearing each other apart inside, psychologically speaking, they had at least chosen to be there, and I didn't see the innocent hurt - except in one case, but we won't go there right now. So as difficult an environment as it was, it was emotionally safer than pursuing what I was really passionate about. It took several of my pets to die in my arms for me to develop the emotional resilience to face and deal with the cruelty that you will likely see when you make an effort to protect those you really care for.

This isn't an odd reaction, by the way.

Years ago, there was a study done between Republicans and Democrats, of who helped more, i.e. contributed to more philanthropy, volunteering, etc. One of these groups clearly did more than the other, so the researchers studied the motives, expecting that the members of the group who helped more also cared more, had more compassion, more passion for the cause.

The surprising result was that mostly the opposite was the case - not in all cases, but in a surprising number of cases.


Because those who cared more got more hurt by the suffering they were seeing, so they looked away, trying not to see it, while those who moderately cared got hurt less, and so were less inclined to look away to protect themselves.

Was all I did up to now a waste then?

No. I do believe I really did make a difference, as preposterous as that may sound to some people. What's more, I can now, while pursuing my second passion, potentially use every bit I ever learned - legal skills, project management, change management, dealing with politics, internal and external communication, risk management, every good contact I have ever made, and even my second passion - public engagement in charities uses entertainment for marketing purposes. It is actually a beautiful merger of everything I have ever done with what I believe in, and what I have done can potentially enhance my effectiveness in future years multi-fold, because I'm not just starting from scratch, but I have in-depth knowledge in a number of fields that are relevant. So nothing was a waste. It may not have always been pleasant, but it wasn't a waste, it could actually add a huge amount in future.

Sometimes it is not about finding the right vehicle right away, it is about not getting stuck in the wrong one.

So what do you really care about?

Are you in a job you aren't passionate about?


Is it because you think you couldn't succeed in something you are passionate about?

Or is it maybe because you are afraid that if you did a job that helps something or someone you are passionate about, you may see things that may hurt too much?

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