Love Your Problems: A Parable

Whenever friends have expressed that they’re unhappy at work, the following platitude is inevitably uttered by someone luckier, “you should love what you do!” Some find comfort in this. Armed with a renewed sense that they’re entitled to quit their jobs and hit the streets in search of passion, they may even resign in order to pursue their dreams. These people are trust-funded.

Others, like me, offer up a “thanks,” and an eye-roll. Ideally, we’d all be over-joyed by every aspect of work, but finding that perfect role (if such a thing exists) seems like an untenable Disney fantasy. Landing a fulfilling job is the result of tenacity, serendipity and not totally blowing the interviews. “Loving what you do” hinges on a lot of good fortune.

Art Chang, CEO and founder of Tipping Point Partners, is in the eye-rolling camp. He posits that “loving what you do” is not the key. He’s held countless (okay, you can count them if you click here) jobs spanning from architect, venture capitalist, concert violinist, and cabinet-maker. From this experience, he explains that the pinnacle of satisfaction is to figure out the problems you most want to solve, and then make a career out of finding solutions.

Like all great life lessons, his advice comes in the form of an analogy. At some point in the mythical past, Art was reconstructing his home, a considerable undertaking which required digging a ditch through his back yard. On a fated afternoon, one of his laborers took ill. Not being one to sit idly by, Art seized a shovel and joined the other toilers in the fray. As the day progressed, they talked of ditch digging. The contractor had a problem – the ditch – and his job was to solve that problem by digging. Art worked alongside him until the ditch was dug, listening to the contractor explain each facet of the process, in awe of his commitment to his craft.

“We all have our ditches”, Art says. If you’re in finance, your problem is money, and you love to solve that problem. If you’re a writer, your problem is expression and you solve that by deciding what it is you want to tell people. Finding the problem you most deeply want to fix is your road to a happy career, and yes, maybe even to loving what you do.

As the first week of the New Year comes to a close, I hope you find some comfort in Art’s words. If you’re feeling anxiety at work and thinking it might be time for a fresh start, grab a shovel.

By Brie Schwartz

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