Passion vs Purpose: How to Choose What to Pursue

During a recent trip to Chicago to keynote a conference, I was stopped in the hallway by a man who wanted to get my thoughts on how he could evaluate his passion and determine whether it was a meaningful pursuit.


I gave him as thoughtful of a response as I could in the moment, but as I reflected on the day that evening, I realized that this is a layered issue that many people are facing.


After all, the happiness that comes with doing the things we want to do has to be balanced with the necessity of doing work that’s important. Legacies are built on a willingness to not trade what we want now for what we want most.


So how do we evaluate our activities, projects, and careers for this deeper meaning? How do we choose between two equally great opportunities?


Here are a few things to consider in the pursuit of passion and purpose:


1. Will you regret not doing this in the future?

When there are multiple options, this question helps clarify what means the most to you. If you had a limited time to live, how would you choose to use your working hours? Identify the project you’d regret not pursuing and make it a priority.


2. How does doing this work enrich your life?

Are you choosing one line of work because it feels good or because it actually makes your better? How does the work positively impact your life? How does the work stretch you and improve your character?


3. How does doing this work enrich the lives of others?

Do other people benefit from the work? Will the work outlive you? Service is the rent we pay for living on the planet. If no one benefits from what you’re creating, it’s time to rethink or reframe the work.


Even if you have a career you love, these questions are worth answering. Contemplate your passion and stay in alignment with your purpose!


Lisa Nicole Bell is the director and executive producer of The American Dream Revised. She is the CEO of Inspired Life Media Group where she and her team conceive, develop, and produce original premium multiplatform content. Learn more about her at

You Need More Than Smarts and Talent to Succeed in Business

There’s a nasty myth lurking among the talented and creative people in the world. The people who believe it are losing clients, missing out on opportunities, and earning less money.


The myth is this: “You don’t have to be nice or likeable as long as you do amazing work.”


It’s just not true.


What’s true is that it doesn’t matter how good you are if your personality sucks. And there’s no substitute for building great relationships in business. This can’t be overstated. There are some super talented, genius types in the world who seem to have a steady flow of gigs and clients no matter what. But how much money are they missing out on by being obnoxious, rude, condescending, or cold?


Actress Cameron Diaz is a textbook case of why it pays to be fun to be around. While talented, she certainly is not the most talented actress in Hollywood. So why has she worked steadily since 1992? She’s a blast to be around. Producers, directors, and co-stars all love being around her. She’s type of person they’d want to hang out with offset, so naturally, if given the chance, they want to work with over and over again.


Relationships are the currency of a thriving business. Here are 3 super simple tips to help you fully maximize your talent:


1. Smile.

I know it seems basic, but ask yourself, how often do you smile at your clients/customers? Do you smile when you’re on the phone with them? Do you smile when you greet them? Even if you’re in a serious industry or you’re not a smiley person, a warm smile can go a long way to enhancing your business relationships.


2. Remember who’s paying who.

Even if you feel a client is being unreasonable, it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that they’re paying you. Not only are they paying you, they represent referral dollars and testimonials. If you find that a client is unbearable to work with and you can’t be pleasant with them, see #3.


3. Fire bad clients.

Yes, you read that correctly. Fire bad clients. The bad clients in your business are almost always more trouble than they are worth. They ask for more than they pay for, they make a mountain out of every molehill, and they cause strife for you and your team. The firing doesn’t have to be done with ill will; it’s done from a place of power. You release that client to work with a firm that can or will meet all of their demands while you free yourself up to better serve your great clients. After all, it’s easier to be nice and cheerful when you’re working with clients you love.


Remember: Talent can’t take you everywhere. Relationships can.

How to Get Hired When You’re Just Starting Out

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1. Include Personal Projects to Bulk Up Your Resume.
Don’t limit yourself to the confines of a traditional resume. Recognize that under “Skills” you can list everything from Photoshop to silk-screening, that studio time can be just as important as past employment, and that unpaid side projects show dedication, initiative, and responsibility. If the majority of your experience is personal, studio, or classroom work, add more of a description than you normally would, explaining the kind of timeline you were working with and why you chose the subject matter.



Above: Illustrator Simon Prades effectively displays personal work and side projects in his online portfolio.

2. Don’t Just List the Facts; Tell Your Story Instead.
Whether you’re looking to freelance or join a creative company, business is all about relationships, so recruiters, clients, and hiring managers want to know who you are and not just what you’ve done. Including a bio on your website or in your portfolio is a great way to share your back-story and highlight what you stand for.
Your bio should address the following five questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

For more insight on how to craft a bio, read 99U’s The Resume Is Dead The Bio Is King.

3. Showcase Your Creative Process by Sharing Iterations and Mockups.
Show prospective clients and collaborators how you think by including the rough sketches, prototypes, mockups and mood boards that led up to your finished piece. In addition to showcasing your creative process, this will help define your role within a given project – something that’s especially important within the realm of creative collaboration.

For example, if your portfolio includes a website, specify whether you built the entire thing, worked on the graphics, coded the frontend, etc. Bonus points for including captions under each asset you display that explains where you got your ideas, how you made decisions along the way, and what impact they had on your finished piece.


Above: Illustrator Tyler Jacobson includes sketches and iterations that bring his process to life. 
4. Hiring Managers Expect Tailored Applications. Do Your Research Before Hitting Send.
Before submitting an application make note of your target company’s style – you can gather this from their website, campaigns, client list, and the content they share on Twitter and Facebook. As many recent (successful) “Hire Me Campaigns”  have taught us – in some cases the medium can be your most important message. Want to get a job as a community manager? Create a Twitter campaign. If your specialty is information architecture, turn your skills section into an infographic. If working at Vimeo is your dream job, make a video resume.

Targeting your portfolio toward a specific company gives you an opportunity to showcase your skills, initiative, and passion for the company in question.


AboveFlorian Holstein, a Creative Director who was in love with design and sports, created an interactive website to showcase his skills and land himself a job at his dream company, Adidas.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Mention Your Idols, Mentors, or Creatives You Admire in an Interview.
Refining your knowledge of established creatives in your industry can really add to your interview repertoire. Musicians often promote themselves by referencing the artists they grew up listening to or the albums that shaped them. This can be applied to any industry.

Picture two candidates with similar education and experience (little to none) interview for the same photo assistant job. The hiring manager asks, “So why did you choose to major in photography?”

Candidate A responds with the typical “because it seemed interesting and I wanted to get a job as a photographer.”

Candidate B says, “I’ve been obsessed with fashion photography my whole life. I used to tear Annie Leibovitz’ portraits out of my sister’s Vanity Fair and today I really admire the work of photographers like Steven Meisel and Mario Testino and the risks they’re unafraid to take.”

Candidate B has a clear advantage, making up for what they may lack in experience by articulating their passion for their field and knowledge of established artists and trends.

What’s Your Take?

How did you land your first job? Any tips to add?

Jenn Godbout makes ideas happen at Behance and is on a never-ending search for good advice. Say hello @Jennavive.

5 Easy Steps for Mapping Your First Big Meeting

So you’ve gotten organized, you’re managing your time effectively, you’ve made progress creating your business concept, and you’re networking like a champ. You’re proving that you may soon belong with the heavy hitters and aren’t easily intimidated. And by the way, congrats — you’ve just locked down a big meeting!

Wait…what do you do now? You’ve never been in a 1-on-1 meeting with a big player in your industry who actually takes you seriously enough to give you some of their time, and there’s no roadmap for this kind of thing.

Not to worry – you can create one. By answering a few simple questions in detail, you’ll have some solid direction to help guide your preparation. Continue reading “5 Easy Steps for Mapping Your First Big Meeting”

The 3 Pieces of Startup Advice That Actually Matter

The 3 Pieces of Startup Advice That Actually Matter


I’ll tell you something that no one told me when I started up: somehow, putting up your own shingle also means putting up a sign that you’re open to advice. All sorts of people start offering their words of wisdom — experienced executives, college students, and even people who’ve never actually done anything with that good business idea they won’t tell you about, because you’ll steal it.

While people generally do mean well, their advice often misses the mark. Here are three bits of advice that I’ve received or incorporated that have never led me wrong:

  1. Build from your strengths. In today’s fast-paced and crowded market, being good simply isn’t good enough. Rather than building a business that will have you cap out at “good,” take the time to assess your team’s core capabilities and build from what you can be truly great at. It’ll galvanize your team and your market, and give you early momentum so that you won’t get by merely being good. Every business mistake I’ve made can be traced back to not getting our business out of the comfort zone of our strengths.
  2. Fanatically focus on your customers. Your business really isn’t about you; it’s about how you provide a solution to your customers that is worth paying for. Growth comes from serving more customers better, and the fastest way to get there is to get to know the conversation going on in your customers’ heads. Note: This doesn’t mean that your customer is always right, but it does let you know what your customer needs and values are so that you can determine how and where you’re going to serve them best.
  3. Failure is necessary for learning. As frustrating as it is, we usually don’t learn as much from success as we do from failure. Fortunately for us, success is usually harder to come by, so we therefore have a lot of opportunities to learn. To be an entrepreneur is to chart unfamiliar territory, and to turn opportunities with uncertain outcomes into economic value. To do that well, you’re going to have to try some things that may not work out. But to not try at all because there may be failure is worse than trying and failing, for you learn nothing from what you don’t try. Seth Godin has been saying “fail fast and fail cheap” for a while, and Jim Collins advocates a similar approach in Great by Choice when he show that great businesses “fire bullets, then cannonballs.” Find a growth opportunity in your business and start a small experiment — a big win is absolutely worth a few small failures.

Charlie’s the go-to guy for creative changemakers and entrepreneurs for figuring out how to get the right things done. His blog, Productive Flourishing, is one of the top productivity and business blogs on the web. Charlie’s forthcoming book, Beyond Bootstrapping, helps entrepreneurs and small business owners become better executives and build better businesses from the business they’ve already built.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

There is No Formula for Success: 3 Tips for Starting Up

I’m drawn to the fact that entrepreneurship isn’t defined. Each person is free to make it into the job title, industry or revenue structure that they define as success. But this freedom also makes it easy to get swallowed up by ideas and opportunities without accomplishing much.

I spend my time working on entrepreneurial ventures in the marketing industry because I’m passionate about the field and want to see things actually happen. And that takes hard work, an open mind,  and some good advice from several people — because making an idea into a reality isn’t formulaic.

Based on my experience, here are a few bits of perspective I can offer you: Continue reading “There is No Formula for Success: 3 Tips for Starting Up”

Starting Up? How to Conquer the 3 Big Challenges You’ll Face

Striking out on your own as an entrepreneur is exciting and, in equal parts, terrifying. For one thing, the “shackles” of the corporate world may now appear comforting in retrospect, especially when recalling the entire team of experts you once had at your disposal to pay your taxes, provide you with office supplies and fix the printer … not to mention the support of your coworkers and relative stability of ongoing work.

After leaving the safety of the corporate net, all entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges — chief among them stress, solitude and instability. In my experience, I’ve found that embracing these struggles as your new reality is the first step to overcoming them. Continue reading “Starting Up? How to Conquer the 3 Big Challenges You’ll Face”

Starting Up vs. Consulting: 5 Lessons for Success

When I started my business with two other partners at age 24, I was a great consultant — but a mediocre business owner. Like many others who start their own businesses to do what they love, I was completely focused on executing the work, and I had a lot to learn about running the business itself.

Over the past few years, I’ve run into more than a few surprises while running the business with partners, and I’ve learned a number of lessons about what it takes to run a successful new business:

  1. Cash flow is, and always will be, king.  Continue reading “Starting Up vs. Consulting: 5 Lessons for Success”

5 Ways To Quit Your Job Peacefully and Professionally

The most difficult aspect of quitting your job isn’t figuring out what to do next. After all, you could go climb a mountain.  Build out any number of 100 business ideas you already have.  Sit on a beach in the tropics for a month.  There’s no shortage of things to do with free time.

No, the hardest part of quitting your job is often the simplest: telling your current employer that you plan to leave.

Continue reading “5 Ways To Quit Your Job Peacefully and Professionally”

4 Ways Legal Websites Fall Short For Entrepreneurs

 A disclaimer at the bottom of a well-known medical information website states that the website “does not provide medical advice,” yet many still consult the Internet for medical advice in order to skip a doctor’s visit. Similarly, disclaimers on legal self-help websites read something like, “The information provided on this site is not legal advice” — and yet  otherwise savvy entrepreneurs believe that they can skip a visit to an  attorney by going to a legal self-help website instead. Continue reading “4 Ways Legal Websites Fall Short For Entrepreneurs”