Right Stuff for Starting a Business

To start your own business or not?

I recently worked with an MBA client employed in a Fortune 500 company who commutes 2 hours each way.  He’s tired of it and wants out.  He’s been exploring the option of buying a franchise business.

He thinks he’d be good at it but contacted me as a reality check, i.e. to make sure he’s not simply acting on a confirmation bias.  Instead, he wants to know:  “Do I have the right stuff to run my own business?”

He knows what to do.  After all, he’s got an MBA so he knows how to design and implement business systems that work.  What he really wants to know is whether or not running his own business aligns with his strengths and motivations. 

Definition: an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

He asked for a quick and easy assessment to help with his decision-making.  He presented me with a matrix of job duties that he did and did not enjoy in previous jobs.  Clearly, he has many financial, operational, and managerial skills that align with running a business.

But was he motivated to use those skills in the circumstances of starting a new business?

Clues

A natural entrepreneur has a knack for spotting opportunities and acting on them quickly.  This talent usually shows up early in life, not just in work-related activities but in other circumstances too, such as school projects or volunteer activities.  To uncover such events in a person’s life, I often ask simple questions.

– Tell me about a time when you felt strongly about something and were able to recruit others and lead the charge down a new path or new venture.

– Give me an example of where you motivated others to start up a group in order to bring about some kind of change.

– Tell me about any projects that you’ve started from scratch with others.

– Tell me about a business or hobby enterprise that was failing and you got excited about turning it around.

– What is easier for you—getting a project off the ground or maintaining it once it’s up and running?

– When you find yourself as part of a group or team and things get bogged down, how do you normally react? (Can you give me an example of when you took the ball yourself and ran with it?)

My client’s answers to these questions revealed no knack for taking the initiative or recruiting others to help him start projects.  Instead, they revealed a strong inclination to be recruited by others and work on solving problems related to new business ventures.  The challenge and variety of such problems brought out the best in him.

He often gravitated to roles in new ventures where he could operate as a Key Contributor, getting involved in activities that were crucial to the success of the project or business.   Other team members valued him as a stabilizing influence in what were often very fluid, challenging situations.  He was the kind of team player that may not always be noticed when he’s there but is very much missed when he isn’t.

New Path

When this pattern was pointed out to him, he realized that his entrepreneurial aspirations were really a reaction to his current job as a cog in a very large wheel of a Fortune 500 company’s with firmly established policies, procedures and practices.  He was expected to do the same thing day in and day out, which was a direct conflict with his natural inclination to be involved with a variety of challenging problems related to new ventures.

Of course, he can start his own business, using determination and business skills…but over the long run he would probably be drained by such a venture and be unmotivated to continue, or find that recruiting others (as staff and customers) might be too stressful.

As we explore options together, he may find that a much better job fit for his combination of experience, education, strengths and preferences is to rebrand for a senior Manager role in a high-growth company or franchise where his knack or solving new venture problems would be recognized and rewarded. 

How To Get Away With Murder of your inner critic

It’s the start of another year…but are you still haunted by an inner critic from your past? We learn as children to please others who are important to us, such as parents, teachers, peers and coaches. And when we earn their criticism instead of their praise, we often internalize that critical voice for the rest of our lives.

It doesn’t take much—a verbal criticism of something you said or did, a big red fail on a written exam, or a cold shoulder, a sharp rebuke, a stinging reprimand—and you never wrote another poem, or played another game of soccer, or sang another song, or designed another dress, or did whatever gave you joy, made you feel free, or deepened your sense of accomplishment. Because, after that…every time you tried, the inner critic reared its ugly head and crushed you with that ‘voice’ in your brain.

I think we, as individuals, underestimate the influence of others in our young lives. We are, after all, social beings who want to be liked and loved by others. As children, we usually aim at becoming something that will please others long before we take the time to find out who we are.

Many individuals are channeled down a certain career path using ‘can do’ skills based on the advice of these well-meaning influencers. This can create problems later in life, not the least being stuck in a dull or meaningless job that fosters deep dissatisfaction.

Kill the critic

The best way to kill this inner critic is to replace it with your ‘authentic’ voice. Since 1986, research from more than 200 studies shows that creative, expressive and reflective writing about thoughts and feelings in a structured safe space helps individuals gain control over a negative life event. There are many exercises for killing that inner critical voice in order to make room for your own voice. Years ago, I had a lot of fun doing this one:

I found a list of the 1001 ways to kill somebody. I picked one that I felt would suitably avenge my inner pain. Then I wrote a letter to my persecutor describing in detail how I was going execute them. I was shocked at the depth of my anger and pain! These transgressions against our souls, our very beings, create deep wounds…the pen I held was my sword of vengeance!

How to get away with murder

Remember, this is an exercise, a form of creative play in a safe place, so a few words of caution are necessary: put your bloodthirsty letter in an envelope…but don’t mail it…you could end up in jail! Instead, burn it, bury it, cut it to pieces, do whatever feels right…but don’t actually send or give it to the transgressor. Kill that inner critic figuratively not literally–that’s how you get away with murder!

This simple writing exercise liberated me from an inner critic. It helped me trade in that ‘other’ for my own. Since then, I have expressed my voice through this newsletter and blogs, through several books, articles in newspapers and career magazines, through academic journals, as well as through creative writing, my own radio show, and at career conferences. It’s all fun; it gives me to have my voice engaged in meaningful conversations that influence others.

Reclaim your voice

If you feel that your voice has been swallowed up by the values and priorities of someone else in your life, then draw on this scientific method of killing that inner critic. Simple writing exercises combined with an experienced coach will help you think, feel and write your way though rigid beliefs or behaviours that keep you stuck in life or work.

Liberate yourself! JobJoy is collaborating with Phrase Strategy and its Essential Voice programs to help individuals to see reality in a new way and find their voice. Claim your freedom by uncovering YOUR voice! It will enrich and enlarge your life and work…

Real Job Security is knowing your Motivational Pattern

From our childhood to our current career, we tend to gravitate towards activities and projects that require our natural strengths. Why? Simple—we get pleasure from using our talents in situations that motivate us.

The problem is we do some things so naturally and effortlessly, we think, “Doesn’t everybody do it this way?” No, they don’t. You have a knack for achieving certain results using certain talents because that’s what energizes you—and you make it look easy. Other people might be able to do the same thing due to training or experience but it’s grunt work for them.

    What energizes you?

For example, some individuals get energized by having an impact on the physical world. If there is a piece of equipment, or machinery, or a vehicle, or a household appliance that breaks down or is performing poorly, they repair it, or restore it to its original state. You can tell it energizes them because you can hear them humming, or whistling or singing, or just bouncing around happily as they do what comes naturally and easily to them.

If this talent is caught early in life and channeled into a particular vocation then recognized and rewarded by an employer, they might even end up with a long and happy career as an aircraft mechanic with an airline, or a pipe-fitter in a refinery, or a mechanic in the military, or a maintenance worker for public transit, or one of hundreds of jobs available from hundreds of different employers.

Even if they lose one job, they can quickly adapt or retrain for something similar in another sector because equipment, machinery, and vehicles will always wear out, or break down, or need replacing and require individuals who have a knack for impacting such physical objects with their natural talents and learned skills.

The same is true if you like to have an impact on people, or like to control how, when and where a project or plan will proceed. Or, if you are energized by pursuing and reaching a goal or a target. Or, if you get juiced by engaging in a process of discovering, developing or expressing.

    Motivation matches right work

Each general human inclination can be narrowed down to reveal your particular motivational pattern, and that pattern can be matched to dozens of specific jobs in specific work settings.

This is true job security. When you take the time to understand your motivational pattern then you don’t have to worry if you lose a job because you will already know what other sectors of the economy will recognize and reward you for what comes easily to you.

Don’t let our volatile economy catch you by surprise. Get a JobJoy career assessment done today so that you can do some long-term planning for real job security.

You already have in your hands the right tools to repair and grow your career. Put them to work in your favour.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts with motivation

Do you get this feeling?…It’s a beautiful day and I know I should go for a walk in order to stay fit…but I don’t really want to.

I don’t know about you but staying fit is just not enough motivation to get me out for a walk. However, I am looking forward to playing basketball tomorrow—I do it because it’s fun and not because I want to stay fit.

Do you get the same feeling when it comes to your job? It’s another weekday and you know you should get out of bed to make some money and pay your bills…but you don’t really want to. Paying your bills is just not enough motivation to get you going.

You’re not alone. Up to 70% of us report feeling dis-engaged from our jobs, work, or employers. And one of the reasons that we feel that way is because our jobs do not motivate us intrinsically, that is inside us as opposed to working only for extrinsic rewards (like money).

Intrinsic Motivation

Research clearly shows that you’re more likely to enjoy job satisfaction if you focus on the work itself, and less likely to enjoy it if you’re focused on money. This finding holds true even at low salary levels. This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money).

Intrinsic motivation is not only a better indicator of job satisfaction but also job performance. The more people focus on their salaries, the less they focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform best.

However, it is difficult to cultivate higher job satisfaction and better job performance if we don’t know our motivational pattern. I have written elsewhere about the key success factors that make up our motivational pattern. I call them rocket launchers. When are natural talents, inclinations and skills align with the tasks we’re given at work, then are job satisfaction and performance work together to produce amazing results!

Motivational Pattern

Each of us can learn what launches us into a state of flow that integrates with certain tasks at work. When we are clear about the positive intrinsic aspects of such work, the research shows that we enjoy our work more than if we are just focused on the extrinsic rewards of performing such tasks. What is it we most enjoy doing and do best when it comes to our work? My JobJoy Report is an evidence-based approach to giving individuals the answer to this question with clarity and confidence. If we can’t answer this question, we default to focusing on extrinsic rewards.

While studies show consistently that most people are, in fact, more intrinsically motivated, they still tend to choose a raise over more meaningful work. They might want more interesting work but feel they can’t get it from their current job, or career, or employer, so they go for the money. As negative work experiences pile up, individuals tune out, settle for a paycheck and report feeling dis-engaged from their work.

Now, a sceptic might say that such reseach simply reflects an innate mindset — some people happen to be more focused on extrinsic rewards, while others are more focused on the task itself. That’s certainly possible because it’s hard to test for such a distinction. Similarly, a cynic might say that people who focus too much on money are preventing themselves from enjoying their jobs. That’s possible too…we don’t know for sure.

What we do know is that there is little evidence to show that money motivates us, and a great deal of evidence to suggest that it actually demotivates us. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should work for free. We all need to pay our bills and provide for our families — but once these basic needs are covered the psychological benefits of money are questionable.

Working only for wages

The meaning of money is largely subjective. For example, there are marked individual differences in people’s tendency to think or worry about money, and different people value money for different reasons (e.g., as a means to power, freedom, security, or love). Our relationship to money is highly idiosyncratic.

Some research shows that employees’ personalities are much better predictors of engagement than their salaries. The more emotionally stable, extraverted, agreeable or conscientious people are, the more they tend to like their jobs (irrespective of their salaries). But, an even more important determinant of an employee’s engagement at work is the personality of their boss. In fact, the biggest organizational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership.

How we relate to others, especially our superiors, is a part of our motivational pattern. When we know what motivates us intrinsically, when we can communicate to our bosses and others how we work best, then we have a better chance of achieving job satisfaction.

If you are feeling dis-engaged from work…if you want work that taps in to your motivational pattern…if you want to make a social impact…if you want your personal goals/values to align with your work…if you want a sense of personal accomplishment…then let’s discuss how you can get engaged with your job quickly and easily.

Storytelling is key to career change

As a career counsellor in private practice for the past 25 years, thousands of individuals have confided in me about their motivations for working. For most of us, it boils down to this: we work because we have to, simple as that, in order to pay our bills and provide for our loved ones.

Until now, most of us have had no real reason to question a way of life that is organized in its most simplistic form around our potential to get a good education, secure a stable job, purchase a house, grow a family, and follow a life script of working and buying as a reward for what we do. This is The American/Canadian Dream—‘work hard, play by the rules, get ahead.’

Except that getting ahead is getting much more difficult (even impossible) for many of us due to various social, economic and technological forces. For some, the link between work and wages amounts to ‘wage slavery’ if the work is dull, dirty or dangerous…while others feel stuck in jobs with ‘golden handcuffs,’ because the wages and benefits are too good to give up no matter how much they dislike the actual work.

Even for those who like their work, we must acknowledge that depression—often caused by work-related stress and burnout—is now the #1 disability in North America, costing billions in productivity losses, billions more in social welfare, while eroding family security.

Adding fuel to that fire, we find wages stagnate while housing costs soar and inequality between the very rich and the rest of us increases dramatically. We lose our job security when companies move their operations to cheaper labour markets. Robots are replacing unionized factory jobs. Automation is replacing white-collar jobs. If you doubt it, subscribe to Undone free weekly online mag to track these trends & issues.

All this is now business as usual. And we accept this entirely, well…because we have to.

Really? Do we, as individuals, have to accept this state of affairs as rational and inevitable? Does winning at life mean we must accept this story of work with all its built in assumptions? One of the most effective ways that I know for stepping outside this employment trap is to write out your story and get it analysed for a pattern of meaning.

Storytelling opens up a space for challenging our current identity, for re-interpreting our life experiences in a way that opens up space for new career options. You can change your career, your job, and your life without losing money or status or health or whatever is near and dear to you. There is evidence to prove it. There is the example of thousands who have done it.

In short, your story is not fixed but fluid. You are not trapped but, instead, you have access to many opportunities that may be more rewarding and enriching than the one you have now. We make our story because we make our life. We have choices.

You can create and live a better story!

Job search success! A true story of the right mix of strategy & tactics

Looking for job postings online, following up on tips, asking for referrals, attending workshops in your hometown is still hard work, even in such familiar surroundings with a built-in goodwill network of family, friends and former colleagues.

Imagine how much harder it is to job search when you move from another country, even with solid credentials and experience. I experienced this very challenge myself when I moved to Australia from Canada in the 80s with no prospect of a job. It took me 8 months to land something commensurate with my degree and experience.

Each person is different of course and has a specific set of credentials and experience, and each one is operating in a unique set of circumstances. But, in my personal and professional experience, the right mix of pro-active job search strategy and tactics executed with persistence and patience always pays off in a good job. Here’s a true and recent case:

In May 2015, Paul relocated from the UK to Toronto when his wife got transferred with an international company (can’t use his real name due to his wife’s terms of confidentiality). Paul had resigned his UK position as a Senior Building Surveyor with an engineering company that managed construction projects in the public sector.

After getting his two young sons settled into T.O. school and life, he started looking for work in his field in line with his visa conditions. He did a smart thing and followed up on leads from his UK contacts but they did not materialize into any job prospects.

He also sent out dozens of resumes but got no call-backs. When I looked at his resume, there was an obvious issue—Building Surveyor is not a job category in Canada, so he wasn’t getting screened in for interviews. But, more importantly, there is an oversupply of construction professionals in Canada, so employers didn’t need to consider prospects from the UK.

We quickly modified his resume and LinkedIn profile to better position/package him for the T.O. market as a Senior Project Manager-Construction because it combined the key technical, account management, and leadership responsibilities of his UK role.

When he sent out his resume and followed up with phone calls, employers now took his calls and talked to him. These conversations taught him a lot about the employment culture in Canada, and what was similar or different to his experience in the UK. It also demonstrated to him the importance of being pro-active in a job search for senior roles.

Consequently, he dialled back his online job search and put together a list of target companies. I encouraged Paul to leverage his natural charm and strong communication skills into “networking” in his neighbourhood. I explained the benefits of doing so. Sceptical at first, he started telling his neighbours and parents at his sons’ school what it was that he was looking for and asking them directly if they knew anybody in his targeted companies.

Besides building his confidence that his UK experience offered value to the Canadian marketplace (because his neighbours took him seriously), this pro-active approach generated a number of referrals, including one to a local recruiter who specialized in placing senior people in construction. This recruiter introduced Paul to a small firm headed by two partners from the UK. They were immediately interested in Paul but didn’t have a position that fit his experience.

I explained to Paul that this was code for “we don’t know you well enough to feel safe enough to hire you.” I explained to him how 40%+ of jobs are created for senior people who walk through the door, who get into conversations that uncover a firm’s key corporate goals/priorities and the major challenges that get in the way of them achieving those goals, and who can then spot the work opportunity in the intersection between the two…because a job is nothing more than activity organized around solving problems to reach corporate goals.

After meeting both partners several times in a professional manner in their offices and in a social setting over dinner, Paul was sent a job offer, which he accepted at the end of November. Interestingly, they left him to define his job description during his first 3 months on the job!

At JobJoy, we specialize in customizing a job search to the right mix of strategies and tactics that will land you a job that corresponds with your value. Call George today to discuss your situation 613-563-0584.

Career Repair: you already have the right tools

From our childhood to our current career, we tend to gravitate towards activities and projects that require our natural strengths. Why? Simple—we get pleasure from using our talents in situations that motivate us.

The problem is we do some things so naturally and effortlessly, we think, “Doesn’t everybody do it this way?” No, they don’t. You have a knack for achieving certain results using certain talents because that’s what energizes you—and you make it look easy. Other people might be able to do the same thing due to training or experience but it’s grunt work and drains them (they always wish they were doing something else).

Natural Strengths

For example, some individuals get energized by having an impact on the physical world. If there is a piece of equipment, or machinery, or a vehicle, or a household appliance that breaks down or is performing poorly, they repair it, or restore it to its original state. You can tell it energizes them because you can hear them humming, or whistling or singing, or just bouncing around happily as they do what comes naturally and easily to them.

If this talent is caught early in life and channeled into a particular vocation then recognized and rewarded by an employer, they might even end up with a long and happy career as an aircraft mechanic with an airline, or a pipe-fitter in a refinery, or a mechanic in the military, or a maintenance worker for public transit, or one of hundreds of jobs available from hundreds of different employers.

Even if they lose one job, they can quickly adapt or retrain for something similar in another sector because equipment, machinery, and vehicles will always wear out, or break down, or need replacing and require individuals who have a knack for impacting such physical objects with their natural talents and learned skills.

The same is true if you like to have an impact on people, or like to control how, when and where a project or plan will proceed. Or, if you are energized by pursuing and reaching a goal or a target. Or, if you get juiced by engaging in a process of discovering, developing or expressing.

True Job Security

Each general human inclination can be narrowed down to reveal your particular motivational pattern, and that pattern can be matched to dozens of specific jobs in specific work settings.

This is true job security. When you take the time to understand your motivational pattern then you don’t have to worry if you lose a job because you will already know what other sectors of the economy will recognize and reward you for what comes easily to you.

Don’t let our volatile economy catch you by surprise. Get a JobJoy career assessment done today so that you can do some long-term planning for real job security.

You already have in your hands the right tools to repair and grow your career. Put them to work in your favour.

Fitting Your Square Peg Into Round Hole of Work

Career research has shown that you are more likely to have job satisfaction if you have a work-role fit, one where their core job duties align with their talents, skillsets and motivations.

It’s no surprise then when the same job seems very meaningful to one person but not to another. If your essential motivation goal is to help others, commercial careers organized around attaining sales goals, status or power will feel empty.

If you get deep innate satisfaction from always learning new things and promoting your curiosity, then repetitive and structured jobs will wear you out.

If your chief interest is working with others in a setting where there is freedom to talk and interact, make new friends, then you will hate jobs where you have to spend long hours alone working independently on a task in a concentrated manner in a work setting that is not socially or personally interactive–this is why so many competent professionals hate working from home as independent consultants.

Your motivational pattern

When you do not know what their motivational pattern really is, then you will probably react in a negative manner to situations at work simply because your job does not align with your natural inclinations.

However, when you have the full picture of your talents and motivations, you have more power to find your right work or to communicate in your current job with more clarity and confidence to others what motivates you to be a productive and valued employee and thereby craft your job into a better fit.

When you are simply reacting to work circumstances and trying to fit like a square peg into a round hole, it can drive you crazy. That hole has been shaped by others with no consideration of your unique talents and motivations.

But you are not trapped because you can shape that hole to better fit you by getting knowledge about your motivational pattern.

The key to enjoyable work

Instead of reacting to your work circumstances, you can find a better fit by crafting your current job to fit you better—this is the key to enjoying your job (and life), as well as making your career (and life) more meaningful at a practical everyday level.

Let’s face it, work takes up much of our days and we all prefer to be energized not drained by our jobs.

In my next article, I will explain how you are more likely to achieve job satisfaction or find meaningful work when your job helps you to achieve longer-term goals, especially when those goals align with your core needs and values.

Is job search a problem to be solved or part of your creative process? – Part 2

In my previous blog on this topic, I asked ‘Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want?” Whether you are pursuing a short term goal, like getting a new job in the next 90 days, or going after a longer term goal, such as changing your career completely—an important lesson to remember is this: you don’t get there all at once!

You build. You plan certain steps, and then you take certain actions. You start with something workable, and then you begin to develop it.

However, many people will simply react to their current circumstances. If they think their employer is downsizing, merging with another company, or going bankrupt, they will start looking for another job because losing a job is a problem to be solved. They do what they think they should do, i.e. go to job boards, look for postings, and apply online for their resume. They don’t usually think much about how the process works, why it functions they way it does, and so on.

Then, when they don’t get any callbacks for interviews, they start to panic and think something is wrong with them: “my resume is no good, I don’t have enough experience for that job, I’m getting too old, I don’t have enough education, I live in the wrong part of the country.” They start to blame themselves instead of understanding the dynamics of supply & demand at work in the job market and how job boards relate to those dynamics.

Problem solving is about reacting to circumstances.

Creating is about resolving the tension between where you want to be and where you are now. For example, if you want a new job, you can start by picking a job target. What is the job title that you are going to package/position yourself for? Is it the same one you have now, or slightly different, or very different? Where do you want to work? Do you have a list of 10-20 preferred employers? Getting clarity about where you want to be is a crucial step in creating your next job.

Next, make a list of where you’re at now. What personal strengths and professional assets do you have that will help you create your next opportunity. Do you have an up-to-date resume? Do you know how to use LinkedIn for job search? What about offline—do you know how to approach recruiters and agencies? Or prospect for opportunities through professional associations? Or network for referrals through your personal & professional contacts?

Are you introspective and like to plan, strategize and think? How can you leverage these strengths into your job search? Or, are you extroverted and like to meet with people and take actions? Do you know how to curb your impulsiveness and optimize your time & energy to get the biggest impact for your job search?

Creating your next job opportunity takes a little practice.

Start by using your strengths, your assets, and your preferences for how you like to do things. Taking actions that are based on your natural inclinations will build your confidence, something you need a lot of in a job search!

Not all of your actions will be efficient or effective but some will move you closer to your goal of a new job. You begin to get a clearer picture of what that job might look like. You begin to see where you are in current reality. Then, your mind begins to invent new ways to create that outcome.

This is the key to true job search, resolving the structural tension in favor of the desired outcome. Steadily and surely, you move from where you are now to a new job, building up your job search skills, and taking one action after another, learning as you go to take more effective actions until your goal is achieved!

Don’t get caught up or bummed out by a problem you can’t solve. Getting a new job is not a problem. It is part of a process with an outcome that you can create.

Avoid Burnout & Advance Career – Get in the zone!

Flow−the experience we have when we’re “in the zone”−has been studied for decades by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi. During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused…they lose themselves in the activity.

When your work utilizes your natural talents and motivations, when your daily grind is helping to create what really matters to you in life, then you are in your right work. There is a flow to it, an innate satisfaction abounds from it, and you derive genuine joy from what you do, a joy that is clearly evident to others.

Every job has a downside. We all have tasks we detest. Doing calculus homework in high school, for example, might be boring and hard if you have no knack for solving logical problems through numbers. You start but feel mentally exhausted, and you know you’re not getting the right answers.

But, you might also be an aspiring architect. Your math teacher clearly explains in detail how calculus can help you design more creative and ambitious structures. Your aspiration is personally important to you and the idea of creating interesting structures fascinates you. Suddenly, you see calculus in a new light. Instead of feeling exhausted by your homework, you now feel energized and motivated to learn to solve these problems. It’s the same work, but it now has a very different psychological effect on you.

Similarly, you might be in a helping profession, such as counselling, and have a strong desire to be self-employed in private practice working one-on-one with individual clients. But you can’t practice unless you have a funnel of clients who want your services. You don’t have a sales bone in your body. You once had a sales job and suffered burnout–it almost killed you.
But, now you gladly research sales and marketing tools techniques and implement them because your aspiration for self-employment is greater than you distaste for sales. You start to get clients and feel energized which, in turn, keeps you motivated to do the sales and marketing necessary to bring in clients.

Research shows that interest helps us perform our best without feeling fatigued. In one recent study, psychologists asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. Before they began, they were told them how exciting and enjoyable the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.

Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. Their engagement was more efficient because they were “in the zone” and not simply working on problems for a long period of time.

Psychology experiments often get participants to squeeze a spring-loaded exercise grip for as long as they can while performing another task to see if this increased performance makes people feel fatigued, or if high interest in a task maintains their mental resources. Much like the self-control needed to stay on task when we would rather do something more fun, resisting the urge to let go of your grip when it becomes uncomfortable also requires self-control. And that exertion of self-control is mentally fatiguing.

So, in a follow up study, psychologists found that people who thought the puzzle was highly enjoyable and highly important not only performed among the best, again, but they also squeezed the hand grip the longest. In other words, they solved the most problems, and it was not mentally exhausting for them. In contrast, those who were uninterested in the task generally performed worse, let go of the grip sooner, and were mentally fatigued by the effort.

Interest matters. It is crucial to keeping us motivated and effective without emptying our mental gas tank, and it can turn the mundane into something exciting.

Knowing the subject matter that most interests you, knowing your natural talents and motivations can help you harness “flow” to your advantage—to find your right work or advance your career.