3 Steps to a Career that Sparks Joy

Countless blog posts, TED Talks and books have been created on the art of saying no. (Check out my buddy's TEDx Talk) It's not because saying no is a fad but, rather, because it's becoming increasingly necessary in a world where your options are seemingly limitless. Join a yoga class, start a business, begin meditating, watch Netflix... there's never a shortage of cookie jars to stick your hands into.

In the creative field, this isn't an uncommon challenge - creative people love dabbling in everything from design to painting and it can be difficult to let go of some pursuits in order to let others thrive. But if we don't learn to focus, we reduce our chance for substantial growth in the areas that we truly love.

I work at a creative agency in Baton Rouge and, as their Digital Storyteller, my job is to ensure that the stories that brands are telling their customers are simple, consistent and compelling. This means I'm hands-on in nearly every craft at the agency: photography, video, email, social, copywriting, design, web, strategy... the list goes on. If I love them all, how do I choose which skills to begin sinking Gladwell's 10,000 into? (For those who aren't familiar with the 10,000-hour rule, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that it takes around 10,000 hours to reach mastery in any particular skill.)

The answer? I was having an after-hours pow-wow with the Principal of our agency on this idea of balancing multiple disciplines with focus and mastery. This is what he encouraged me to do:


1. The True Loves

So you're doing a little bit of everything and you love it all. But there's bound to be one or two things that you can't get enough of. You know... those things you spend your off-hours doing. The things that you ponder while you're taking a shower or on a long drive. Those things are your core skills — the projects that get you excited about Monday. Hang on to them tightly and defend your claim to them.


2. The Don't-Mind's

Now that you know what fuels your day, determine the second tier of projects that you enjoy or don't mind doing but that don't really get you going. Those are the projects that you're more than likely going to do because someone needs to do them and you've already had the experience. However, if someone comes along who eats, sleeps, and breathes that type of project, hand it off. They'll likely excel at it and do a better job in the long run.


3. The Crappers

Some things in your career you hate so much people couldn't pay you to do them, except that they are paying you to do them so something obviously needs to change. Now is an appropriate time to use the "D" word. Nope, not that one. Delegate! The cool thing about a diverse work environment is that someone out there loves to do what you hate. So hand it off to them and let them do a great job at it. Now you're happy, they're happy and the boss is happy. It's a win, win, win.


Don't make the mistake (as I'm often prone to do) of saying yes to every creative project that comes your way. It might be fun, but there are other projects out there that light up your eyes. Projects that spark joy. Make room for them.