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Need a Pick-Me-Up? A Professional Passion Project Might Be the Answer

June 22, 2020


Need a Pick-Me-Up? A Professional Passion Project Might Be the Answer

We’re heading back to some kind of “new normal,” which is a relief for a lot of us. Finally! We can get back to routine, get back into the swing of things. Find our groove.

The last three months have been, well, a little rough for some of us. We might have gone from working full-time (or even overworking) to suddenly … doing nothing. Or maybe we went from grinding at the office to homeschooling our kids. Maybe we went from dreading the alarm and the commute to the office to discovering a new passion, like baking or running.

You get the picture. Point is, a lot of us have a bit more breathing room, away from the old routines, and as much as we maybe want routine back, we might be just as excited and invigorated by the lack of it. By the chance to stretch our creative muscles or explore new avenues.

So as we head back, many of us are giving the old routine a little bit of side eye. Yes, structure is good! But what happens when it’s always same old, feels old or less exciting? If we felt like we were stuck in a rut, then “going back” might seem challenging. And for those of us who didn’t feel like we were “stuck” before … we might suddenly find our old routine is too restrictive! Having extra hours to feel energized is for many, something we just don’t want to lose.

There’s a lesson here for us.

What’s a Professional Passion Project?

Okay, most of us have heard the term “passion project.” It’s the classic car you’re restoring in your garage or the garden you built in the backyard or the book you’re writing in your spare time. Right?

I mean something a little bit different. A “professional passion project” in this sense isn’t a hobby or something you do out of love (although that doesn’t hurt!). What I’m talking about are professional projects that we take on that leverage our gifts with a sense of purpose and reward. These projects are directed at us sharing our gifts with others, perhaps start-ups or businesses that don’t have Consultant level funding but through the benefit of sharing insights that could be game changing for them and for you. Mentoring. Providing insights on resume writing. Nothing feels as good when you see the light and energy go one in someone else’s eyes. And the validation of your own personal gifts and experiences generates a whole new level of energy. For some it might be volunteer work. For others, a lunch and learn or fireside chats.

When our passion projects are in the professional sphere, they can also help us move beyond our “comfort zones.” They encourage us to get outside our bubble, to take chances! In doing so, we challenge ourselves to be more resourceful, more imaginative and creative. A passion project isn’t something we take on because it’s easy or comes naturally to us—it’s something that can challenges us.

And it’s that challenge that helps us to grow, to develop the skills we’re seeking.

Getting Fired Up Again

Professional passion projects can sometimes be the key to getting out of that rut you find yourself in. Sometimes, work can become routine or boring. The smallest percentage of our jobs is what inspires us but we get bogged down in the mundane requirements. We might feel like we’re never being tested, like we already know everything, like we’re stagnating.

All that drains us! This is where we start getting into the rut, where it gets harder to find the motivation to get to the office on time or becomes more tempting to clock out early. We might even ask ourselves, “Why?”

Professional passion projects help us answer that question. They help us find the drive, the motivation. They can help us release pent-up creativity—or they can give us back the energy we’re missing.

These are the projects we take on because they offer us something back: whether we resonate with them emotionally or they present to us a unique challenge. And they don’t just better us—they let us give back too.

Building Confidence and Competence

A passion project can also be a good way for us to continue our professional development. That’s not to say we should take on projects that are totally out of our realm of experience—

Instead, passion projects build on the skills we already have. We might have to develop some new ones—learning social media marketing or starting a vlog—but we’re building on those skills we already have.

We’re also leveraging our gifts. Some of us are naturally great at connecting with other people and building networks; some of us are wonderful observers. Some of us are great at thinking outside the box, while some of us can identify patterns in data at a glance. A passion project gives us a chance to use these gifts—and especially the gifts we may not get to use in the course of our day-to-day work.

It’s these challenges that encourage us to develop confidence and competence. Completing a project like this, or even reaching a goal within it, can be a huge “win.” You might enter a new category, and you need to translate your knowledge, adapt to that category. Selling clothing is very different than selling food, in some ways. Selling high-end electronics is yet another different category!

Your skills can translate, but you’ll have to work at it a bit. You’ll need to research, dig in, discover. You may have to do a little bit of trial-and-error. This turns into knowledge—and with knowledge comes confidence! We believe in ourselves, and the rush of solving a problem or overcoming a tough challenge … Well, it can definitely help you get out of that “rut” and remember why you do what you do!

The Emotional Payoff (and Inspiration)

The reason we feel passion project “wins” so much more acutely is that we’re emotionally invested. We might like the work we do day-to-day, but it may not truly engage us. A passion project speaks to us in ways a “regular” project doesn’t.

Sometimes, we have passion projects land in our lap—they might arrive in our day-to-day jobs: something that’s a bit out of the ordinary or out of the box, a client who is a bit of an outlier or who has a different idea or needs. For me, most of my passion projects end up being “pro bono” work taken on outside work hours. They’re something that catches my attention, captures my interest, and stimulates me! I can translate the framework I’ve built over the last 30 years to unfamiliar territory. That means learning, adapting—the “same old” thing doesn’t always work here, even when there are similarities!

Both the client and I benefit so much from this arrangement. There’s so much excitement, so much energy when you see your work actually being realized. You know you’re helping this business owner push their business to the next level, and then they can take what you’ve given them, keeping improving—it’s a bit like passing the baton in a relay. I’m turning over my knowledge and experience, my unique talents, and then they take it and run with it, adding in their own talents, their own skills and knowledge so we can make it to the finish line.

What a rush! And this rush inspires me, reinvigorates me—it confirms that, hey, I do know a lot, that I do have skills and talents that can be used in so many ways. And I can take that energy with me back to projects that maybe didn’t spark for me at first.

The takeaway here is that sometimes, we need to take that project that seems super challenging, or the one that really gets us fired up—even if it’s a little bit offbeat, not what we’d normally do. Taking a passion project is so rewarding—for you, for the businesses you’re working with, for your future partnerships!

And we can almost always find our next passion project by doing one simple thing: start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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