How to find and use your passion to excel and stand out as a personal brand

June 23, 2020
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June 23, 2020 Stanley Ship

The topic of passion is most of the time vague and fluffy. Not many talks about that topic in the form of “good advice.”

Having a passion is not enough, you need to know what to do with it. Knowing what you love to do isn’t going to bring you anywhere, the key is translating that into action and planning a clear path ahead of you.

The feeling of passion sparks from doing something that interests you. From there you identify a “super-awesome feeling,” and you might say words are hard to explain that feeling. To get there, you’ll have to know what you are really interested in. That’s the first part. And this article will be part 2.

You are here maybe because you have many things you think you are interested in (or passionate about), and that’s confusing or causing you to feel “stuck.” Or you are here because you want to confirm what you are passionate about. Perhaps you’re just starting out discovering where your passion lies?

The difference between I like & I’m Passionate

Well, We should understand first, the difference between being really interested in something and being passionate. Understanding this can help you to excel in the field that is important to you and do better than those who are not passionate or “falsely passionate” in that field.

As we have seen in the previous article, passion is a result of a feeling that comes from doing what you really love.

The question then becomes, what do you really love? And most of the time, it’s not a tangible thing or subject matter. It’s the feeling that you’re in love with when doing an activity in that related field.

Saying “I like to read books,” and “I’m passionate about reading books,” is different.

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The former indicates a particular interest that you have, whereas the latter speaks of how reading a book is so engaging to you and it has a deeper feeling associated with it. Maybe you value knowledge and learning so much that subconsciously. To you, reading books is the best way to express that value. When you read books, it generates a passionate feeling.

So, we’re passionate about something that we do because ultimately we feel connected to it, and that thing is the best way for us to express our values, beliefs, and WHY. And, when we do things that best express our values, beliefs, and WHY (direct or indirectly), we feel passionate about it.

This part of the article breaks down the exact steps in finding your core (values, beliefs, and WHY). It’s not only for you to identify what you can be passionate about, but it also serves as a guide for you in life. It tells you what you gravitate towards and what repels you.

Passion in the context of personal branding

As I said, this is not your usual “follow your passion” advice article. It’s not so much about following your passion. It’s about aligning your skills and strengths, to your values and beliefs (which are things that really mattered to you). 

Once that happens, you’ll find passion in the things you do because you are connected and fully engaged in it. The by-product of that is excellent and fulfilling work.

For you to build a strong personal brand that tops the other brands, you need to be doing work that you can excel in and feel fulfilled about. You need to talk about your subject matter better than most people in the same field. 

A software engineer who is skillful and knowledgeable will not be able to build a personal brand compared to another software engineer that is passionate in his work because it aligns with his values and beliefs and the work really mattered to him. At some point, the latter will even excel pass the former.

The objective of this piece is for you to find out what you can be passionate about so that you excel in that space. We’ll do that by identifying first what are the values and beliefs that you hold in life. The outcome we’re looking to have is a good understanding of your WHY (best if you can distill it into one single sentence).

Passionate feeling explains why we like certain things

Let me first provide you with some context with my experience.

To say that I am passionate about marketing is not entirely correct. It’s not wrong either. I always say I’m passionate about marketing 3 years ago when I didn’t understand WHY I am passionate about marketing.

You see, passion is the abstract (feeling). Marketing (cooking, playing the guitar, or chess – the skill) is tangible. What connects the two? The WHY.

Knowing the WHY will lead you to be damn sure about what you are (or can be) passionate about.

The WHY comes from the values you hold true and the beliefs you have. All these are shaped and cultivated from external factors since you were a child until now.

Why do I have an interest in marketing, in playing the guitar, and in teaching to the point that it results in a very passionate feeling? That is because doing those things help me to express my WHY and my belief in the best way.

I believe in possibilities. My WHY is to help people focus on the possibilities of achieving what they want to achieve so that we can all fulfill our dreams.

Remember in my story: the trainer said “if you learn marketing, you can sell anything.” What’s that? To me, possibilities opening up. On playing the guitar (and not the piano, never was interested), I started to learn it because I think I am interested in it (like what I said in Part 1, do it to be sure of it). As I learned more and saw other guitarists play, I became passionate about it, because of the idea that you can play the guitar in many, many different styles and postures. Possibilities.

This WHY stems from your experiences in life (Oh look we’re back here again).

If you want the entire super detailed process, book a call with me to go through with you or buy Simon Sinek’s Find Your WHY book.

Finding your Core and what drives you

I’ll give you some exercise that will help you to gain some clarity when it comes to finding your core.

I have to emphasize, though, that these exercises are best done with someone whom you trust. That’s because the person can give you feedback. It’s simple for their part. All they have to do is just listen and make notes.

First: 7 Levels Deep

To kick off this initiative of searching for your WHY. Let’s do the exercise called “7 Levels Deep.”

It’s basically an exercise to ask yourself questions with a “why” in front to get deeper and go to the root of things. You’ll have to do some reflecting of course.

Here’s how it goes:

        1. Schedule 30 minutes of distraction-free time. That means no one can disturb you, your phones away, and make sure you go to the toilet first.
        2. Take out a sheet of paper.
        3. Write the first question: “What do you want to achieve in life?” or “what do you want to do?” or “what do you want to become?”
        4. Then answer that question.
        5. After you answer that question, write down the next question constructed from the statement you make in the previous question with a “why” in front of the answer statement. Then answer that question again
          • For example: “I want to become a doctor.” The next question is: “Why do I want to become a doctor?”
        6. The next question is constructed this way: “Why is (your previous answer) important?” 
          • “I want to become a doctor.” “Why do I want to become a doctor?” Answer: Because I am good and interested in biology and I want to help people,” The question will be “Why is helping people important to you?”
        7. You do this 7 times. The formula is the same. You answer and then use your answer to construct your next question this way “why is (your previous answer) important to you?”

Here’s what you need to note:

        1. Be aware when you start to repeat the answers and when you feel like you’re going in circles. That means you are not going deep enough. Stop answering and do some reflection. Ask yourself, “why do I keep saying the same thing?” “Is it something that happened to me that made me think this is important to me?” “Why do I think or feel this way about that question?”
        2. Know that there are details or stories that you may resist letting it out. These are the important parts that will uncover as you go deeper.
        3. When you get to the 7th “Why” question, you should feel clearer about what is motivating and driving you. If you’re not sure, most likely you haven’t gone deep enough.

Okay, you’re not done, this is not your CORE yet. This is just a warm-up. On to the next exercise.

Second: Peaks and Valley Exercise

We’re generally not very good and honest in providing feedback to ourselves much less listening to ourselves.

So, for this part to work well, you are encouraged to engage a partner to help you out.

That is because we are going to do storytelling. Yes, that means you’ll have to tell stories. Unless you are okay with recording yourself talking, after that, listening to it again, and not being biased or filtering what you say, you need to get a partner for this.

There are of course activities that you can first do on your own that will give you some idea of your WHY (highlighted below).

However, this is a lot easier when done with a partner. Simply because you won’t run away, get distracted, or run away from some experience that we are reluctant to bring it up.

But this is the gist of it.

        1. Identify feelings from strong memories in your life
        2. Find a theme or pattern that exists
        3. Draft the statement according to the themes and pattern

Simon Sinek calls it Peaks and Valley. For this exercise, you need to be… brave. Well, don’t overthink.

You’ll need about an hour for this exercise, no short-cuts and it has to be that long.

When you’re ready, here’s the exercise:

        1. Look back as far into your past as you can.
        2. Identify ANY events, incidents, and experiences that you have a strong memory of. Don’t judge. ANY events. It can be happy & nice or sad & “not-so-nice” events.
          You remember clearly because there’s an emotion or feeling attached to it.
        3. Get a piece of paper, draw a horizontal line across. This will be your timeline from as far back until yesterday.
        4. Give each event a title to act as a prompt so you can recall them when you see the title.
        5. Plot them on the paper: the events above the line are the nice ones, and below are the not-so-nice ones. 
        6. According to how happy and how sad you feel towards the event, you can put them closer or further to the line.

Here’s how it looks like:

 

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For all these events, you should be able to talk a lot about them. You also need to talk about how you feel and listen to yourself. Record yourself if you don’t have a partner.

I’m not kidding, start the recording, and then listen to yourself later.

Let’s talk about these events. Relive them. You don’t have to talk about all of them, choose the ones that stick out the most.

Talk about:

        1. Every detail you can remember
        2. How do you feel
        3. Specific things that happen
        4. Who said what
        5. What caused it
        6. Anything that happens after that
        7. What changed after the event
        8. Your feelings and explain them

Ask follow-up-questions or prompt yourself with questions (this is why having a partner is great):

        1. How did that make you feel?
        2. What is it about this experience that you absolutely loved?
        3. Why do you think you remember that event until today?
        4. Why is that memory so strong and vivid for you?
        5. You’ve probably felt this same feeling before, but what is it about this particular event that makes it special?
        6. How did this experience affect you and who you’ve become?
        7. What was the lesson from that experience that you still carry with you today?
        8. Of all the stories you could have talked about, why did you choose this one to talk about?

Remember, focus on the feeling. Focus on the emotional connection you have towards these events.

What’s the point of this exercise?

You have strong memories of events that are sad or negative because there are details, things, or people in those memories that are against your values. Vice versa.

So what you are essentially doing is extracting a pattern out of these stories. This exercise will help you to understand why you enjoy certain moments and why do you hate certain moments.

Once you identify the pattern, you will have more understanding of how you operated in the past that made you feel the best or the worst.

That itself tells you about who you are at your core. It tells you what will make you feel engaged, fulfilled, and love doing, and what you don’t.

Third: Extracting Pattern and Analysis

This is where your partner’s role is the most important.

While you’re busy talking about the trees (the details), your partner will have a better view of the forest. Your partner has the perspective that you don’t simply because you’re too close to see the patterns.

Out of all these stories, pay attention to:

        1. Recurring ideas,
        2. Repeated or favorite words,
        3. Reused phrases,
        4. Stronger feelings vs weaker feelings.
        5. Excitement or brushed-over the topic
        6. What’s important to the person

Tell your partner to just write down and record these things when they are listening to your stories.

Here’s how it looked like:

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There are no wrong stories or wrong themes. There’s no limit to the number of patterns or themes your stories will yield. You may end up with 10 to 15 themes, and that’s okay. For now, put everything on paper.

These ideas, words, and phrases become a theme when there’s recurrence in two seemingly unconnected stories. Your partner’s job is to realize that. These patterns should at least exist in two or more stories.

Once you have listed down these patterns and themes,

Choose one or two that is “warmer” to you. What I mean is the ones that seem bigger than the rest, and matters to you the most. Choose the ones that inspire you or seem to define you. Is there one that you love more than the rest?

Fourth: Where the “magic” takes place

Now, you have identified these themes and patterns in your life. These are things that stem from your beliefs and values.

It could be things like “being a good listener,” “thinking differently and seeing gaps,” or “looking at something from a positive perspective.”

You’ll probably have a clearer answer to the question of: What values do you hold true? What values matter to you? What are some of your beliefs right now?

For me, I remember one of the themes was “choosing to believe that it is possible.” That’s because one of my beliefs is “anything is possible.” From there I start to understand why I’m engaged in certain fields and certain things that I do.

Practically, any subject, conversation, or people that go along the line of exploring possibilities will be something that interests me. I love marketing because it is so in tune with my values and beliefs.

Now, it’s not that you’ll have to find a new job or career to pursue. There are things in life that will better help to express your WHY, values, and beliefs. If you’re young like me and your circumstances allow you to change course, it’s entirely up to you.

But if you’re of age, and you are already very skillful and familiar with something that you do. Yet you don’t feel quite passionate about it. It’s not the problem of the work, subject matter or that field. It’s the missing connection between your values and beliefs with the work.

Once you find the patterns and understand truly your values and beliefs, you can begin to look for AREAS in the same work where it can generate the same passionate feeling (as those in your stories).

If you’ve read my previous article, you’d know I study real estate. But it wasn’t very engaging and it’s not something I’m passionate about because the reason is that I cannot connect it with my values and beliefs.

I couldn’t see how it helped me and others to believe in possibilities compared to doing marketing.

Let’s say I’m a lot older and have built a good career in real estate. My circumstances would have been different when I finally understand my WHY, and it would be dumb for me to ditch everything I’ve built in my real estate career to pursue something else. 

All I have to do is just to find areas in my career where I can connect it with my WHY better. Perhaps that means doing lesser sales related work and more team building work? Perhaps that means writing a book related to the real estate industry?

How to make use of what you found

The first thing I want to say is, don’t freaking quit what you have spent long years doing or building.

I mean, seriously. Consider your circumstances, resources, and situation. Michal Bohanes wrote a piece in Forbes where he mentioned about this at the 3rd point: “Money Talks”

There’s always the option to start something on the side that will bring you the feeling of fulfillment and passion without tearing down the current one.

Founded Direction

Now that you have identified your themes in life, you could then steer the way you work, do business with others, tweak your message, write a new vision or mission.

The thing that we didn’t cover is to craft a WHY statement. This helps you to have your core being into a concrete message. For example, my WHY is to help people focus on the possibilities of achieving what they want to achieve so that we can all fulfill our dreams.

In that statement, it’s packaged with my values and beliefs. My values are optimism, leadership & teamwork, and excellence. I believe in possibilities, and the need to be courageous.

I find it easier to act on my values if I put it this way:

        1. Seeing things from a different and positive perspective (optimism)
        2. Asking for help when necessary and working together (Leadership & Teamwork)
        3. Identify, learn and stick to the best (Excellence)

Many things you do and many decisions you make from now on should be aligned with your core. Because you’ll know that it sucks when it doesn’t align, you’ve identified it already. The obvious thing to do is to replicate more of those good and fulfilling experiences.

And how do you do that? Making sure you are doing things and working with people that you are passionate about. 

How do you know what you are passionate about? Okay, we’ve already covered that.

Founded Drive

This is what I feel once I find my WHY and have clarity over my values and beliefs: An undying drive and motivation. Also, a clear direction.

Do I have bad days? Of course. Do I feel lazy and procrastinate sometimes? Yes, I hate to admit. Those are habitual and behavioral issues. But overall do I know where I’m going with my life? 

Yes, much better than before, and many people who’re not aware of their values, beliefs, and WHY.

With that said, I still have a long way to go and still have half of my life not figured out. Am I concerned? No!

That’s because I’m clear with what I want to focus on and have an overarching direction. Everything else falls into place.

Every day to me is an opportunity to get closer to my end goals and living my WHY. I don’t want to make this the answer to everything. It’s different for every single individual. 

But these are things that will fuel your drive. Alongside having a DUMB Goal, and finding out your strengths, etc.

Founded Definition

Last but not least, know your theme and eventually, your values and beliefs will help you to define what means a lot to you.

This is essentially something that you can describe to people what you are about. For me, it’s all about helping people to focus on possibilities. That never ceased to excite me. For Simon Sinek

It’s all about inspiring people to do the things that inspire them. For a friend of mine, it’s all about capturing beautiful moments in their life. 

Are you able to answer this question when someone asks you: “So, tell me what you are all about?”

Concluding with personal branding in mind

The point I made about a founded definition for you when you go through the exercise slowly ties back to your branding.

Yes, your expertise is in cooking the best western dish, but how does that differ from the other chef who cooks the best Asian dish? What is it all about anyway?

To truly stand out as a personal brand and doing something truly different, you need to understand your core.

I’m a marketer like every marketer. But my values and beliefs are different. I’m all about focusing on possibilities. No marketer can say that it’s 100% the same for them too. 

You’ll have to find your uniqueness, not create it. We’re all unique in our way. All we have to do is find, define, and express it.

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Stanley Ship

I'm a Marketing Strategist and the founder of Renesis Group, which is a marketing agency. I help business owners grow brand presence and continuously get new customers by executing clear marketing strategies. If you're looking for possibilities and opportunities in growing your business, you definitely need a marketing strategy (and a good one).

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