Do You Want Passion in a Career?
3 minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9
Most job-hunting tasks aren’t fun. And, many private sector careers don't provide the enjoyment that we found in the military. So when employment experts talk about finding your passion in a civilian career, I see lots of veterans’ eyes glaze over.
Many of our parents taught us to believe work has nothing to do with fun. For them, work meant survival. Enjoyment was beside the point. Today, we see two powerful forces colliding. Most of us still have to work to afford to live. In this respect, nothing has changed.
But the rapidity at which industries and jobs evolve has surged in the last decade. Keeping a job requires constant upgrading of your knowledge and skills. Maintaining your motivation to stay abreast of new developments presents a challenge. All the same, you’ll have to meet it or lose your income.
Twenty years ago, people used time after work for leisure. Now, they use it to stay competitive in their jobs. If you don't like what you do, how will you stay motivated?
The Difference Between Passion and Lust
In his superb book, No Fears, No Excuses, Larry Smith makes an irresistible case for passion being an essential part of the work you choose to do. He doesn’t define what passion means, so let’s unpack it ourselves. No surprise, it has ancient roots.
Pharaoh had passion for Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Such lust seems to be the image that comes to mind at the word passion. But this type is too easily sated to have relevance to a lifelong career.
We see another kind of passion in the story of Abraham and the near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. He rises early in the morning to saddle his donkey. Then he rouses Isaac and his two young men. The four leave on their fateful journey. This story counterpoints another tale of passion in this week’s parsha, Balak:
And Balaam arose early in the morning and saddled his she-donkey… (Numbers/Bamidbar 22:21)
Balaam was a great prophet. The Moabite king, Balak, wanted him to curse the Israelites so he could defeat them in battle. But G-d refused to let Balaam go. Finally, seeing Balaam’s yearning to help Balak, the Almighty relents. Balaam wants to get an early start. So he doesn't bother to call a servant to saddle his she-donkey.
Balak knew of Balaam’s deep passion for wealth and honor. He catered to it by sending ever-higher officials to plead with Balaam. Though he pooh-poohed the huge sums of money offered him, Balaam’s desire for it almost leads him to his death. His passion for wealth and honor evinces lifelong self-interest.
Abraham also has a lifelong passion. His legendary hospitality to family, friends, and strangers shows he sought meaning from serving others. On this path, he never wavered. He lived for the next opportunity to take care of the Almighty’s children.
How to Find What You’ll Enjoy
Two men’s passions motivated them to rise early and saddle their donkeys. Both had many servants who could have done this work. Balaam had passion for self-aggrandizement. Abraham had passion for service.
Follow Abraham’s model. You’ve already started along this path in the military. You defended the Constitution, and hence your fellow citizens, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Build on this legacy in civilian life. Consider these questions:
- How can your leadership ability better help people meet life’s challenges?
- What team building skills do you have that can help an organization meet its mission?
- Where can you bring the unifying spirit of the military to bridge divides in our society?
- How can you use the idea of mission command to help a private sector company operate better?
- What organization can benefit from your ability to inculcate a sense of purpose in its people, the way your service branch did for you?
These represent a few ways to find passion in your civilian work. Too often, I see veterans grab at the first opportunity. Later, they regret it only to take other, passionless jobs. Not motivated to go the extra mile to develop themselves, their civilian prospects get dimmer each year.
Take the time to find a field of rich interest. Ponder the questions above. Come up with others that help you probe what you'll enjoy. Talk to veterans who found passion in their work. How did they do it? Make the investment in finding a field that captures your interest. It will pay huge dividends over the coming decades.
What prevents you from having work you’ll enjoy?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!