BLACK & WHITE – Holly Foster Media

BLACK & WHITE

In a way, this image of me is similar to the biographical details reflected in my ABOUT page: an abridged version of my career. The stark difference between the black and white colors mirror the dichotomy of my past and present jobs — CPA, web designer, and project manager. I’ve worked hard to achieve success in each role, and they form the framework of my life’s coloring book. But the details are missing.

So let me take a moment to tell you a little bit more about me. Let’s color a few of the white spaces between the lines.

What’s Your Major?

Even though it’s not unusual, I was uncomfortable being one of those people who wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I entered college. And if I had any doubts as to my uncertainty, I was admitted to my university’s “Division of Undergraduate Studies,” aptly known on campus as the “Division of Undecided Students.” Awkward, to say the least — but true.

First I thought I wanted to be a teacher, so I began taking education courses. Then I took a course in journalism, where I learned some great writing skills that I still use to this day. But in reality, nothing felt quite right, and after a year and a half I left college and went to work.

The Greatest City in the World

The next chapter of my professional life was written in New York City, where I worked as a freelance model and studied acting. It was tough but I was honing my craft, making a modest living, and learning the harsh realities of working in the entertainment field. Working in the Big Apple fed my soul, but after seven years it was once again time to move on.

College – Act II

When I moved back to my home state I decided to resume my studies, but this time around I possessed what I lacked the first time; a laser focus. A business degree was my goal, and I quickly gained my associates degree at the local community college.

Two years later I secured my bachelor’s degree and began working at a well-known accounting firm.

Now I’d like to tell you that I lived happily ever after, but being a CPA was just not for me. Even though it seemed that I had done everything right, I hated my job.

Despite the term “creative accounting,” I found the profession to be — well — black and white. I have great respect for it, and I know from experience the amount of hours accountants put in; believe me, they earn their paychecks. But it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

So I quit. Not right away, mind you, but I did leave.

As they say, it wasn’t my passion.

Passion

So what exactly does “passion” mean in the context of your career? And how do you know when you’ve found it? Since we’re all looking for it, we really ought to know what it is, right?

A good friend of mine recently shared an interesting article on the subject of career passion. It was published in the New York Times — first in their online edition and two weeks later in the print edition — but under two different titles:

  1. Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Such Terrible Advice, and
  2. ‘Finding Your Passion’ Takes Some Work.

The article is based on research conducted at Yale-NUS college in Singapore in 2018. Five studies were conducted in an attempt to determine if passion was (1) something you “found” or (2) something that is developed over time (Lee, 2019).

If you’re interested you can read the details of the study or the NYT article yourself, but (spoiler alert) the answer is — it depends on how you feel about what interests you.

If you believe your interests don’t change, you fall under the “fixed” category. That means you are more likely to give up on something quickly if you find it challenging or tedious.

Not you? Then perhaps you’re in the “growth” category, and you “believe that interests and passions are capable of developing with enough time, effort and investment” (Lee, 2019).

I think I’ve been in both camps at different times in my life. Early on I definitely embraced the fixed theory, but these days I believe the growth theory makes more sense. It just feels like a better fit.

The End of My Story … or is it the beginning?

After I left my accounting job I had a six-month stint as a corporate travel agent. It was fun, and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t meant to be long term.

My travel agent career ended when I accepted a position in state government, where I have been working ever since. The positions I have held include:

  • Auditor (yep, I did it again for awhile)
  • Trainer
  • Web Designer
  • Learning Management System Administrator
  • Project Manager

Even though I started out with a fixed mindset, I’ve enjoyed reinventing myself every so often. I’ve worn many hats, and enjoyed almost all of them. Each experience has helped bring me to the place I am today, and I would not be able to perform my current job without the benefit of each one of my “growth” experiences.

The Answer

“Your passion can be anything that simultaneously challenges you, intrigues you and motivates you. Contrary to the idea that doing what you love makes work effortless, a passion puts you to work. It’s what you’re willing to sacrifice lesser leisure and pleasures for. Seek it and where you find it may surprise you.”

(Fisher, n.d.)

The unabridged version of our lives are the crayons. They’re the things we try that help us find our passion and become “T-shaped thinkers” — people who are highly skilled in a specialized area but also have a bit of knowledge or expertise in many areas (Cronin, 2018).

As the famous journalist Jim Lehrer said:

“There are very few really stark black and white stories.”

Thanks for sharing that Jim, because my life has been anything but black and white. It’s the colors that make the journey interesting.

until nxt time …

References

Cronin, G. (2018, January 30). Why we need more T-Shaped thinkers in Tech. Retrieved from: https://www.xero.com/blog/2018/01/need-t-shaped-thinkers-tech/

Fisher, C. (n.d.). How to define your passion in life. Retrieved from: https://work.chron.com/define-passion-life-10132.html

Wells, T. [Tauren Wells]. (2017, June 22). God’s Not Done with You. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpOlAO3Fs8

Jim Lehrer Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/jim_lehrer

John1948TwelveC. (2015, October 26). Three Dog Night – Black and White [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f65mO146Zo

Lee, S. (2019, April 21). Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Such Terrible Advice. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/smarter-living/why-find-your-passion-is-such-terrible-advice.html

O’Keefe, P. A., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2018). Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It? Psychological Science, 29(10), 1653–1664. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618780643

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