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Productivity

Finding Your Work Sweet Spot: Genuine Interest, Skills & Opportunity

How can you make a real impact with your creative projects? The secret lies in the intersection of your genuine interests, skills, and opportunities.


There are two types of work in this world. The first is the laborious kind, which I call “work with obligation.” It’s work that we do because of a contractual obligation. The second – very different – type of work that we do is “work with intention.”

When we are working with intention, we toil away endlessly – often through the wee hours of the morning – on projects we care about deeply. Whether it is building an intricate replica model of an ancient ship, or pulling an all-nighter to write a song or map out an idea for a new business, you do it because you love it.If you can put “work with intention” at the center of your efforts, you’re more likely to make an impact in what matters most to you. So, how do we find (and foster) work with intention in our lives and projects?

Over the years, I have met many creative leaders and entrepreneurs that have made an impact in their respective industries. No surprise, they love what they do. But when I ask probing questions about their career paths, it becomes clear that their good fortunes were not predestined. Aside from lots of hard work, great creative careers are powered by an intersection of three factors: Genuine Interest, Skills, and Opportunity.

The same thinking applies to successful creative projects. The magic happens when you find the sweet spot where your genuine interests, skills, and opportunity intersect.

1. Your Genuine Interests

What fascinates you? What topic do you like to discuss the most? Most legendary creative careers start with a genuine interest in a particular field. Perhaps it’s film, coffee, or airplane travel. A genuine interest is not about what promises the most economic gain. On the contrary, it is a topic that trumps economic concerns because you love it so much.

While money is important, the drive toward remarkable achievements comes from a deeper place. To understand the symptoms of work performed without genuine interest, look no further than abandoned projects and the malnourished careers of middle managers that count down to 5pm. It’s not pretty.

Attempting greatness without a genuine interest in the field is like running a marathon after fasting. Remarkable achievements are fueled by genuine interest.

Attempting greatness without a genuine interest in the field is like running a marathon after fasting.

2. Your Key Skills

What are your skills and natural gifts? Do you have a knack for math or storytelling? Perhaps you possess a unique compassion for the human condition? Take an inventory of what you know or could easily learn. The skills you have are a helpful indicator for the opportunities that are most likely to flourish under your leadership. Of course, skills alone are insufficient. But, when paired with a genuine interest and a new opportunity, your innate capabilities can truly shine, opening the path to success.

3. Your “Opportunity Stream”

The third factor that plays into every successful career is opportunity. Unfortunately, this is often where we get stuck, discounting the potential opportunities that surround us as inadequate. There is no such thing as equal access to opportunity. Old boy networks and nepotism run rampant in all industries. And most opportunities are entirely circumstantial. As such, you must simply define “opportunity” as an action or experience that brings you a step closer to your genuine interest.Opportunity is less about leaps forward and more about the slow advance. Most folks I meet recall their greatest opportunities as chance conversations. This is why personal introductions, conferences, and other networking efforts really pay off. Just surrounding yourself with more activity will inherently increase your “opportunity stream” – the chance happenings that lead to actions and experiences relevant to your genuine interests.

Just surrounding yourself with more activity will inherently increase your ‘opportunity stream.’

Working at the ISO (Interest, Skills, Opportunity) Intersection

As you contemplate your next career move or a new project, you should take the intersection of your genuine interests, skills, and opportunities into consideration.

Contemplate the three circles of the Venn diagram above  –  one circle encompasses your genuine interests; one, your skills; and one, the stream of opportunities available to you. An intersection between just two of the circles doesn’t cut it. A love for basketball and a connection to an NBA scout won’t help you if you lack the skills to play ball. You need to find YOUR trifecta.When you engage with a project that finds this intersection, you’ve entered your zone of maximum impact. In such a state, you are a potent force of nature  –  your avocation becomes your vocation. You can work with full conviction, without ambiguity, and you can transcend your reliance on short-term rewards and societal approval.

When you engage with a project that finds the intersection, you’ve entered your zone of maximum impact.

As leaders, we must help our partners and employees find work at the ISO intersection. Legendary managers seek to understand the genuine interests and skills of their employees, and are constantly trying to create opportunities within the intersection.Want to change the world? Push everyone you know to work within their intersection. Mentor people to realize their genuine interests, skills, and to capitalize on even the smallest opportunities that surround them. When it comes to your own career, make every decision with a constant eye for work in the intersection.

A career of “work with intention” is the kind that moves industries forward. Do it for yourself and for the rest of us.

More Posts by Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky is the Chief Product Officer at Adobe and is the co-founder of 99U and Behance. He has been called one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and is the author of The Messy Middle and the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.

Comments (33)
  • ihath

    Beautiful article

  • Collab1

    Just to make an interesting connection, this is heavily overlapping (i.e., provides additional support for the idea), though not perfectly, with Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept with Venn Diagram of the three overlapping circles:  What could you be best in the world at (skill)? What lights your fire (interest)?  and What makes you money (very tangible proxy for opportunity; this is the area that clearly differs from the ISO)?

  • Shane

    Simply put… thank you!

  • Sarah

    Scott, well done! 
    Fortunately I really love my job and I cannot imagine doing anything else … I´m happy 
    with my skill being able to communicate relevant issues. 

    This is my “more activity” which increase my opportunity stream: I have the opportunity to highlight social topics or problems:
    http://sarahmachtsachen.blogsp

  • Vicky

    Excellent insight – and truly inspiring.  I have posted this for others in my team to read.  I’m a true believer in “life is what you make of it” – and having the intuition and insight into yourself makes that happen.  Thanks for writing this, Scott.

  • real estate

    In finding works, one thing that we should
    consider is the interest for having it. This will going to assure that you will
    going to last long on the work that you had selected.
     

  • MariaLim

    Employers tend to value and hire people who are able to express their thoughts efficiently through verbal and written communication. People who land a good job easily are usually those who are adept in speaking and writing.

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  • Jacqueline Roberts

    o.o

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    *Deep sigh* ok look, no two people are alike. I’ve sometimes have been very picky in my own presonal interests which govern how I shop, per say, if I want to do crafts I’m sometimes picky.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    You know, on those personality tests they have something called introversion and extraversion and I said I sounded more introverted than extroverted.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    That is if you’ve actually bothered to take them like me.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    There is some other person I know quite well and it’s my older sister and she is obsessed with the color blue. Blue blue blue blue. It’s like her favorite color.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    And my favorite color is red. I wear red things. Red robes.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Red clothes. Red socks. Red paints. I just like the color red but I hate the color yellow.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Perhaps I will e- mail a personality test to her sometime.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    I think she would score extroverted: I think she is a more outgoing sort of person.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    But ever time my mother takes me somewhere she says I’m picky with what I get: Books, if I read them. Music, if I listen to it.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    She asked me why I was taking personality assessmnets and I said it’s because I wanted a job or work. And it kept saying things like INFJ.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    I wonder if I sent these things to my two sisters what would they get. I know my little sister quite well her favorite color is green.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Although I wretch at the color green she likes it very well off.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    I think that might be a difference between her and me.

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Oh look there is other people on here besides me!

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Just wondering if you’ve ever had the time to take a personality assessment if you’ve ever done one of those HOW MUCH time it takes to do it, ah!

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    So you’re name is David! Nice to meet you. Look, christina, he has a pencil between his teeth! ;p

  • Jacqueline Roberts

    Are you extroverted? I’ve been wanting to meet and extrovert because I wanted to get into ur shoes…. o.o

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