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TEDxGoldenGatePark 2012

Scott Dinsmore: How to find work you love

October 10, 2012

Scott Dinsmore quit a job that made him miserable, and spent the next four years wondering how to find work that was joyful and meaningful. He shares what he learned in this deceptively simple talk about finding out what matters to you — and then getting started doing it.

Scott Dinsmore - Writer, traveler
Scott Dinsmore founded Live Your Legend, a career and connection platform to inspire people to find their passion. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Wow, what an honor. I always wondered
what this would feel like.
00:10
So eight years ago,
I got the worst career advice of my life.
00:13
I had a friend tell me,
00:18
"Don't worry about how much
you like the work you're doing now.
00:19
It's all about just building your resume."
00:22
And I'd just come back
from living in Spain for a while,
00:24
and I'd joined this Fortune 500 company.
I thought, "This is fantastic.
00:27
I'm going to have
big impact on the world."
00:30
I had all these ideas.
And within about two months,
00:33
I noticed at about 10am every morning
I had this strange urge
00:35
to want to slam my head
through the monitor of my computer.
00:38
I don't know if anyone's ever felt that.
00:42
And I noticed pretty soon after that
that all the competitors in our space
00:44
had already automated my job role.
00:47
And this is right about when I got
this sage advice to build up my resume.
00:50
Well, as I'm trying to figure out
00:55
what two-story window I'm going
to jump out of and change things up,
00:57
I read some altogether different advice
from Warren Buffett, and he said,
01:03
"Taking jobs to build up your resume
is the same as saving up sex for old age."
01:07
(Laughter)
01:12
And I heard that,
and that was all I needed.
01:14
Within two weeks, I was out of there,
and I left with one intention:
01:17
to find something that I could screw up.
That's how tough it was.
01:20
I wanted to have some type of impact.
It didn't matter what it was.
01:23
And I found pretty quickly
that I wasn't alone:
01:26
it turns out that over 80 percent
of the people around
01:29
don't enjoy their work.
01:32
I'm guessing this room is different,
01:33
but that's the average
that Deloitte has done with their studies.
01:35
So I wanted to find out,
what is it that sets these people apart,
01:37
the people who do the passionate,
world-changing work,
01:41
that wake up inspired every day,
01:43
and then these people,
the other 80 percent
01:45
who lead these lives of quiet desperation.
01:46
So I started to interview all these people
doing this inspiring work,
01:48
and I read books and did case studies,
01:52
300 books altogether
on purpose and career and all this,
01:55
totally just self-immersion,
really for the selfish reason of --
01:57
I wanted to find the work
that I couldn't not do,
02:02
what that was for me.
02:05
But as I was doing this,
more and more people started to ask me,
02:06
"You're into this career thing.
02:09
I don't like my job.
Can we sit down for lunch?"
02:10
I'd say, "Sure."
But I would have to warn them,
02:13
because at this point,
my quit rate was also 80 percent.
02:15
Of the people I'd sit down with for lunch,
80 percent would quit their job
02:17
within two months.
02:20
I was proud of this, and it wasn't
that I had any special magic.
02:22
It was that I would ask
one simple question.
02:26
It was, "Why are you doing
the work that you're doing?"
02:28
And so often their answer would be,
02:31
"Well, because somebody
told me I'm supposed to."
02:33
And I realized that so many
people around us
02:35
are climbing their way up this ladder
that someone tells them to climb,
02:37
and it ends up being leaned up
against the wrong wall,
02:41
or no wall at all.
02:43
The more time I spent around
these people and saw this problem,
02:45
I thought, what if we could
create a community,
02:48
a place where people
could feel like they belonged
02:50
and that it was OK
to do things differently,
02:52
to take the road less traveled,
where that was encouraged,
02:55
and inspire people to change?
02:57
And that later became
what I now call Live Your Legend,
03:00
which I'll explain in a little bit.
03:03
But as I've made these discoveries,
I noticed a framework
03:04
of really three simple things
03:08
that all these different passionate
world-changers have in common,
03:09
whether you're a Steve Jobs
or if you're just, you know,
03:13
the person that has
the bakery down the street.
03:15
But you're doing work
that embodies who you are.
03:17
I want to share those three with you,
so we can use them as a lens
03:19
for the rest of today
and hopefully the rest of our life.
03:22
The first part of this three-step
passionate work framework
03:25
is becoming a self-expert
and understanding yourself,
03:28
because if you don't know
what you're looking for,
03:31
you're never going to find it.
03:33
And the thing is that no one
is going to do this for us.
03:35
There's no major in university
on passion and purpose and career.
03:38
I don't know how that's not
a required double major,
03:41
but don't even get me started on that.
03:44
I mean, you spend more time
picking out a dorm room TV set
03:46
than you do you picking your major
and your area of study.
03:49
But the point is,
it's on us to figure that out,
03:51
and we need a framework,
we need a way to navigate through this.
03:54
And so the first step of our compass is
finding out what our unique strengths are.
03:57
What are the things that we wake up
loving to do no matter what,
04:01
whether we're paid or we're not paid,
the things that people thank us for?
04:04
And the Strengths Finder 2.0
is a book and also an online tool.
04:08
I highly recommend it for sorting out
what it is that you're naturally good at.
04:11
And next, what's our framework
or our hierarchy for making decisions?
04:15
Do we care about the people,
our family, health,
04:19
or is it achievement, success,
all this stuff?
04:23
We have to figure out what it is
to make these decisions,
04:25
so we know what our soul is made of,
04:28
so that we don't go selling it
to some cause we don't give a shit about.
04:30
And then the next step is our experiences.
04:35
All of us have these experiences.
We learn things every day, every minute
04:38
about what we love, what we hate,
04:42
what we're good at,
what we're terrible at.
04:43
And if we don't spend time
paying attention to that
04:45
and assimilating that learning
04:48
and applying it to the rest of our lives,
it's all for nothing.
04:49
Every day, every week,
every month of every year
04:52
I spend some time
just reflecting on what went right,
04:55
what went wrong,
and what do I want to repeat,
04:58
what can I apply more to my life.
05:00
And even more so than that,
as you see people, especially today,
05:01
who inspire you, who are doing
things where you say
05:05
"Oh God, what Jeff is doing,
I want to be like him."
05:07
Why are you saying that?
Open up a journal.
05:10
Write down what it is about them
that inspires you.
05:12
It's not going to be
everything about their life,
05:14
but whatever it is, take note on that,
05:16
so over time we'll have
this repository of things
05:18
that we can use to apply to our life
and have a more passionate existence
05:20
and make a better impact.
05:24
Because when we start
to put these things together,
05:26
we can then define
what success actually means to us,
05:28
and without these different parts
of the compass, it's impossible.
05:31
We end up in the situation --
we have that scripted life
05:35
that everybody seems to be living
going up this ladder to nowhere.
05:37
It's kind of like in Wall Street 2,
if anybody saw that,
05:40
the peon employee asks
the big Wall Street banker CEO,
05:43
"What's your number?
Everyone's got a number,
05:47
where if they make this money,
they'll leave it all."
05:49
He says, "Oh, it's simple. More."
05:52
And he just smiles.
05:55
And it's the sad state
of most of the people
05:56
that haven't spent time
understanding what matters for them,
05:58
who keep reaching for something
that doesn't mean anything to us,
06:01
but we're doing it because everyone
said we're supposed to.
06:03
But once we have this framework together,
06:06
we can start to identify
the things that make us come alive.
06:08
You know, before this, a passion
could come and hit you in the face,
06:10
or maybe in your possible line of work,
you might throw it away
06:14
because you don't have
a way of identifying it.
06:16
But once you do, you can see something
that's congruent with my strengths,
06:19
my values, who I am as a person,
06:22
so I'm going to grab ahold of this,
I'm going to do something with it,
06:24
and I'm going to pursue it
and try to make an impact with it.
06:27
And Live Your Legend
and the movement we've built
06:30
wouldn't exist if I didn't have
this compass to identify,
06:33
"Wow, this is something I want to pursue
and make a difference with."
06:35
If we don't know what we're looking for,
we're never going to find it,
06:39
but once we have
this framework, this compass,
06:42
then we can move on to what's next --
and that's not me up there --
06:44
doing the impossible
and pushing our limits.
06:49
There's two reasons
why people don't do things.
06:51
One is they tell themselves
they can't do them,
06:53
or people around them
tell them they can't do them.
06:55
Either way, we start to believe it.
06:57
Either we give up,
or we never start in the first place.
06:59
The things is, everyone was impossible
until somebody did it.
07:01
Every invention,
every new thing in the world,
07:04
people thought were crazy at first.
07:07
Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile,
it was a physical impossibility
07:08
to break the four-minute mile
in a foot race
07:12
until Roger Bannister stood up and did it.
07:14
And then what happened?
07:16
Two months later,
16 people broke the four-minute mile.
07:18
The things that we have in our head
that we think are impossible
07:20
are often just milestones
waiting to be accomplished
07:23
if we can push those limits a bit.
07:25
And I think this starts with probably
your physical body and fitness
07:27
more than anything,
because we can control that.
07:30
If you don't think you can run a mile,
07:33
you show yourself
you can run a mile or two,
07:34
or a marathon, or lose five pounds,
or whatever it is,
07:36
you realize that confidence compounds
07:39
and can be transferred
into the rest of your world.
07:41
And I've actually gotten into the habit
of this a little bit with my friends.
07:44
We have this little group.
We go on physical adventures,
07:48
and recently, I found myself
in a kind of precarious spot.
07:50
I'm terrified of deep, dark, blue water.
07:54
I don't know if anyone's ever had
that same fear
07:57
ever since they watched
Jaws 1, 2, 3 and 4 like six times
07:59
when I was a kid.
08:01
But anything above here, if it's murky,
I can already feel it right now.
08:02
I swear there's something in there.
08:07
Even if it's Lake Tahoe,
it's fresh water, totally unfounded fear,
08:09
ridiculous, but it's there.
08:12
Anyway, three years ago
I find myself on this tugboat
08:14
right down here in the San Francisco Bay.
08:16
It's a rainy, stormy, windy day,
and people are getting sick on the boat,
08:18
and I'm sitting there wearing a wetsuit,
and I'm looking out the window
08:22
in pure terror thinking
I'm about to swim to my death.
08:25
I'm going to try to swim
across the Golden Gate.
08:28
And my guess is some people in this room
might have done that before.
08:30
I'm sitting there, and my buddy Jonathan,
who had talked me into it,
08:34
he comes up to me
and he could see the state I was in.
08:37
And he says, "Scott, hey man,
what's the worst that could happen?
08:40
You're wearing a wetsuit.
You're not going to sink.
08:42
And If you can't make it,
just hop on one of the 20 kayaks.
08:45
Plus, if there's a shark attack,
why are they going to pick you
08:47
over the 80 people in the water?"
So thanks, that helps.
08:50
He's like, "But really,
just have fun with this. Good luck."
08:53
And he dives in, swims off. OK.
08:56
Turns out, the pep talk totally worked,
and I felt this total feeling of calm,
08:58
and I think it was because
Jonathan was 13 years old.
09:03
(Laughter)
09:06
And of the 80 people swimming that day,
09:08
65 of them were between
the ages of nine and 13.
09:10
Think how you would have approached
your world differently
09:13
if at nine years old you found out
you could swim a mile and a half
09:16
in 56-degree water
from Alcatraz to San Francisco.
09:19
What would you have said yes to?
09:22
What would you have not given up on?
What would you have tried?
09:23
As I'm finishing this swim,
I get to Aquatic Park,
09:26
and I'm getting out of the water
09:28
and of course half the kids
are already finished,
09:30
so they're cheering me on
and they're all excited.
09:32
And I got total popsicle head,
if anyone's ever swam in the Bay,
09:34
and I'm trying to just thaw my face out,
and I'm watching people finish.
09:37
And I see this one kid,
something didn't look right.
09:41
And he's just flailing like this.
09:44
And he's barely able to sip some air
before he slams his head back down.
09:46
And I notice other parents
were watching too,
09:49
and I swear they were thinking
the same thing I was:
09:51
this is why you don't let nine-year-olds
swim from Alcatraz.
09:54
This was not fatigue.
09:58
All of a sudden, two parents
run up and grab him,
09:59
and they put him on their shoulders,
and they're dragging him like this,
10:01
totally limp.
10:05
And then all of a sudden
they walk a few more feet
10:07
and they plop him down in his wheelchair.
10:10
And he puts his fists up in the most
insane show of victory I've ever seen.
10:12
I can still feel the warmth
and the energy on this guy
10:15
when he made this accomplishment.
10:18
I had seen him earlier that day
in his wheelchair.
10:19
I just had no idea he was going to swim.
10:22
I mean, where is he
going to be in 20 years?
10:24
How many people told him he couldn't
do that, that he would die if tried that?
10:27
You prove people wrong,
you prove yourself wrong,
10:31
that you can make
little incremental pushes
10:33
of what you believe is possible.
10:35
You don't have to be
the fastest marathoner in the world,
10:36
just your own impossibilities,
to accomplish those,
10:39
and it starts with little bitty steps.
10:41
And the best way to do this
10:43
is to surround yourself
with passionate people.
10:46
The fastest things to do things
you don't think can be done
10:48
is to surround yourself
with people already doing them.
10:51
There's this quote by Jim Rohn and it says.
10:53
"You are the average of the five people
you spend the most time with."
10:56
And there is no bigger lifehack
in the history of the world
10:59
from getting where you are today
to where you want to be
11:02
than the people you choose
to put in your corner.
11:06
They change everything,
and it's a proven fact.
11:08
In 1898, Norman Triplett did this study
with a bunch of cyclists,
11:11
and he would measure their times
around the track in a group,
11:15
and also individually.
11:18
And he found that every time the cyclists
in the group would cycle faster.
11:19
And it's been repeated
in all kinds of walks of life since then,
11:23
and it proves the same thing over again,
11:26
that the people around you matter,
and environment is everything.
11:28
But it's on you to control it,
because it can go both ways.
11:30
With 80 percent of people
who don't like the work they do,
11:33
that means most people around us,
not in this room, but everywhere else,
11:36
are encouraging complacency and keeping us
from pursuing the things that matter to us
11:39
so we have to manage those surroundings.
11:43
I found myself in this situation --
11:45
personal example, a couple years ago.
11:49
Has anyone ever had a hobby or a passion
they poured their heart and soul into,
11:52
unbelievable amount of time, and they
so badly want to call it a business,
11:56
but no one's paying attention
and it doesn't make a dime?
11:59
OK, I was there for four years trying
to build this Live Your Legend movement
12:03
to help people do work that they genuinely
cared about and that inspired them,
12:08
and I was doing all I could,
12:11
and there were only
three people paying attention,
12:12
and they're all right there:
my mother, father and my wife, Chelsea.
12:14
Thank you guys for the support.
12:18
(Applause)
12:19
And this is how badly I wanted it,
it grew at zero percent for four years,
12:21
and I was about to shut it down,
12:25
and right about then,
12:27
I moved to San Francisco and started
to meet some pretty interesting people
12:29
who had these crazy
lifestyles of adventure,
12:33
of businesses and websites and blogs
12:35
that surrounded their passions
and helped people in a meaningful way.
12:37
And one of my friends,
now, he has a family of eight,
12:40
and he supports his whole family
12:43
with a blog that he
writes for twice a week.
12:45
They just came back from a month
in Europe, all of them together.
12:48
This blew my mind.
How does this even exist?
12:51
And I got unbelievably inspired
by seeing this,
12:53
and instead of shutting it down,
I decided, let's take it seriously.
12:57
And I did everything I could
to spend my time,
13:00
every waking hour possible
trying to hound these guys,
13:02
hanging out and having beers
and workouts, whatever it was.
13:04
And after four years of zero growth,
13:07
within six months
of hanging around these people,
13:09
the community at Live Your Legend
grew by 10 times.
13:11
In another 12 months,
it grew by 160 times.
13:14
And today over 30,000 people
from 158 countries
13:18
use our career and connection tools
on a monthly basis.
13:21
And those people have made up
that community of passionate folks
13:24
who inspired that possibility
that I dreamed of
13:29
for Live Your Legend so many years back.
13:31
The people change everything,
and this is why --
13:34
you know, you ask what was going on.
13:36
Well, for four years,
I knew nobody in this space,
13:38
and I didn't even know it existed,
that people could do this stuff,
13:41
that you could have movements like this.
13:44
And then I'm over here in San Francisco,
and everyone around me was doing it.
13:46
It became normal, so my thinking went
from how could I possibly do this
13:50
to how could I possibly not.
13:54
And right then, when that happens,
that switch goes on in your head,
13:56
it ripples across your whole world.
13:59
And without even trying,
your standards go from here to here.
14:01
You don't need to change your goals.
You just need to change your surroundings.
14:04
That's it, and that's why I love
being around this whole group of people,
14:08
why I go to every TED event I can,
14:12
and watch them on my iPad
on the way to work, whatever it is.
14:14
Because this is the group of people
that inspires possibility.
14:17
We have a whole day
to spend together and plenty more.
14:20
To sum things up,
in terms of these three pillars,
14:23
they all have one thing in common
more than anything else.
14:27
They are 100 percent in our control.
14:31
No one can tell you
you can't learn about yourself.
14:33
No one can tell you
you can't push your limits
14:36
and learn your own impossible
and push that.
14:38
No one can tell you you can't
surround yourself with inspiring people
14:41
or get away from the people
who bring you down.
14:44
You can't control a recession.
14:46
You can't control getting fired
or getting in a car accident.
14:47
Most things are totally out of our hands.
14:51
These three things are totally on us,
14:53
and they can change our whole world
if we decide to do something about it.
14:57
And the thing is, it's starting to happen
on a widespread level.
15:02
I just read in Forbes, the US Government
reported for the first time
15:05
in a month where more people
had quit their jobs
15:08
than had been laid off.
15:11
They thought this was an anomaly,
but it's happened three months straight.
15:12
In a time where people claim
it's kind of a tough environment,
15:16
people are giving a middle finger
to this scripted life,
15:18
the things that people
say you're supposed to do,
15:21
in exchange for things that matter to them
and do the things that inspire them.
15:23
And the thing is, people
are waking up to this possibility,
15:26
that really the only thing that limits
possibility now is imagination.
15:29
That's not a cliché anymore.
15:35
I don't care what it is that you're into,
what passion, what hobby.
15:37
If you're into knitting, you can find
someone who is killing it knitting,
15:40
and you can learn from them. It's wild.
15:44
And that's what this whole day is about,
to learn from the folks speaking,
15:46
and we profile these people
on Live Your Legend every day,
15:50
because when ordinary people
are doing the extraordinary,
15:53
and we can be around that,
15:56
it becomes normal.
15:58
And this isn't about being Gandhi
or Steve Jobs, doing something crazy.
16:00
It's just about doing something
that matters to you,
16:04
and makes an impact
that only you can make.
16:06
Speaking of Gandhi,
he was a recovering lawyer,
16:10
as I've heard the term,
16:13
and he was called to a greater cause,
something that mattered to him,
16:15
he couldn't not do.
16:18
And he has this quote
that I absolutely live by.
16:19
"First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
16:21
then they fight you, then you win."
16:24
Everything was impossible
until somebody did it.
16:28
You can either hang around the people
who tell you it can't be done
16:31
and tell you you're stupid for trying,
16:34
or surround yourself with the people
who inspire possibility,
16:36
the people who are in this room.
16:39
Because I see it as our responsibility
to show the world
16:42
that what's seen as impossible
can become that new normal.
16:45
And that's already starting to happen.
16:49
First, do the things that inspire us,
16:51
so we can inspire other people
to do the things that inspire them.
16:54
But we can't find that
16:58
unless we know what we're looking for.
17:00
We have to do our work on ourself,
17:02
be intentional about that,
and make those discoveries.
17:04
Because I imagine a world where 80 percent
of people love the work they do.
17:07
What would that look like?
17:10
What would the innovation be like?
How would you treat the people around you?
17:12
Things would start to change.
17:16
And as we finish up,
I have just one question to ask you guys,
17:19
and I think it's the only
question that matters.
17:22
And it's what is the work
you can't not do?
17:25
Discover that, live it,
17:28
not just for you,
but for everybody around you,
17:31
because that is what starts
to change the world.
17:34
What is the work you can't not do?
17:37
Thank you guys.
17:40
(Applause)
17:42

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Scott Dinsmore - Writer, traveler
Scott Dinsmore founded Live Your Legend, a career and connection platform to inspire people to find their passion.

Why you should listen

Entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore left life at a Fortune 500 company to help others do work that they love. After researching what thousands of employees truly wanted out of life, he founded the organization Live Your Legend. As the Chief Experimenter, he not only supplied practical career tools but connected more than 100,000 people worldwide to encourage each other's dreams -- putting community at the center of success. Dinsmore died in September 2015 while on a year-long trek around the world. His legacy will live on through his passion, dedication and strong community of dreamers and doers.

The original video is available on TED.com
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