Born for This

Summary Written by Peter Taylor

The Big Idea

Joy, Money, Flow

""Maybe it’s not that complicated: for the most part, we all want to find a career that meets the same few specific needs.""- Born for This, page 31

At the very basic level, Guillebeau explains that a perfect career for anyone is centered on three basic principles: Joy, Money and Flow.

Joy is something is something that you like to do. It makes you happy to do it, and work is enjoyable.

Money is what supports you to pay the bills and provide for your family, enabling you to live comfortably.

Flow is what you’re good at. It’s when you lose track of time because you are so engrossed in your work and it feels easy. It is your unique skills.

Managing all three of these is the key to success, or as the author calls your “career lottery”, which is not a matter of luck, but is more about trial and error. He reminds us throughout the book to constantly evaluate your work life.

To determine your career focus—whether that is a job or self-employment—use these principles as a guide. First, identify what is important to you within the context of Joy, Money and Flow. List them and then start eliminating, beginning with things that don’t give you joy—there is no point in pursuing a job that brings no joy. Next eliminate ideas that don’t have a potential to create income, and finally eliminate ideas that you not particularly good at, where your skills aren’t unique. The trick is to create harmony within this framework.

If your current situation is unbalanced, don’t despair, you can take steps to realign the balance. For instance, you could find the time to pursue joy outside of work, making it a daily habit. If financially stressed, concentrate on getting out of debt as quickly as possible and if you don’t know your flow, ask your friends for guidance in identifying things that come easily to you.

The ideal relationship between these variables isn’t the same for everyone and isn’t consistent across your lifespan as your priorities change. Asking pertinent questions can help identify where your values lie, such as:

  • Work is very important to me (Joy).
  • I want to know I do my work well (Flow).
  • I’m in a difficult financial situation or need to save a substantial amount of money (Money).

Of equal importance is not only what your job is, but also the working conditions, such as flexibility of schedule, reporting and accountability, social environment, sense of contribution, security, collaboration, etc. It’s important to find the working conditions that suit your personal preferences, which are not the same for everybody.

Guillebeau is the author of The $100 Startup, so it’s no surprise that a large proportion of the book is devoted to risk assessment, developing side hustle businesses, risk, and workshifting (having multiple jobs). Actionable insights include:

  • Look at how you can achieve Joy-Money-Flow by reassessing your talents, network and assets.
  • Try a new venture to generate income, and experiment constantly.
  • Believe in yourself. Look at your options from a new viewpoint.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit.

Insight #1

Breaking out of prison

"Breaking out of prison – whether a real one or one surrounded by cubicle walls – will force you to think differently and use a varied set of tools."- Born for This, page 77

Guillebeau devotes a chapter to successfully escaping from a job that is a poor fit. Rather than making a big mistake and jumping ship too early, he suggests turning your attention to developing skills that will allow you to leave.

Firstly, write down an inventory of your current skills, then do the opposite and identify skills you need to improve or upgrade. The skills that are particularly important are what Guillebeau refers to as soft skills and can be self-taught in many instances, such as:

  • Improving your writing skills, learning to be persuasive, interesting, confident, and learning ways to get people on your side.
  • Learning to negotiate, looking for solutions where both sides win.
  • Improving your follow up and follow through procedures, giving yourself deadlines and sticking to them.
  • Improving your technological skills, which will give you a clear advantage in this digital world.

As an annual exercise designed to reassess your current reality, make the following commitments to yourself: on a self-chosen date make the decision to break out of prison and do something different unless staying is the best way forward. If your job is making you miserable or does not have a good Joy-Money-Flow balance, then takes steps to make a break.

Embracing failure and quitting a job that’s not a good fit allows us to reframe everything. This is Guillebeau’s mantra and within the book he cites several examples of people hitting the career lottery after quitting.

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Insight #2

Question your future

"Much interview advice is basic and boring, but there's something that all career experts agree on: it's important to come prepared with some questions of your own."- Born for This, page 216

You have landed an interview for the perfect job, but how do you ensure that the balance is correct and you won’t be disappointed? The questions Guillebeau suggests are designed to not only determine if the job is a right fit, it also indicates a genuine interest in the job and demonstrates a desire for autonomy and independence.

Questions can include:

  • What’s the greatest problem you team is currently experiencing?
  • What’s the most valuable contribution I could bring to this role?
  • Can you describe a general day in the life of this role? How would the successful person divide his time or organize his time or responsibilities to do it well?
  • How will performance be measured?
  • If I wanted to work on additional areas of responsibility outside the official role, how would you feel about that?

As an employer for the last 20 years, I find that interested employees sometimes forget to ask questions in interviews. Keep these and others in your memory bank, and you will be more successful in your next interview.

Read the book

Get Born for This on Amazon.

Chris Guillebeau


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