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How to love what you do.

Three decades into my career I am happy to proclaim that I love what I do for a living.  Each time I lecture at Chapman University or UC Irvine, I always start by telling this to the students and sharing my hope that, regardless of what they end up doing, that they too will stand up some day and proclaim this.  Life's too short to waste time on things you don't enjoy doing.

Clearly, the first step is to know what you're passionate about and then find someone who will pay you to do that.  But then what?  How do you stay engaged and passionate for three decades or more?  Here's the advice I tend to share with the students.

Pursue a profession, not a job.  You can punch in and out each day, doing what's required and no more.    Or you can be constantly curious, always pushing yourself to learn more and develop new skills.  Not to get ahead, but for the satisfaction of knowing you are the best you can be at what you do.

Be great at something.  Sure, you work in a department and you have many responsibilities and functional duties.  But what are you the best at?  What is that one skill that you are known for and that your coworkers depend on?

Accumulate skills.  Attend as many training programs as your company offers.  Volunteer to work on project teams that are outside of your day to day responsibilities.  Listen to a TED talk on issues related to your field.  Read.  Discuss.

Fail. Improve. Repeat often.  There's an old saying that it takes a lot of hard work to get lucky.  Successful people are simply those who took the time to learn from their mistakes.  And those who willing to learn from mistakes also tend to be the same people who are more open to taking chances.  Courage and humility often go hand in hand.