Compelling Career Advice from Barack ObamaFebruary 27th, 2015 · 33 comments
A Compelling Answer
Earlier today, a reader pointed me toward a blog post about Barack Obama from the Humans of New York project. The post quotes Obama’s answer to the following question: When is the time you felt most broken?
The president begins his response by recalling a doubt-ridden plateau in his political career…
“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped…for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do.”
What caught my attention (and the attention of the reader who forwarded me the interview) is the idea Obama leveraged to move forward…
“But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”
In SO GOOD, I called this the craftsman mindset. It asks that you stop obsessing about what the world can offer you, and instead focus on what you can offer the world.
Notice, this mindset is often at odds with the popular advice to “follow your passion.” Barack Obama was probably not feeling a lot of passion for politics after his loss to Bobby Rush. But he thought he had something to offer in this arena, so he persisted. (See my recent Business Insider article on Steve Jobs for another example of this mindset at work.)
The power of this advice, however, is probably best summed up by the note that the reader who sent me this article appended to the message.
“I respect this a lot about Obama,” he wrote, before admitting, “and, I’m a Republican.”
(Quote and image from Humans of New York.)