Do What You Love


Image by Rayani Melo

Continuing the theme of my earlier post “Find Your True Calling“, there is a model by Jim Collins that helps make this difficult decision a little easier. In his book “Good to Great”, he talks about something called the “Hedgehog Concept“. In his own words “A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be great, a plan to be best. It’s an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial.” The last two sentences have had a profound impact on me. The meaning hits a chord when you are actually able to visualize the entire concept. The model consists of three circles. I have broken them down below:

Circle #1


The first circle asks you the question: what are you good at? There comes a point in our lives where most of us know what we are good at and what we are not good at. I have the ability to break down complicated matters into much simpler language either through visuals or words. I am also able to handle multiple tasks at the same time without losing focus. On the other hand, I am not very good at the operational side of running a business. Detail oriented work such as tabulating accounts is something I do not handle very well. It is important that we be completely honest with ourselves in this circle and identify those capabilities of ours that we excel at.

Circle #2


The second circle asks you a much more challenging question. To answer this question one must identify times when doing something is almost effortless. When time loses meaning and you could go on forever. Was it when you were playing an instrument, teaching a child, painting, leading a group or cooking? There has to be this aura of complete ease and enjoyment in the doing of that particular activity and the awareness that in that moment everything is just how it is meant to be. Looking back in my case, this occurs when I am leading a team or a group. Whether it be one person or more I always find myself performing not just optimally but thoroughly enjoying it as well.

Circle #3


The last circle asks you a very pertinent question. Usually most of the things we really enjoy doing such as surfing the web, twittering, reading or listening to music are things most of us will not get paid to do. So we have to be realistic with ourselves here and identify the skill sets we can get paid for. For instance if you are good at reading and writing and find that when you write, time seems to stand still and you could go on writing forever, this is obviously something you are passionate about. You then have to figure out a way to monetize your writing, to earn a living. Things you could do include, copy writing, journalism, writing reviews or things along those lines to find ways to get people to pay you for your inherent skill sets.

When you merge all the three circles together you get this:


The purple section at the intersection of the three circles is where one needs to continue moving towards. If we leave out any one of the circles from this equation, a major component will be missing from our lives. We could then end up doing something we are good at and which makes us a lot of money, but do not get any satisfaction from. We could also just go along doing something, never aiming to excel at it because we lack the needed passion and drive. Therefore it is important that we keep all three circles in perspective when choosing what we really want to do in life. When we are able to find that sweet spot in the middle, life becomes more fulfilling and meaningful and every day is a new day to look forward to. I am still figuring out all the three circles, and coming close. The closer I get, the more I can feel my life becoming energized in each and every way.

I would really like to hear from readers about their experiences so far. Have you managed to reach that sweet spot? If you have, what were some of the challenges that you faced along the way. If you have not found that sweet spot what are some of the challenges you are currently facing? I look forward to your comments and thoughts.

Related Posts:

Find Your True Calling

Crossing the Rubicon

9 Comments Do What You Love

  1. Anthony Russo

    Very good article. getting Tweeted, clipped to my Evernote and tagged in my Delicious accounts. I plan to also make it required reading for my kids.

    On myself. I believed I have bounced around circle to circle for a while, now landing where I am pretty close to the purple area mentioned above in my current profession.

    I realized I am good at talking to people, hearing their side of something, and negotiating a way for them to resolve their problems by utilizing a service I was providing. This created a win-win for both parties involved. It’s a skill destined for a sales type of career, which I liked.

    The problem was I was omitting a portion I really enjoyed and was passionate about. I loved to teach. I enjoyed seeing the realization of learning on someone, or hearing it in their voice. I also selfishly enjoyed the gratitude, respect and admiration you received from someone as you taught them something they did not know before.

    My previous profession was a definite case of being in the “What I’m good at” and “What I will get paid for” circles. After many years in different sales positions, I found myself in the position of collections (groan). I was good at the job and made good money, but hated every minute of it. It was redundant situations and nobody liked to talk to me, (who likes to talk to a collector you owe money to?)

    I met up with a company that was much smaller, offering a product that was much less known and something I personally knew nothing about. But it dealt with computers, which I liked. It was back in sales, which was good, and there was a lot of growth potential. That is my present company of Great America Networks Conferencing.

    I took a chance to leave the comfort zone I was in and joined this promising new company. I have enjoyed every day since and now am solving peoples conferencing and communication problems, and teaching them new ways to save costs in their business travel. I am thanked frequently from my clients, and I am looked to as a resource, rather than a salesperson.

    The biggest trap in that diagram of circles above is getting into the situation I was in. If you are good at it and making money, it is hard to leave and look for that passion. I’m glad I did, and hope others are able to make that transition as well.

    Anthony Russo
    Conferencing Consultant
    Great America Networks Conferencing
    Skype: anth.russo
    Twitter: @AnthonyRusso

  2. Usman Sheikh

    Thank you for sharing your story Anthony. Whenever I share this concept I get to know individuals who were stuck in the same situation as you were, that is operating in 2 of the 3 circles. The step you took out of your comfort zone requires a lot of confidence in one’s own abilities. This is the step that many shy away from and tell themselves that they will take some day soon. Unfortunately that day usually does not come.

    We have to take time out to understand where we lie in each of the three circles. Once we are relatively sure, steps need to be taken to reach the center. In the end it all comes down to taking action and making that leap of faith. Life is too short to spend doing something we derive little or no satisfaction from.

    Once again thank you for your sharing your experience Anthony, wishing you all the best.

  3. Edina

    Great article Usman

    I would have to say that writing for me is a passion. I often find myself sitting infront of my pc. I look at the time its 10pm, than 5 minutes later its morning already.

    The biggest challange is to monetize what I love to do. If reaching the “sweet point” was easy, humanity would be a happier as a whole I think!

  4. Usman Sheikh

    Glad to know the article was of interest to you Edina.

    Reaching the “sweet point” becomes a lot easier when one is sure about the direction to take. If the direction brings you great joy, satisfaction and a measure of success then life becomes simpler as well as fulfilling. Admittedly it is not the easiest of things to achieve. However making the decision to go with your gut instinct and true passion is the hardest part, it requires a lot of courage and confidence. In the example above Anthony shared with us the challenge of making that initial leap of faith. I wrote a post on crossing the rubicon ( that may also be of some interest to you.

    Thank you for sharing your story and experience and I wish you all the best.

  5. Matt Thomas

    Usman, great points. As per your comments on my post, we seem to be hitting on a similar theme of : doing what you love isn’t enough all by itself. You must also look for something that not only pays, but translates well into work.

    The type of work you pursue should not only be work that you enjoy, but be in a role that you are either good at, or could get better at.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. Farooq Nomani

    Good stuff. Obviously I was directed here from the link you left on Vadria’s facebook post but I’m glad I took the time to read this. It also takes guts to follow through and cash in on pursuing the particular activity you’re passionate about since there is always a side of you, probably the ego, which is scared that you wont measure up to your own expectations. It can be daunting to face the prospect that you aren’t that good in the one area you feel you’re most adept in.

  7. Usman Sheikh

    Thanks for the comment Farooq.

    Overcoming that fear and actually taking that first step is probably the biggest challenge that we all face. Like you said we have our own expectations and so do the people around us. However if we let that weigh down on us we will not be able to achieve the things that we may really want to.

    My latest post discusses this matter in greater detail and may be of interest to you.

  8. Mohammed

    Great Post Usman…
    I’ve always struggled with those circles.
    Your post came in timely when I am sitting down finding the sweet spot :)

  9. Usman Sheikh

    Best of luck Mohammed. I am in the process of building a tool which is going to make it much easier for people to find that sweet spot with some help. I have emailed you details. Look forward to your feedback.

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