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I wrote about the application of the Hedgehog Concept a while back, an idea I borrowed from Jim Collin’s Good to Great. It has become clear to me now that the post was a bit too general to be helpful, so I am going to write more to clarify the points. Briefly, the Hedgehog Concept refers to intersection of the following three circles:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be best at in the world?
  • What drives your economic engine?

This post is going to concentrate on point #1 – discovering your passion.

You know the phrase, “it hit me while I was…”? Ideas don’t float in the air and hit you on your head while you are idling. Similarly, you will not discover your passion by just sitting around. So the first thing to do to discover your passion is to do something…anything! Read a book, do crossword puzzles, talk to people, pick up a new hobby, take a class, learn a new language. At this point, you are at the discovery stage, so any activities that you don’t already do count. And don’t limit yourself — sky is the limit. And while you are doing these activities, ask yourself, “Am I enjoying it?” Then observe if the activities make you happy and want to do more.

After you’ve stumbled upon the activities that seem enjoyable, you need to narrow it down a bit more. My favorite way to narrow the scope of anything I encounter is to ask oneself the following sets of questions:

  • Does it matter with whom I do the activities?
  • How about when and where I do them?
  • Will the “why” and “how” change anything I like about the activities?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you are ready for the next steps: Find people who share your passions — join a group, go to themed parties and gatherings, and if you are adventurous, find them on listings such as Craigslist (just be sure to practice common sense and stay safe). Learn more from these people, and through your conversations, you will discover even more what fuels your passions.

Nothing worth learning comes easy. This exercise, too, is very time consuming. If it makes you feel any better, it took me three years to find my passion. And things didn’t stop there. I am continuously sharpening the focus of my passion even today. Yes, it is hard work, but it’s hard work that pays handsome dividend with the dividend coming in the form of deep joy and lifelong happiness.

So how would you know when you’ve finally found your passion? For one thing, you will have the deepest craving to do it again and again, and you will want to learn more about it. You will find yourself thinking and talking about it with other people, and most importantly, you will find a deep sense of gratification, joy, and felicity.

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March 2008