Finding purpose in your work
After founding RedBalloon in 2001, Naomi Simson has become one of Australia’s biggest success stories. Naomi’s inspiring keynote presentation at the LASA 2015 Congress ‘A Life Filled with Passion and Purpose’ provided delegates with tips on making powerful choices to ultimately fulfil their true purpose. We caught up with her afterward for a chat on applying this advice to a career in the health industry.
AHHB: Could you please give us a brief overview of your speech at LASA Congress 2015 on living your life with purpose and a sense of accomplishment?
NS: Often people get passion and purpose confused - they are not the same thing. You might be passionate about the love of your life or great art, but that is not your life’s work. What I shared with the audience was my belief that people can wake up every day inspired to go to work and return home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled by the work they do and knowing that they have contributed to something greater than themselves which has particular relevance in this industry. But they are only empowered to feel these things if they are living their life with purpose and have found their purpose. For many in the room, this resonated very strongly I am sure.
AHHB: Does ‘do what you love’ have a literal interpretation for you, or is it a principle that needs to be applied with practicality in mind?
NS: My mother famously told me in so many words that my love for art would not equal a life with millions of dollars so she encouraged me to go to university and enjoy my love for art on the side. When you enjoy what you do, you really do a better job - one might enjoy singing on the streets and busking and they might do a brilliant job at it, they go home feeling fulfilled - but of course we all have ends to meet. There is an element of practicality involved, but it is being mindful of your passion; your compelling enthusiasm or a desire for something and seeing how your passion and life situation can work in harmony.
AHHB: What is your advice for someone who has identified their passions, chosen a direction they thought would make them happy, and discovered it is not what they expected?
NS: I get contacted numerous times a day by people who have been inspired by my book and have quit their jobs to fulfil their lifelong passion of starting their own business for example. But they have hit a stonewall when they realise how much work is involved in doing all of this, and have been challenged when they realise they don’t have the security blanket of the monthly salary hitting their bank accounts. They begin to question their passion when the dream doesn’t work out as they intended. I remember when I studied marketing at university and I was so incredibly excited and motivated to attend all my lectures and learn everything, but I was left feeling disappointed and underwhelmed by the curriculum - I too, began to question the direction I was taking. But I stuck it out and went out into the working world, and that was when I gained the experience and learnings I had been craving.
AHHB: Passion waxes and wanes and interests change. Do you recommend a direction check from time to time? And how should people do this?
NS: I tell people often that I want to empower them through my writing and my experiences to make powerful choices about their own lives and living with passion every day. But passion alone is not the recipe for success. In life there is failure and without it we don’t know success. Failure is not the end of the world or the road, it just means the course of action has ceased and you are challenged to devise your next move. These are the direction checks or obstacles we face in life, but if you are true to your passion and you are focused on your purpose you will get through it.
AHHB: There are times when things get tough on the personal front and it can affect our work performance. The importance of self-care is an all-too-common refrain, but it can bring on feelings of guilt in some people to step back from their responsibilities to focus on themselves. Any advice?
NS: I know well the feeling many entrepreneurs share which is a view of “holidays? What holidays? Surely there is an opportunity to research, a meeting to be had, papers to be reviewed, blogs to write.” I also know why I started RedBalloon and it was because I thought I would have more time with my two young children and adapt to this cruel concept we know as ‘work-life balance’ - which might I add is a croc. It is a label we attach to ourselves to harshly judge us for our actions and it is not helpful. Everyone knows their limits - for some the boundaries are pushed more than for others. But I do look after myself - yoga helps; clean and organic eating; walking everywhere I go. It is different for everyone but I will say that being mindful of your wellness is critical to your own success.
AHHB: Would you share your philosophy on sacrifice and accomplishment?
NS: One of the quotes I share in my book from JFK is this: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
I remember way back in 2001 when I decided to launch RedBalloon it took eight months to prepare. On launch date nothing happened. I was so naive! I somehow thought that if I built a website the customers would simply buy from it. I had spent our family savings on it and I had no money left to promote it. The agony of waiting for the first sale was excruciating - everyday questioning myself and my passion for creating great experiences to be shared. It took two months and four days for the first sale to come through and I will never forget the sense of relief and accomplishment I felt.
Nothing in this life is meant to be easy. Humans were put on this world to figure that out and I am so proud of what RedBalloon has become - launching their new website last week which is light years better than what launched all those years ago!
AHHB: Many healthcare workers enter the field out of the desire to help people, but it can become an emotionally draining career. How can they maintain the passion?
NS: I could not be more in awe of the work that healthcare workers do every single day - the difference they make to our loved ones lives (and eventually our own) is incredible. The care and respect they give is endless. But I know many stories of exhaustion, burnout, illness - where their reality is too upsetting and draining to go on. I do not know what this must feel like but what I will say about passion is remembering why they embarked on this career choice, and holding their purpose close at hand each and every day. Knowing how much their life’s work contributes to another’s should be enough for them to keep being reminded of their passion and purpose every single day.
AHHB: How can managers and bosses nurture their employees desires to lead meaningful lives?
NS: Having an employee centred culture is key here - if there is not a culture that thrives on engaging, recognising and rewarding employees for their good work that aligns with the organisation’s’ values then any nurturing to lead meaningful lives is not possible. That is why I invested in redii.com - a software tool designed at aligning teams, encouraging peer-to-peer recognitions and further fostering a culture where managers can see the great work their team members are doing and recognise them for doing so.
How can I start living a meaningful life now?
“I would really encourage readers to pick themselves up a copy of my book ‘Live What You Love’ - take the time to contemplate the words, make them your own and do the exercises I have included. Your experience of your own life will shift. What you will discover is dependent on how honest you are with yourself in your answers and considerations of the questions I pose. For many, the book has been a wonderful step on their journey to continue to live a meaningful life.” Naomi Simson, Founding Director of RedBalloon, ‘Shark’ on Channel 10’s Shark Tank, Author, entrepreneur, speaker.
“if there is not a culture that thrives on engaging, recognising and rewarding employees for their good work that aligns with the organisation's’ values then any nurturing to lead meaningful lives is not possible.”
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