Turn your passion into a payday

John Strelecky knows a bit about taking risks. At the height of his career as a strategy consultant in 2002, he decided to quit his job.

"I was on track to be partner and all was going great, but it wasn't making me happy," said Strelecky, author of two bestselling books, "The Why Café" and "The Big Five For Life." "Nothing was spectacular. So I decided to take my wife backpacking around the world for a year."

Strelecky returned with a new perspective and the realization that life was too short to be apathetic about your work.

"The average person spends about 28,500 days on the planet, so you have to ask yourself, 'What am I going to do while I'm here?' " Strelecky said. "It's a rare ah-ha moment when you realize you get to pick."

Strelecky now coaches others to discover their Purpose For Existing, or PFE. To get started, he has people write down the five things they're most passionate about (he calls them the Big Five For Life) and then begin taking daily actions in line with those passions. Those actions can be as simple as watching a video or taking a lesson, Strelecky said—and that helps retrain the brain to understand that doing what you love can be a part of everyday life.

"Culturally there is a perception you cannot do what you love and be successful," Strelecky said. "This ties into one of the most basic fears we have: The big fear that we will someday be living under a bridge … it overwhelms the fact that whatever our passion is, we feel we can't make money doing it. But you and I can both go on Google and find 20 people who are doing it successfully."

Here are Strelecky's tips to discovering your passions and changing your life.

Interview yourself. "Everyone knows their PFE, but the trick is to move it from your subconscious to your conscious," he said. "So ask yourself, what are your three favorite movies of all time and why? The answer to this will tell you a lot about your passions for life. Another question is, 'If I had $300 and could spend it any way I want to, what would I do with it?'

"When you start getting things on your list, ask yourself, 'Would I still want to do this if I only had six months to live?' If the answer is 'No,' it's probably not part of your core values so you can take it off your list. Your actions and your answers to all these questions will show patterns and themes and help you get to your Big Five (For Life)."

Discover your assets. "Everyone has something they bring to the table," he said. "Maybe you have a house you need to rent. Do you have a nice voice for radio? Are you a natural on TV or talking in front of people? I have a friend who looks like Paula Abdul and she gets booked to do these spoof reality shows."

Keep it at five. "If you do too long of a list, you will put it off or only start with the small things. Five makes it manageable. And some things on your Big Five can be ongoing. For me, one of them is having a loving relationship with my daughter. We have daddy-daughter days — those are twice a week. No matter what is going on professionally or personally, I carve out that time. There's nothing better."

Use a journal. "When you go to bed, write down one thing you did that day that was 100 percent in line with your Big Five For Life," he said. "When you flip back to the previous pages and you look at those things it reinvigorates you. And if you get to that point and you can't think of anything today that was in line, you say to yourself, 'That sure as hell isn't going to happen tomorrow.' "

Don't put it off. "People say it's like a bucket list. The difference is we don't need to be diagnosed with a terminal illness to start doing this," Strelecky said. "Why not live large and do the things that give you joy now?"

(If you want to learn more about John Strelecky's method for living large and finding joy, John and Jenniffer will present "TribU: Get Paid Doing What You Love" on Feb. 22. For information and tickets, visit chicagotribune.com/classes.)


Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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