Lessons from a Life: Authenticity


Find your passion now. Waiting to find what you love to do is like

saving up having sex for your old age.  Warren Buffett

Lesson #8: Find and Develop Passions

Authenticity is the core principle of what we do at Bright Livelihoods. A passion is something for which you have boundless enthusiasm. Do you know what your passions are?

People who  love what they do, know their passions and do not turn into someone else when they go to work. They have integrity, and a strong sense of what their talents are. They build their careers on a foundation of self-knowledge and are devoted to developing their strengths.

People tend to spend too much energy on overcoming a weakness, instead of focusing on natural abilities and preferences. This wasted effort often comes from conditioning in schools and certain corporate settings. It is often unproductive to depend on an institution or employer for career development.  Their motivations are not simply to help you in finding your true calling and may even run counter to your best interests. For example, an employer may want to keep you at your assigned tasks that you do well, even if you are ready to move on or up and learn something new.

Passions are preferences that inspire you in life and at work. For our purpose, I have identified four types of passions or work strengths:

1. Interests are those ideas or topics that stimulate you. As you identify those topics, consider things that you know about as well as those you would like to learn more about. Long-term career satisfaction is dependent upon how well and to what extent an area of interest can hold your attention. Interests include things like technology, social justice, and art.

2. Talents are skills that give you energy when you engage in them. Talents are skills but not all skills are talents. I define talents as those skills that you long for when you are not engaging in them. One way to discern the difference is to consider this: if you had a choice, you would not delegate a talent to someone else. Talents include things like using your hands to fix things, writing, speaking and leading.

3. Style defines how you are at work when you are being your most authentic. How you would behave at work if you could really express yourself freely might offer clues to your soul work. Your personal style includes those attributes that you bring to an organization or industry, beyond your talents or skills. Style includes things like a sense of humor, empathy and vision.

4. Environment defines what you need at your workplace. Understanding what you need at work will help you find the right cultural fit. Even if all the other factors are in place, the wrong environment can make great soul work miserable. Think about the ideal environmental qualities that would make up your perfect work culture, whether you plan to create it yourself, or find it at an organization. Environmental attributes include a style of design, access to nature and levels of competitiveness.

All four aspects are vital in creating dream work that will balance interest, enjoyment, and challenge. To create a more authentic life you must first know and develop your passions. For many people, this is easier said than done. Many have forgotten what their passions are. Some have outgrown old passions and need to find new ones and others know what they are passionate about but instead of incorporating these things into their life and work, are disconnected from them and do not see a way back. Sometimes an unexpected event forces you to reevaluate what direction you want to take in your career.

For me, this year has been a time of reflection and readjustment around my own talents and growth. I have spent most of the last 14 years using and honing my creative, communication, and coaching skills. However, new technologies and the increased number of competitors in coaching pushed me to reassess my approach and harness all four types of my passions in new ways.

Because of my keen interests in learning and working with younger people,  I dusted off old talents such as project and talent management while building new skills like video editing, Hootsuite, Google On Air and customer acquisition software .  From this exploration, I created a new program offering for our clients called bridge2brand where we help professionals accelerate career transitions, once they know what their passions and dreams are.

I have a team of four incredible women working with me which allows me to use my natural style of collaboration and still work virtually and casually which are both important elements of the environment I need to flourish.

Laurel Donnellan




Lessons from a Life: Abundance

Quirky Professor's Lessons on Passion

Lesson #7: Develop Prosperous Habits


A society in which vocation and job are separated for most people gradually creates an economy that is often devoid of spirit, one that frequently fills our pocketbooks at the cost of emptying our souls.Sam Keen


Recently a dear friend sent me a LinkedIn blog post called, “Do What You Love” Is Horrible Advice and asked me to write a rebuttal which I just did, using this quote.  I did not have to write much since the other comments had already done a great job of pointing out how the article promoted the common fear that if you go after your dreams, you will be left without enough money. My response was “I wonder if you have had the experience of finding and following a passion to the ends of the earth. Once you do, you can never go back to a more conventional way of building a career or life.”


Yesterday, a lesson on abundance also came to my inbox from another dear friend who urged me to listen to a commencement speech by Jim Carrey which has many great lessons in it about developing prosperous habits including this, “My father taught me you can fail at something you do not like, so you might as well go for what you love.”


A simple way of looking at the word ‘abundance’ is to think about it as the lack of lack. In regards to work and making career changes this principle can apply to ideas, opportunities, time as well as money. Developing prosperous habits requires you to embrace a positive outlook and seize any challenge as an opportunity placed in front of you. 


We all too often are choosing from a ‘lack’ instead of abundance. In thinking about this practice, I have created four types of habits that I refer to as the 4 M’s of Prosperity: Mind, Management, Mastery and Marketing.


Here are examples that will help you prepare for the activities below that will help you create more abundance:


The Four M’s of Prosperity


1. Mind: Actions that will help you feel more abundant.


  • Volunteer your time to someone less fortunate
  • Spend time developing your dreams
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal


2. Management: Actions that will help you create financial clarity and organization.


  • Get help managing and paying down debt
  • Create a personal spending plan and update it each month
  • Create a business plan to see if your idea has a good Return on Investment


3. Mastery: Actions that will help you develop your natural talents into marketable skills.


  • Go back to school
  • Find a mentor and have them recommend you on how to advance in your field
  • Develop a discipline to practice and hone your craft, like writing daily or doing volunteer work until you are skilled enough to be paid


4. Marketing: Actions that will help you test the feasibility of making money from doing what you love.


  • Test your business idea by creating a focus group of potential clients
  • Send your resume out to as many of your contacts as possible
  •  Create a MeetUp.com group to attract new clients to your freelance business
  • Solicit help from friends to expand your network
  • Get feedback from your boss or your clients
  • Find a person who is good at sales to partner with


Activity #1:  


  • What messages am I telling myself that may create a lack versus an abundance mentality?
  • How can I create a more prosperous attitude?                       


Activity #2:


  • Refer to the 4 M’s and brainstorm a list of ten habits you can adapt to create more prosperity. 
  • Choose 3 ideas from your list and create a plan to implement them in the next day. 

Laurel Donnellan

CEO and Founder, Bright Livelihoods

Laurel’s mission is to help people find their home in the world of work. She has 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and coach and has degrees from Cornell and Columbia.  To request a private half-hour coaching session with Laurel, e-mail us at info@brightlivelihoods.com