What Is The Work You Can’t Not Do?

Special Note: This post features an amazing talk by my friend and fellow online entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore during his talk at TED on the power of passion in your work. Please click here if you'd prefer to skip directly to the video.

Are you experiencing your career passion?  Are you experiencing a fulfilling career?

For most of my professional life, I did work that I fell into by chance.

When I was a senior in college, my mom was dying of breast cancer. I spent the last semester of my college life back at home, taking care of her while working on an independent study to finish my degree.

When I graduated, I had an English major from a liberal arts college.

I had no direction or guidance from my college adviser or the placement office regarding what to do with said degree. My mom was in no position to guide me. I briefly considered law school but quickly abandoned the idea as she grew sicker.

An English major (with a minor in Philosophy) was loads of fun in college. But once I graduated, there was no clear career path. So I put my life and future in the hands of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution want ads. And it shot back an intriguing little notice: Special Events Assistant Needed, Macy's Department Store.

I had no idea what the job entailed (it turned out to be a glorified secretary and gopher), but it sounded glamorous to me. I interviewed, I was hired (God knows why), and that was the beginning of a 25-year career in public relations, special events, and marketing.

Fortunately for me, whatever appealed to me initially about the words “special events assistant” must have resonated with some part of my antediluvian brain. As I advanced in my career (beyond typing and gophering), I was using many of my natural aptitudes and interests — writing, communication skills, creativity, inter-personal skills, an eye for design and fashion, etc.

This accidental match-up was lucky for me, and as a young professional woman, a PR career in the fashion world (which ultimately took me to New York) was pretty heady and exciting.

But . . . would I say that I was passionate about the work I was doing? No, I wasn't.

It was ego-driven work in nearly every respect. I was promoting fashion and retail goods and enjoying the perks of being in and around the fashion world. There's nothing wrong with that, but for me, there was no inherent meaning in it. I found myself writing things in press releases like, “White is the new black and the most important thing of the season.” Really?

As time went on, I simply outgrew the career — I had evolved to a point where I needed more from the work I was doing. But sadly, as I came to that conclusion, I realized I didn't have any other skills. That's what I thought at least. I've written before about my own passion search, and I've written a book based on that search.

I think this scenario happens for so many people — for most of us in fact. We land in a career by chance, by obligation, by necessity. But could we walk away from it tomorrow? Does it really feel deeply important and valuable to us?

What I've come to realize is that the most fulfilling career you will ever have is one that involves doing work that you simply can't not do. You are drawn to it so naturally and enthusiastically that you find a way to make it happen come hell or high water. If you know what that work happens to be. If you know your passion.

Scott's Journey

That is what happened for me in my second career as a coach, writer, blogger, and online entrepreneur. And that's what happened for my friend Scott Dinsmore (of the site Live Your Legend) as he has found his passionate work as well.

Scott and I became friends during a blogging course we took together as we were both getting started in this new online venture. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but we were both so intrigued that we couldn't not do it!

Like me, Scott has built a business and career online and has also honed in on helping people find their passions and teaching them how to build around their career passions. He is the creator of the wildly successful course called Live Off Your Passion. Scott has quickly emerged as a rising star in the online world, especially in the area of life passion, doing work you love, and connecting with change-makers to build your success.

Recently Scott was invited to speak at the TED conference in San Francisco — a huge honor. (TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.) His brilliant talk focuses on inspiring people to uncover their passion and find a way to live it through their careers.

Please enjoy this video of his talk which is full of valuable take-aways.


What about you? Are you doing work you can't not do? Would you like to find a way to make that happen in your life?

If you have any questions for Scott about how to make that happen, please ask them in the comments below, and he will be happy to answer them. I know Scott would appreciate your sharing his TED talk with others if you enjoyed it.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 14 comments
Scott Dinsmore

Wow – what an honor Barrie!

You have no idea how instrumental you were during those Boot Camp days and all the way up to now :). I remember reading an article about you a couple years ago about how you had just hit over 1,000 community members. I was so excited for you (and envious!). So glad we’re in the same corner.

I love how you told your story up there too. I never knew that part of it.

I’m here to help however you and your readers need!


Totally inspired by both of you. I needed this today.

    Scott Dinsmore

    Thanks Katie – means a lot!! Very fun to know you checked it out 🙂

Carmen Rane Hudson

This stuff also evolves! 😀 For the first 3 years of my career I was just happy to be writing just about anything. Someone wanted to pay me money to write how their nylons are the best thing since space? No problem! I got weirded out when I started feeling discontent in my freelance writing career. Wasn’t this what I always wanted?

As they say, when the student is ready the teacher will appear, as you just helped validate the new direction I started taking in response to that discontent. Your blog post wasn’t just an inspiration today, but a synchronicity!

    Scott Dinsmore

    Very cool to hear about the progress and transition Carmen. Sounds like there is some fun stuff to come for you for sure! Excited to see what it is.

David Stevens

Thankyou for sharing Barrie,
Very powerful.
be good to yourself

    Scott Dinsmore

    Thanks for giving it a watch David!


    I have you’re quote sitting on my desk…..”What is the work you can’t not do” , Of all the ted talks I listened to I thought this one had the littlest impact, and brushed it off, until I realized how much it kept going around in my head and is now being implemented. Scott as many others will agree, As life changing as the # to twitter. Thank you.

Roman Soluk

Very inspiring post! Beside, your questions at the end of the post made me think of my work and really inspired me. Thanks Barrie!

    Scott Dinsmore

    Love seeing how much Barrie continues to inspire her community – Huge thanks for doing what you do!

Carmen Rane Hudson

Thanks!! Now I just have to get past, you know, the scared half to death part. 😉

David Goldman

Just read and saw the video and had to comment. Just had some stuff go on at work that made me mad. The VP points out that it’s just minor and he’s right, but not for me. I know that I need to make changes and have benn wanting to for a while. This just lit a fire under my butt. I have read your blog for a long time now but I don’t comment. I really had to say something this time. Thanks for posting this at the exact right time.

David Goldman

Marian Gutierrez

Wonderful article. I landed on your blog because I’m very desperate to know what my passion is. I feel that I can do so much more than doing my day job, sitting at the office the whole day in front of the computer doing the things that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve read the full page of Scott’s Live Off your passion and got really excited about it. Will surely join before the month ends.

Thank you for keeping us inspired.

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[…] You can still experience meaning through your passion, and eventually your passion will lead to meaningful work if you keep […]


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