Secrets about this economy: how success resides right within you

As 2010 is off to a rolling start and we are done stating our new year resolutions, I have a hunch that many of these are directly, or indirectly, reflections on the state of the “economy” and the ongoing “recession.” Most of us are closer to the truth within ourselves than we recognize: Yes! You said it! We are in recession because it is a lifetime opportunity to pause, reflect, and make some amazing transformations.

About 6 months ago, I shared my experiences in simply trying to “be”; see: In Pursuit if Being (Something). Today I share with you five secrets I have stumbled upon through my open-ended, multi-directional pursuit, things you surely know too, but may not fully believe (yet).

Here we go:

1. Are you looking for the next job or degree? Hint: Stop building your resume.

The traditional schooling and traditional job, in which we are trained to solve analytical problems, excel in tests, follow instructions, climb a ladder, earn titles and benefits, and be perfect (i.e. make the fewest errors), are (soon going to be) a thing of the past. Today’s economy demands creativity and innovation, entrepreneurship at every level (even when you’re working for someone else), and most of all, your love and soul. The present is not about making fewer errors, but the willingness to try something in an area where there are no standards at all. Love and soul cannot be shown on a resume; in fact, a resume takes away from these things. If you don’t believe me, read bestselling business author Seth Godin’s latest book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? which will be out in 4 days, on January 26. (I had the honor and benefit of being on the preview list.)

2. Where is your love? Hint: Think about what you’re doing when time flies by.

Yes, love is the answer to it all. Love is the secret ingredient that will distinguish your work from others, make you indispensable: a Linchpin, in Godin’s words. (Godin calls it “emotional labor.”) If you put pure, unfettered love, free of obligation and expectation, into what you do, then yes, you can soar, fly, and take others with you. (See an earlier post of totally different tenor: Recipes with Love.) So, the question to ask yourself is: what is it that you do, in which you put all your love into? What’s so much fun that it feels like play? What is it you’re doing when time simply flies by, and you are energized, not depleted by the activity?  Writing? Cooking? Reading to your kids? Taking photographs? Coding? Driving? Climbing mountains? Whatever it is, that is the core source of your opportunity; that is where you will excel in this economy.

3. What is your purpose? Hint: Your purpose is the key to success.

When what you love intersects with a purpose – something the world needs that you would like offer it, then you’ve it the jackpot. So, what is that for you? I have identified mine (roughly) as: “To be a catalyst for the creative potential of others, through the expression and cultivation of my own.” In other words it means that if I can spark your creativity, and in the process be creative myself, my purpose is fulfilled! Anything I take on, whether classical music, writing, or design, both those elements must be satisfied. (For more inspiration, refer to Dave Pollard’s Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work)

4. Have you realized that it’s a level playing field? Hint: Your destiny is in your own hands, more than ever before!

If the economy left big business in shambles, then guess what’s left in Ground Zero: a level playing field. Due to the power of the internet, you have the same leverage from anywhere in the world. Today’s economy is more of a level playing field than history has ever seen before (acknowledging that the digital divide still causes inequities). If you have a computer and an internet connection (which all of you reading this does!) then you can change the world. Is it your pen that is mightier than the sword? Then you can write, create influence, shape change … and somewhere along the way, make money. Are your recipes so unique that people would flock to try them? Do you have a brilliant product or gizmo you’ve invented? Do you take stellar photographs? Do you know an amazing amount about some health topic? Today, the individual is the expert, and consumer opinions make or break a product, not advertising. You can write a blog, publish a book, sell photographs, create a storefront for products, create a political revolution – all from your desktop. So, how are you leveraging your $3000 investment? What is your digital footprint? (For more inspiration, refer to the delightful The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Feriss).

5. Are you asking: what’s in it for me? Hint: Doing work as a gift leaves you with greater (creative) license.

The economic structure that we have been conditioned to is that the money we make represents our value. The new economy will not be based on a trade, but on freely given gifts – “open source” is not just for software anymore. “Freely” means without expecting something in return. This does not mean (at all!) that you don’t make money. Money will follow naturally when you’re doing the right thing, and guess what, you’ll have exactly the money you really need. But what you’ll have on top of that is ownership of your time, creative power in the work you do, and the sheer joy of giving something meaningful to the world. Shakespeare didn’t write plays because he got paid for them; he wrote plays becase he felt compelled to. As did Bethoven with music, and Edison with his inventions. Even modern day entrepreneurs and job-holders alike who are succeeding immensely (including financially), are not doing their work based on the money they receive, they are doing it for the love of doing it, the love of giving. And if you think about it, what monetary value can you place on really remarkable, priceless contributions? On the love invested in them? (It’s why all my music classes are no-fee and “dana” only.) 

6. How do you connect, with people and ideas? Hint: Those who can meaningfully connect the dots are the most prized.

And last but certainly not the least, who are the like-spirited people you have surrounded yourself with? Who are those people, also inventing and creating, with whom you connect your ideas and synergize? Have you spent some time building such a community? In his 2009 book  Tribes: We Need You to Lead UsSeth Godin contends that you only need about 1000 people to know and appreciate and endorse your work! So, if you can create a community, a tribe of 1000 people who will follow your leadership of ideas, (some of whom may be leading their own tribes as well, creating a network of tribes) then you’ve done it. (Hint: Are you using Facebook and Twitter to gossip and play voyeur, or build a community?)

So here’s my wish for each of you in 2010:

May you each lead with your creative power, put in nothing less than all your love, and experience the joy that comes naturally with such endeavor. May you all play in ways and places and heights no one has ever imagined before. And may you touch lives and inspire others in the process.

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta


  1. Khushi

    Finally got to read this. See I enjoy doing Bloggermoms, and time really flies when I am fixing bugs on it 🙂 But I’d much rather be doing the other part – reading. Thank you for the inspiring words. There are 2 aspects to this – enjoying life and making money. I would love to believe that making money follows the enjoying but sometimes that sounds elitist to me. There are so many people who dont have the luxury of basic financial support. I am lucky that at this moment my husband is earning enough for me to do what I want to do – be with my kids. But if I did not have a home or the money from some source to pay for it, if I did not have someone getting in the money or enough money, I wonder if I would be able to do it. You know, I have seen many examples of people who have succeeded by some of the principles outlined but no one ever publicizes the failures. The 4 hr workweek is the only one of these that I have read and it was amazingly silent on relationships and what goes into building them. Especially if you have kids. I believe it should be a balance. If you are in the corporate world, dont feel any angst because you are not the cool new facebook phenomenon getting many hits.

  2. Tana

    Khushi, Thanks for the comment! It is amazing that you mention money, because as I went to bed last night I realized that I missed mentioning my insight on that. I am now going to update the post with that included; It will likely be divergent from what you’ve said, but then not really. I love when we can have meaningful dialogue. Also, this post is for those in the corporate world too. There’s nothing bad about being there – what’s erosive is following the old rules when one is there. My whole point is that the corporations emerging in this economy are going to (should) DEMAND that we only do what we love.

  3. Tana

    I forgot to say that when I was writing this post, I was thinking how Bloggermoms is exemplary of every point made above. The money always follows:-)

  4. rajvi

    Thanks Tana for posting this. I agree that when you do something that you love, suceess usually follows. I want to add however that sometimes you can also come to love what you do and that leads to further success or even balance. When I started in my career, I desparately wanted out of the field I was in. I continued doing what i was doing because it was considered a good opportunity and I did not have much success in finding any good position in the field I thought I wanted to be in. Slowly though, I started focusing on the positives of the field I was in and moved to a smaller firm where I built more personal realtionships with my co-workers. I really like what I do now and having spent enough years in the field, I now have the luxury to make my own schedule and work part time for the most part so that I can spend time with my son.
    Looking back, I am really glad that I did not make the big change in my career that I thought I wanted to make. I think what I am trying to say is – sometimes the financial and family circumstances may not allow you to completely pursue your dreams – but that does not mean that you cannot be happy in the path you are on. If you maintain the positive outlook, the success and balance will come.

  5. Tana

    Thanks, Rajvi, for your thorough and thoughtful comment!

  6. Tana

    Just saw this excerpt from Seth Godin: “My definition of art contains three elements:
    1.Art is made by a human being.
    2.Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
    3.Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.
    By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we we’re doing when we do our best work.”

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