When I was younger and better looking, I played a lot of basketball.
If you’re familiar with the sport, you’ve probably heard the term “sweet spot”. You might have heard it used to refer to the top corners of the backboard, or to a place on the floor where a player is really on his game and can’t seem to miss a shot. Or just a general streak of dominance where the player is “in the zone”.
Confidence. Ability. Precision. These are words that describe a player in his sweet spot.
Don’t expect a seven-footer to excel beyond the arc because it’s not his game. Likewise, your six-foot shooting guard has no place on the block with the big men. Fish out of water–you know what I mean. But put the man in his element and you’ll position him to excel. Provide maximum opportunity for maximum output. That’s the idea behind the sweet spot.
The Game of Life
Such is the game of life, my friend. You were born with and have developed specific passions that cry out for expression, both for your own personal fulfillment and the good of our world.
Paradoxically, though, our world is set up in such a way that few people are ever really able to break out of the status quo and turn their passion into their living. Instead, they end up going to work at jobs that just barely get them by (if that). Days turn to months and months turn to years while their unique gifting lies untapped and unfulfilled.
Life outside your sweet spot is frustrating and largely unproductive. All the defenders seem to have your number. You feel like most of your days are wasted and you regret how little return there is for the amount of effort you expend.
Don’t tell me you’ve never felt that way. We all have.
If you wish to become the exception to this rule, you have to find your sweet spot in life. Hone in on your passion, find some way to turn it into a service or product that is valuable to other people, and go to work developing it.
Once you’ve done that, you can blog about it and retire. 🙂
The burning question is, how?
Step 1: Identify the Goal
For the purpose of this article I’m going to assume you’re new to the game. Therefore you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going in life. At best you have a vague notion of what you would like to do if you ever catch a lucky break and win the lottery or something.
That has to change.
Most people float through life like a butterfly. They just flit about here and there with no real purpose or direction. They bounce around, go to work, go to play, mess with their hobby, and spend some time with friends.
That’s all fine and good if easy-going is your goal. But if you mean to live your life on purpose, you have to align your activities with some greater end and channel everything you have towards it.
You may not know it now, but buried deep inside you there is a talent or gifting that can be used to contribute toward that greater good. Cultivating this ability, whatever it is, is essential to finding your sweet spot.
So what are you passionate about? Raising a family? Serving the poor and disenfranchised? Painting? Tutoring? Coaching?
Find whatever it is that makes you come alive. Then envision it as your living. How could you develop your passion into a service or product that will meet the needs of other people?
Once that end is in view, the way to get there will start coming into focus.
Step 2: Train Yourself
As the path begins to unfold you’ll undoubtedly see that this is not going to be an easy road to walk. Obstacles to achieving your goal will abound. In fact, as you consider the cost of what it will take to position yourself above the din of hum drum living, all the romance will dissolve the moment you realize you’re inviting more work and more sacrifice for yourself than you’ve ever known before.
Panic will ensue the very next moment when you realize you don’t have what it takes.
But before you chuck the whole idea out the window and flee back to the comfort of your couch, take a deep breath. Remember that real success doesn’t happen overnight and there is not a single person living today or at any point in history who didn’t experience a great deal of failure before they ever achieved anything noteworthy.
This is not the time to panic but to prepare.
For help getting started, search out the men and women who have already accomplished this for themselves. Learn how they did it and apply whatever knowledge you can to your own situation. Those who have gone ahead of you and turned their passion into their living did not make it to where they are all by themselves. Neither will you. So study what they have done. Learn where they got it right and where they got it wrong. Appropriate.
When you see a person living in their sweet spot it’s easy to assume it all comes naturally to them. Don’t be so foolish. When Michael Jordan walked out on the floor night after night and lit up the arena with his all-time record 30.12 points per game, of course you have to assume there was some natural talent involved. But you also can’t forget that that kind of excellence emanated from a whole lot of practice.
That’s right. The greatest musicians, authors, and athletes are those who practice their skill more than anyone else.
As Michaelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I work they wouldn’t call me a genius.” You have to do the same. Once you’ve identified your passion and set the goal of transforming it into your living, go to work training yourself and begin developing your skills. Once you’ve done your homework, it’s go-time.
Step 3: Get in the Game
Here’s a paradox for you: You shouldn’t get in the game until you’re ready, but you also shouldn’t wait until you’re ready to get in the game.
Stay with me and I’ll try to explain.
Preparation is essential, and without it you have no hope for success in your field. But excellence does not equal perfection. And perfectionism, according to Michael Hyatt, is the mother of procrastination.
In other words, if you plan to wait until there is no room for error, plan for the long haul. If you’re going to hang around the starting block until all doubt is removed from your mind and you are certain of success, you might as well go home now.
At some point, you just have to launch out.
For a writer, this might mean going public with your blog before all the pieces are in place. Sure, you could make the excuse that your design isn’t ready, that you don’t have enough time to write four articles per week, or that your platform-building strategy isn’t all mapped out yet.
I told myself these things for seven months before launching my blog. And they were all valid excuses–to a degree. In the beginning I did need to wait and prepare myself for the road that lay ahead. But after a certain point I was as ready as I was going to be. Once you reach that mark in the journey there is no other course but to dive in.
Write it in stone: There are certain lessons in life that can be gained no other way than by raw experience. You learn it by doing it. So are you preparing, or are you making excuses? Once you’ve identified your goal and disciplined yourself towards the end, it’s time to get off the bench and into the game.
Step 4: Don’t Quit
At this point you’ve identified your passion and you’ve honed your skill through daily practice. You’ve gone beyond the dreaming stage and apprenticed yourself to the doers who blazed the trail ahead of you. And now you’re in the game.
But you start to sweat when things don’t go your way. You take a few hits, miss a few shots. The critics are screaming in your ear and you’re starting to wonder whether it was a good idea to go for broke and pursue your dream after all.
And then it happens: You’re tempted to quit.
This will be a frequent occurrence. Almost every day you’ll find some reason to justify throwing in the towel. And you won’t always receive encouragement from your friends and family to stay in the fight.
What do you do in times of despair? Three things:
- 1. Keep dreaming, even when you’ve gone beyond the dreaming to the doing. Sustain yourself with the vision of how things could be (and will be, if you have anything to do with it).
- 2. Keep learning, even when you’ve gone beyond the preparation to the working. To not go forward is to go backward. Keep yourself motivated and well-equipped with a constant influx of new ideas and innovations.
- 3. Keep shooting, even when the shots aren’t falling. Jordan didn’t rise to number one in all-time points per game without taking an incredible amount of shots. And he missed more than he made (more than twice as many, in fact). My point? Keep shooting until you find your sweet
Identify your passion. Train yourself toward the goal. Get in the game and persevere even when the road gets rough.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Oh, and one more thing before you go: When the shots start falling and you finally hit your stride, remember the little guys and gals who are coming up behind you. Be generous with what you’ve learned and share that knowledge so they can benefit in their own turn.
That’s it. See you in the post-game.
About the Author
Joshua Lawson was busy breaking his back as a landscaper when one day his cancer-stricken dad encouraged him to go after his dream of being a writer and do what he loved to do as a means of supporting his family. This article is a result of his pursuing that dream. Check out Joshua’s blog and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.