Satisfying Life vs. Successful Life

If you would like to have a deeply satisfying life, do what you love.

However, contrary to what some people say, doing what you love does not automatically mean you will have a financially successful life.

To have a financially successful life, do what others value and are willing to pay for.

If you want a deeply satisfying AND financially successful life, do what you love that happens to be what others value and are willing to pay for.

These guidelines to life are pretty simple.

Here’s where things get more subtle and interesting.

If what you love to do does not happen to be what others value, what can you do?

Enter the world of stock market portfolio theory.

Yes... portfolio theory.

If you’re not familiar with the term, the term comes from Wall Street. It refers to a situation where an investor is looking for a particular kind of risk vs. return profile but can’t find it.

For example, maybe an investor is looking for the upside potential of an Amazon but some more stability like an IBM. Perhaps a stock with these specific characteristics does not exist.

So what should an investor do?

What Wall Street figured out many years ago is if a single investment doesn’t give you the risk/return profile you seek, sometimes taking a mix or portfolio of stocks can give you what you want.

For example if a stock portfolio of 100% Amazon stock or 100% IBM stock doesn’t give you a risk/reward profile you want, maybe a portfolio of 70% Amazon and 30% IBM might.

The same principle applies to managing your career.

Maybe you love to sing as I do. Perhaps you’ve done a realistic assessment of your skills and realize, like I have, that your skill level isn’t high enough to earn a good living from your passion.

Should you give it up entirely?

Hell, no.

Just take a portfolio approach.

Find another career that’s in demand by others, and have that be the majority, but not 100% of your career “portfolio.”

Maybe it’s 70% vs. 30%, or 90% vs. 10% portfolio allocation.

From a portfolio theory stand point, you can pick any mix you want to get the specific kind of “performance” from your career investment portfolio.

There are two practical considerations to keep in mind when using career portfolio theory.

First, some professions are so incredibly demanding that it’s not possible to have anything else in the portfolio. Management consulting, particularly at the top few firms, is one such career. When you’re a consultant, the job is not just 100% of your career portfolio; it is often 125% of your ideal time devoted to career.

Investment banking is another such profession.

However, these two more popular business professions probably represent less than 1% of all possible business jobs in the world. It just happens that they the ones most visible, and thus most talked about, on elite college campuses around the world.

As you look ahead at your career options, it’s useful to apply a portfolio theory lens to your career choices.

It’s okay to do things that aren’t very profitable, or perhaps not profitable at all.

Several years ago, was my passion project — probably a complete waste of time financially, but really fun to work on. So it entered my career portfolio originally at 1% to 5% of my time annually.

As you might imagine, portfolio allocations change over time. These days I do spend much more than 1% of my time annually on

At the same time, I have another project I am super passionate about. It’s not focused on business at all. I can’t see how it can possibly earn any money at all, but I’m really excited about doing it. It will be my new 1% project in late 2015.

What’s significant about these 1% (or whatever % works for you) passion projects is that even though they take up only 1% of my time, it may end up contributing to 50% to 70% of the satisfaction in my life.

Using more finance concepts, this is an incredibly good Return on Investment (ROI). This is true even if you invest for both income AND life satisfaction.

What are the 1% passion projects in your career?


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30 comments… add one
  • Viatcheslav Jul 30, 2015, 1:40 am

    Thanks, Victor! Very interesting point of view

  • Gregory Jul 29, 2015, 10:11 pm

    Thank you Victor. I read all of your material, from the consulting to the life advice. Between you and Facebook’s Humans of New York, I have the human side of my life covered. Cheers!

  • Reina Jul 29, 2015, 4:48 pm

    Your material has a very calming quality.
    Thanks, Victor!

  • Greg Campbell Jul 29, 2015, 3:33 pm

    I’ve been blessed to have had the “career” position but with that came a high price – I was traveling a ton and missed a lot of family life. I had to chance to early retire from career #1 and now am focused more on a “job” than a second career. I found out early how I was “wired” and what type of work I enjoy doing. Although I worked in several different functions, overall I stayed under the same industry umbrella. I have found my work very rewarding but am looking forward to focusing on work that truly adds value and has a Kingdom purpose. Thanks for all you do.

  • Jan Jul 29, 2015, 1:42 pm

    Dear Victor,
    Thank you so much for your letter “Satisfying Life vs. Successful Life”. It is incredible in its wisdom and its practical value. Many thanks for this!

    With many best wishes,

  • Daniel Chew Jul 29, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Nice email Victor! It resonates with me straight away.
    I am just like Gabriela, an engineer working for one of the major oil.
    Investing and Teaching are my passions. I’ve been investing for years and recently I started an investment blog to share my experiences. So that’s my 1% passion project to give back to the community.

    Will be interested to see whether this 1% grows over time.

  • Mandy Jul 29, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I love to cook, and I hope I can open up my own restaurant someday.

  • Vish Jul 29, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Great article Victor !

    Ultimately it’s about having a balance between what makes you happy and what buys bread and butter … and recognizing that life is not perfect.

    Even for the fortunate few for whom – what makes them happy buys them bread … they still can’t expect to have an ideal profession. …

    Take for example the aspiring mgmt. consultant who makes it and realizes that he is not working the latest strategy super-project but system implementations … or the aspiring movie director who makes it as as assistant to a super-star movie director only to find out he is doing crowd control and production budgeting rather than work on the next big script.

  • Amalia Jul 29, 2015, 12:36 pm

    A point well made. A year ago I decided to do just that and to pair my work as an English teacher with working towards a degree in Finance and Accounting, so I went to a target school for McKinsey in my region. I already see the benefits, though they are not tangible yet. And I discovered a new passion on the way.

  • Martin Lofaj Jul 29, 2015, 11:58 am

    Doing “nice-to have” things. Things that I don’t need to do to live, but that add the spice to the substance of life.
    – Making home-made films
    – Going on experience trips (fast-car drive, travel around Thailand holiday)
    – Participate in workshops, seminars (entrepreneurial, presentation skills, marketing)
    – Particiate in projects (Erasmus+)
    – Listen to audiobooks
    – Read literature
    – Subscribe to interesting blog-writers, to interesting content websites
    – Create memes
    – Play the clarinet
    – Take a nap
    – Meditate
    – Think of how to be awesome and then do it
    – Slow down and unburden myself of stress, help others do the same
    – Have something that is ONLY mine (some money, some ideas, some experiences)
    – Drink beer
    – Remember the amazing people I meet and plot schemes that would make use of my network
    – Collect, remember, and live by quotes I like
    – Explore my soul
    All the best to you, Victor!

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