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
  • Gabriela Jul 29, 2015, 10:31 am

    I loved your Satisfying Life vs. Successful Life email.
    I’m an engineer, with a master specialized in international energy management, so needless to say here I am working for one of the top 10 biggest oil companies in the world. Nonetheless, environmental issues and teaching are my two biggest passions and I would love to be able to do something related to that. Thinking of it from a Portfolio Theory point of view, sounds like a great idea.

  • Ilys Jul 29, 2015, 10:26 am

    Running a hotel in the Baltic Sea region. The one that I woukd like to live in, so that others would like as well.

  • Vishal Jul 29, 2015, 9:34 am

    I really liked todays email. Unknowingly, I have been doing this for the last 15 years. I am working as a Computational Biologist but my real passion is anything but computers. I’m good at what I do in my job but I’ve worked really hard to get jobs (as well as turn down a lot of opportunities) that ensure I have quite a bit of time for my 1% projects which have ranged from learning languages, being a DJ, starting a band, directing plays, playing badminton and the most important of all Startups! I really enjoy ideas and taking them from a thought in my head to something tangible. I’ve had 1 failed startup so far and I am actively working on my second one in Ed-Tech space now. I do feel that one ends up spending way more than 1% of ones time on such projects eventually but as Victor said, the ROI in terms of satisfaction is much more! It does come at a high price though. I have estimated that I have lost more than $500K in the last 10 years in terms of money that I didn’t make due to opportunities I let go but I don’t regret that because its the price one pays for what you enjoy and that is always worth it! :) Thank you for the email Victor and thank you for reading this long comment!

  • Zane Bain Jul 29, 2015, 9:33 am

    I think this concept is very interesting, wonderful and true. Fulfillment is important but so is comfort due to adequate finances to care of the things pertaining to your life. This is showing you an example of how you can weigh things in your life to get both out of it. I appreciate the info and love reading your emails. They have helped me to think differently.

  • Syed Ali Jul 29, 2015, 9:29 am

    I believe like many other this is an excellent afvice from you, Victor thanks.

  • Mert Jul 29, 2015, 9:29 am

    This inspiring article reminds me that I shouldn’t spend too much time on working. I should figure out what the 1% passion projects is in my career, it’s a good point!

  • Tia Jul 29, 2015, 9:22 am

    Hi Victor,

    I read your email at 9:18am in my office, and you light up my day! Yes, what you’ve talked about in the email is EXACTLY what I have been thinking over and over and struggling with myself these days. I’ve landed a decent job within consulting industry, however, after 3 months’ working I find it’s not that interesting as I thought (plus unlimited unpaid overtime)… So I start wondering: is this really the life I want? Why should I spend all my time doing something I don’t even enjoy?

    After reading though your email, I somehow find a clue to solve my problem.

    Yes, let’s go back to the topic, my 1% passion project in my career is travel. Anything related to travel is what makes me happy ultimately.


  • Artem Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 am

    Teaching a university course on Corporate Strategy, while working full time on Global Business Development at a major German corporation. This helps me to build-up skills of teaching business subjects, which will be useful 30-35 years later, when I decide to retire, but can continue to have a meaningful life teaching some university courses.

  • Elzet Jul 29, 2015, 8:38 am

    Such a useful way to look at it!

    Since I entered high school and started thinking about my career, I have battled to figure out how to marry my passions, talents, the (job) market and what I want out of life. I’ve been told to simply follow my passions but something in me knew it was only a partial truth.

    This article has honestly offered the most helpful approach I have encountered in 15+ years! Thanks, Victor.

  • Dilara Jul 29, 2015, 8:22 am

    Victor hi!
    This is maguc, I was thinking about this very deeply during the last half an hour and – I see your email! Thank you!!!
    I will start the volunteering projects regarding sports and/or animals ASAP.

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