David NilssenBy David Nilssen, CEO & Co-founder, Guidant Financial

Follow your bliss. We’ve all heard this simple advice, stated succinctly by writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell. We’ve heard it so often that maybe we’ve lost sight of Campbell’s intent. It wasn’t permission to do nothing, or to squander our gifts. In saying “Follow your bliss,” Campbell exhorted us to action. To proactively seek out what we’re passionate about and build a life around it. After all, if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work—but you can make it your living.

The first step is recognizing what your true passions are. Not what’s popular right now or what you wish you could get excited about or what the guy down the street is doing. Are you at your happiest and most relaxed restoring a classic car? Do you find yourself whistling while you prepare a meal for your family? Maybe you feel invigorated and fulfilled helping friends or family house hunt, or remodel?

But David, I hear you saying, no one’s going to pay me to do what makes me happy. To afford the lifestyle I’m accustomed to, I need to keep slogging away 40 or 50 hours a week for someone else.

You know who wants you to believe that? Your boss. The shareholders of the company you’re spending your life making money for. The people who wish they had the guts to even dream about breaking out.

The truth is, you can find success following your passion. I did it, and so did Bohnne Jones. She had a talent and a passion for interior design, but she played the corporate game for sixteen years. A layoff—the third in as many years—was her wake-up call: Her opportunity to follow her bliss. She used her retirement funds to purchase a Decorating Den franchise and every day she wakes up excited about what she’s doing. And that translates into great work, happy customers, word of mouth, and yes, success.

Here are some basic guidelines for identifying your passions and making it your life’s work:

  • Self-discovery. If you can’t answer the question what would you do if money wasn’t an issue, you’ve got some soul-searching to do. Investigate personality tests or ask friends and family for clues.
  • Find a mentor or a business coach. You don’t have to travel this road alone.
  • If you don’t feel ready to start a business from scratch, think about buying a franchise. There are thousands of opportunities from automotive care to tutoring kids to gourmet cupcakes. There’s one out there that’s perfect for you.

Let’s look at the full Campbell quote from The Power of Myth: “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”  Find your passion and be on the lookout for the open doors.

David Nilssen is the CEO & Co-Founder of Guidant Financial . A notable thought-leader in the small business industry, he was recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in 2011 and co-authored the book Making the Jump Into Small Business Ownership. Follow him on Twitter at @davidnilssen and @guidant.