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Adam Davidson

ADAM DAVIDSON is the cofounder of NPR's Planet Money podcast and a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he covers economics and business. Previously he was an economics writer[…]

ADAM DAVIDSON: There's a lot of thought, a lot of people talk about having your right niche or nitch. I was raised to say niche but some people say nitch. Which I think is absolutely right. I sometimes feel like it's thought of as this cute little add on to our economy like an indulgence. Like yeah, most people have to do the main thing. They have to get a big job at a big company but maybe you could get your cute little nitch. A proper niche, when you are actually producing a unique product or service and you're finding an audience that particularly loves that thing and is able to pay the value that it brings to them in a way that allows you to have a successful business, that's not a cute little add on to the economy. That is a much better functioning economy. That's an economy where the vast majority of people are able to get things that add more value to them in more real ways. And that the people producing goods and services are able to have more satisfying lives. They're able to not only make more money but live more authentic and real lives.

Finding your niche to me is a profound, profound thing and so profound that it's worth an investment of time. Sometimes I talk to younger people or it also could be older people but who say I don't know what my thing is. I don't know what my passion is. I don't know what my niche is. And most of us don't know certainly when you enter the workforce. I mean I don't think I fully figured out mine until I was well into my thirties. I think that you should think of it as this like really important precious thing that's worth investing years into finding. That doesn't mean you sit in a room thinking about it. You get a job, you do work and you pay attention to those things that speak to you, those things you seem to be particularly good at, those things other people are telling you hey, you're pretty good at this. And you associate yourself with people who are doing things you find appealing and you study them and try and figure out what you could copy from them, what you could learn from them. But yes, I think having a niche is, or having a passion is sort of the central responsibility of being a fully, a full member of this economy.

I think people sort of realize they've had their passion a bit after they've already found it often. But yes, I think that, I think people, we're not yet trained. We don't yet have a language to recognize that how you feel is not some irrelevant thing you have to shove aside when you enter a workplace. It actually is the key to figuring out your place in the work world. And people my age, people in their fifties like to make fun of millennials and these young kids who are demanding that work be satisfying and we kind of make fun of them. But I think they do get it in a way that my generation is still struggling to see. It's not that work should be giddily fun all the time. I often when someone's thinking about taking on a challenge I often say what do you want to wake up at three in the morning worried about. Because if you're really going to take on a challenging job that means a lot to you where the stakes are high because you really want to do it successfully, it's not going to be giddily fun.

You're going to be worried. Failure is going to speak to your soul and so work is going to maybe be more intense and more challenging and sometimes more upsetting. So it's not about being happy in the kind of just day to day oh, I'm happy way, but I do think it speaks to a deeper, more grounded satisfaction in life when you find your niche, your passion. So I think that it's something people my age have a hard time saying but you should pay attention to how you feel and you should, if there are things you don't like doing and things you find boring and lame and annoying in a real like oh, I don't – but everyone's telling you you should be doing that, then maybe you're in the wrong area, you're in the wrong company or in the wrong business. And this doesn't necessarily mean so don't have any job or every minute has to be gleeful. Obviously I don't mean that. I mean it in a much broader kind of looking at your overall life kind of way.

You've found your niche when the stakes are actually very high. It's not where you have found something that you're willing to spend the rest of your life getting good and getting better at. For me it was writing and even in my twenties I recognized like I'm willing to not be that good at this for a long time and keep doing it and hopefully get better but recognizing it'll take a long time. And I'm now almost 50 and I still don't feel like I'm anywhere near where I want to be in my writing but I'm okay with that. Now there are other things I've done in the work world where I just didn't have that, the stakes weren't that high. But the stakes being high can be intense. I mean it's like truly falling in love. It's scary. It's hard. It make you cry sometimes. It makes you look in your soul and find yourself wanting sometimes. It's a big, big, big deal to find that match. But overall I think it's better to live a life where your work is that, touches that part of you than to live a life where you're doing a job because you have to do the job but you can just leave it at work because it doesn't matter that much.

So I'd say when do you find your passion, when not doing your passion is unbearable and when you're really prepared to say yes, I'm going to spend the rest of my life working on this. But it takes a long time. It really does take a long time to find it. That's something I keep hearing is that college kids and others get worried. They hear passion and they think oh, I don't have that so I'm not going to be successful. That's not right. The search for passion it is a passion all its own.