Good people, interesting problems
Most people do not have a singular driving passion, something that keeps them awake at night, something that wakes them up in the morning. They have many interests and enjoy doing multiple things. Their passion is not like an itch that relentless perturbs their consciousness reminding them that it is there. The majority of people do not have one passion that leaves them simultaneously breathless with excitement as well as nauseous with anxiety. Given the choice between their passion and Disneyland or a trip to an exotic island, most would be found a week later with mouse ears or a dark tan. And this is not a bad thing.
So what do people without a singular driving passion do? How do they discover themselves or find meaning to their occupation. Are they doomed to years of mundane tasks and meaningless work? Of course not. Rather, this far more common path allows, in fact encourages, one to determine meaning and purpose as they go. Passion than follows.
Good people and interesting problems are the two key components to finding meaning and pleasure in an occupation. A good group of people is absolutely essential. Hopefully the group is united by curiosity yet is largely heterogenous with people with different expertise, with different backgrounds, and with different ideas. While good people alone is enough to have a good time for a day or two, interesting problems are absolutely essential to long term meaning and purpose. Interesting questions unite the group and focus individuals on a common goal.
There is a false, yet common belief that there is a dearth of good people to work with or interesting problems to be solved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The problem is that many of the good people and the interesting problems that are the most visible are difficult to break into, and for good reason- they are already highly functional, developed, and productive. Yet there are near endless numbers of interesting problems and millions of good people that have yet to be tapped. Thankfully, many of these people do not have a singular driving passion and are thus able to unite around a common passion and goal.
One final thought bears mentioning. Often the two of these are inextricably linked. Good people are attracted to interesting problems and interesting problems are often uncovered and refined by good people. If you have an incredible problem and a worthwhile solution, the good people will be naturally drawn in. Perhaps slowly at first, but they will come. Additionally if you find yourself amidst great and talented people that do not have a unifying passion, there are a plethora of unmet needs, common problems, and compelling obstacles to rally around. A good problem will present itself.
Start with good people and an interesting problem.