When asked a penetrating question — “When is the time you felt most broken?” — the commander-in-chief gave a telling answer.
“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat,” he said, “I just got whooped.”
It was a dark time for Obama, who was then in the Illinois legislature. Though he was working hard, he said that he wasn’t getting a lot done. Plus he was away from his family and his marriage was getting strained.
[F]or me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working.
But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work.
There’s a name for this attitude.
“So Good They Can’t Ignore You” author Cal Newport calls it the “craftsman mindset.”
Instead of following your passion, you figure out what kind of value you can offer the world and organise your career around developing that capacity.
For Obama, it was the work to be done in politics.
“Because if you’re worrying about yourself,” he said, “if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”
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