is there someone in your life who knew so clearly what they
loved but never got the chance to express it? They were
blessed with some wonderful gifts, but because of luck or
circumstance, never found a way to share these gifts with the
world. They lived a good life, perhaps even an affluent one,
but it was, in some important ways, a lesser life. Not a waste,
to be sure, but a life nonetheless of opportunities not taken, of
Life is half full.
Maybe this person isn’t someone in your life. Maybe it’s you.
You’re coasting along, doing fine, the job’s manageable, and the
bank account are relatively healthy, but something’s missing.
The vinyl record is spinning on the turntable, but the needle
isn’t touching the grooves. You put in your time at work, but
it’s the company’s time, not your time. You’re short-tempered
and you don’t know why. Your successes at work feel hollow
and you don’t know why. You find yourself resenting the praise.
you get at work, the knowledge you gain, and even the money you
make. You low-key resent it all. And you don’t know why.
It’s a strangely awful feeling, isn’t it? As if you’re a passenger-
ger in your own life, watching the world slide by, without ever
getting out and taking action in it.
And how about the opposite?
Is there someone in your life who has held on so tightly to what
they loved that nothing, not family, not financial incentives, not setbacks
could pull them off their path?
Michelle Obama was already a successful corporate law-
yer when—after confiding to her mom that she hated her job
and being told, “Earn your money now, you can be happy
later!”—she decided that her passion was public service. She
quit her high-paying job and began a career in nonprofits and
The actor Ken Jeong was a decade into his career as a physician
of internal medicine when he decided that his love of
performing comedy was so strong it could no longer be re-
pressed. Now he’s known for his role as Mr. Chow in the three
Hangover films and he has appeared in a number of other
movies and television shows.
could pull them off their path?
Reshma Saujani had carved out a respected and lucrative
a career in corporate finance, but swerved away from the com-
forts it offered to devote herself to reducing the gender gap in
computing skills. She left her investment firm and founded
the nonprofit Girls Who Code.
Madeleine Albright was working at Encyclopedia Britannica,
raising her two girls, and doing some volunteer work
here and there before deciding—perhaps spurred by her master’s
thesis on the Prague Spring of 1968—that her true love
was international relations. She committed her life to this
passion, assuming a variety of roles across US presidential
administrations until she became the first female secretary of
state under Bill Clinton.
Your First Word
The very first word to learn in this language is Wyrd.
It’s pronounced the same as weird but it’s a noun, as in
“You have a Wyrd.” And you do. It’s an ancient Norse term, the idea that each
person is born with a distinct spirit. This spirit is unique to you
and guides you to love some things and loathe others. Having a
Wyrd doesn’t mean you don’t learn and grow during your life.
It means simply that you will learn and grow the most when
you’re in touch with this Wyrd and honor where it leads you.
The concept of a Wyrd was explicitly spiritual.
Today we don’t need spirituality to confirm the existence of your Wyrd.
We now know that your patterns of love and loathes are created
by the clash of your chromosomes—the genes of your parents
coming together to produce a network of synapses in
your brain that is massively different from anyone else’s.
The idiosyncratic pattern of your brain is so complex, so minutely
filigreed, and so massively extensive that its uniqueness
dwarfs anything you might have in common with someone
of your same gender, race, or even your family. You have one
hundred billion neurons in your brain—which is, yes, a lot—
but the true source of your individuality comes from the connections
between these neurons.
Three Things to Know about Your Wyrd
First, your Wyrd is so interwoven into your sense of self, that it can
be quite tricky to figure out precisely what yours looks like. To
discover your Wyrd, trust in your loves. Trust that what you
lean into, what makes you happy, what makes you feel in control,
what brings you joy—trust that all these little love signs
are worth taking seriously, because each one, despite what
anyone may tell you, is utterly unique to you.
More than likely you’ve never heard this, because most psychology,
and social psychology, are intent on putting you—
and everyone else—into categories. Thus you are gregarious,
while this person over here is shy. You are organized, they are
spontaneous. You are competitive, they are altruistic.
The second thing to know about your Wyrd is it can grow
up. It can become a more intelligent, more effective, less
defensive version of itself. But what it can’t do is change its
The third thing to know is your Wyrd is your best guide
and resource if there is something about yourself that you
desperately want to change. Counterintuitively, the secret to
curing your anxiety, your fear of public speaking, or your
impatience lies not in investigating these “weaknesses,” identifying
their root causes, and working to fix them. Instead,
it lies in investigating your loves. Your loves—felt by you in
specific activities, situations, contexts, and moments—are wise.
As we’ll see in the next few chapters, your loves are so strong,
so specific, and so wise that only they can show you the right
way to overcome your life’s challenges.
Work Is for Love, Love Is for Work
Think back for a moment on that someone you know who
lived a full life. You get the sense, don’t you, that they were
on to something. That they had somehow cut through all the
noise and turned themselves into a signal only they could
hear. And they didn’t do this in spite of their work. Rather,
they seemed to be doing it through their work. Their loves and
their work were inextricably linked.
Love and resilience, love and forgiveness, love and creativity,
love and collaboration, they’re all connected. All of these
profound and profoundly useful outcomes are impossible
without love; impostors without love.
Your fullest life, then, is one where your love and your
workflow are in an infinite loop. The energy of one fuels the
energy of the other. Thus, the only way you’ll make a lasting
contribution in life is to deeply understand what it is that you
love. And the inverse: you’ll never live a life you love unless
you deeply understand how to contribute to others.
In this sense, the true purpose of your work is to help you
discover that which you love: work is for love.
And the purpose of love is to help you learn where and how
you can contribute: love is for work.