Jeff Hittner is the founder of Your Project X, an organization dedicated to helping people (re)discover their purpose to build careers they’ll love. Previously, he founded IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consulting practice globally. He is a partner to global organizations focused on entrepreneurship and youth development, the father to a newborn son, and was an elite gymnast for nearly 15 years. In the video below, he discusses why living your purpose is fundamental.

We used to map out careers with years of education and the relentless TV stereotypes of doctor, lawyer, businessperson, or barista leading the way.

These days, it’s not as easy to plan our way to career success.

Yet the opportunity to be happy and thrive is more attainable now than it’s ever been — and it won’t cost you $20k a semester to earn. Instead, it demands a mindset shift from the outdated definitions of career, meaning, and success driven by a focus on four fundamental skills to keep us thriving (outlined below).

First, let’s understand why planning our way to career success is a thing of the past. We’ve been taught that success comes by making a career plan, earning our degrees, and working hard, but:

– Two-thirds of students in middle school will end up working jobs that haven’t even been invented yet! (World Economic Forum)

– That $200,000 degree you earned barely guarantees you’ll be debt free before you have grandkids.

Our planning may even be why we got sucked down an unfulfilling path in the first place. Stuck in old definitions of career, meaning, and success, many of us struggle to identify with a job we assume should define who we are. Our parents, peers, and — let’s be honest — we ourselves measure our success by income and title prestige.

We are making career decisions based on outdated markers: one job, one industry, a lifetime of job stability. This is not our reality. As a result, we work in fields out of touch with who we are as people.

So what is our dream?

We can all relate to the experience of being full of potential, of being really good at something, of having a meaningful purpose that has not yet been acknowledged. I have no doubt that a handful of times during the course of your education – even of your multiple degrees – you felt a pull in a different direction. Some of us may know exactly what we’re put on this earth to do (but are aren’t doing it yet), while others haven’t identified it concretely.

Zeroing in our purpose is a first step. We are here for a reason, and our best self leaps forward when our work is aligned to our purpose — yet beware the common traps we run into when looking for our purpose. Purpose is only a first step, thought, which leads me to the four fundamental skills you need to develop to thrive in any industry…

If we can’t plan our way to a vision of our future, what do we do?

The technological, ecological, and political challenges confronting all of us put four fundamental skills front and center: entrepreneurship, empathy, self-efficacy, and growth mindset.

  1. Entrepreneurship: to ensure our success in any role — and our usefulness in any technological future — we need to know how to problem-solve like a serial entrepreneur.
  2. Empathy: we also need to and connect with others at an emotional level like Bill Clinton at a fundraiser. These are the tools of great collaborators and adaptive leaders.
  3. Self-efficacy: this is defined as believing you will eventually succeed despite the setbacks and disappointments along your journey. This doesn’t happen through grit alone; in a turbulent world, it requires mentors, peer support, and community. IVY is a perfect example of an organization stepping in to provide aspects of community that are fundamental to thriving today, such as access to inspiration and peers you can rely on when challenges arise. Add a sense of purpose and alignment to your values, and your toolkit is filling up.
  4. Growth mindset: shifting long-held beliefs is essential to our success. For example, start searching for an answer to the question “who do I want to be when I grow up,” rather than the more common question of “what do I want be.” By spending time considering the person you want to develop into — rather than analyzing the job that will get you your promotion faster — you achieve a critical shift in thinking.

At my company, Your Project X, we build programs centered on these four fundamental skills. We particularly focus on the “who you want to be” question and the core components necessary to thriving in this volatile world. We develop these in a variety of different ways, including:

– Micro-experiments – a focus on taking action first and seeing how the world responds.

– Personal development – building resilience; becoming fully present; creating a space to be vulnerable, safe, and willing to stretch outside your comfort zone.

– Community and inspiration – because no one survives these tectonic shifts without mentors, peers, and inspiration.

Looking for some inspiration to develop these four fundamental skills on your own? Our four-week Purpose Accelerator begins May 19. Check it out at to join our after-work, one-night-per-week program.