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Ikigai: A Powerful Way to Advance Your Career

Admit it. There are days when you still ask yourself what you’d like to be when you grow up. So, is there a simple and yet powerful way to answer that question? Yes, there is. Use the Ikigai model.

Ikigai model

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” We all need a purpose. A mission.

Maybe you’ve already read Simon Sinek’s book, Find Your Why. If not, I’d highly recommend it.

But the Ikigai model is very simple. It consists of four main questions.

What do you love doing?

Think about that for a moment. In my case, I love …

  • being a nurse.
  • learning, reading, and writing.
  • promoting all things that reflect “the way nature intended.”
  • helping people to reach their goals, whether it’s breastfeeding a baby, passing a comprehensive exam, getting a new job, or knitting socks.

Generally, if you do what you love, and if you can combine it with something you’re good at, you’ll wake up every morning feeling passionate about your job.

What are you good at?

How can you figure that out? Well, it’s about having a certain set of abilities and competencies. (Yes, those are different.)

Abilities are acquired in three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. To me, those domains are about learning, whereas competencies are more related to the “how to” of carrying out your job in those domains.  

I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are only eight responsibilities you’ll ever carry out while you’re on the job.

  1. Interpersonal communication
  2. Compliance
  3. Recognition and repair (problem-solving)
  4. Research, analysis, rationale
  5. Trade-offs
  6. Operational decisions and actions (take actions to optimize performance)
  7. Design
  8. Team coordination

I’m good at interpersonal communication, analysis/rationale, and design. And in healthcare contexts, I’m good at problem-solving. (Don’t ask me to fix my printer!)

I’m not so hot at compliance, determining trade-offs, and depending on the context, some operational decisions.

So, if you put all that together, you’ll see why I’m passionate about writing and teaching. And why I positively hate fixing non-working equipment.

What the world needs

Despite the overuse of the word “challenge,” the truth is that everyone on the planet has a problem. (The majority of which can be solved by using a tried-and-true, proven process for problem-solving.)

If you can identify what the world needs, and if you can solve the problem to help someone get what they need and want, you’ll have a job forever.

In the 1970s, I realized that a big problem was the number of barriers that kept women from initiating or continuing breastfeeding. It’s gotten better, but that’s still a problem.

Likely as not, you (and I) could spend the rest of our days trying to solve that problem. Families still need help with that.

The clunker is, can we get paid for it?

What you can get paid for

Ah yes.   

What can I say? I’m sitting here writing a blog — and you didn’t pay me a dime for it. But I’ve been blogging every Tuesday and Friday for the last 5 years or so.

Let’s start putting this puzzle together using the Ikigai model.

I love to write. I’m good at writing. I’m meeting your need for something — otherwise you wouldn’t still be reading this post, or any of my others!

But how do I (or you?) get paid?

Some of us get paid when we publish a book, or we get paid as an editor. (I recently edited the 2022 release of The Breastfeeding Atlas.)

Some of us teach. I teach.

Some of us start a small business. For many, that’s a win for love, ability, need, and payment.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.  

Are you interested in starting your own business? As a coach, I can offer you some guidance. Send a note to

What can I do to help you do what you love, do what you’re good at, do what the world needs, and get paid for it?


    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Well, let’s go back to the Ikigai! Do you love to tutor? Are you good at tutoring? Do some people need to be tutored? (YES). Will people pay for tutoring? (YES). There’s strong proof that the world needs tutors, and that people are willing to pay for tutors. The real question, then, is if you are passionate about giving 1:1 instruction about your topic, and if you’re good at doing it. I’m guessing it’s yes to both of those, or you wouldn’t have asked! Often, we underestimate the power of “passion.” Because here’s the thing: Most of us have decades to work in our businesses. Being a business owner isn’t always easy. So you’ll need a LOT of passion to “keep on keeping on” when the going gets tough. If you’re thinking about starting a business, and if you’d like to schedule a free discover call, send me a note at I’d love to hear from you!

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