Last night I decided something that is very much proverbial and earth-shattering in my life. I now consider myself grown up. Yeah, I didn’t before. I really didn’t. For years I have maintained an underlying emotional attachment to school that affected my professional life (I’ve just now realized this) as if school was an emotional crutch or a “loser’s limp” that held me back. Now, with no strings… to hold me down to make me fret or make me frown (hmm.. where did that line come from? Oh. Pinocchio?), I get to float off into a world that is completely mine… for the first time… and it’s been nothing short of a beautiful mess. I like it.
I am now officially allowed to be a professional something—a semi-serious emphasis on the word “something” please. Whether I’ve got the professional green light or not, the identity of that “something” has been inextricably elusive, though at times quite clear (try making sense of that one).
I’ve long thought that life would be happy and full if that “something,” or career, is involved with, or contributes to, one’s passions and purpose in life. That would be ideal. So, naturally, I’ve sought for the ideal.
But therein lay a problem. If one’s passion can at all be found in one’s career, which there is no guarantee that it will, how does one who has the expectations to make such a discovery settle for something else… something more lucrative, flashy, or secure and steady… and live with it? Because one’s passions in life are difficult to uncover and make place for, most people don’t know what their passions are. Conversely, it seems that those who do know what their passions are, can’t seem to find contentment and they go gallivanting off in search of another passion when they get bored of the first. Most work a job they don’t enjoy, it’s true. I’ve done it. So what? What if my passions in life have nothing to do with making money? What then? Am I doomed to a miserable life of slavery? Hmm.. Interesting thought.
Which brings a question to the forefront, if we get along relatively well without finding our passion in life, what use is it to know your passion and, if possible, form a life’s work around it? Does your passion and career have to be one in the same? Or can they differ and still provide meaningful fulfillment? Decide for yourself.
What is my passion? Where is my purpose? I’m lucky to have a glimpse at least, but even with that glimpse, at times I’ve cared too much that the potential material gains that await me for pursuing my passions and purpose are somewhat lacking… so I get bored and go off looking for greener things… and have yet to find fulfillment in doing so. I’ve learned my folly. Hmmm… thinking out loud, it’s easy to see that the lack of fulfillment can be attributed to the unmet expectation, likely a false expectation, that my career must be one in the same with my passion and purpose.
What you can learn from kids about your life’s work: Since I was a kid I’ve been asked the same simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m still asked that simple question and I still don’t quite know how to simply answer it—even though now is the time for me to be whatever it was I wanted to be when I looked forward to growing up (The doctor says I’m done growing).
Children are smart. That simple question is repeated again and again to even the smallest of children and they answer without hesitancy. They’ve made up their minds and are content with their future livelihoods as super heroes or whatnot. A five year old has no concept of livelihood and yet he answers so assuredly “I wanna be a fireman!” He has no idea that in some states the members of the fire department are all volunteers—an unpaid position. Curious. A child cares not for the material, he follows his heart to find his “passion” through other means than that of monetary nature.
My story is interesting. I’ve learned a lot from most of it and am still trying to sort out and learn from the rest of it… as it continues on shifting and shaping into what is known as my life. Recently, my resolutions to be successful have taken on new meaning for me. I want to make a difference in the world in the way that I was born to make a difference, sure. My passions and purpose are to that end, but not necessarily intertwined with a specific career path. I can be content with that. One brilliant man whom I admire said, “It is better to be steady than to be brilliant.” Chose a career, work hard, and be steady. Manifest your brilliance by following whatever passions uncover themselves along your pathway of life. In a sense, I’ve come full circle and have learned for myself the wisdom in that simple answer of a simple child, “I wanna be a fireman.”
I just found this great article by someone who knows what he’s talking about. Paul Graham writes about How to do What You Love. Earth shattering news: You don’t have be doing what you love to have fulfillment in life. Work hard at whatever you do, be consistent, and find your passion and fulfillment wherever you can find them. Penelope Trunk, (I have no idea who she is), writes another appropriate post Bad Career Advice: Do What You Love. And there’s a great discussion about finding your passion in life and doing what you love at GetRichSlowly.com. He quotes the same Paul Graham essay. Bling.