I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about passion and its place in our lives – professionally, personally, spiritually, financially (all of the big “llys”!). I’ve read books. I’ve watched TED Talks. I’ve even started producing a video/documentary, interviewing people who have followed their passions to create the lives they’ve imagined.
Passion is a big part of the PAVEMEANT speech (representing the “P” in PAVEMEANT). There may be more quotes about passion on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms than any other subject. It’s been said that if you follow your passions you won’t work a day in your life. Or follow your passions and the money will follow.
In short, it seems that passion or talk about passion is everywhere. I suppose that’s the nature of the times. When we’re in a “gotta do what you gotta do” kind of environment, our passions are often sacrificed. It almost feels selfish to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do. In these times, sacrifice seems to be celebrated more than passion.
But passion isn’t about want, it’s about need. There’s nothing selfish about it. And the truth is that following passions often requires far more sacrifice than not following them. Never mind the blood, sweat and tears that following passion requires, but fighting the naysayers and the judgment, overcoming the fears and the unknown…That takes real sacrifice. The fact is that if you follow your passions, you’ll work harder than you ever imagined. Because you care.
One of the reasons I started working on my video project is because I want to discover any common threads that allow people to follow their passions. There’s a famous management book called, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I want to find out if there are “Seven Habits of Highly Passionate People.” (Or if there’s even just one habit – I want to know what it is.) After all, if it’s so universally accepted that following our passions will lead to great rewards (in however you want to define that), why don’t more people follow theirs?
I’ve read a number of books that talk about ways to discover your passion or to even discover whether or not you’re following it. One of the more common practices suggested is to write your own obituary. The theory is that you’ll write about yourself in your most glowing, dream-catching way: Todd was a best-selling author and so on. (I have a problem with this, however, as it provides energy to thoughts of your death. Which, by the way, is the same reason I shy from talk about “bucket lists,” but that’s a completely different post for another day.)
This past weekend, on the heels of speaking at USC (one of my favorite things to do in all the world), I was thinking (again) about passion. I was going to see some live music (also one of my favorite things to do in all the world), at one of the more remarkable venues I’ve ever experience, and I was suddenly struck by the what I believe may be the truest test of whether or not you’re following your passion:
Spend time with someone who is.
I think, for the most part, some days more or less than others, I do a fairly good job of following my passions. Or, at the very least, I make sure that I spend time cultivating them on a daily basis. I do this mostly by writing. When I went to the show, a few hours after my “discovery,” I spoke a friend who works at the venue. She had just returned from South by Southwest, the famed technology and music expo. I told her, “You’re living the dream!” And her teasing response was, “Don’t be jealous.”
I wasn’t actually jealous. (Okay, maybe a little! The venue where she works is just that amazing.). But her response was exactly in line with the thought I had earlier in the day. If you spend time with someone who is following their passions and you feel jealous – you’re likely not following your own. If something that someone else is doing sounds “better” than what you’re doing, you’re definitely not following your own. But, mostly, if you notice how dramatically someone “lights up” when they talk about their work, life, whatever and you don’t understand that feeling…well, it goes without saying.
Being in the presence of passion is incredibly powerful. It’s also difficult. When we’re not following our own passions, being reminded of it, can be hurtful. It makes us jealous. We feel judged. We judge ourselves. On more than one occasion when I’ve gotten off the passion track, I’ve hidden Facebook updates or unfollowed Tweeters who were clearly on it. I felt that jealousy. When we’re following our own passions, however, those updates don’t make us jealous, they make us want to celebrate our friends’ successes. Congratulations! I know that feeling too!
To discover whether or not you’re following your passions, spend time in the presence of someone who is. Although another friend posted on my Facebook wall that finding people who are following their passions is difficult to do and there should be a registry to identify them, it’s really that simple. And, despite what my friend thinks, we know who they are.
I also think that being around people who are passionate helps us uncover our own passions. The truth is, I think we all know what our passions are. I think we all really do know what we want to do, we just don’t give ourselves permission to explore them. We let the “this is what I gotta do” get in the way of “this is what I need to do.” But, spending time around people who have given themselves permission rubs off.
If anything, I’m jealous of my friend at that amazing venue because she figured it out at a much earlier age than I did. She gave herself permission at a much earlier age than I have. It’s a similar feeling that I have when I speak at USC, Wow, I wish I had figured this out sooner. Not to be morbid, but the only time “it’s too late,” is when we die. ANY time spent following our passions before that fateful day, is a blessing. If you’re not following your own passions, go spend some time in the presence of those who are.