Did you ever just “do” things as a kid? Like when you were in grade school, I’ll bet you never thought to yourself, “What is the value of learning soccer or hockey? You just ran around the playground, played soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter. You built sand castles at the beach, played tag football, asked silly questions, looked for caterpillars, dug up grass beetles and pretended you were Dracula (cooler with the cape). I’ll bet you didn’t even know the value of passions.
Nobody told you how to do it; you just knew how and you did it. You were guided only by your inquisitiveness and enthusiasm. The life was good, sweet, and if you hated soccer, you just stopped playing it and played something else. You didn’t feel shame or guilt. You just quit. There was no arguing or dispute; you either liked it, or you said to heck with it. If you loved looking for snakes, like my friend David did, you just did that.
There was no Freudian analysis of, “Well, is looking for snakes really what I should be doing with my time as a child? What, you say, “what if I get bitten?” Nobody else wants to look for snakes; does that mean there’s something wrong with looking for snakes, or worse, me? Will looking for snakes affect my future life prospects?” There was none of that silliness. If you liked something, you just did it.
Today I work with lots of people who don’t know what to do with some, if not all, of their lives. They often ask me if I have any ideas of what they should do. They ask where they might begin; where do they “find their passion,” as if it’s supposed to be just one thing.
And of course, I don’t respond as some might like. Why? Because I haven’t the foggiest idea what is best for them. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some coach with a certification or two, or three, will? I’m a coach, a writer, and public speaker, not a psychic.
More importantly, what I want to say to these people is this: That’s the whole point—not knowing—is the whole frigging point. Life is all about not knowing, and then taking the leap of faith and doing something anyway. It’s what your parents did, it’s what their parents did. Life is just like that; all of it, forever. And it’s not going to get any easier just because you found out you love your job welding pressure vessels at Exxon, or you snagged a dream job writing for “Housewives of Atlanta.”
The common complaint among many people is that they need to “find their passion.” That’s a load of crap; you already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake for 16+ hours a day; what the hell do you do with your time? If you have a pulse you’re doing something, trust me; you’re talking about something, you’re thinking about something.
There’s some topic, occupation, or notion that rules much of your free time, your conversations, your web searches, and it guides you without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it. (What, you say? You’re kidding me). It’s right there in front of you; you’re just avoiding it, or you’re lazy. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “oh well, yeah, I love YouTube but that doesn’t count. I love video games, but it’s a harsh business. You can’t make money with YouTube or video games.”
Really, I mean, really? Have you even tried?
The problem is not a lack of passion for something. Your problem is through-put, getting something done. Surprise, the problem is discernment i.e., understanding what you want. There’s no recognition, you don’t see the opportunity. You say, “oh, well, that’s just not a realistic option,” or “my parents (or partner) will kill me if I tried to do that; they say, “I should be a doctor” or, “that’s crazy, you can’t buy a Jaguar with the money you make doing that.” Go get a real job! And by the way, what about your retirement?”
The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passions
It’s your frigging priorities. (Look up Joe Vargas)
Since when does everyone feel entitled to love every damn second of his or her job? Really, what is so wrong with working at an OK normal job with some great people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time? Really, who says you need to make money doing what you love? Has common sense left the room so quickly that this concept is suddenly a novel idea to people?
Look, I hate to jerk you up short, every job sucks sometimes. There’s no such thing as a passionate activity that you will never get tired of, never get stressed over, never complain about. It doesn’t exist. It happened by accident, but I am thrilled to have lived my dream job. I never in a million years planned on growing trees; like a kid on a playground, I just went and tried it, and I still hated about a third of it. Some days more. So what, that’s just life. Tough shit.
If you think you’re supposed to be working 80-hour weeks and sleeping in your office like Bill Gates and loving every second of it, you’ve been watching too many crappy movies. The issue here is, once again, expectations. If you think you’re supposed to wake up every single day dancing out of your pajamas because you get to go to work, then you’ve had too much Kool-Aid. Life doesn’t work like that and it never has for most people; it’s just not the real world. There’s a thing most of us need called balance, and that comes over the long term, not week by week. Some people call it perspective.
I have a friend who, for the last two years, has been trying to build a business coaching whoever. It hasn’t been working. And by not working, I mean he’s not coaching anyone, not writing anything, no development, no content
—nothing. Despite two years of “work” and saying he’s going to do this or that, he doesn’t actually get anything done to achieve his goal of making a living coaching. What does get done though, is when one of his former co-workers comes to him with a job to create a training class. Holy shit, he’s all over that like flies on…well, you know. And he does a great job! He stays up to all hours losing himself, working on it, and loving every second of it. But then two days later it’s back to, “Frank, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” Do you see his lack of balance and perspective biting him yet?
I meet so many people like him. He doesn’t need to find his passion. His passion already found him. He’s just ignoring it. He just refuses to believe it’s viable. He is just afraid of giving it a frigging honest-to-god, try. It’s like a nerdy kid walking onto a playground and saying, “well, bugs are really cool, but race car drivers make more money, so I should force myself to practice driving every day,” and then coming home and complaining that he doesn’t like cars, and that’s a load of crap.
Everybody likes cars; they take you places. The problem is that he’s arbitrarily choosing to limit himself based on some screwy ideas he got into his head about his success and what he’s supposed to do.
Another email I’ve gotten goes like this “Frank, how do I become a writer?” My answer is usually the same: I have no fucking idea. As a kid I didn’t write much; I was afraid to. But I read everything from novels to the dictionary. I loved to read and I loved ideas. I remember it beginning in the third grade when I was forced to be home for months with an illness. Books were as alive as trees became to me. Relevant, educational, entertaining…it was all the same to me, a world unto themselves.
Once I became a life coach I spent lots of time writing multi-page posts on outlandish topics, everything from dating in your 40s to the how to pick a life coach. I never once considered writing as a potential career. I never considered it a hobby, much less a passion. To me, the things I wrote about were my passion: ideas, coaching, transformations, how to live a life of significance. Writing was just something I did because I felt like it, and when I didn’t have many clients (more times than I cared to admit) I wrote to get it out from inside me.
So when I decided to look for a career I could actually fall in love with, I didn’t have to look far. In fact, I didn’t have to look at all. It chose me, in a way. Just like the tree growing. It was already there. It was something I was doing every day without even thinking about it. Like the kid in the playground again, I just tried it.
If you have to scratch around for the one thing you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all. And here’s another point that might make a few people all pissy; you should have about 20 things that interest you. From that list, if you are really, really lucky, you will be passionate about one or two of those things. If you’re passionate about something, it will feel like such an ingrained part of your life you will be reminded by people that it’s just not normal. Newsflash; other people aren’t like that. And yes, they will remind you; no one sits dispassionately at a bar in Key West writing a 12-part blog on Leadership.
It never occurred to me that writing 1,200-2,000 word posts on my blog was something most people don’t do. It never occurred to my friend that designing a training program was something that most people don’t find easy or fun. To him, it was so natural that he couldn’t even imagine it being otherwise, and that’s why it’s probably what he really should be doing. Children don’t walk onto a playground and say to themselves, “How do I find fun?” They just go and have fun, as much fun as they have time and energy for.
If you really have to root around to find something that inspires you then you’re not going to enjoy anything. You are too hard-headed to face is that there is something you already enjoy, and that’s the real truth. You already enjoy lots of things; you’re just choosing to ignore them…
Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).