“Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” – Confucius
The idea of living a passionate life makes sense to most people. Unfortunately, putting that idea into practice isn’t as easy. There’s too much uncertainty and too much risk. What if I don’t know what I’m passionate about? And even if I do know, what if I’m not very good at it or nobody pays because nobody cares? Doubts like these can kill our dreams in a heartbeat.
In Seven Keys to Discovering Your Passion, Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind continues his mission “to create a revolution based on authentic action; a movement of people liberating themselves through living on their own terms”. Instead of being rich and hating what you do or loving it but staying poor, the goal is to do what you love (passion), give people what they need (contribution), and make money at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other (or the other other).
I really enjoy Jonathan’s playful sense of humour, which comes through here as it does on his blog. I also admire his strong views on independence simply because it’s the single most important value in my life (and one I’ve been pretty vocal about in my writing on Facebook, the iPhone, and even birthdays). Ultimately, the book is meant as a short introduction to Reclaim Your Dreams so there isn’t much room for complete exploration. And while the accompanying workbook contains a lot of exercises to spark some ideas, you have to go much further.
I found Jonathan’s advice on systematically dealing with doubts quite insightful. Instead of feeling discouraged because other people in your field are better than you, he correctly points out that not everyone needs an absolute expert because talent alone is never enough. In other words, you don’t have to be a black belt in karate to train a beginner. As long as you’re a few steps ahead and will be satisfying an urgent need or deep desire, you’re enough of an authority to charge for what you offer. You just need to package it in a way that offers the most value to the people who most need your help.
The most insightful learning from the book is the idea that you don’t have to be obsessed with finding your ‘One True Passion’ (like the even more mystical idea of your ‘One True Love’). That’s not all that counts! And yet we’re constantly bombarded with stories of people quitting their jobs, selling all their stuff, and running off to some exotic location (why is it always South-East Asia?) to live out their ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ dream. Epic yawn! Whimsical tales like these, when told to people with mortgages and/or kids, can feel a little insulting. Fact is we really don’t have to go to these lengths to do what we love. If you want to and can, by all means go for it. Just don’t treat it as the only way.
Another problem with much writing on the subject is that it often reeks of condescension. Anyone who continues to be a slave to ‘the man’ is derided as a weakling and failure. Give it a rest! Like I said, I’m all for independence, but going with the flow doesn’t automatically make you a slave nor are all corporate jobs soul-sucking beasts that must be vanquished so we can pursue our dreams. Besides, sometimes trying to be different simply for the sake of being different makes you more of the same. Just look at subcultures like Goths or punks who shun conformity even though they end up being more homogenous than everyone else.
Ultimately, it’s like Dostoyevsky wrote: “To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a bird.” I know which I’d prefer. What about you?
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