Where the Hell is My Passion?

It’s going around. Have you caught it? I have. What is it? I call it the “What the hell should I do with the rest of my life syndrome.” It frequently infects those right around middle age. People who are not thrilled with the way they earn a living are most susceptible to catching it.

snowboarder-1-1387071Is there a cure? While the CDC hasn’t published anything official yet, there is a rumor going around that it can be cured by discovering your passion, and then filling your days with that. But passion is a tricky beast.

For a lucky few, passion seems to find them. It’s with them from birth, deep in their DNA, so they never encounter the syndrome. But for most us, passion can be illusive. We want it, we look for it, we dream about it, but we can’t find it.

How do you find it? Where do you find it? I don’t know, but I know one way that definitely doesn’t work, at least not for me: reading books. And I should know.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit I have read every one of the books on this list in an effort to discover my passion (and I’m sure I left a few out):

Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting
An Awakening from the Trances of Everyday Life
Strengths Finders
What Color is Your Parachute?
The Power of Flow
I Had it All the Time
Feeling is the Secret
Awakened Imagination
From Here to a Greater Happiness
Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
The Passion Test
Is Your Genius at Work?
This Time I Dance
Do More Great Work
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working
Man’s Search for Meaning
I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What It Was
Body of Work
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

These are all good books, fine books, by wonderful authors. They just didn’t help me discover my passion. Why not?

Most of these books are filled with questions and self-assessments and exercises, all meant to reveal one’s true passion. Self-reflective questions that ask such things as, what did you like to do as a child, and what are you doing when you don’t notice that time has passed? All good questions, but…

Sometimes in life you don’t know the right answer, you only know the wrong ones. So, for me, no more self-discovery books. As much as I love to read, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that when it comes to self-discovery, “reading aint doing.”

So, 2016 will be My Year of Living Curiously. My approach is very simple. Any idea that pops into my head which seems like something I’d like to do or explore, I’m going to do. In other words, experiment. No more reading about it, unless that is the precondition for the doing. But here’s the trick. The experiment must be small—low cost in terms of time and money. I figure, it doesn’t do any good to spend a ton of time and money to discover you hate doing something.

And then at the end of the experiment I’m going to ask myself one simple question: now that this experiment is done, do I want to do more of it or less of it? If it’s less, I’m done. Move on to the next experiment. If it’s more, then it’s time to take the next step. Try a bigger experiment and ask the same question again. Repeat the process until I move onto a new experiment OR, I’m perpetually engrossed in some activity I will retroactively consider as my passion.

If you haven’t discovered your passion, maybe this approach will work for you. Just remember, reading aint doing. So, stop reading this post right now and start doing something. I mean it.

 

The REAL Secret to Changing Your Life for the Better

I know what you are thinking. “Not another self-improvement technique. Who do you think you are, Tony Robbins?” I have to admit, it’s not really a secret, so much as it is a topic few people discuss. There have been books written on this subject, but not many people bother to read them, which is remarkable when you consider that it truly can change your life for the better. I will even go so far as to say I doubt any big, meaningful change can happen in your life without this “secret.”

First the good news. This secret does not cost any money to use and anyone can do it. Starting today. And the change you seek will begin to take effect immediately once you start. Whatever it is you seek, be it more money, a better job, lower weight, better health, independence, can all be had by using the secret.

Now for the bad news. This secret you need to use to get what you want is easy to do for a day or a week, but hard to do for a month or a year (or many years). Anyone can start to use it, and many often do, but not many hold onto it long enough for it to make a difference. You may have even unknowingly tried to implement this secret in the past, and if you did, you no doubt understand how difficult it is to stick with it.

So, what is the secret you need to use to get anything you want? Delayed gratification: the ability to wait to obtain something that you want.

If you think back on your life and see any of the wonderful things you have achieved or attained, somewhere along the way you made a conscious decision to wait some period of time to get what you wanted. Did you ever lose a substantial amount of weight? You delayed gratification. Did you graduate from college? You delayed gratification (for at least four years). Did you save money for a down payment on a house or to start a business? You delayed gratification.

If delaying gratification can get you almost anything you want, why don’t we do it more often? Because it is difficult to do, and here is why. Suppose you want a better body (who doesn’t?), but you also happen to like big, juicy burgers. Now while the pleasure of the rock-hard abs will not be realized until some unknown time in the distant future, the taste of the juicy burger is immediate—it is right now. And in the duel between pleasure now and pleasure in the future, pleasure now wins out almost every time. It is human nature.

So, what is the secret to implementing the secret? I wish I could offer some insight, but I am human too. The only comfort I can offer is to tell you that the next time you want something really bad and fail to achieve it, at least you will know why. Because you wanted a bite of that big, juicy burger right now.

The Secret of Superstars

Do you ever wonder what separates stars from superstars? What separates Michael Jordon from other great basketball players? What separates Tiger Woods from other great golfers?

It is easy to assume they are superstars because of their superior physical ability. I do not think so. During Michael Jordon’s career there was another basketball player many people would argue had superior physical skills to Michael’s. The player, Dominique Wilkins, was certainly a star during his career, but he was no Michael Jordon. And there are undoubtedly golfers who can out hit Tiger Woods on the golf course. Physical prowess alone cannot not explain it.

Maybe you think superstars have a stronger desire to win than everyone else. Superstars surly love to win, but winning is not what drives them. Stars are driven by the desire to win, not superstars. How can you tell the difference? It is easy. When stars win, they celebrate. For stars, winning is like climbing Mt Everest. It is a journey with a very definite destination: winning. Like the summit on Mt Everest, once they reach their destination they have achieved their goal and so they celebrate. Not so with superstars.

Superstars are not driven by the love of winning. That passion fades too quickly. No, superstars are driven by something much stronger. Superstars are driven by their hatred of losing. For them, competition is not like summiting a mountain, it is like running away from a monster. A monster called losing. And this monster never tires, never gives in and never stops chasing them. It is why their celebrations after winning are so short lived. They have to keep running.

The hatred of losing will drive a person further than the love of winning ever will. It is the curse (or the gift?) that the superstar possesses. It is the only thing that will make someone re-double their effort after they win. It is the necessary ingredient for super stardom.

Unfortunately you cannot pretend to hate losing to make yourself a superstar. It is either within you or it is not. The desire to keep running after you have won the race is not a part of many people. But do not despair. The superstar may win more often than everyone else, but it is likely the enjoy it less. Contentment is not part of the superstar’s existence.

So, the next time you wonder what it would be like to be a superstar, just know that you can actually beat them at something: enjoying winning. You should be content with that.

The Death of Hope

Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy Magazine) once quipped that “marriage is the death of hope.” Without commenting on his observation, I would like to offer an alternative one. I think inertia is the death of hope.

If you have forgotten your high school physics, inertia is the property of matter by which the matter retains its state of rest or its velocity, so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. In simplified terms it means that whatever is happening is going to continue to happen unless something changes. There is even a grammatically incorrect aphorism for this phenomenon:

If you always do what you always done, you always get what you always got.

What is it that you want? More money, a challenging career, better health, a loving relationship? Whatever you are doing at this moment has not gotten you what you want. (If it did, you probably wouldn’t be longing for it.) To get it, something needs to change—that is obvious. So why doesn’t it? Inertia. Human beings succumb to inertia. We keep doing what we are doing unless something outside of us changes things.

Inertia explains why people stay in unfulfilling marriages and unfulfilling jobs. It also explains why people accomplish extraordinary things (like starting a charity) when befallen by some tragic event: the inertia is broken.

Inertia is insidious. It is patient, relentless and more difficult to break the longer it is at work. But it is worse than that, because inertia does its dastardly deed by killing hope. Take away a person’s money, they can earn more. Take away their hope and they is doomed.

Hope is an amazing thing. It can drive you to accomplish almost anything. People have started great businesses without money, without education and without experience. But never without hope. It is the only fuel you need. Whatever it is you want, you can start the journey to acquiring it if all you have is hope. Once hope is gone, all that is left is inertia.

I will not lie to you. Inertia is difficult to break on your own. Absent some external event, changing the course of your life by breaking your inertia is not easy. That is why getting fired from your job can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Getting fired is definitely an external event that will break your inertia. My getting fired many years ago lead to me discovering my passion for writing. I doubt I would have four books published today had I not gotten fired all those years ago.

So, what can you do to try and break your inertia? While inertia kills hope, hope cannot kill inertia, but it can keep it at bay. You must nurture the hope. Nurture it to slow down the inertia just enough to do one thing: take action. Any action. Take one step in the direction of your hope. And then repeat: nurture the hope, take a step. That’s how it is with overcoming inertia: one step at a time. It’s all you can do on your own. There is no shortcut.

Nurture the hope. Take a step. Repeat. Don’t let the hope die.