A common theme has developed over the past three or four months: People are struggling to find a passion in their jobs and in their careers.
When I wrote about career choices in April, many people wrote in to say they wanted to find a new career but didn't know what they were passionate about. When I wrote about having a quiet period before work to write in a journal and collect your thoughts, many people wrote in and said they don't know what to write in a journal and asked how to develop interests and passions. They were just staring at a blank page.
The questions all come from a similar mindset. People seem lost and confused. They are totally perplexed by so many choices in life. It's the Age of Distraction. You sit down at a table with friends and everyone chooses to play Angry Birds or check Facebook instead of engaging in actual conversation. Television doesn't help. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is full of crazy antics and games, as though the host can't seem to sit still for more than five minutes.
It seems like people are running on a treadmill, balancing bowling pins on their elbows, typing on a phone with their nose, and doing algebra all at the same time. How could anyone living in that mindset ever develop any passions? You spend a few minutes thinking about your career or your job or maybe even starting a company, and you immediately get a text message. There's an ailment I'll call Facebookphobia where people look at the lives of other people in a constant stream and wish they could live a life as fulfilling and rewarding.
That's the reason it's so hard to develop a passion. What you see on Facebook and Instagram is a reflection of the best moments in someone's life, not the mundane. You feel stifled because you can't imagine measuring up. You feel lost because everyone else seems so grounded. You hate your job because the Facebook photo stream seems to suggest that everyone you know has the perfect occupation and the perfect life. Passion is elusive.
However, it is not unobtainable.
Saying passion "comes from within" is an easy cop out. We're not milk jugs, and we don't contain milk. You don't just tip us over and we pour out passion.
One of the reasons I advised people last month to start the day with a quiet period is that it is a way to think about your values and what you hold as most important. You write down an idea and then hope to the Evernote gods you remember it and follow through on it.
But this still doesn't answer the burning question of our age. It doesn't address the crippling state of not having a passion. So here it is. The only way to develop passion is to act. With action, you find out what you like, what you love, what you crave, and what you enjoy the most. That's why so much of entrepreneurship involves experimentation. Starting a company is an act of passion, a way to determine if shooting something into the sky will result in a flare or a thud. Half the fun is in watching what happens.
My advice to anyone trying to pick a career, start a company, pick a field, write in a journal, develop a marketing plan, or even find purpose and meaning in life is to act. Go ahead and find an investor for that new waterproof flashlight that snaps photos. Figure out how to get a job in college admissions. Pounce on that opportunity to get away for a week at a retreat and just write down your thoughts and clear your head. One of the reasons people are passionless is because they are sitting around pondering instead of acting. Passion finds you through action.
You might already know my story. I left the corporate world and started a writing career. Notice the verb in that last sentence. I left. I acted. Passion found me because I moved toward passion. I didn't just sit and stare out the window.
Look closely at the picture at the top of this article. There are two people standing on a cliff. One has found passion. One has not. One is going to fulfill a life dream. One is not. One is embracing life. The other is having a little trouble in the joy department, lost somewhere in the quagmire aisle. Which person do you think is stuck?
Which person are you?
Let me know if you need a little push to get started on the road to passion.