Thought Catalog
February 23, 2015

4 Things I Learned About Passion

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“It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing, or dance, while the music was being played” – Alan Watts
Flickr / Matthew Faltz
Flickr / Matthew Faltz

If you aren’t confused, then you aren’t keeping up. Majority of us are confused, and that’s good. Doubting and questioning is the beginning of the learning process. It highlights that we are aware something is wrong, and allows us to question our environment – and most importantly ourselves. Life is scary, and day by day we attempt to live out this experience to the best of our ability. Granted we are maximizing our happiness. By the time we enter high school, planning out our future and determining the rest of our lives are the objective. Assuming we are given the freedom of choice to pursue any career, it is naïve to state that students have the freedom to really choose what to do with their life. Lately, I’ve begun feeling as if our lives seem to be planned out for us. Are we truly free, or are we the product of a collective inter-connecting institution? And are the choices I’m making truly enhance my levels of happiness, or do they do opposite of this aim? What is the end goal of all my life choices?

We associate maturity with a sober acceptance of a great many things that we should refuse to accept. Some begin to realize this later in life, and that is they sacrificed their passionate dream job for their secure dream job. Or maybe they realize it midway into their post-secondary years. The younger generation are the adults of tomorrow, and an outside force imposes on their future and funnels them into a pool of institutionalized workers. It begins with our parents or guardians that are truly looking out for the best of us. They want us to succeed and live independently. Living in the past and unable to adapt to new cultures, our parents fail to recognize the change in the global market. To be clear, our parents are the product of individuals who have been lead to work jobs that are really unrewarding – as it was a tool for survival and a means to support a family. When people work jobs that are really unrewarding, they tend to be exceptionally materialistic as a way to reward themselves. The materials become goals. Therefore, it isn’t a mystery why parents tend associate money with happiness. They fail to recognize how times have changed, and how our educational system is continually failing to return on its investments to those who are paying the burden of life-long debt.

What I began realizing was that I felt as like a product of a large power process that structures society. The corporate world influenced me into thinking and behaving in ways which do not represent my own best interests. I’m beneficial to the institution – not myself.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives…” Annie Dillard

It is strange how we rarely associate work with pleasure. Work is often deemed as a chore, and the number of hours put in returns you a number of dollars. Scared of putting ourselves out in the wild, and leaving our comfort zones, we tend to our post-secondary degrees that offer us a higher chance of becoming employed in the corporate world. I’d like to believe that majority of us are satisfied with the position they are in, and becoming an accountant, lawyer, doctor is perfectly fine with them. But for the other group that feels lost and in need of guidance, and an education given by local universities doesn’t rest well in our minds – this is for you.

1. Pursuing your passion is not unrealistic

There are millions of people out there dying to pursue their dream job. Many of us are embodied with split personalities, where by day we are working in the corporate world – yet at night we are an artist. Constantly forgiving ourselves and passing by these mixed feelings that make life seem difficult or improperly lived. Most of these feelings can heavily relate to those craving to pursue the creative arts. Whether it is those fearful to encompass the journey it involves, or those that have taken action and are just waiting for their break to success. These could be musicians, writers, doctors, accountants, etc.

To repeat, there are millions of people out there dying succeed in the creative arts. However, oddly enough, when a good artist puts together a work of art, there are entities bidding against each other for the privilege of endorsing their product. I’m not speaking on behalf of only established authors. Those with the fortune to invest, and even us as consumers, are always looking for a good product. Something that captures our attention, evolves our modes of thinking, and shapes our culture.

So what’s going on? Why do some people live the dream while others are shedding blood and tears, waiting for their shot?

Some would argue that those who succeed have a natural talent advantage or they have been given the status due to a matter of ‘privilege’. That is ignoring the success stories of those who have started at a disadvantage. In addition to these bundle of excuses, usually people resort to the economic collapse. That we have a broken system that holds people back “It doesn’t care about me, it is all just luck. It doesn’t appreciate my work.” we quietly recite to ourselves.

Wrong. The system is not your ex-girlfriend; it isn’t the person you cut in line, or the bully at school. It is not out to get you. What we do know about the system is that it wants one thing – and one thing only. Good product. As Ryan Holiday would state, store owners do not sit around going “There is no way we can fit another hot product in our stores.” and reporters do not sit around complaining “There is so much good news to write about, I don’t know if I’ll be able to cover it all.”

In fact it is the exact opposite. There is never enough. The system wants you as much as you want it. Provided you hold your share of the deal and deliver the goods. Truth of it all is that your end of the deal is determined by your decisions, and your ability to persevere in your craft. To be completely honest with yourself, and to put in the hard work. Because the good stuff that we all crave is super rare. Good stuff is the ultimate scarcity.

No one is stopping you from achieving your dream job. The employers hiring for the positions you fantasize of daily are wondering where they can find some good applicants. Your success, and the success of others is not determined by the right investors, agent, or getting the publicity. You actually have to do something that’s good. Make it drastically better than the existing stuff, and different than the existing stuff. And do it now before someone channels into the idea first.

2. The narrative fallacy

Chasing your passion and giving birth to your ideas sounds amazing to fantasize about. We look to others who have sacrificed their lives for their passion, and are drawn to their energy. Experiencing a musical artist perform his creations at a concert draws you in, and it isn’t only because their music sounds good. People are drawn to ambition, charisma, and energy that surpass the doses we get in life’s daily pattern. For most of us though, it ends at the fantasy and living vicariously through others which has been easier with the invention of social media. When we think about applying what we have seen from those who have succeeded into our own lives, we fall short and let our narrative fallacy take over rationale and logical thought.

“I’m stuck at my job and need to pay my bills therefore I can’t pursue anything else.”

“My parents wouldn’t approve, and I’d become homeless.”

“You need a degree to thrive in this economy.”

“I’m going to graduate and then pursue my dream.”

You don’t have to be part of the minority that pities themselves, and complains that someone else is preventing them from having what they want. The more painful the initiation, the more likely we are to want to stick with the program. Passion is a combination of love and hatred – because along with the obsession, comes a need for perfection. It is a gift and a curse. For over many years, our educational systems have engraved an ideology of how to live, and given us limited options of ways of generating income that makes other possibilities seem unrealistic. Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan speaks upon this idea called The Narrative Fallacy in which we subscribe to stories we have made about our lives, and our environment, which heavily disregard facts – but only the over simplified views we have on them. When stories are applied to self-perception, they are called delusions.

Along with feeling trapped, we begin to think that we are different, and that the laws do not apply to us. If we just let time do its job, and destiny take its course, we will arrive at the finish line. The finish line being what you believe fits your idea of maximum happiness. It will never work like that. Progress is not linear. And things will not be handed to you.

Most importantly, do not let your story make you seem unique and special. It will only hold you back if you give yourself this pedestal. There are millions of others kids, like myself, who are on this path. It could be someone else reading this article, or your friend who always vents about how much they hate their job – yet do nothing about it. If you want to make a career for yourself, you have to do serious character building. Be quiet, work hard, and stay healthy. Create a good product to set you apart. Work on yourself and practice humility, diligence, and self-awareness.

3. Discovery and sacrifices

Time is not recoverable. The status of a university degree or the income from your job is. If you are hurdling piles of debt, falling asleep in an overpaid dorm room, and you know deep down it isn’t what you are meant to do. Then that’s good. You are now ready to revaluate your life, and pursue something that will offer greater satisfaction.

You are never truly stuck. Don’t live out the narration of your life you created in your head. You are a week away from changing your life. The only way to fail at life is to abstain and stay inside your comfort zone. What you think may be benefiting you, may very well be the problem itself.

There is a catch to discovering your vocation, and it goes against the notion of “You can be whatever you set your heart too.” The cold reality is that it isn’t true. Music is my life, and any moment I can fill my life with a soundtrack I’ll take the opportunity. However, my love for music doesn’t necessarily indicate my vocation and passion is in the music industry itself. Finding what you enjoy should always involve being honest with yourself, and discovering where your strengths and weaknesses lay. A good way of doing this is through the process of doing shitty jobs, and going through this process of doing things you hate in order for you to discover what you enjoy. What is it that you hate? Those are indications of what you like.

That is the simple part. The more intrusive part happens by personal learning. Pick a subject, and read on it. Study the best – the ones who came before and the ones who are doing it now. Build an inner-citadel compiling of friends who inspire you, or gain experience in an internship. Apply yourself at more than one thing and then roll it all together into something special and new.

What is important to key into is educating yourself. Even if you dig into mountains of debt, and earn a degree – that will never be enough. Ask questions, read books, and articles. People love to give advice and they love people who they don’t feel they have to drag to the next level.

By encompassing the journey above, you become the solution to the common problem basically in every industry – which is sameness. And above all, you excel past the “looks good on paper, yet under delivers”.

4. Reap the benefits

The cool way to take this new founded knowledge and apply it to your life is to drop everything currently going on for yourself, and pursue your passion. Realistically, that is the worst thing you could possible do. Life owes you nothing, and the truth of it all is that you are worth about minimum wage right now – if you’re lucky. Until I’m able to reap revenues that are inline, or greater than what I am currently making from my job, I’ll continue striving and working hard on my passion. Doing what you passionately desire requires sacrifices, and important ones like: time, money, and your social life.

I would like to believe that if you truly harness a craft that you enjoy, you will have a natural tendency to be greater at it than you would in your secure job. Humans are naturally geared towards pleasure, and the problem is that a lot of things in today’s life offer instant pleasure. Without much effort we get a feeling of relaxation from movies, video-games, and drugs. The real feeling of pleasure should come from the act of conquering yourself, and learning something deeply. At the beginning of learning and moulding your craft, it isn’t very satisfying at the beginning. Yet there was a presence of pleasure. It was challenging and kept your focus and attention. If you keep at it and learn the skills, you will reach a level of pleasure that will exceed the instant gratification we get from everyday things like movies, video games, etc. Reorient yourself to get pleasure from challenging yourself, learning discipline, getting skilled at something, and ultimately getting a real sense of fulfillment.

There is a discipline involved in something that is very difficult to do that requires all your concentration, and clears your mind. Zen philosophy enforces this idea by the use of some modality of movement, or anything that helps guide you towards a certain presence of mind. Satori in Zen describes this moment of really mindless shock, and everything is completely in the moment. It is also phrased as “Being of no mind.”

So go out there and do something great. Mark small term goals, that lead up to the long term dream. Don’t be afraid if you can’t map out your journey to the end. Not all stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about traveling into the unknown, changing for the better, and taking the moment and making the best of it. Day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different. TC mark

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