Passion: How To Find And Follow Your Passion


Nelson Mandela believed that following your passion is about refusing to settle: “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

I’d like to share my own story about how I followed my passion as an example. I’ll then use it to extapoloate a few guidelines on how to begin to find and follow your own passion.

An Epiphany

When I was 17-years-old, an idea struck me out of the blue as I was crossing the street. “I want to be a writer,” said a voice in my head.
This unique idea struck me with the force of an epiphany–my whole body tingled, and I felt a surge of excitement.
I began to fantasize about becoming a wizard who spun spellbinding words.
Even at that young age, I understood the power of words to bend reality. Words can turn any beautiful dream into a wonderful reality. And, used with deft and cunning, powerful words like “love” and “peace” can fill an experience with depth and meaning. 
The idea of becoming a writer was a new one. But reading literature was a familiar experience.
I was an avid reader because my mother loved reading. So buying a new book and then spending a whole day devouring it was always a delicious experience.
In high school, I loved essays, and they earned me a modicum of fame. The English teachers often asked me to read my essays aloud to the rest of the class.
My reputation as an essayist resulted in my selection for the inter-school quiz team. We made it into the finals, losing by a single answer on national television.

My First Role Model

Imagine my surprise when I first read Hemingway in my first semester in college. Here was a man who had a passion for getting the words right. His stories captured the big, bold life I imagined for myself. They resonated with my teleological imperative
I read every book the college library had on Hemingway, and I went on long walks reflecting on his stories.
I developed a passion for writing well.
I asked myself questions like: “How do you distinguish good writing from poor writing?”
And I wrote articles for myself about the rules that went into creating a polished piece of writing well.

My Early Journal Entries

Here is an excerpt from my journal:
When people write, they often dismiss the idea of not writing well. You may even hear the disclaimer: “Hey, I’m no Hemingway.” 
They are missing the point. It’s not about eloquence, but about clarity. It’s not about an impressive vocabulary, but about communication. And it’s not about complex descriptions, but about making complex ideas simple. Like science, good writing is formulaic. Albert Einstein gave us a simple formula for Relativity. Henri Mandelbrot gave us a simple formula for the Mandelbrot set. Their complex ideas in science and mathematics condense into short equations. Plug in the numbers, and you can marvel at how space, time, and infinity work their magic.

Reverse Engineering the Principles

I shared my story because I want to use it to reverse engineer what I did to discover my passion:

1. Find Your Inspiration

The idea that I should become a writer was not a random one. It only appeared that way. My epiphany occurred because I had been asking myself what I wanted to do for a career for a few weeks. So in essence, I had prompted my subconscious mind to create the epiphany. The desire to become a writer filled me with joy for two reasons: It aligned with my long-established interests, and it fit my personality.

2. Find a Role Model

In college, I stumbled upon Hemingway’s books and began to study why I liked his style so much.

3. Outline a Practical Philosophy

I took what I learned from my role model and developed a set of rules around it. Then I outlined the benefits I’d get by following these rules.

4. Build an Identity around Your Passion

I now think of my own identity as that of a writer. Although I do many other things, I have chosen writing as my primary identity.

5. Choose Your Values and Beliefs

Once I established my identity, I built my values and beliefs around it. I did this through immersion in my identity as a writer.

6. Acquire Knowledge and Skills

Capability is a result of a continuous cycle of study and practice. I have taken many classes on writing and continue to read books about it. I also write something every day.

7. Change Your Behavior

Most of my behavior orients around the writing life. I read; I journal; I go to new places; and I’m always learning new things. Things that don’t add to my purpose don’t hold my interest for long.

8. Create Your Environment

Finally, I try to create the best environment for my writing. I have a beautiful home office. And I’m surrounded by books and posters and all the equipment and stationary that I need to think and scheme.

 Key Ideas You Can Use

  1. Ask your subconscious mind what it is that you would love to do. At an unexpected time, the idea will pop into your mind.
  2. Find someone who is already doing what you would love to do. Follow their lead.
  3. Create a list of rules, and outline the benefits.
  4. Build your identity over time around your passion. It’s not who you are, of course, since your personality has many dimensions, but it gives you a focal point.
  5. Choose values and beliefs around your passion. But don’t try to be like your role model. And don’t accept negative stereotypes about your field.
  6. Study and practice your craft daily to get better over time.
  7. Adopt the behavior of the person you want to be.
  8. Create your sacred space to master your craft.

 Follow Your Dream

If life is a dream, as poets have claimed over eons, then we all have our personal dreams within it. By following your passion, you’ll be living within the bubble of your own dream.
In your dream, you’ll find your personal power and your joyful self-expression. Harriet Tubman equated discovering your passion with following a dream. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer “she said. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
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