This week I sat down for tea with my friend Caroline. She studies the psychology of millennials at work and writes about it.
It was the best Wednesday I've had in a while because we both share the similar fiery character of millennials who are empowered to make change in the world and who don't settle for complacency. This is kind of conversation that excites me to get up each morning.
We got on the topic of Chris Guillebeau. He's the author of The $100 Start Up and Born for This (books that should be mandatory reading for every twenty-something). Guillebeau's philosophy offers the permission slip that we don't want to admit we needed but the external validation we've been waiting for. Basically, reading his books offers a feel-good moment if you've felt like you're a walking career disaster but you know you deserve more (and you want more for yourself!).
He reminds us we're A-OK just as we are, just as long as we remember that change is inevitable, and we should never stay stuck or unhappy–we were born for more. He breaks down his formula for the openly-accessible career lottery as joy + money + flow.
I agree. This is valid contextual information. It's key to unlocking the livelihood that fits the paradigm of doing what you love so it never feels like you work a day in your life.
I've been wrapping my head around this for days. I'm conflicted. Because my personal philosophy nurtures the belief that we've all came to this planet with a contract to our deepest desires which we're meant to fulfill in this lifetime. And some how, over time, through crossed wires, we've been told that this means having a thing. A thing that is an externally validated profession/passion/hobby that we nurture, interweave into our identity, and claim it as our contribution to the world.
What's a thing? It's your trade name. It's what your known for, it's the foundation of your identity. It's your mark. It's the niche you're channeled into filling in this world.
And what's more, our education system bolsters this process much like an assembly line. We go to school, we pick out a sport, a hobby, a college, a major, a profession. It's all one long and laborious series of decisions that helps us define our thing.
And then we reach the working world, where the job market is founded on having a "thing." We build resumes around this "passion" and the tables turn. If we're not conscious and not aware, if we haven't checked in with our personal fulfillment, we start working for the service of our resume, rather than having our resume work for us.
I've been on too many job screenings and interviews to count where I received the question about having a 5-year plan and 10-year plan. It's never gone well for me–answering this question. Usually it's based on my feelings that day, or the weather, or the thought in my head at that very moment. I think out of all these interviews, there was one where I could semi-believe in the answer I gave.
The way recruitment happens in the work world feeds into a belief system that we earn our thing with money, education, investment. And that if we haven't earned our thing, how can we wear our passion as part of the fabric of our identity and truly believe it with conviction?
Enter Impostor Syndrome: the limitations we place on ourselves about how the shoe doesn't fit or we can't do this or be that as a profession.
“Unreasonable," "unrealistic," and "impractical" are all words used to marginalize a person or idea that fails to conform with conventionally expected standards.” ~ Chris Gullebeau
And to add another layer of difficulty and consternation is the frustration of not knowing what our thing is.
Does this sound familiar? I want to find my thing, dammit. I don't know what it is I want to do, but everyone else around me does. I feel so stuck and that thing that brings meaning to my life just seems so damn illusive right now.
I've got a wake up call. And it's bitter medicine. This is a fake illusion. I have one very dear friend who has known since grade school that she's wanted to be a doctor. She's in medical school now rocking it. No one else, out of the friends I've made over 26 years of life, has said to me with such conviction that they've known what their thing is for a good long portion of their life.
It's ok. It's perfectly valid. We're all just finding our way as we go.
Tonight for work, I taught a class about what it means to channel our passion into new media and promotion through social media platforms.
And this is one of the key points I offered to our apprentices. Before you start any endeavor, think about this: What’s your passion, your focus, your thing?
In hindsight, a broad question like this really is triggering. It's bound to piss people off.
At face value, it's a terrible question. Because if you don't know, and you don't have the answer at the tip of your tongue, let the self-shaming begin about not having a thing or waiting for your thing to pop out of the sky.
But I broke it down a little further when I was explaining this. If you don't know what your thing is. Think smaller–it's more manageable. Break it down into how you want to feel about your livelihood (the emotion it brings you), what do you want to be known for (with the caveat that it's not what you do, but how you do it) and how do you want to relate with others (what type of community to do you want to form around your thing).
I'm intimately familiar with the I-hate-the-world mentality of not having a thing and not knowing what you stand for in this world. It's frustrating. But with this frustration, I started to realize that the interesting aspect of passions is that they change over time. So if we're sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike and we are dead set on what that looks like, because dammit, we've been waiting for our break, you might be waiting forever for this expected outcome to arrive. So, expect the unexpected. Drop the vision of the outcome you must have if it's predicated on what you think is relevant but that which maybe, probably, doesn't really so much matter for you.
Worrying about branding ourselves by our passion is pigeon-holing us. It's making us stuck in something we don't really care about. And a lot of the time the scarcity mindset of not letting something go that is no longer working (it's rotten) feeds into digging ourselves into a deeper hole. We need to explore, have lots of things, be open, be flexible and get clear on that which is most interesting to us.
The path to our thing is different for everyone. I am walking that never-ending path every day through yoga and writing, and goal-setting and intention setting. It's an evolution and a process to get to understand what excites us every day, what we never get bored of, and what is so intimately important to the fabric of our being. And if your stuck on finding your passion, start to build an awareness around those things in your life (I'm not talking material things, but interactions/activities/personal hobbies/curiosities) that you just can't live without. They might be more meaningful than you give them credit for. Then work backward and break down the big picture into smaller pieces. What is the x, y, and z that feeds into helping you get to know your deepest passions.