Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Can I Follow My Passion If I Don't Know What It Is?

It was when I was very young that I first heard "to be happy, you must follow your dreams!" I watched Oprah after school with my grandmother and it seemed like every show was about someone who changed their life by living their dreams. I heard it in every school I attended and throughout college. It seemed like the surest way to success was to take all those passions and turn them into your life. 
Oprah, I already know that "Light Bulb"
moments are wonderful -
HOW do I have one? 
"How?" I would always think. "How do you FIND these passions and dreams?" From being in school for 15 years, I knew how to follow directions given to me - but how do I find what I really want to do? Was it like puberty? Was I just going to  wake up one day and realize my passions? Was it part of growing up? 

I wanted to find out how one finds this passion. All around me I had examples of people distinctly not doing living their dreams - yet telling me that I must. Well, okay - how? 

So, I did some research. 

One of my favorite articles from that time is Steve Job's commencement speech to Standford Class of 2005. Whether you think Mr. Jobs is an evil genius or just a genius, his words resonate. It finally answered the question of how to find your passion and then transform your life. It showed me that you never know when a hobby or an interest may one day play a huge part in your life and that those need to be encouraged and followed. Certainly, it helped me solidify my decision when I thought about going full-time into hooping.

If you haven't read this fairly well-known text, I highly recommend it. He says in the article that it is a story about "connecting the dots," and that's exactly what it does. It shows you how the everyday and mundane things can mean more than you think - and learning to trust and listen to yourself can help guide you to your passion. Then you can work on transforming that passion into your livelihood.

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
Who would've guessed that Calligraphy
would change computer design
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.  Read More


KymSpins said...

As a follow up to this popular post, I have to post this. From shannons blog (

“Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: Be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success; don’t try to do pictures for others to look at – just please yourself.”

~Ralph Steiner

Living more and more each day by these words is making it so that I feel open to finding that passion. I didn't realize how much an uncluttered life, with time to go towards what resonates with you is so important to finding these things. Before I always thought - I MUST TRY EVERYTHING TO FIND IT! it is quite the opposite. With free time, I went towards what I wanted to fill up my life with. And that is how I found my passion. (and the journey continues... )

KymSpins said...

haha.. okay one more from me.
I think that this is an important follow up as well :)

as this article served as a frame of reference for the event