Friday, December 30, 2011

Think like a child again!! Pursue your passion.

Remember when you were just a kid?  Nothing seemed impossible….there were no limits to your imagination.  You would come up with silly games to entertain yourself, or come up with wild dreams of what your life would be when you grew up.  A child’s imagination has no boundaries.  However, as we grow up, our schools and the adults in our lives begin to tell us we are being immature and to stop being childish.  We start to cover up who we really are, and we begin to establish boundaries in our thought process.  We began to change how we see things.  We may stop voicing our real opinion.  And the next thing you know, we have let our natural creativity wither to the point that we now think like everyone else.

One of the biggest problems I see is that our educational system does not value creativity or imagination.  Yes you do have the occasional exceptional teacher, but as a whole, they don’t. Mostly, they want to make sure you can pass the state required test so they receive an acceptable mark.  I was in one of my kid’s schools the other day and I was absolutely floored by the award the school so proudly hung in the main office.  It was an “Achievement Award for Adequate Yearly Progress.”  I had to do a double take.  They actually give out awards for adequate?  The award was not for “Outstanding” yearly progress, or “Superior” yearly progress.  It was for “Adequate.”  The dictionary defines adequate as barely sufficient or suitable.  I sat there and thought, “They are teaching my kid to be adequate?”  Why don’t they just put a banner in the hallway that says “Reach for Mediocrity!!”

You have to reclaim your imagination.  You have to resurrect your creativity.  You have to shake off the limiting perception of others and break down your barriers.  If you’ve been following along with the previous posts for pursuing your passion, you’ve already started to open your mind up again to other possibilities.  You actually have to give yourself permission to dream again.  Ignore the negative people.  Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing again.

  • Take time for yourself.
  • Remove yourself from your daily grind.
  • Turn off technology.
  • Go for a walk/run/bike ride.
  • Start a new hobby or revive an old one that you enjoyed.
  • Take a class (Art is always good).
  • Be willing to take a risk. New experiences can be energizing.
  • Look through the information you’ve collected about yourself so far and reflect.
  • If you have a young child, take time and play with him or her. Their imagination has no boundaries.

How are you regaining your imagination or discovering your passion? Other’s reading this may be having the same struggles you are having.  Share your comments on what is working for you, or if you are the struggling, share what has you stuck.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded, freethinking, positive people will help you open your own mind.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do you trust your intuition? Discovering your passion by following your gut.

“You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

Do you ever get those strong urges? You know the ones that you feel deep in your gut?  How good are you at listening to them?   Hopefully by now you know a lot more about yourself than you did when you began.  I know that I catalogued a great deal of information about myself throughout the search for my passion.  Some of it was quite eye opening.  One thing I noticed was that I was not very good about trusting myself, or listening to my intuition.  I was very good at over analyzing the situation and then rationalizing it away.  I liked to call it paralysis by analysis.  You spend so much time thinking about it, you never do it, or you just talk yourself out of it.

You know yourself better than you think you do.  If you take the time to just listen to your thoughts, you will find yourself drawn to certain things.  These urges are very important in the discovery and pursuit of your passion.  Don’t trivialize your own intuition.  And by all means, don’t let others discourage you or talk you out of it.  Remember what I said in the previous posts?  This is your life; don’t let others live it for you.  Here is another Steve Jobs quote that I read quite often.

“Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

You’ve probably guessed by now that I am a fan of Steve Jobs.  Anytime I need that extra bit of inspiration to help me regroup when following my passion, or deciding to take a leap of faith, I listen to his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech.

Trust yourself.  Listen to yourself.  Follow your intuition.  What you truly want to do is already inside you.  When you find it, you will know it.  There is an excitement that you feel.  Time seems to fly by when you are engrossed in your passion.  It is on your mind every day.  You will be making time each day for the pursuit of your dream.  It doesn’t drain your energy, it boosts it.  This feeling gives you the drive you need to succeed.  Remember, it is your passion, and your life, not anyone else’s. 
Take the time to listen to yourself:
  • Find a quiet place away from your everyday distractions (work, home, outside responsibilities).
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breathes.
  • Clear your mind of what happened earlier today, and what you have to do this evening.
  • What has your intuition been trying to tell you?
  • Now listen. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If you are afraid to fail, you will never follow your passion

When you were growing up, you were taught many things.  You were taught how to read, how to write, how to do math, etc.   Did anyone ever teach you how to fail?  As a matter of fact, you were probably taught just the opposite.  We are all taught to avoid failure.  Failure is bad!  So now we find ourselves avoiding anything that involves risk, or at least, the risk of failure and embarassment.  Look around at what society is teaching kids today.  They are being taught that “everyone is a winner.”  How many times have you gone to a little league game and everyone gets a trophy just for playing.  That drives me crazy!  Kids need to learn how to lose (fail) so they can see that it is okay, and so they know what they need to do to improve.  We need to change people’s mindset when it comes to failure.  Failure is not bad.  Failure is good!  It is a great teacher, and it is nothing to be afraid of.  It just teaches us that we need to do things differently next time.  There is a lesson in every “failure.”

 Look back through history at any great inventor.  They never succeeded at everything they tried.  There are many things that did not go right.  One famous account is of Thomas Edison.  A reporter once asked Mr. Edison how it felt to have failed 10,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb.  Edison replied “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”  Now that’s how we all should think!

If you can change your view of what failure is it will completely free you.  You will not be bound by the conventional thoughts of failure, and you will find yourself actually doing instead of dreaming.  You never fail if you try.  You just learn new lessons.  Every successful person will tell you that their success was preceded by a series of failures.  If you are afraid of failure, you more than likely have "fear of being embarrassed" on the fear exercise from the last post.

So how do you go about changing your mindset? 
  • Look back at everything you have collected so far from the previous posts. 
  • Examine your list of things you would regret not doing in your life.
  • Look at your fears and how you can overcome them.
  • Start small, plan appropriately, and take action. 
  • Remember, if it doesn’t work the first time, learn from it, modify your plan and try again. 

There is a great new web series by Morgan Spurlock dedicated to this subject called Failure Club.  The entire purpose of the series is for its participants to fail.  You can follow it by clicking here.   

Please share your thoughts in comments.  I am a big believer in sharing your own experiences or advice to help encourage others.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Is fear keeping you from pursuing your passion?

Fear can be a very useful thing in your life.  In some cases it is what keeps us alive.  In fact, you come hardwired with many natural fears.  For example, you may have a fear of snakes or even heights.  Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get when you are about to do something you feel is unsafe.  You instinctively want to preserve your own life.  The problem is when you allow your fears to control your life.

Is fear keeping you from pursuing your passion?  Many people never follow their passion because of fear.  You may be afraid of failure, or afraid of what others will think.  You may have financial fears.  The truth is that most people never trust themselves enough to follow their own dream.  This is the only life you get, so you only get one shot at living the life you want.  This became amazingly clear to me while I was doing my own passion pursuit.  I was afraid of what other people would think of my ideas, or of me for pursuing them.  I did not have enough confidence in myself, or the people around me.  I justified my own inaction by allowing my fears to have priority in my life.  Bottom line is, not every idea is going to work, and that’s okay.  Not everyone around you is going to believe in you, and that’s okay too.  You are the one that has to live your life, not them.  You are the only one that can free yourself from your fears and take action. If you read my last post titled “What would you regret not doing in your life?” you can see how fear plays into regret.  Simply put:


Like I said before, not everything is going to work, and that is okay.  YOU have to be okay with that.  Once you understand that, you can climb out of your nice little box you built for yourself and try something new.  Don’t let your fears keep you from your dream.  A life of “what if’s”, is a life not lived.  Don’t paralyze yourself by making up your own excuses.  Don’t waste the only life you have.

  • What are your fears?
  • How are your fears keeping you from pursuing your dream?
  • Are your fears valid? (Be honest)
  • Are you in your own way?
  • What can you do to overcome your fears?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What would you regret not doing in your life?

No one wants to live a life with regrets.  Not taking the time to find your passion and follow your dream may be one of the biggest regrets you will ever have.  Sometimes the answer to our passion lies in the very question above.  “What would you regret not doing in your life?”  What is it that you’ve always wanted to do?

If you’ve been following along in the previous posts, you collected a lot of information about yourself.  You’ve taken a look at your current situation, your past, your strengths, and weaknesses.  Now that you have all of that information, it’s time to see if you can tie them together with the desires you have always had inside you. 

Look at all that you have gathered together.  Look for the common elements. Is there something in there that really excites you?  Now look at what you’ve always wanted to do.  Start with these questions:

  • What would I regret not doing?
  • What motivates me?
  • What would I do if I knew I would not fail?
This is the only life you get.  The biggest injustice you could ever do to yourself is to never start living.  There is a poem by Kirk Nugent that I stumbled on as I was searching for my passion.  Here is one excerpt that really stood out to me.

I never listened to what the pessimists are telling me

            Because I know that the richest place on the planet is the cemetery. 
            There you will find books that were never written,
            Loved ones that were never forgiven,
            Ideas that were smitten
            And dreams that were forbidden.
            Soil that was never tilled, cathedrals that were never built!
            Restaurants that were never opened

            Chefs that never knew they were smoking.
            Paintings that were never drawn nor hung,
            Songs that were neither composed nor sung
            Souls that never acted on what they really wanted to do

            So don’t you dare die with your greatness buried within you!

 You can hear the rest of the poem here.

You may discover that you have more passions than you thought you did.  Two of the many things I discovered were that I would regret not starting my own business, and traveling extensively.  I’m working on both now.  What are you doing?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What are my weaknesses? What drains my energy?

Well, last post we talked about finding your talents and strengths.  This time, the topic isn’t so bright and cheery, but it is essential.  Wasn’t that always the dreaded topic during an interview?  “Tell me about your weaknesses” they’d ask.  You would sit there like a deer in headlights having an internal argument in your head saying things like…”What?!? My weaknesses?  What do I say that won’t blow the interview?  Just pick something minor.  I don’t like confrontations….No he may think I can’t manage others, or would be difficult to work with.  Maybe I’ll say I’m a perfectionist…. No, No, he may think I have trouble letting go of work or meeting deadlines.”  So you end up saying, “nothing really comes to mind”, which we all know is not true.  We all have weaknesses, and the better you can identify them, the better off you will be.

You see, weaknesses are areas that we struggle with.  When you struggle, it drains your energy.  You are drained because you are not working within your strengths.  Now you will never be able to eliminate all of your weaknesses, but you may be able to identify them and compensate for them, or move yourself away from continually working in your weak area, and focus more on your strong areas.

Break out the notepad again.  Take a week (or two) and write down every time you find yourself in a situation where you feel out of your element, or not operating within your strengths (If you haven’t identified your strengths, see the last post titled “What are my Talents?  What are my strengths?”).  You will notice these situations because you feel absolutely drained and stressed when you encounter them.  Ask yourself:
  • When do I feel the most stress?
  • What am I doing when I feel this way?
  • Are the situations similar?
  • Do I feel more drained by the end of the activity than when I began?
Be honest with yourself.  Everyone has weaknesses.  Once you’ve identified your weaknesses make adjustments to your life to minimize your operating within them.  Find a way to compensate for them.  If you are not particularly well at proofreading documents, pair yourself up with someone who does it well.  You may be able to work a tradeoff of strength for strength.  Maybe you are strong in something that they are weak in.  You can’t be good at everything, but you can surround yourself with others to make up for your weaknesses.  Notice I never say focus on improving yourself in your weak areas.  You should be focusing your energies into excelling in your strengths.  Focusing on improving your weaknesses will only make you somewhat effective and mediocre in an area you care nothing about.  I say energies are best spent enhancing your strengths.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What are my talents? What are my strengths? Am I using them to follow my dream?

These were interesting questions to me.  When I first started thinking about my talents, nothing jumped out.  Most people don’t think broad enough when thinking of a talent.  Their perception of talents immediately jumps to singing, dancing, or sports.  People think, “I’m not any good at those things, so I guess I really don’t have a talent” and limit their focus.  After all, that’s what society has identified as worthwhile talents.  Just look at all the TV shows built around discovering “talent.”  After all, how many accountants are winning these shows because they a phenomenal at working a spreadsheet and have an innate ability to understand numbers.  EXACTLY!! 

You may have a talent like singing or athletics,and that's great, but don’t limit yourself to the generic understanding of what a talent, or ability is.  For me, I can’t sing, dance, or play sports in any spectacular way.  I can draw reasonably well, and I have a very creative and inventive mind.  I even took the Myers-Briggs personality test (INTJ in case you were wondering).  It really didn’t tell me any more about myself, but it did confirm to me on why I think the way I do.  I also did a lot of soul searching.  I asked myself a few questions:

  • What do I do that really energizes me? 
  • What can I really focus on that I enjoy doing?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What things do I like to do?
  • What am I good at?
I kept a small note pad with me throughout the day.  Whenever I found myself engrossed in something, or found something particularly easy, and enjoyable, I jotted it down.  I did this for about a week (you can do longer if you like).  Then I went back and looked at it.  One of the main things I discovered is that I’m a natural problem solver.  Doesn’t sound like much of a talent does it?  I guess I would make a pretty lame super hero.  Anyway, I enjoy the complexity of issues, and finding creative ways to overcome them.  I am an analytical thinker, I’m good at assessing situations, I can see the “big picture”, and can see trends and potential outcomes based on different scenarios. I also have a creative side.  I enjoy the challenge of the planning and execution of the plan.  I discovered other talents that I do possess, but this talent has served me well.

Let your searching begin…

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you follow your passion?

What were your earliest passions?  Now were reaching back!  You really can’t start from the very, very beginning. Not everyone grows up to be what they wanted to be as a kid; if they did, there would be a plethora of princesses’, cowboys and astronauts in this world.  So at some point in our life, most of us redirected our focus.  You need to focus in on a period of your life when you were developing your real interests. 

I can remember when I was a kid I wanted to either be a stunt man (okay all you children of the 80’s- remember the Fall Guy) or go into advertising because I loved drawing, loved commercials and I wanted to be creative.  Needless to say the stunt man thing went along the wayside relatively quick (the show was cancelled.  It was a sad time), but I did want to pursue advertising and marketing.  I can still remember sitting in the guidance counselor’s office at the beginning of college telling him I wanted to go into advertising.  He told me that it would be very hard to get into that in our town, and I should probably either look into moving out of state, or pick another career.  So as a naive 18 year old, I took the guidance of the counselor and went into business management, went for a year and then dropped out! I later went back to school, but only after I had a wife, a kid, and working fulltime in a job to make ends meet (sound familiar).  I changed jobs a couple of times based on what others thought I should do, and the hopes of a higher hourly rate.  I never chose one based on what my talents were or where I had an interest.  I just thought that it was the way it was suppose to be.

So what is it that captured your interest, or utilized your talent when you were young and fearless? (We’ll talk about talents later).  Make a list, and then go through it.  Some things may only be a passing interest at the time, but some of them may be things that you’ve carried with you your whole life and never acted on them.  Look at your interests now.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I love to talk about?
  • What kind of books or magazines do I enjoy reading?
  • What are my three favorite movies, and what do they have in common?
  • What are my hobbies?
  • What have I always wanted to try?
  • What things do I find myself drawn to?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How did I get here? The first step in finding your passion.

To find out where you need to go, and what your true calling is you have to start by looking at where you have been.   Ask yourself “What decisions have I made in my life that got me to where I am today?”  Did you take a job or a promotion just for the money?  Did you relocate for a job (or choose not to relocate)? Did you choose a career based on what others thought you were good at?  Did you just fall into it?  There could be a number of questions you need to ask yourself to really get to the bottom of the main question…”How did I get here?”

For me, as I began to look at my career, I noticed that I was more or less acting as a passenger in my own life.  Sure I was making the decisions that ultimately got me where I am today.  But why did I make those decisions?  When I started looking for my first “real job”, my girlfriend’s father sent me to a place where he knew the people in charge of hiring.  He said he could get me a job, and he did.  The next place I went was at the request of a friend.  He also said he could get me a job.  So I did, and I got the job.  This seemed to be a repeating pattern in my career choices, even up to the point I started working at my current job.  You guessed it, a friend told me I should put in for it.

I’ve been with my current employer for 10 years now, and the pattern still has not changed.  I have received several promotions, and moved up the ladder quickly.  Each of the positions I took was because different executives at different times wanted me to manage different areas.  I even relocated my entire family 1,100 miles away from my hometown to take one of the positions.  For five years in a row, I received a different promotion to different areas, not staying in one job for more than a year, sometimes less.  I always took it as a compliment.  They came to me because they needed me.  Then it finally dawned on me.  I wasn’t in control of my career.  I didn’t choose any of these jobs.  Someone else chose me, and I just agreed.  Sure I said yes I would take them, but I didn’t set out to say, “in five years I want to be middle management.”  I have never been able to answer the “where do you want to be in five years” question.  I never knew.

Now here I am, following someone else’s plan for my life.  I have never taken charge of my own career. Don't be a passenger.  You have to take an active role in your own life.

Some of this may ring true for you.  Start by examining your own life. Take the time to answer the questions below.  Take a good long look at your life and see if you can find out how you got to where your are today.  Feel free to share in comments.  Everyone’s journey is different.

  • Why did you take your first job?...your second?...third?  You get the idea. 
  • Did you have an interest in the work? 
  • Did anything about the job appeal to you? 
  • What is your pattern?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What the heck am I doing with my life?

So you wake up one day and say, “what the heck am I doing with my life?  Do I really want to be doing this for the rest of my life?”   Not only are you questioning what your doing with your life, you don’t even know how you ended up where you are.  That’s the funny thing about life…you get out of high school, you may go to college, or get a job and the next thing you know you have bills and responsibilities and your trying to make ends meet.  You get so busy with the day-to-day grind; you never take the time to plan where you are going, much less enjoy the journey.

Most people never take the time to really pursue what they really want to do with their life.  The never find their PASSION.  A few lucky people find their passion early in life; some discover it later; and some (sadly) will never find out.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  You can find your PASSION and follow your DREAM.

So now were back to where we started.  “What the hell am I doing?”  This is how I woke up one morning, a few weeks before my 40th birthday. (It’s amazing how birthdays can have that affect on you).  By all measures of society I am living a great life.  And I am.  I don’t begrudge anything I have in life; on the contrary, I am very grateful.  I have a good paying job, a wife, four kids, a nice house, two cars, and three cats.  Most would say I have the all American dream.  Some of you may be asking right now “so what’s the problem?”  Well, the interesting thing about looking at your life in retrospect is that it’s easier to see where you’ve been instead of where you are going.  That’s how most of us live…looking back. 

The only thing I knew was that my job was not fulfilling me, it was actually draining me to the point of total burnout.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I new I was missing something.  The thing I came to realize is that I have spent the majority of my working life following someone else’s plan.  I didn't have my own dream.  I allowed others needs, as well as my own insecurities and fears keep me from living my own life.  Then on October 5th, I came across YouTube video that put my mind on the path to discovery.  You see October 5th is the day Steve Jobs died, and the Internet was swimming in articles about his life.  I always thought of him as an amazing mind of our lifetime.  But it wasn’t really about him personally; it was what he said that gave me focus.  I came across his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out below.  Two quotes that stood out to me was when he said “if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and “... Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

So began my journey.  I know I’m not the only one that has woken up one morning uttering those words, and began questioning where I am in life.  And if you are reading this and are feeling the same way, or have felt the same way at one time or another, just know that you are not alone either.  I’ll be posting bits and pieces of my journey and hopefully it can help someone else along the way. 

Just remember, finding your passion is not a quick and easy task.  It takes time, patience, and a lot of self-reflection.  But it is worth it.

Stay tuned….

Suggested reading to begin your search:

The Element, by Ken Robinson
The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, by Marcus Buckingham