Find something that makes you happy and fixate on it. That is the answer to all things. It’s the answer to getting everything that you want.” -Abraham Hicks
What is your why?
It’s been months since I put that quote in my iPhone “Notebook” application reserved for blog post inspirations; so long, in fact, that I don’t even remember where I saw it — a book? A commercial?
Wherever or whatever the source, it’s a question worth pondering.
During my travels in Germany this past Spring, I took a day trip to see the famous Neushwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the enchanted fortress in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. After a truly fairy-tale-like 6 hours there, I hopped on a bus back to Munich and got into a conversation with some Americans — two adults, probably mid-40s with kids, and a 22-year-old girl currently teaching English in Paris. Youthful, enthusiastic, and just getting into the “real world,” the 22-year-old talked at length about her work abroad, but then moved on to discuss how her and her friends were having so much trouble finding jobs back home that fit their interests. “The job market is terrible right now,” she complained, “we can’t find anything we’re passionate about.”
I sat quietly as the middle-aged couple helped get to the bottom of her struggles — How many places had she actually looked for a job? Where were these places? (hint: she may have to look beyond her current city of San Diego). Had she thought about what kind of job she wanted or the availability of jobs before she selected a major?
“And it doesn’t have to be your passion,” I piped up.
The young girl’s eyes widened, but the couple nodded, encouraging me to expand on my statement.
“The whole notion that your job should be your passion makes people think too hard. You have to find something you like doing that allows you to do everything — in and outside of work — that you want to do in life. Sometimes people get really lucky and find work that allows for both; either way, you can live out your passions even if it’s not in a job, and you can still find a job that makes you happy even if it’s not your ‘passion.'”
With the man and woman still nodding, and the young girl now eagerly trying to come up with a rebuttal, I sat back in my seat with a smile, one that quickly turned to a frown. Had I just told someone to settle? Me, as in the person whose catch phrase is Never Settle?
I glanced out the bus window at the beautiful German countryside and my smile soon returned. No, I thought, I hadn’t told the girl to settle at all. Because the key to happiness and satisfaction isn’t about making your passion your job; it’s about bringing what your passionate about into every aspect of your life.
In my second memoir, I talk about how my dad’s death and the events during the year after it tossed just about every conclusion I’d ever made about life on its head, including and especially about what my “passion” was. Once confidently on a path pursuing my Master’s degree in higher education, determined to find a job that allowed me to help underprivileged kids get to college, suddenly I questioned everything about that path: what job within the world of higher education would or could actually satisfy me? Did I really want this one arena to dominate my entire life? What was at the heart of what I wanted to do?
Ironically, it was a job within an organization intended to help young kids get to college that helped me realize my passion extended far beyond just that cause. As the organization’s “alumni mentor,” I was tasked with helping recent advisors — 24-year-olds who’d spent two years post-college helping low-income high school students navigate getting to college — write their resumes for employment following their time with the organization. These young adults had no idea how much the work they were doing could be translated into real-world corporate experiences, and as someone who’d worked in that world for over six years, I had the ability to help them see that.
I loved it.
In fact, advice about resumes often turned into advice about their futures, everything from graduate school to working in a business setting, all based on experiences I’d had. Each and every call left me feeling more and more fulfilled, so much so that between those interactions and my ongoing book promotions and blog posts, I realized that at the end of the day, I really just wanted to have an impact on people. And when I figured out that much bigger idea, I figured out not only how to find my passion within any job I took, but also, how to find it in my life in general.
If you’ve read my second book, you know that August 7th is one of the most meaningful days of the year for me — because of my first book. After all, the entire idea behind writing the 8 pages that became my initial memoir was that I could use my writing to pay forward my experience with my former friend and idol and ultimately, my experience at my dream school. August 7th, 2004, the date I completed that document titled “Mañana,” became a symbol of hope; its title, the Spanish word for “tomorrow,” reflecting that sentiment.
But I’ve come to understand now that using my experiences to help others is much bigger than that one person, or my dream school. It’s about sharing as many stories as I can to help someone else feel better, more inspired, and ultimately, more empowered. That’s my “why,” and that “why” is about making the most of each and every interaction and opportunity I have.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the chance a couple months back to speak to a group of middle and high school students about my writing “journey” at an awards ceremony recognizing the students’ recent achievements. The night proved wildly successful by any measurement, with numerous compliments on my speech, as well as 50+ books sold. But neither of those characteristics proved the highlight.
The highlight of my night… and the warm fuzzy feeling (not to mention tears) on my ride home came from the 16-year-old girl who walked with me to my car and told me that hearing me tell my story, had inspired her to tell her story.
Your passion isn’t about what you do for a living.
Your passion is about what you do with your life.