When I was younger, I used to snicker and sneer at my mom’s obsession with “self-help.” Books, tapes, seminars and frequent visits to the self-help section at Barnes & Nobles, I saw it as something for the weak, the needy, and hopeless. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that life is really a matter of continuous self-improvement; a journey in which we learn and correct course along the way. We gain new tools along the way and discover new territories within ourselves and others. For some, the journey is short and the growth is stunted; for others, they push the boundaries as far as they can. Self-improvement doesn’t have to stop at college and remain limited to corporate training.
Several months ago I began asking myself many questions. Questions about why I do what I do. What I want; where I want to go. Several Google queries later, I found what was to be a domino effect of more questions and doors opening to new territories I’ve never explored.
Since returning from South America, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted from writing. I realized that it remained an outlet to reflect as well as share the start of what feels to be a tough, long exciting journey ahead. Perhaps it’s arrogant to think anyone should want to read such dribble… humor me! There are hundreds of books out there that provide generalizations, rules, methods, guidelines, and principles on various aspects of life; from wealth and health, to love and relationships. In my experience, many offer great summations and tips based on the author’s recount of events and experiences; however, few document the evolution real-time; the ups and downs, good and bad that one must endure to get to their end goal.
Most suffer from selective memory and tend to filter out many details that may have significant impact on the overall story. It’s never as easy as it’s made to seem. We all seek success in life. We want to be wealthy, be fit and healthy, and want to love and be loved; three of the top subjects that plague the minds of millions.
My goal here is to share my experiences of such pursuits, in real-time. Share the ups and downs, the successes and failures in my pursuit of seeking out wealth, maintained health, and love.
From what I can remember, the turning point for me began with a simple curiosity; a simple question. “How to find your passion?” Perhaps, initially this seems like a silly question, as if the answer should be obvious. As if we should already know what our passions are. But upon further inspection, I haven’t found that to be the case. Throughout my academic and professional career, there has been a vague notion of finding a passion and somehow associating it with a source of income. As elementary students, we’re asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The world then, was small. The selection of answers was narrow: a police officer, a fire-fighter, or a veterinarian. My answer was inventor; that didn’t seem to fit well with the status quo (perhaps a glimmer of an entrepreneurial spirit shining through…).
As I progressed academically, I seemed to excel at math and science (ironically, I hated reading and writing!). Paired with a habit to destroy newly acquired toys and household electronics for the sole purpose of seeing how they worked led me to a college degree in engineering; perhaps pigeon-holed is a better term… Notice that throughout this process, this whole concept of finding a passion seems to take the back-seat to pursuing what you’re mildly good at; what’s practical and will lead to a job that will pay the bills. Practical, yes; fulfilling, questionable. Eventually, any concept of exploring your passions is boxed into the context of defining your career path within your respective company, or is left to you “spare” time on the weekends. Soon “passion” takes on a new meaning; from something that excites and energizes you to something you can tolerate.
As a child, I remember spending hours on activities; from building gigantic, colorful sculptures out of Kinects to building wooden tree forts purely for enjoyment, fun! These activities have been replaced with assigned tasks and enjoyment has been replaced with a paycheck, a process designed merely to perpetuate the cycle.
Perhaps after a few ill-conceived tests and vague explorations, we define the futures of our lives. From there on, we end up on this robotic train ride through school, college, and the life sentence we call work, only to wake up one day wondering how we got to where we are. At some point, you wait until the end of the line, find a new train, or abandon ship all together. I vote for the latter two unless the train you’re on is made by Taggart riding on Rearden Steel (see Atlas Shrugged).
Since I started asking questions, only more questions have arisen. I’ve devoured thousands of kilobytes of audio and video, read hundreds of pages of literature, and surfed dozens of websites. Though I still have many reservations about the “self-help” section at Barnes & Nobels, I found myself reading things I once would have scoffed at.Change is often uncomfortable and re-evaluation is not commonly or frequently applied to our lives; however, these two concepts are essential for any real progress or evolution; so-call self-improvement.
I realized that life is a blank canvas. You can either select a template that society hands you and fill in the blanks; paint the numbers, or you can create your own master-piece. I prefer the latter. Even as I write this, I fight hard-wired doubts; what will other think, what will my friends say, is this silly, am I crazy, is this bullshit, who cares? I could go on… But at some point you just have to say, “Fuck it,” and follow what you believe to be right.
I don’t have all the answers, nor do I suspect I ever will, but I’m interested in continuing to ask and seek out the answers. I once had the following diagram drawn for me:
It was explained that the small slice represents what you know. The slightly larger slice represents what you know you don’t know. Everything else is what you don’t know you don’t know. It would appear there’s much more to learn.
Time to start painting…
Recommended Book: Atlas Shrugged, if you are prepared to tackle the 1000+ page, brick of a book, it’s a highly controversial, interesting, and thought provoking book. One of my favorites!
Questions: What’s your passion? How does one go about finding their passion? I’d love to hear your thoughts (comment below)!