“Follow your passion”…”take the path with a heart.”  We hear that a lot, those of us who are looking for meaning and mana to add to our ordinary lives.

Are they the same thing?  Do they mean what we’ve been told they mean?  Does this advice make sense?


The “path with a heart” entered the public arena for consideration back in the late 1960’s, when an anthropology student Carlos Castaneda began writing a series of books recounting his experiences as an apprentice sorcerer under a Yaqui Indian “man of knowledge” Don Juan Matus.

The exchanges between student and teacher are often humorous in a way.  Carlos, the linear left-brained thinker, keeps trying to unravel and straighten out Don Juan’s circular, right-brained way of dealing with the world.  It never goes well for Carlos.

The following YouTube video, “Don Juan Matus – The Four Natural Enemies of a Man of Knowledge” was published in 2012 by jdogsful.  It is a reading by another vlogger, LucidMaui, of Castaneda’s book, THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.

That’s a far cry from the advice you get from the career counselors!

At one point, Don Juan tries a number of different ways to explain to the slow learner about the “path with a heart.”  Don Juan tells Carlos all he has to do, before embarking on any path is to ask the question, “Does this path have a heart?  He tells Carlos that just asking the question will give him an immediate answer.

Carlos cannot get it.  He keeps wanting to know how to know for sure that the answer he gets when he asks the question is “real.”  After all, Carlos says, maybe he is just lying to himself.  Maybe when he asks the question, Carlos tells Don Juan, the path is enjoyable, pleasant.

Exasperated, Don Juan tells him, “A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.

Carlos, poor man, still didn’t get it.  I’m not sure he ever did.  Most of us who were not raised to listen and trust our hearts don’t.

This YouTube video, “Path With a Heart” features a slide show of photography by Bill Caldwell of ABeautifulSky Photography with music by John Mills.  The paintings are Caldwell’s.  It was published in 2014 by EverSound Music.  Bill Caldwell and John Mills, unlike Carlos, do get it.

The iconic Maker Patti Smith, after forty years on the planet being a musician, singer, poet, painter, actor, photographer, and even a fashion focus,  shared some secrets to her success in a 2013 interview with THE GLOBE AND MAIL.

Patti Smith by Phil King via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
At one point, she described an instance when, early in her career, a producer who had seen her doing a “musical poetry reading” wanted to shape Patti into a 70’s-style Cher. Patti was flattered and, perhaps, even tempted by the offer.

She said, “Of course it was an honor that someone wanted to invest time and money in me, but this guy had a specific vision for me and it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

She turned him down and walked away.  After all, she figured, Cher was already being Cher and there was no need for two in the world.  As Smith pointed out in the interview, it’s wise to dodge opportunities that are not in keeping with your own personal vision.

She said, “Everyone has to make a living – I worked in a factory, I was a really bad waitress – but in terms of your art, that’s not something you should compromise. You might think you will only compromise for a while, but that’s not the way it works.”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  “Heart” is purpose.  “Heart” is the why you do what you do.  If the why of a particular path is not aligned with your own self-definition, what is the point of taking that path?


Life and career coaches keep on telling you that you absolutely must, “follow your passion,” and just do only what you love.  You’ve got to believe in your dreams, they say.  It’s the very first step.

They get you doing all kinds of exercises that are meant to show you what you really love and in among all that stuff you like, there’s going to be the one thing that will skyrocket you into the stratosphere of $ucce$$.  Uh-huh.

You know what the major problem with following your passion is?  You can be caught up in a love affair with a something for which you are particularly unsuited.

Maybe your passion is playing the piano and you’re tone-deaf.  Maybe your passion is cooking, but your tastebuds don’t register (or even notice) many flavor nuances.  Whatever.  You can train yourself to do it, right?  Ri-i-i-ight.

Yes, you can, but it will be a long, hard road just getting to square one.  Your chances of success, however you choose to define it, are probably not going to be very high for a good bit of time.

This YouTube video, published by PragerU, features TV personality Mike Rowe, star of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” shares his “Dirty Truth” (his opinion) about the whole concept.

This video was a commencement address for PragerU, which is an online educational organization who says forthrightly that they want to “help millions of people understand the fundamental values that shaped America.”  It was founded by syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager.


Nathaniel Koloc is the co-founder and CEO of ReWork, a highly successful mission-driven talent firm that connects professionals with hiring managers at companies who are attempting to be change-agents on social, environmental and cultural levels.  He writes a blog on his website, The Muse.

According to Koloc, finding and holding onto meaningful work is a bit more complicated than most career coaches and other advisors tell you.

Yes, you do better if you know what your passion is and what you are driven by.

But figuring that one out involves more than locking yourself in a room and pulling out a pen and some paper and writing reams about how and what you’re feeling.  He outlines a process that does work.


Koloc points out that before anything else, it would be a good idea to ask yourself what change you want to create in the world, for yourself and also for others and for future generations.   You need to figure out the shape of what Koloc calls your “legacy.”  It’s the old question:  When you’re dead, how do you want to be remembered?” 

You’ll find some of your answers by talking to other people and finding out what lessons they’ve learned so far in their own walks.  Maybe you can use the brain-pickings to up your own game.

You’ll test your long-held assumptions and your personal theories of how the world works by actually designing products or systems or services that make use of your theories and then implementing them in the real world.  These tests will help you figure out whether what you “know” is drek.

Will your balloon fly?  Or is it just going to be an empty bag spread out on the ground?


You need to take a hard look at this next question:  Would you do this passion of yours every day to make money?  Or is this passion-thing too pure to be “sullied” by commercialization?

If your passion  — whatever it is — is too pure for doing the marketing dance, then you have to ask yourself the Mommy-question:  how do you plan on eating while you pursue this?  And how do you plan on feeding your children and other dependents?


You’ll also need to ask yourself whether you have at least the start of the skills you need  to pursue this passion of yours.  Are these skills things you want to continue developing?

Most importantly, you have to ask yourself whether you willing to put in the time and the all-out effort that is demanded for getting to becoming a master in matters about which you are passionate?

It takes time and it takes work, mastery.  Are you up for it?

If you’re not going for mastery, why would you bother?  If you are okay with just being okay, are you sure that this thing you love doing is a passion?

And then you have to go do it. 

There may already be a market with a multitude of folks panting for whatever you and your passion produces.  Will it still be there when you’ve finally gotten the skills you need?

Maybe not.  Then you’ve got to be prepared to also do the work of building a market for your own unique productions.

Regardless of what the market is or isn’t, you will still have to work on making the transition from doing the dreck-work and sweeping out the stables to soaring around with eagles or whatever.


To get to where you love doing everything you do, you have to get through the part where you do the set-up so you can.

It’ll take time.  It’ll take effort.  You will be frustrated.  You will feel trapped.  You will go broke.  You will fail.  You will fall down and stand up and fall down again.  That’s all normal.  According to Koloc (and many other guys who did it their own selves), it is well worth it.

As Koloc says, “It may not be as easy as quitting your job one day and living in eternal bliss the next—but the things we value most in life tend to be the things we fought hardest for anyway. So, let’s drop the “follow your passion!” mindset and get to work.”Here’s a poem:


Passion is vital energy:

Used to combat entropy

And turbocharge creativity:



Doesn’t matter what the focus.

It can be used for hocus-pocus,

Keeps one from being a diplodocus:



Passion’s more than lovers’ schemes.

Passion fuels the wildest dreams,

Straps rockets onto hopes, it seems:



What a great discovery!

A cure, a hope against apathy

That makes the heart go flying free:


by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Passion by Patrick Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.














  1. ((inserting BRAVO emoji here)) Quite honestly I don’t know how incorporate an emoji from my laptop but I commend your article. This is amazing and finishing it off with a poem was unexpected.

    It’s something everyone should take time to do when evaluating their “passion.” It shouldn’t be something one blurts out loosely but wholeheartedly.

    And you’re completely right in the process. It’s one thing to be expressive on wishing to pursue a dream/passion, but the work, hard work and investment it takes, is this truly a focus of a heart matter or carnal?!

    Thank you for delivering this post; you have a great mind!

    1. Hey Prophese:

      Thank you for your visit and your comments. Please do come again….

  2. This is very interesting and resonates with me. I love Patti Smith amongst many others.

    I feel this website is one I will visit regulary especially if I feel stressed. It is so well written by a hand I feel has the understanding completely about what she writes and projects it perfectly.

    1. Hey Tracy:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments. Please do come again….

  3. Mei Scarlet says:

    Wow! I love it when I read things at the right time in my life….

    I’ve just been frustrating myself and my thoughts over my “passions” recently. I’ve come to realize that the reason my “passions” and my “goals” seem so fruitless; in the way that they never find accomplishment, is because they’re empty. It’s wishful thinking, and how badly do I really want them?

    I say I want to do this and that…. I want my dreams to come true. But I only dream it with my words; I don’t dream it with my heart. That’s why I’ve realized I have empty passions.

    I need to truly discover what it is I want, before I can experience true PASSION! 🙂

    1. Hey Mei Scarlet: Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts. Please do come again….

  4. Wow! What a beautiful poem and such a great message, Netta. Thank you for sharing it.

    I once received the advice that if you love what you do at your work, then it never feels like work. Honestly, I have to say that I would agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

    If you are willing to put in the work so that you can make a career from what you are truly passionate about, then the work that you do will be far more rewarding, in my opinion.

    With that said, what do you think the first step should be so that I could follow my passion and create a full-time income with it? Do you think it’s best to try and forge my own path, or find a career that closely tailors to what I love doing?

    While I don’t believe I would be able to find a job doing exactly what I love to do, I suppose I could compromise just a little bit, LOL. Truthfully though I would much rather be able to determine where and when I work, if that’s even possible.

    Thanks once again for sharing this beautiful post and poem and I’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.


    1. Hey Tony:

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      There is no one-size-fits-all answer to your question, I’m afraid.  There are just too many variables involved.  

      If your passion, for example, is being in charge of a giant corporation then the game is a lot different than if you want to be a street busker doing magic tricks and making balloon animals.  

      Both are worthy goals, but the moves you have to make are different.

      You’ve got the first step down already.  You know what “your path with a heart” is.  Good.  Any path-manifesting starts with desire, intention and will.

      The post has a number of suggestions from various people — questions to ask and options to consider for taking your next step.  You might want to try them.  

      My own favorite ploy is doing the Back-Track.  Okay…I want to be there — Point B.  Point A is who and what and where I am now.  

      Pretend I’m standing at Point B.  How did I get there from Point A?  I make a story about the trail that Future-Me took to get to Point B.  

      Maybe I had to get some training.  Maybe I needed to learn other ways of doing things that I didn’t know yet when I was at Point A.  Maybe I got good enough to work my way into an apprenticeship with some master or other.  Maybe I got a dumb gopher job doing scutwork in the field I wanted to explore, did more than I was asked to do, and kept learning everything I could from anybody good before moving on to the next and the next and the next.  

      (My story, by the way, does not involve magic incantations, extreme patronage, an unexpected inheritance, or Divine intervention.  It’s about me dancing with the world and moving across the dance floor my own way.)  

      Included in that Future-Me story is also a subplot about the moves I made to earn enough money so me and mine could eat good meals as well as live in accommodations that were better than a cardboard box.  

      In there somewhere I also needed enough money left over from basic survival that I could use for being my own patron while I moved along on the road to Future Me.   

      (This is an important sub-plot.  Since it usually takes longer than a couple of weeks to gain the kind of mastery for which people will pay you well, knowing how you’re going to keep your body and soul together is a lot pertinent to the situation.)

      The Future-Me back-tracking story lays down a map for me to follow.  Once I’ve got the story down, I go do the first move from where I am at Point A, fully expecting the plan to get shot to hell so I can go make some story adjustments that I hadn’t even considered.  

      (It’s a quest.  That’s what you do when you’re on a quest.)

      Marketing maven Seth Godin has a really cool suggestion.  He says, “…whenever possible, ask yourself:  What’s the smallest possible footprint I can get away with?  What is the smallest possible project that is worth my time?  What is the smallest group of people who I could make a difference for, or to?”  

      Godin says you need to think small and then smallest because small is achievable.  Small is a thing you can do now.  Small is an investment you can make without breaking your bank.

      Smallest, he says, feels risky.  If you pick smallest and you go for it and you fail, it means that you’ve really screwed up and at least that part of your plan is drek so you need to go back to your drawing board.  In that case, you revise the plan and then you go again.

      So…a long answer to a short but important question.

      Good fortune on your journey.

      Oh…and one last thing.  I can tell you from experience:  Work ALWAYS feels like work….even the work you love.  The difference is, when you’re doing a path with a heart, you get to play at the same time.

      Please do come again….

      1. Hey Netta,

        Thank you so much for the reply. Perhaps my biggest problem is that I often struggle to even identify my own passions, LOL.

        But hey, with all the amazing experiences life has to offer, aren’t we allowed to be passionate about just a few?

        While I continue on my journey, I will keep you in my thoughts. I hope that your dance takes you, and all you wish to share the dance floor with, so very far from that cardboard box 😉


        PS Please continue to always write. Your style is breathtaking to say the least.

        1. Hey Tony:

          You’re welcome, dude.

          Again, you’ve pointed out an important factor. ALL of us have more than one possibility, more than one passion. Some of us have a whole crowd of them.

          The trick with that one is to try to figure out how to get the durned things to all line up and start marching in the same direction. You try to figure out ways and look for opportunities that allow your different passions to work together so they create a synergy that allows one to feed the other and they all build up into a grand song.

          If it works, it’ll be a fancy dance like no other and it’ll be all yours. And that’ll be a good thing. It does take time and a lot of bottom-breaking work. It will be really, really hard. It’ll also be a heck of a lot of fun!

          Thanks for your kind thoughts. All the best to you….

  5. Wow, this has so much beauty in it. Every student (and person at a crossroads) should hear the words:

    “A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”

    It’s true that one may never “get” it. These things are personal journeys and everyone takes them alone. 

    As an artist, it’s a wonderful thing when you are offered help by someone who loves your work. It is amazing when the helper shares the same vision, but can be a challenge if they don’t. The most moving works of art are the ones where the artist’s passion is obvious…. the ones where the heart created the piece. 

    Thanks for the lovely reminders to follow your heart… even if you must also find ways to create space for this with other work.

    1. Thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Aly.  I am glad the post moved you.  

      I do agree that that the best art is always heartful.  

      Please do come again….

  6. Russ Green says:

    What an interesting article, I can tell just how passionate you are, in fact, I feel inspired and more passionate myself after reading this article. 

    I don’t know very much about poetry but after reading this post, I can tell that you not only have a great mind, but you are very good at projecting your mind and thoughts into your writing, thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading it.


    1. Russ, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again….

  7. Diplodocus?? Cute. I love slightly forced, obscure rhyme schemes. It’s one of the reasons I’m a big fan of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote, “in the depths of her interior were fears she was inferior, or something even eerier, but no one dared to query her superior exterior” and also “she only allowed a man to see enough to fan his fantasy.”

    A beautiful inspiring website. Excellent use of videos, and the writing integrates with them perfectly.

    My passion was always acting. I’m actually quite good at it, but I’m not great at it, nor do I posses movie star looks. Of course, the completion is astronomical, the chances of financial success minuscule. And the business of acting is horrible, full callous judgement and soul crushing rejection.

    While perusing this passion, I got a “day job” driving a truck for a large chain of hospitals. One of the places I delivered to was their computer center. It looked interesting so I transferred to an entry level job there. Fast forward, 30 years later I retired as a Systems Programmer. Was I ever passionate about computing? No, but it was interesting, challenging, I met lots of great people who became lifelong friends, and I had the satisfaction of knowing that at the end of all my work I was helping, in a small way, to make sick people well and to save lives. Oh, and the pay was great.

    The job freed me to pursue my passion as art rather than commerce. In small equity waiver houses around Los Angeles, I acted for free. I got to play some really great parts, parts I would never have been given the opportunity to play in the business. My job also gave me the wherewithal, to visit London several times and see all the greatest actors of our era perform live. I splurged on the best seats. I watched Maggie Smith for 2 hours from about 8 feet away! 

    I know I’ve gone on a bit, but your article has really inspired me to review and re-examine my choices and I find I am content with them,

    Thank you for that.

    1. Hee!  (Yeah, I know…couldn’t think of another more glamorous dinosaur.)

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your story, thejimb2.  I loved it.  I’m pleased your life-decisions worked well for you and I hope your story will inspire others to go be their own patrons and not burden their passions with a lot of other heart-deadening stuff.  

      Good on ya!

      Please do come again….

  8. Is it is a good idea that you shared this article here, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it and it is very impactful to me as I’ve been able to gain a lot of good things from it. 

    It’s good for us as humans to follow and do that which we have passion for as well be able to explore the best of ourselves because we’re doing what our heart truly desires 

    1. Shavo, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  9. Thank you once again for yet another brilliant article. I think that if you are going to do anything, it should be from the heart. Otherwise there is not really much point in doing it. 

    I never feel right with myself if I am doing something based on pure logic alone. You need to have passion in what you do really.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Kwidzin.  You do point out an interesting thing.  Very often, a decision arising out of logic alone often is not quite satisfactory.  Maybe it’s ’cause most people don’t run on pure logic and we connect better with each other when we factor in heart-thoughts and passion moves.

      Please do come again.

  10. Eddie Edmonds says:

    What a lovely article. What you have created is a masterful Masterpiece. I like that you have started the article with the words of Carlos Casteneda.

    For some time, I too was fascinated with his work to understand the world. He at last transitioned it was said and escaped the Eagle that destroys us all.

    The poetry was insightful as well and I enjoyed the reading of the words of wisdom entailed therein.
    I now follow the teachings of Jesus and they have me on the straight and narrow, the path that leads to the correct destination.

    Continue to follow the path of heart in all that you do, and I am sure that you will be led to that path as well.


    1. Eddie, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate them.  

      Please do come again.

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