“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?
A PATH WITH A HEART
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.
The exchanges between student and teacher are 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.
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.
The following YouTube video is a reading by 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!
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.
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?
DO YOUR PASSION
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.
ANOTHER TAKE ON IT ALL….
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.
CREATING A LEGACY
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?
HOW DO WE EAT?
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?
MAKING IT COME REAL
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]
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