“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” ―Joseph Campbell
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” ―Steve Jobs
Confucius the scholar
Confucius encouraged others to do what they love. Even Confucius sometimes missed the point.
Admit it. You live in a society that reveres the perspectives of Joseph Campbell and Steve Jobs. You’ve been told that, if you do what you love, the money will follow. You’ve been told that, if you find your bliss, world-changing success will magically come. You’ve been told that, if you’re not changing the world in dramatic ways, it’s because you’re too afraid to find your passion and follow it.
1. Most gifted people don’t have one overriding passion.
Dave Evans, who co-teaches a popular course on “Designing Your Life” at Stanford University, says, “We don’t start by asking ‘what’s your passion?’ The overwhelming majority of people don’t have a passion, or have multiple. What are all we to do?”
He also makes a distinction between finding work that can engage you and finding one lifelong pathway of bliss. “It’s much better to have an accurate awareness that you don’t know your passion than to have an erroneous confidence in a false passion,” he says, “which is a common result of people trying too hard to concoct one in order to be okay. The day a false passion is unmasked can be a pretty difficult one.”
2. The money just might not follow.
“I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing,” author Penelope Trunk observed a few years ago. And I am not getting paid for sex…. But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about ‘what do I love most?’ Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself.”
Seth Godin once told the story of a gifted friend who took on a draining, grunt role at a record company because music was his bliss. Godin wondered, rightly, if this friend could have served himself and society better if he worked as a schoolteacher during the day and spent his spare time pursuing his passion.
3. The search for one’s passion can be a distraction from living in the present.
Fifty years before Steve Jobs told college graduates to ceaselessly search for their true passion, the great Trappist monk Thomas Merton observed, “The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.” Merton exhorted others instead to find meaning in an imperfect present moment.
Ronald E. Powaski has written about the Trappi…
“The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies,” Thomas Merton wrote in 1955.
“Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations?” Merton asked. “He will accept such work only as a ‘means of livelihood’ while he waits to discover his ‘true vocation.’” In that way, he anticipated an entire generation of career advisers and bestselling job search books.