Lisa’s post last week on Meaningful work for you and the world compelled me to hit the pause button.
She touched me with her descriptions of Pope Francis’s passion for people, and organic farmers’ passion for healthy food and sustainable agriculture. She also made me think about how we find and act on our passion, and how creativity plays into it.
I went to the Live Your Legend website explored in her post to learn more about how this organization helps “people find work they love that makes a difference in the world by connecting like-minded people together both online and in person.” The inspiration and tools I found there impressed me, just as the work of Encore Tampa Bay helping people in the middle stage of life refocus on their passion and purpose after long careers that ended voluntarily or rudely, enthuses me, too.
I must caution everyone though on assumptions we make from internet resources on the speed with which major life transitions and entrepreneurial success occur. Scott Dinsmore, the young founder of Live Your Legend who died tragically in September 2015, counseled similarly in his post on Full Disclosure: 12 Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t Be An Entrepreneur (The story no one tells). He said:
I’m all for being inspired by the possibility of what people do for work, and that’s why we profile so many of them on LYL. Believing in possibility is where the journey has to start.
But, Dinsmore said:
- With today’s social tools, it encourages people to only post and share the top 5-10% of their lives. And since the spotlight is bigger and brighter the more successful and well-known you get, it only becomes more distorted over time.
- As humans observing our surroundings, we naturally…assume people have it better than they actually do. We magnify the glamor and marginalize the truth. When these two factors combine, it can be incredibly misleading.
He went on to identify 12 entrepreneurial challenges. One is that your work could go unrecognized for years just as his did. A net effect: you have to motivate yourself to keep going. Another is waking “up lost on what to do next” and keeping your identity separate from your business performance. Dinsmore believed that the entrepreneurial ups and downs may be worth it if you align “who you are with the difference you want to make in the world” and the work is yielding the desired economic payoff.
LYL and ETB are wonderful partners for personal transformational journeys. There are other ways forward.
Cultivating small interests on your own is what Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the very successful Eat, Pray, Love recommends. Gilbert has a new book–Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear–that she discussed in a recent interview with Melissa Dahl at New York Magazine. Gilbert observed the danger of our national zeal for “passion and certainty.”
We live in a culture that very much fetishizes passion and certainty. I think sometimes people lose their way in the creative path because they’re being told to follow their passion. It can be a really cruel piece of advice especially when it’s given out at graduations. These are 21-year-olds who are like, Yeah, I don’t really have any clue….they start to think, Well, I guess a creative, interesting life really isn’t for me. If I had a central, burning passion, I would probably be the first one to know, but since I don’t have that, I guess I’m not a creative person.
Instead, Gilbert recommends following our curiosity. There is always “one tiny little thing in the world that is interesting” to each of us. It is a “cultivated skill, to learn to acknowledge and respect your curiosity.” She expanded her thesis:
I’m always looking for a simpler shortcut to things….But if you want to live a curiosity-driven life, you must commit to…looking for what’s piquing your curiosity.
I have followed things in my life that barely had a pulse but it was the only thing that was there that day. It doesn’t have to set your hair on fire. You don’t have to get divorced and shave your head and move to India. It just has to hold your attention a little bit more than everything else does. It’s how to have the most interesting possible life — constantly saying, Well, what would happen if I pursued this, even for a month?
Her view of valuing discipline over self-forgiveness also moved me.
I think discipline is a bit overrated in the creative field, and self-forgiveness is underrated. We all start our projects on day one with passion and excitement, and all of us look at what we did on day two and hate ourselves. The difference with people who return to work on day three and the people who don’t is the people who return to work forgave themselves, knowing you did the best you could with what you had at that moment.
Every time I hear someone talk about discipline all I see is the scratch marks on the walls they left with their fingernails. All that anxiety….You’re investing time and money into making something that nobody asked you to do. It’s inherently a wacky thing to do. You’re going to have strange feelings, especially about the uselessness of it all. But then you think, I’m going to stay with it, because it’s more interesting than anything else.
Gilbert’s conclusion to keep going in the best way we know how led me to Tom Barrett’s post titled “This Simple Yet Wonderful Metaphor Will Steer you Towards Action.” He cites Buckminster Fuller, who was an author, architect, and inventer. Fuller crossed disciplines to earn numerous patents and was awarded over 40 honorary doctorate degrees in the course of his life. Fuller said:
Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”
In conclusion, we can all be trim tabs in our work and life. What is your sphere of influence? What can you make happen? How does being connected to the internet help or impede you? Are you connecting with ideas and people to sort through the possibilities, experiment, publish and promote your ideas, find allies and supporters, to achieve impact and earn income? How might the Women’s Learning Studio assist you?
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Pause button photo from ClkrFreeVectorImages at Pixabay
Trim tab ship picture from Trees for Life International with their change philosophy below:
‘Our “business model” is based on concentrating our efforts on finding the trim tab—those small actions that will result in shifting the larger paradigm.’