This idea of following one’s passion has never sat right with me. Today it’s particularly stressing me out and so I’ve given it some thought and upon a certain amount of introspection, I’ve decided that there are two parts of this idea that are faulty.
1. The singularity of it
This idea that is supposedly so freeing is, in fact, extremely restraining, namely because it makes the terrible and silly assumption that we only have one passion. It’s very nice and good to focus on one of your passions for a short or extended period of time, maybe even for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you’re passionate about. It’s just that we need to make a decision about what to focus on or else we’ll never get anything done. That’s all.
2. The damn word
Also, the word “passion” irks me. Maybe that’s because it gives the impression that the subject of your passion should cause you great feelings of meaning and enthusiasm on a constant basis when, in fact, that thing, when broken down, is as mundane as anything else in life. Not to mention the important fact that the reasons we are driven to focus on certain things is not only “passion.” For me, for example, it’s also out of trying to find something that works with my personality as a highly sensitive, highly questioning person.
Yes, there might very well be moments of passion but it is far from the only factor in our decisions to do what we do.
The new way to say it?
Point being, I think instead people should say:
“Follow one of the things you feel drawn to if you feel and believe that’s the right thing for you right now.”
Entrepreneurship is very important to me. It is this lifestyle that opens up the opportunity for me to develop the ideas I have, work with the people I want to and influence the things that really matter to me.
But it’s also a very difficult lifestyle. I am often trying to figure out not only how to put one foot in front of the other, but which direction to put that foot in. I am forever competing with self doubt in a lifestyle that demands constant decision-making, a balance between ideas and practicality and, of course, all this with the infamous uncertain and unknown future staring right back at me.
I’d like to share some of the philosophies that, when actually practiced, give me the strength to get through the day-to-day life as the woman roaming the streets of Jerusalem, consciously (and self-consciously) offering narrowly-defined services, dreaming of an innovative business with a colleague and almost always juggling too many things at once.
I hope you find this list useful.
1. The impostor syndrome isn’t only bad (most things aren’t only bad)
Many of us are walking around life sure we’re about to be found out as the frauds that we are. We feel like we don’t know enough and we aren’t professional enough and we marvel at the fact that people take us seriously at all.
But recently I saw a new way to look at the impostor syndrome which made me realize the upside of this painful phenomenon. Namely, that if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, it is a sign that we’re pushing our limits and trying new things. So, maybe we’re feeling like a newbie because we really are always learning and trying new things, which is a good thing!
Here is the animated gif which I love that inspired this thought:
2. Be really forgiving of people
While working on building up my own thing, there is little space for pettiness. It’s a world of imperfect people and being suspicious or feeling resentment towards them for making mistakes or being inconsiderate, dooms me to a life of tab-keeping. It takes too much energy and people really aren’t usually that bad.
Of course that doesn’t mean we’re never going to get upset and that there aren’t times when it’s important to get upset. But I often experience first hand the benefits of letting things slide and moving on.
3. Keeping self-absorption to a minimum
Working for myself, being my own manager and having to make decisions constantly, are all things which bring up a lot of feelings about myself. I am so aware of the responsibility I hold all on my own that my successes and my mistakes hit home very hard.
And I find it best not to dwell.
I love how my latest blog post came out? Yay! Next. I made a big mistake with my taxes last year? Oy veis mir! Learnt my lesson big-time. Moving on. I think I came off sounding a little stupid in that meeting? Ugh. Anyway… That excellent piece my colleague wrote was based on my idea? Clearly I do know what I’m doing! Woo hoo! MOVING THE FUCK ON.
Because, like in #2, we could spend our entire lives keeping tabs, trying unsuccessfully to figure out if we’re the bee’s knees or impostors indeed, and that’s a waste of a lot of perfectly good energy.
4. Be happy for (and learn from) others
I grew up being taught to “fargin” people their achievements and successes. Only in my adulthood did I find out that fargin is a Yiddish word, not an English one (and it is also a popular Hebrew word – לפרגן). It means to be generous of spirit and to feel truly joyful for people and their accomplishments and good fortune.
For some reason it scares me when others do good work, as though it is a sign that I missed my own boat of success. But I’m aware of the fact that this is a narrow-minded view of the world and so I think it’s good practice to show support to people in their work and celebrate their successes with them. And, of course, we can always use their successes as learning opportunities for ourselves.
5. Always on the lookout for excellent people
Work relationships are intense and important and one of the benefits of independence is having more control over who we work with. Namely, I want to be with professional, kind and idealistic people who I truly respect, trust, enjoy, admire and can relate to.
This might sound like a lot to ask for and sometimes I feel like my pickiness might hold me back, but I also realize that this is of utmost importance to me. And when I do meet people who fit my criteria, it is often exhilarating and with (relative) confidence we can move forward together.
6. Doing things I enjoy
Sometimes I could spend an entire week trudging through annoying work. But this isn’t the reason I’m where I’m at and at those times, I like to ask myself, “What could I choose to do with my time right now that I’d enjoy?” and I try to do that work instead.
When we stop for a moment and make sure to spend time on things we enjoy, that means we can still be productive but also create something which wants to be created and and it will inspire us to continue on.
7. My support network only goes so far
I have a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family. I rely on these people often and often heavily, but I have understood over time that the buck stops somewhere. In every situation, at some point we must stop talking, take control, believe in our abilities to make good decisions and move on.
8. Finding inspiration
As many people close to me know, I am in a near-constant state of asking “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Does it even matter? What does anything matter? Is this where I want to be putting my time? How do I make that decision?
To say the least, this is a strenuous place to be and I’m always looking for ways to either answer the questions, quiet the questions or give a constructive place for them. This is very personal and each person needs to find their own sources of strength and inspiration but here are a few ways in which I inspire myself:
b. I listen to talks and read pieces which touch upon the philosophical and psychological issues I deal with. For example, Krista Tippett’s interviews on “On Being” with deep thinkers from around the world (like this one with David Steindl-Rast where they talk about what gratitude really is) give me the opportunity to find insight into the issues that often sit in my subconscious and not feel alone with my questions.
c. I talk to people who either can relate to my internal process helping me understand and appreciate them more or can offer me different perspectives on them, helping me evolve over time. For example, it is one particular friend who has helped me respect my questioning and understand how it contributes to the work I do, taking mine and my colleague’s ideas to deeper, more innovative places.
d. I remind myself that this is not the last dance but instead just one movement in the composition of my life. Everything has worked up to this point and is continuing to work up to some future unknown point.
9. My personality isn’t a hindrance
Sometimes I get upset at myself, for certain personality traits I possess, and I think that they hold me back. For example, my constant questioning of “Why?” mentioned in #8 has often infuriated me since it makes me lack the carefree spirit which I have idealized in other entrepreneurs as their way to move forwards without always looking back or thinking too much.
But I am reminded, also via the tools I mentioned in #8, that who I am is the reason I do what I do, not the thing that gets in the way. For example, my sensitivity and awareness towards others, though tiring and intense, often allow me to connect with people in wonderful and inspiring ways.
I think that when we’re upset about certain things about ourselves, it’s a good idea to stop for a moment to ask ourselves how these traits might also contribute towards our goals, hopes and dreams, not only holding us back. Because the more we respect who we are, the more we can tap into our unique selves and create our own unique work.
How about you?
If I had written this list a few months ago, it would probably look different. It’ll probably look different in a few months from now too since the things I’m dealing with change and I’m always looking for new ways to deal with the challenges and continue to grow. What helps you stay strong, persevere and carry on?
I don’t know why but I repeatedly see website development clients pushing their service providers to rush. Is it just in web development or are clients of all kinds pushing their service providers to do everything faster? And better too, I’m sure.
To the chagrin of web dev clients the world over, I believe there are certain words that should never be used when discussing building a website. These include:
Work for a client should ideally be done in a normal amount of time, but is it really necessary to make it urgent?
And here’s the irony. Almost every single time, at one point in the project (if not more), the work comes to an absolute and complete halt. I mean 100%. And not because of the web developer or project manager or graphic designer.
Nope. At some point, the project stops because something happens to the client. They realize their attention needs to be put elsewhere for a few days/weeks/months. They run out of cash. They find they have difficult decisions to make regarding the site. So many possible reasons, with the exact same outcome: a project that’s on hold.
I find rushed projects to be problematic but it isn’t only because of the stress of having someone push and push, feeling like you’re never working fast enough. It’s also because I know – I just know – that there is a 99% chance that this mad rush to the finish line will stop so fast that the worker will be left trying to figure out what just happened.
Being part of a regular flow of a project is fine. Sometimes it moves faster, sometimes slower, sometimes it needs to be put on hold for a bit. But after being pressured by a client to rush, when the client becomes the one to hold up the project, it’s tempting to start giving them talks about the importance of keeping a project going, even if under normal circumstances the delay wouldn’t have bothered you too much.
The talk won’t work, though. Because the same way that the project should have moved at a natural pace to begin with, including fast movement, slow movement and pauses, it will need to stop when the client needs to take that breath, whatever the reason may be.
And that’s OK. And you know exactly why. The reason it’s OK for the project deadline to be pushed off is because it wasn’t really urgent. Nope, it was just a really nice website that hopefully one day soon will be a really nice live website that will be enjoyed by all who visit it.
And when that happens, it’ll be really lovely.
Not at all critical.
What is it about our culture that has created this attitude that the crazier you are, the cooler and more successful you’re considered.
If you run around like a madwoman, work way too many hours, check your email outside of work, preferably have a few kids which you somehow take care of too, hang out with friends, yadda yadda yadda, you are an inspiration to us all.
And those of us who do less than that, are frankly, less successful.
When I am feeling overwhelmed with my life, part of me wonders if it is during those overwhelming periods that I feel most alive, most accomplished. I wonder if, despite the pain of feeling like I’m about to have an ulcer, or maybe because of that oncoming ulcer, I know that I am finally living how I “should.”
How many of us are capable, within this culture, of working normal hours, doing normal things during our down time – like reading by a flickering flame in the evenings and going to sleep before midnight (of course) – without feeling like we’re wasting our lives away?
Basically, I think that if we aren’t stressing ourselves out, we sort of feel like failures.
Which is why it’s terrible you just spent time reading this blog post. :)
Although I love the idea of working in a cafe, I often feel uncomfortable, worrying that I’m over-staying my welcome. So, here is an article that goes over some of the basic questions like: How much should you order? How long can you stay? Is it OK to use sound on your computer?