I came across this video, embedded above and on YouTube here, and wanted to share it.
But first, a caveat: I belive that “follow your passion” — or worse yet, follow your bliss — is often terrible advice for life and careers.
What if following your passion provides no value to the world? Or if doesn’t make you enough money to support yourself? Or what if you’re just not very good at your passion? Or, like many people, you just don’t really have a single passion?
For an alternative take on such issues, I suggest reading a book by Cal Newport called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to the video.
In this ten-minute TEDxMalibu talk from 2013, movie producer Adam Leipzig says five questions can help you define your life purpose — provided, of course, that you know what you’re good at, why it’s valuable, and who you do it for.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- What do they want or need?
- How do they feel as a result?
This is a really helpful way, as Leipzig explains, to envision your professional output in terms of who your audience is (or who your clients, or users, or readers, etc. are) and how you can help them.
In a post on Leipzig’s blog, he explains how these questions came to be, and why they matter, especially to creative professionals:
For my talk, I decided to adapt a series of questions I’d developed in my business consulting practice, when I work with companies finding their way and developing new products and services. For these companies, the challenge is to get out of their self-enclosed bubble and reach out to their market. Would the same approach work for creative entrepreneurs? Because artists need such congruence between their life purpose and their work, they can become too inward-facing, more focused on their own process than on their audience, and audience that hungers for brilliance, passion and the sublime.
This is, I think, a really useful mental framework.
Book: “Waking Up”
I read a lot of really great books this year, most of which were published prior to 2015.
The one that comes closest to qualifying for this list, however, since it was published in late 2014, is Sam Harris’s Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.
Harris, a neuroscientist, illustrates that our perception of the world quite literally dictates the quality of our lives. He discusses eastern and western religions, consciousness, the illusion of the self, meditation, gurus, and psychedelic drugs.
“Our minds are all we have,” he writes early on in the book. “They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others.”
Album: “Meamodern Sounds in Country Music”
Again, I’m kind of cheating here. Sturgill Simpson’s “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” came out in mid-2014. But it’s too good to ignore. I blogged about it back in February.
Unfortunately, it’s not available on Spotify — my current pick for music streaming given Rdio’s demise and my brief but ultimaely ill-fated dalliance with Apple Music — but you can listen to it on Amazon or YouTube.
Movie: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
It’s great to have the crew back again.
TV show: “Fargo”
Holy shit, “Fargo.”
Season one was fantastic. And so was season two, which just concluded.
It seems crazy, the idea of replicating, for TV, the setting (mostly) for one of the finest films ever made. But it works. And there’s more to come!
Goal: Messi vs. Athetic Bilbao
Okay, so a goal represents the greatest achievement in the world’s greatest game (except for saving a penalty), and isn’t a piece of media, exactly. But it kind of is, when it’s reproduced. Like it is here. I don’t care.
Save: David De Gea vs. Everton
Again, we have to go back to late 2014, but it’s worth it.
What a year.
I like this anecdote from Derek Sivers* about effort, stress, and the importance of relaxation while working:
A few years ago, I lived in Santa Monica, California, right on the beach.
There’s a great bike path that goes along the ocean for 7½ miles. So, 15 miles round trip.
On weekday afternoons, it’s almost empty. It’s perfect for going full-speed.
So a few times a week, I’d get on my bike and go as fast as I could for the 15 mile loop. I mean really full-on, 100%, head-down, red-faced, sprinting.
I’d finish exhausted, and look at the time. 43 minutes. Every time. Maybe a minute more on a really windy day. But basically always 43 minutes.
After a few months, I noticed I was getting less enthusiastic about this bike ride. I think had mentally linked it with being completely exhausted.
So one day I decided I would do the same ride, but just chill. Take it easy, nice and slow. OK not super-slow, but dialing it back to about 50% of my usual effort.
Give it a read.
Think of your life as a system. Think of yourself as the most important part of the system. Be useful. And make yourself more valuable as you go.
Very much worth listening to.
Here’s more from Adams on goals vs. systems.
Other stuff from Adams’s I’ve linked to in the past:
And you should definitely check out his extremely simply advice on personal finance:
— Make a will.
— Pay off your credit card balance.
— Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
— Fund your company 401K to the maximum.
— Fund your IRA to the maximum.
— Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.
— Put six months’ expenses in a money market account.
— Take whatever is left over and invest it 70 percent in a stock index fund and 30 percent in a bond fund through any discount brokerage company and never touch it until retirement
— If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issue), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges you a percentage of your portfolio.
* I am not a regular listener of Ferriss’s podcast, but I see that he has interviewed some interesting folks.