“Then you go that way…”

by DRM

Path - West Byfleet

Path - West Byfleet by Matthew Cornwell


I responded to two e-mails today from young men who were looking for some life guidance.  After the appropriate preambles, I wrote exactly the same thing to both.

Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  • What personal skills and personal attributes do I possess that will cause people to give me money?
  • What kind of things am I really passionate about?
  • How can I use my personal skills and attributes to help me make money while doing things that I’m really passionate about?

You may decide that the skill and attributes that you currently are able to demonstrate don’t give you what you need to make money doing things that you’re passionate about.  That would suggest you figure out a way to acquire the skills and attributes that you need. More school, or training, or sacrificing income for experience would do that.

You may decide that the things that you are really passionate about put you on a different path altogether.  Then you go that way.

My perspective is that this is a long life and that there are a lot of different arcs to our personal stories.  How can you best organize yourself in your life so that you can let those arcs play out in a way that makes you feel stable yet free?

When I hit send, I wondered what the young men would think.

It’s easy to pontificate when you’re sitting on the experience of five decades, a fairly successful career and a satisfying life.  I know that one reason they are asking the question is because they want to know what the plan is to get to a similar place.

If my life were a finished product, my guidance would be dishonest and immoral.

But my life isn’t a finished product.  The reason I suggest these questions is because I’ve been asking and answering them for 50 years, sometimes to more effect than others.

What you have to accept when you commit to a life that asks these questions is that the dynamics of the answers will change, and that what was the right answer 10 years ago may be the wrong answer today.

There is a kind of Trojan Horse of self-knowledge in the guidance I give.

The idea of being passionate.

What I don’t know about these young men, and what I don’t know that they know themselves, is how to identify their passion.

Being passionate is a concept that doesn’t have a shared context in modern culture.

It’s easiest to see it in children as they surrender themselves to the moments that make their entire being feel alive.

What you don’t know when you are a young man is that recreating that sensation of surrender, that excitement that comes with being alive, doesn’t proceed from structuring a life that is rigid and defensive.  It comes from being able to stay focused on finding situation that light that spark, no matter how odd and unlikely those situations may be.

That means that you can’t ever say, My life has to have this, or, I have to be that, or I have to get those.  Every time I’ve formulated those thoughts — either spoken or unspoken — I’ve narrowed down the path that leads to passion a little bit more.  Say enough of those thoughts and you’ll choke the path off altogether.

My words of guidance might point them to the right path, but only a constant, truthful interior dialogue  will set them down it.  That means trusting the voice inside you, and that’s the hardest thing for anyone to learn.