Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world. ~ John Burroughs, Studies in Nature and Literature
Stop Leaning into Fear and Discomfort, and Start Leaning Into Your Passion
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When opportunity knocks, you answer, right? But opening that door isn’t always as intuitive as it should be. The thing about opportunities is that they never seem to come when we’re ready. It’s the reason people tell you to lean into your discomfort, and not let fear stop you. Sheryl Sandberg said, “when you’re given a seat on a rocket ship you don’t ask which seat, you just get on.” But we’re always going to be afraid of what we’re completely unprepared for. What no one ever tells you is that there’s a way of sidestepping that fear and uncertainty. The secret lies not in leaning into fear, but leaning into your passion and following your internal compass from the get-go. The truth is, deep down inside you already know what kind of work you want to do, no matter how uncertain things may appear on the surface. That’s your internal compass at work, it’s the voice that pushes you to take a journalism internship at your favorite magazine despite the fact that you’re studying something completely unrelated. It’s the thing that pushes you quit your cushy job in finance and become a starving artist. It’s the reason you can’t stop thinking about joining a website building seminar just for fun. It’s when passion is in the drivers seat.
The things you are passionate about are not random, they are actually your calling. When I started Lone Wolf Magazine, I had this sudden epiphany that, without knowing it, I had been preparing for this day my whole life. Instinctively I had followed my internal compass towards the things I felt most passionate about, so that when the opportunity to start a business finally came along, I was ready. When I was little all I ever wanted was to write books, and when I grew up I decided to become an English professor, so I double-majored in English Lit, which felt like a terrible mistake by the time I graduated. I changed course and decided I wanted to help people, so I enrolled in law school, and satisfied my creative needs by working as a fashion photographer on the side. I didn’t know it at the time but every single one of these things, as unrelated as they may have seemed at first, helped me find my truest calling.
Thanks to my experience as a fashion photographer I could edit images and create graphics. I learned to tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one. My “stupid” English double-major meant that I could write and edit like a pro, even law school prepared me for the many business contracts I would have to deal with. By listening to that voice inside my heart that told me to do what felt right in the moment, I was able to find and recognize my calling once it came along. It gave me the courage I needed to drop out of law school and start a fashion magazine at a time when everyone was telling me that “print was dying.”
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Fine-Tune Your Inner Compass: Good Passion vs Bad Passion
Finding your calling is the meeting-point between what you most love to do, what you actually know (i.e. your professional skills), what the world needs and what you can reasonably get paid for. Naturally, following your passion can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but if your passions don’t eventually align with your skills and become of some use to society, your journey will be fraught with challenges. That’s the only catch to all this. You won’t find your life’s purpose by watching Netflix, no matter how passionate you are about it. You’ll need to ask yourself whether your life’s greatest passion actually relates to a skill you have, and if not, whether you are willing to develop that skill until you feel like you’ve mastered it. That’s what it takes.
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You Don’t Find A Calling, You Build It
People tend to think that finding your calling is a thought exercise, like you can sit there and if you think about it hard enough, you can figure it out. But it doesn’t really work like that in real life. In fact, the expression “finding your calling” is very deceptive. You don’t really find your calling. It’s not something you eventually stumble into, you build it one step at a time by actively doing the things that light your fire. Maybe in this very moment your greatest passion is writing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your calling is to be a writer. If you listen and follow your passions through to the very end, your interest in writing may blossom into something that you can’t imagine at this moment. If you just keep pushing and letting the things that consume you into the spotlight of your consciousness, you’re on the right path. These are all the small moments that you have every day to try something new, to improve yourself, to work a little harder, to follow a creative itch that seems completely irrational but just feels soo right. This is what finding your true calling actually looks like.
After you graduate, there’s this pressure to have it all figured out. The things you started studying with as a freshman, may no longer interest you as a senior. Your major may feel like an old sweater, comfortable but it just doesn’t suit you anymore. Perhaps you have a job, and it’s not exactly what you picture yourself doing in the long run. The key is not to judge yourself, as long as you are following your gut and listening to that internal compass, trust that you are exactly where you need to be. As long as you remain in tune with your passion and you are willing to work hard and delve into it, trust that your subconscious will guide you in the right direction. The things you obsess over today foreshadow your true calling. As unrelated as your various passions may seem to you right now, they will eventually help you more than you could ever realize at this moment.
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“You’ve got to follow your passion. You’ve got to figure out what it is you love — who you really are and have the courage to do that. I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dreams.” ~ Oprah