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Back by popular demand, my wife Laci joins me again for an episode on discovering what you’re passionate about.
Laci shares why she felt paralyzed and overwhelmed when it came to figuring out what her passion was. She had so many options and nothing was clearly standing out.
She felt like there was a lot of pressure to know what was the “right thing” to start with. There were all of these options, but nothing was 100% perfect. Was she supposed to wait for it to be perfect?
Then she had a breakthrough and sudden clarity.
Now she has direction and feels free to try something new. We talk about what brought about this clarity and how she overcame the overwhelming feeling of immobility.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- You’re never going to have all your stuff together, so don’t feel like you should in your 20s.
- You’re not going to know you enjoy something until you actually do it.
- See if you enjoy something and then you can make it public.
- Hone down the positive aspects of what you thought your passion was to be used in a way that won’t cause burnout.
- Realize if an idea doesn’t work out, you’ve figured out something you don’t want to do.
- Ask yourself what you enjoyed as a kid, and figure out the distilled down version of that.
- You don’t have to immediately post your passion project publicly—thinking so will only paralyze you.
- Be supportive every time your spouse wants to talk about finding their passion.
- If you don’t know what your passion is, just do something.
- 03:30 Laci: I don’t know what my passion is. It’s a lot more complicated than that; I have passions and certain things within an industry that I’ve dabbled with, but I don’t know what to pick. There are a lot of variables with each one, and I end up thinking through them really intensely and talking myself out of each one. It’s not so much that I have different types of passions—everything I’m passionate about is related to the food industry. It’s not like I’m a musician and a chef, but there are different aspects of the food industry I like and I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to do. I’m not an entrepreneurial person, which makes momentum hard for me.
Obstacles to Finding Your Passion
- 04:40 Sean: What would you say to someone who says, “You’re married to Sean, and Sean said he would support whatever you want to do, so you don’t have to worry about making money from anything and you can do whatever you want. What’s so bad about that?”
- 04:58 Laci: I know I’m in a really good spot to do that, but there’s all this pressure that comes along with that. There’s all this freedom, and I’m not the one having to scrape by and pay bills.
- 05:16 Sean: Do you feel like if you were scraping by to pay bills you would have more clarity because there’s less choice?
- 05:24 Laci: Probably. I’ve also been in a lot of situations for the last several years where I was the one paying my own bills or paying our bills, and I burnt myself out really fast doing things I thought I would like. I always tried to find things I thought I would like even though I was scraping for bills. When Sean’s web design business wasn’t doing well and when Sean took a break from client work to produce Learn Lettering, I paid most of the bills. Sean had saved up a lot of cash for the latter, but I was still trying to help keep us from depleting our savings. I don’t know that paying bills would help me find clarity unless I was in a totally different industry, but I’m not sure.
- 07:06 Sean: You’ve got a bunch of freedom to do stuff, but you feel like there’s a lot of pressure. What kind of pressure? Where is that coming from?
- 07:15 Laci: I feel like there’s a lot of pressure because now I’m in this super great spot. I’m 25, so I feel like I should have my stuff together, have it all figured out, and be working toward something.
- 07:37 Sean: There are 20, 30, and 40 year old people smiling right now because you’re never going to have all your stuff together. You’re only 25; they’re thinking back to when they were 25 and what they were doing.
Most people aren’t even close to where they want to be in their 20s.
- 07:59 Laci: For years, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do—I had no qualms about anything for a super long time, and then I got into the work force and doing the things I thought I would like. I still love the food industry, and there are so many things I’m still passionate about, but there are certain things I’ve done that burnt me out on everything for a while. I think about how my past self knew what I wanted to do, and now I’m here.
- 08:40 Honestly, I get some pressure from being Sean’s wife. I should be as driven, passionate, and out there as he is. There’s pressure from Sean, too. There’s lots of support, but at the same time it can be a little nerve-wracking because I feel like I should be doing all these things he talks about all the time. Even though seanwes is my life, I still get paralyzed.
- 09:19 Sean: What kind of messages are you hearing that maybe you’ve heard a bunch of times but are still hard?
- 09:29 Laci: The “Pick something and do it,” advice has been hard for me. I’ve considered doing food blogging. I like to cook and I’m pretty good at it. That’s what I’ve done in and outside of jobs for a long time. I think I’m most passionate about catering, and I’ve dabbled in it some. I was the food and beverage manager for a hotel for some time, and I did all the catering there. I was also the catering coordinator at my last job. The catering itself was good, but everything else wasn’t. I was working 60 hours a week, insane hours, and I was in charge of tons of people.
Protect Your Passion
- 10:42 Sean: I talk about the Overlap Technique, because getting a day job and covering your bills to pursue your passion on the side and growing it organically can protect your passion. It’s not that you have to do something with it to make money, take on clients or work with people you don’t really want to work with—that’s what usually ends up killing the passion. I have friends who have said, “I pursued my passion and ended up hating it.” They pursue it and make it the one thing, and they compromise on the kind of projects, the people they work with, or the amount they want to charge. They end up working with people they don’t like, getting pressure and stress, and the the fun aspects of the job are lost.
- 11:43 Laci: In my case, my day job was what I was passionate about, but I was forced to work with people, it wasn’t my choice. The company’s standards weren’t always pleasant—working crazy hours I didn’t want and being in charge of tons of people all the time. I was in charge of a whole department and I didn’t even get promoted up to that.
- 12:23 All those situations were bad for my passion. I learned a ton; I learned about the industry, what I didn’t like, and I learned that I didn’t want to do it as a day job. I don’t exactly want my own catering company, because that would probably have the same level of burnout. It’s weird, because I love catering, but there’s so much involved in catering that’s not good that it rules out catering as a business for me.
I want to hone down the positive aspects of what I thought my passion was so they can be used in a way that won’t cause burnout.
- 13:29 Ultimately, I like making food look pretty. Part of why I liked catering so much was making food pretty for someone’s big day.
- 13:52 Sean: Laci recently catered a baby shower for her friend in her hometown and everyone was complimenting her on the spread.
- 14:06 Laci: It was a collaboration between me and another friend who decorated while I catered, and it turned out really well. People were really happy and well fed. I enjoyed it a lot, but it was very exhausting. It was a lot of labor. I had a really great conversation with one of our Community members, Kerri Lowe. She reached out to me and offered to act as a sounding board for me because loves to help people figure out what their passion is. I talked with her and dumped all this stuff on her. What I’ve been talking about so far in this show is a fraction of the thoughts I’ve had about the different options I have right now.
- 15:15 She was helping me because the fear I’ve had is picking something, doing it in front of people, and realizing that I hate it. To me, that seems like a really bad thing because you don’t want to back out of something. Sean says that it’s okay to switch gears at some point and realize that it’s not what you want to do. I tend to realize I don’t want to do something really quickly, so I don’t want to start doing something, realize I don’t want to do it, and then be stuck for six months or however long I’ve committed to doing it publicly. It sounds exhausting.
You’re not going to know you enjoy something until you actually do it.
- 16:10 Sean: It’s easy to sit and juggle ideas of passions and say, “I think I’d like this” or “I think I’d like that.” I think you should dedicate some time to trying something even before saying that this is something you want to pursue, post, or build an audience around. Dedicate some time to doing something to see if you like the idea of it.
- 16:54 Laci: It’s easier said than done. When the choice is directly in front of my face and I have to do something about it, it’s still nerve-wracking. I was talking with Kerri about this fear of doing something in front of people and realizing that I hate it, since I’ve hated a lot of things, and the assumption that whatever I do would have to be on the seanwes platform—that’s a lot of pressure.
- 17:40 Sean: That’s an option that’s available, but it’s certainly not a requirement.
Explore Passions Without Sharing Publicly
- 17:45 Laci: The question is, why wouldn’t I do that? I have direct access to the seanwes platform and it’s an audience that’s there already. People know who I am. Kerri talked through a lot of the different things that are in front of me, but we came down to not worrying about doing something on the seanwes platform. It doesn’t have to fit within those constraints. She encouraged me to do a creative passion-project that I want to do that has no commitment or practical outcome. I’ve felt like I have to pick something and then I have to start doing it in front of everyone immediately.
- 19:10 Sean: The good news is that when you first start out, it’s not going to be in front of everyone. It feels like you’ll have a huge audience looking at you, but in the beginning, no one’s going to notice. They’re not going to notice when you announce what you’re doing. You could use the seanwes platform. That’s an option for you. If you wanted to do a cooking show, you could try it out first. Record some stuff, do a blog post, and keep those unpublished, but see if you actually like it.
See if you enjoy something and then you can make it public.
- 20:07 Laci: That makes sense now, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I’ve been putting all this pressure on myself, thinking that I need to pick something, do it immediately, and it needs to be in front of everyone on the seanwes network. That’s a lot of pressure and it’s been really gnawing at me. Kerri was suggesting the passion project to get my creative juices flowing, not to necessarily pick something within my passions, but to do something creative. She had me do some cool writing exercises, writing “I should” four or five times and finishing the sentence.
- 21:20 My first question was, why the “I should”? She said we would get to that. I wrote, “I should know what I’m supposed to do/what I’m passionate about.” “I should be creative and productive.” It’s not that I’m not being a productive person, but I’m not doing anything to better my passion or a career in my passion right now. Then Kerri had me change what I wrote from “I should” to “If I really wanted to, I could.” She had me ask myself: if you really wanted to, could you do those things? The answer is yes.
- 22:13 It got me thinking about the real pressures I’ve been putting on myself with my “I should”s. It helped me break out of that. She was encouraging me to do this passion project without any kind of end result, without the pressure. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this. That got me motivated and excited. She suggested doing something that doesn’t have anything to do with your passion; it doesn’t have to benefit your passions at all. The thing I want to do would, though.
- 23:07 If I take the time to do this, it’s going to require a lot of learning, but I want to do it. I want to learn photography. I know nothing about it, but I want to learn specifically for food styling and food photography. I follow a lot of people on Instagram who specifically do food plating and food art. All these people are inspiring to me, but I thought I had to be a photographer to ever get into that, but if I take the time to learn it, I do it, and I get those creative juices flowing, it could be a really good project.
- 24:04 I have already kind of narrowed down my options. I have a passion for food, but I never went to culinary school. Sometimes I feel hindered because I didn’t go to culinary school, because there are high end things I don’t know. I remember being ten or eleven and deciding that I wanted to be a chef. When I was three or four, I had a little play kitchen and I would pretend to have a restaurant; I was destined for the food industry.
- 24:48 Sean: A lot of people think it’s silly to ask what you were interested in as a kid. It doesn’t mean that if you were interested in superheroes you should do that as an adult, but distill it down. What were you really interested in? Maybe you were interested in telling stories. Maybe you acted out scenes and you would like to see that turned into a screenplay or something.
Ask yourself what you enjoyed as a kid, and figure out the distilled down version of that.
- 25:37 Laci: I enjoyed food and cooking and playing with food when I was a kid. Age 10 to 12, I watched the Food Network and would chop food like they do on those shows. I was paying attention to the chefs and learning how to cook early on.
- 26:04 Food photography is making food look pretty and taking pictures of it; I just don’t know how to do the pictures part. I know how to make food and make it look pretty. I don’t get a lot of that creativity now, because when I was doing catering, I was doing all kinds of new foods for all kinds of people, and now I just do a baby shower now and then. If I could venture out and do some things with that, it would scratch that itch I have for the creative aspect without all the crazy hours, working for crazy people, and all that stuff I did when I was catering.
- 26:50 I didn’t go to culinary school because I realized that I would burn out on it very quickly. I thought that if I went to culinary school, I would be a chef, and chefs work crazy hours, are on their feet all day, especially head chefs or people who own restaurants. I know people who become chefs and burn out really fast. I realize now how many other things I could have done if I had gone to culinary school, so I don’t think I would have regretted going. I thought I would be a chef when I was 12, but by high school graduation I wasn’t sure. I thought I would burn out and regret it.
- 27:42 I got into the food industry in food management. Now, I don’t want to work crazy hours, every weekend, with crazy people, or be in charge of tons of people. What is left for me to do in the food industry that’s not operations-oriented? I’ve been thinking about food blogging and food photography, or becoming a food stylist.
What can I do as an entrepreneur within the constraints I’ve set for myself?
Start With a Passion Project
- 28:40 I keep thinking through all those things and the work it’s going to take, whether I’m going to enjoy the work and fearing I won’t enjoy it, and then talking myself out of it. I’m in a better place than that now, but I’m sharing the last several months of thought process for me. I thought about food photography for the last few months, but talking with Kerri encouraged me. Considering food photography before, I felt a lot of pressure from it. Now, if I do a side passion project with food photography and it builds an audience, that’s great. It will take a very long time to build any kind of audience.
- 29:36 I was telling Sean the other day that, assuming I could hone my skills and do well with food photography, I’d love to do client work for companies or cookbooks. I like that idea a lot. Ultimately, teaching people how to style food. Months ago, I had thought through the food photography thing and decided that I might not like it in the end. Talking with Kerri, I realized that first I should start with it being a passion project. Learn it, do it, and then I’ll think about posting it. Let’s say I post it regularly and I curate it, and maybe in a year or two it starts getting some recognition or whatever—so be it.
- 30:41 I’m not hurting for cash, not needing clients right now. I’m in the best possible position to do this. I remember hearing that you could be a food stylist or photographer and thinking that was such a glamorous aspect of the food industry. You get to make food look pretty without staying in the kitchen for 14 hours or working with a bridezilla. I think it would be a good step for me to do something, and if I post it, I post it.
If this idea doesn’t work out, I’ve figured out something I don’t want to do.
- 32:11 I’m going to try this. First, I’m going to do some research on my own looking into basic photography stuff—start from square one. I also have a friend who is a photographer who has offered to help teach me. I contacted her today and sometime next week we’re going to get together and start with some basics.
- 33:22 Sean: What if you start doing this, you learn photography, and you start taking pictures. The colors are wrong, you see it in your head but you can’t get it right, and it just doesn’t look like what you want. What do you do?
- 33:46 Laci: I’ll keep researching and practicing. I can’t quit on it right away.
- 33:56 Sean: What’s the deeper motive? Say you keep going for a while, maybe a few months into it, and you’re frustrated and not seeing results. How long would you keep going with it? What is the return you’re looking to get from it? What is your “why”? What’s the feedback mechanism you’re tuned into? What makes you know you’re going in the right direction? Is it comments, likes, having the pictures you’re taking align with your mind’s eye, enjoying it, feeling like you’re getting progress? What is that place?
- 35:03 Laci: The whole point of this thing is to do it for me. I don’t know what my goal is, because I don’t know if I’m even going to like it as a passion project. To answer your question, it’s for me until I know otherwise.
- 35:35 Sean: I’m trying to help other people because they’re feeling these things I’m asking you. The answer is, you need to try something for you. Try something and find out if you actually like the act of doing it. Do you enjoy the process? The idea of being a food photographer or stylist sounds glamorous and great to you. It’s all colors and prettiness and none of the long hours and bridezillas. It sounds amazing, but you don’t know if you enjoy standing on a ladder, trying to get the lighting just right, or trying to do something outdoors and having things blow on top of your scene. Who knows? There’s an exploratory phase you have to go through to find out if you actually enjoy something.
You don’t have to immediately post your passion project publicly.
Thinking so will only paralyze you.
- 36:35 Laci: That idea has been so freeing for me and I only talked to Kerri a week ago.
- 36:48 Sean: It’s crazy how people think literally everything has to be published. If I think a thought, it needs to be a status. If I did a thing, I need to post it.
- 40:08 Laci: Using Kerri as a sounding board for these things I have in my head, she had some really good perspectives about the things I like about catering. She watched me talk about catering and saw the things that made me light up, and she would take those moments and bounced ideas off me. For my last job, we would cater for these really high end clients and get to do our own thing for the menu.
- 40:54 There was this one lady was totally hands-off, didn’t really care what we did, and would just pay us to do it. We would come up with menus and make everything look really nice. These were tiny little cocktail hors d’oeuvres parties, and they were so much fun. She had the suggestion of me getting into finger food parties for high end clients who are willing to pay for that kind of thing. In my head, I thought that I would have to do big weddings and invest lots of money.
- 41:36 Sean: That’s why you protect your passion. When you jump in and decide that this is what you’re doing, you have to find clients, and you feel like the only people who would take you at this scale would be terrible jobs. If you’re overlapping, though seanwes is like the day job in this overlap situation, Laci could be super selective. If someone has a day job covering their bills and they try something else on the side, they don’t have to just take whatever jobs or clients come to them. You could be totally selective and not say that every weekend or once a month you have to do a job, but you can work whenever you want. If something totally awesome came up and you loved it and everything was perfect, you have the freedom to do that.
- 42:35 Laci: The last two things I’ve catered in six months were baby showers, and I really enjoyed those. They were for friends, of course, but I had fun doing them. It was great to have Kerri as a sounding board and to have her help me think about my situation in a different frame instead of being paralyzed by pressure.
How Do You Encourage Your Spouse To Find Their Passion?
- 42:59 Sean: Scotty says, “What is the best route about encouraging your spouse to find what they love to do? I feel I love what I do so much that I want her to have that same passion. However, I may encourage a bit too much and too often. I don’t want to push it.” Laci, do you feel like I push you too much to find what you’re passionate about?
- 43:27 Laci: I’ll be honest; every now and then I do feel that way. One out of ten times that you say something about it, I feel like I don’t want that pressure, but for the most part no. I was listening to the Jillian Michaels podcast earlier today, and they had a caller call in who had been successful in her job for the last 20 years and she wanted to do a total career change, but her husband was not supportive at all. It made me so grateful that Sean is so supportive of everything I do. Any random wild idea I talk about, Sean asks, “What can I do to help?” I really appreciate that.
- 44:27 Sean: I can imagine people think that it’s a lot of pressure to be married to me and that I might harp on Laci to find her passion. I can see that, and while it’s not good to ride someone and pressure them, the alternative is pretty bad too. If you hate what you do but your spouse won’t support you in finding something else or they don’t care that you hate what you do, saying, “That’s life, that’s why they call it a job.”
- 45:08 Laci: The caller had deeper issues; it wasn’t just a financial situation, he didn’t believe she could do it at all. I can’t imagine having a spouse that didn’t believe in me at all. Even with the financial difficulties, Sean was more than willing to support me in going to culinary school if I chose to.
- 45:53 With Sean, any time I mention something about finding my passion or say, “This is cool, I’ve been thinking about this,” he’s always really supportive when I’m bringing it up. He brings it up without me initiating that conversation sometimes, but more often than not I just need him to be supportive when I bring it up and not harping on it all the time when I’m not conversing with you about it. If your spouse doesn’t talk about it a lot, maybe bring up some conversations, but don’t force it.
Be supportive every time your spouse wants to talk about finding their passion.
- 46:35 Sean: I wonder where that balance is. Laci’s saying she can tolerate the amount I say that I want to help her find her passion, but I’m probably one of the most extreme examples in the entire world. My passion is literally helping other people find their passions, and I hate the fact that anyone is doing something that sucks the life out of them. I don’t want Laci to work for my business if that’s what sucks the life out of her. I just want Laci to feel free and feel supported to do or try whatever she wants.
- 47:13 I’m probably the most extreme version of that, so I don’t want other people to avoid doing that too much, because that would be a fraction of what I’m doing. It’s one thing if you go to your spouse and say, “I have this crazy idea, I would love to try food photography,” or whatever your thing is, and maybe they’re supportive if you bring it up. It’s another thing for them to come to you and say, “Are you enjoying what you do right now? What would make this better? What can we try? How can I support you?” I would encourage people to do that.
- 47:59 Laci: If I ever feel like it’s too much, it’s like one time more than average people would talk about it, but that’s because you talk about it all the time. I think the takeaway of this whole show is to be free to do something without pressure.
- 49:51 Sean: Without the pressure of feeling like you have to put it out there. When I talk about curating what you share and showing up every day, I’m speaking to people who have found what they’re passionate about, enjoy the act of doing it, and now are deciding to do it full time, make a living, and grow and audience. Now that you know that, after the doing, then show up every day, curate what you share, post publicly, iterate in public.
If you don’t know what your passion is, just do something.