Download: MP3 (50.4 MB)
Some people just know what they’re passionate about.
That’s great for them, but what about you? People say “Find your passion” like it’s a TV remote stuck between the cushions, but it doesn’t feel quite so easy.
Passion is important. When things get tough and you encounter obstacles, passion will see you through.
But you need more than passion. You need skills. Sometimes your existing skills can develop into passions.
Today, we talk about places to look, how to start with skill, and why you need to pick one thing now but don’t need to do one thing forever.
Oh, and if you’ve been exploring for a while, we’ll help you stop feeling like it’s been a waste of time.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Passion is love for the act of doing something.
- Passion keeps you going until you reach the other side of resistance.
- Passion is going to come from your skills, because it’s not fun to do something you’re not good at.
- Don’t put pressure to make money on your passion in the beginning. What would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it?
- Examine your interests at a categorical level, and find where the two most prominent ones intersect.
- Ask people that you know to tell you what they think you’re good at.
- Develop skill through deliberate practice.
- Once you find what you’re good at and you enjoy, give your passion to that.
- Pick one thing now and don’t worry about whether it’s the right thing, because the “wrong thing” will get you to the right thing.
- The act of exploring is not wasted time.
- 03:37 Sean: A lot of people are like, “Yeah, go find your passion,” like it’s stuck between your couch cushions, like your TV remote. Both of us were just saying that we were having trouble finding the Apple TV remote yesterday.
- 03:48 Ben: It’s too small.
- 03:49 Sean: We weren’t watching TV together, full disclosure, but independently, we had trouble. You probably had trouble, the listener, finding your Apple TV remote last night. It’s just what happens. I don’t know why. Do you know what I really like about the Apple Watch? It has a little ping feature. You can ping your iPhone, so you can find your iPhone really easily. I wish everything had that.
- 04:28 Ben: Yes.
- 04:28 Sean: Everything. I would love to ping the remote, my wallet, my keys. I know they have devices you can put on it…
- 04:38 Ben: No, it should be built in. Convenient.
- 04:41 Sean: It’s very easy to find my phone with that feature. Just ping it. Sometimes, it’s not easy to find your remote in your couch cushions, but you usually find it, because you’re desperate and you want to watch Netflix.
- 04:59 A lot of people say, “Find your passion,” and they expect it to be that easy. You’re like, “It’s just not that easy. How do I do that? How do I summon my passion? What am I passionate about?” A lot of people skip over the exploratory phase.
When you’re really determined, it’s funny what you can accomplish.
The Exploratory Phase
- 05:17 Sean: The exploratory phase is where you give yourself permission to do, try, and explore without the pressure of, “This is your passion,” or, “This is a thing that needs to turn into your job,” or something that you pursue very seriously. That exploratory phase is a very important time.
- 05:42 We’ve got all these ideas of passions in our minds. “I think I would like this. I think I would like that.” Until you do it, try it, and encounter resistance—a hurdle or a struggle—if you’re not passionate about it, you’ll say, “I’m done with that. I’m going to move on here.” Passion is important, because it’s what keeps you going. It’s what helps you overcome those obstacles when times get tough.
- 06:19 In many cases, it doesn’t start with passion. I think it can, for some people. What we want to talk about today is how you can find passion through developing skills that you have. A lot of times, passion will come out of skill, something you’re good at that you may not necessarily think that you love or super enjoy. That can, eventually, become something that you’re passionate about.
During the exploratory phase, figure out whether you like the act of doing something.
Audit Your Passion
- 06:44 Ben: When you’re skilled at something, there are benefits that come with that. People recognize that skill. You can get paid for a skill. You can feel like you’re at ease doing whatever you’re doing. A lot of times, in terms of finding their passion, people struggle imagining what it would be like to do a certain thing and idealizing it. When I say “idealizing,” I mean thinking about it in terms of what it looks like when you’ve developed those skills.
- 07:28 This was my experience with being a musician. I thought about being on a stage in front of thousands of people. I thought about people singing my songs along with me. I thought about people listening to my songs in their cars on the radio. Those kinds of things are super exciting, and I can get exited and enthusiastic about that. Then, you get into trying to make phone calls to get your band booked, playing in a dirty, stinky bar to two people that aren’t really even listening…
- 08:07 Sean: That’s a random example.
- 08:10 Ben: That’s completely random, definitely not something that happened. All of that stuff from where you are—you don’t think about those things. You don’t like to think about those things. Maybe some people have this problem. Some people might think about, “I’m not sure if I would like doing that, because I know it takes doing such-and-such.” More people probably struggle with thinking about the end result and not considering all of the work and the hard stuff that goes into making that possible.
- 08:54 Sean: That’s common with everything. You’re going to find stuff where parts of it aren’t super enjoyable. It’s not fun to do all of the pieces. Passion contextualizes everything—you’re willing to do the tough parts because you’re passionate about the process and the end result. You’re willing to press through.
- 09:46 David said, “Define passion.” I think that’s a good idea. We could mean different things. Other people could think different things. Passion is love for the act of doing something. It’s not love for the idea of something. It’s something you’re willing to do even when you encounter resistance, even when things get tough. You’re going to do it anyway, because you love the process. You love the act.
- 10:19 Similarly to the band thing, someone who wants to become a best selling author might say, “I want to write stories. I want to be the next George R. R. Martin or Tolkien.” You have to be passionate about writing every single day—waking up, writing, writing stuff you hate, throwing it away, revising it… It’s a messy process. If you fall in love with that, then the result is possible.
- 10:51 Ben: Going back to the band example, I think fondly of those times when we played for two or three people, that completely non-glamorous side of doing it. I could always find something I enjoyed about it. I could always walk away from those experiences, even going into rehearsal and playing the same parts over and over again, playing the same songs over and over again… You really have to enjoy that process if you ever want to reach the level where you experience some of the fun stuff that you idealize.
- 11:40 To me, having never reached that stardom level of being a musician, I can’t imagine my life without the experience I had as a musician, playing those smaller gigs and stuff. I feel like my life is richer because of it. That’s how I know, in retrospect, that it was something I was passionate about.
- 12:03 Sean: Sarah in the Community says, “Passion is the opposite of idealization. Everything worth doing is hard. Passion is when you still love it after realizing that it’s hard.” If something seems like it isn’t hard, you probably haven’t done it very long. Eventually, you’re going to reach a point where it is difficult.
Passion is when you reach the other side of resistance.
The Overlap Book
- 12:22 Sean: There’s the exploratory phase, where you’re giving yourself permission to try and you’re not putting any pressure on this thing. That’s a big part of overlapping. You can find my book Overlap at OverlapBook.com, and when this episode comes out, there are two days left to preorder the book. Then we’re closing it down. You’re not going to be able to order it for several months until it launches.
- 12:48 If you preorder it, I’m sending it to everyone who preorders early. You’re going to get it first. We also have a preorder bundle there. You’re going to get the best price on that, because that’s going to go away on June 16th. If you’ve been thinking that you want to get it, now is the time. It’s going to help us out a lot. We’re going into production, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars to get it printed. We’re going to do it anyway, but the help is greatly appreciated. I hope you check it out.
- 13:21 Ben: I preordered the bundle.
- 13:24 Sean: Thank you, Ben. I gave you a copy. You didn’t have to do that.
- 13:27 Ben: I know, but do you know the thing I’m looking forward to the most?
- 13:31 Sean: I hope it’s the physical book, the hardcover…
- 13:34 Ben: With the letterpress…
- 13:36 Sean: Laci can tell me what it’s called. I forget. It’s not embossed, it’s another term.
- 13:49 Ben: It’s inset?
- 13:51 Sean: Yes. I don’t know, maybe inlaid debossed? I forget the name.
- 14:03 Ben: I’m going to hold the book in my hand.
- 14:07 Sean: If you close your eyes and run your fingers over it, you can tell. It’s cloth bound. It’s going to be beautiful. I can’t wait. It’s quality paper. I’m licensing a premium typeface. Everyone else uses the free public domain licensed typefaces, but we’re paying money to use the typeface we use for everything. Every detail of this—we’ve gone through so many revisions with the type setting, and it’s going to be a really beautiful piece. I’m excited for people to hold it in their hands.
The Overlap Technique
- 14:48 Sean: The concept of overlapping is one I’ve shared before. Think of what you’re passionate about as a tree. You know you want to lean against it, to rest your weight against it, but when it’s very early and young, it’s just a little sapling. If you lean against it, you’re going to crush it. You’re going to break it. You have to protect it. Put a circular fence around that sapling and give it room to grow by itself. Protect it.
- 15:20 Don’t lean on it. Don’t rely on it. That’s the piece people miss, this phase where you’re allowing it to be, to develop on its own, and you’re not relying on the fruits that you get from it. If you lean on your passion when your skill is not fully developed, you’re going to end up killing it. It’s going to turn into a job. That was one of the questions we had.
- 15:47 “How do you keep it from turning into a job?” You support it. You let it grow on it’s own, without trying to get something from it. The only way to do that is to have a day job. You’ve got your bills covered, 100% of your bills, by the day job, while you develop your skills on the side.
- 16:17 It’s really hard to be passionate about basketball when you miss every single shot. It’s really hard to be passionate about art when everything you make comes out like a mess. You’re passionate about the idea, maybe, but until you’re good at it, it can be really frustrating. How do you get to that point? You’re like, “I think I like this thing, but everything I do completely sucks. It looks horrible. It’s not working out. It’s not going as I planned.”
- 16:50 How do you go from there to, “Now I’m making things that look great. Things are working out. I’m enjoying the process, I’m seeing the results. What’s in my head, I’m able to create in reality. It all works?”
- 17:06 Ben: That’s the thing that’s really important to remember about something you’re passionate about, especially if it’s going to be your livelihood, your career. The ongoing practice of something is what keeps you sharp. It’s what keeps you creative. If you get to a certain point and you think, “I’ve arrived,” and you don’t continue practicing and honing your skill, you start to lose some of that sharpness, some of that skill.
- 17:45 I’ve noticed that with certain things. I used to do a lot of lettering. I got to a point where I was pretty good. When I’m not using it regularly, even when I go back to it, I have some of the foundational stuff—I have a little bit of the muscle memory—but I can see how far I’ve fallen back from the gains that I’ve made. It’s right there on the page. You’re not just honing your skill so you can get to a place where it’s enjoyable in the sense that, “Oh, now I can produce stuff that I actually like. This is fun and exciting.”
- 18:32 That’s also a time when you develop the ability to continue practicing. You’re training yourself to practice constantly. Instead of thinking about it as, “I’m going to work until I arrive at a certain point, and then I can let off the gas.”
The passion is going to come from the skills, because it’s not fun to do something you’re not good at.
Find the Intersection of Your Interests
- 18:53 Sean: I’m going to give people some ideas of places they can look:
- What are two categories of interest to you?
- What have you enjoyed doing in the past?
- What would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it?
- What do you talk about a lot?
- What do you think about a lot?
- 19:03 Think of two categories of interest, and look at the intersection of those, the overlap of those. Where do those two meet, and what can you find in between both of those? Maybe you like to be really creative, but you’re also a very logical person. That’s me. I enjoy things like music, design, and typography. That’s an intersection between logic and creativity.
- 19:41 That’s a good place to look. What have you enjoyed doing in the past? You may think, “That’s an old thing. That’s not me anymore,” but there was something there. Even if it’s not that act itself, what about that act did you enjoy? Maybe you used to play basketball. Maybe you used to play in a band. Maybe you used to do woodwork. “That’s old me. That’s not something that I do.”
- 20:06 That’s fine. I’m not saying you have to bring that back exactly as it is, but what about that did you enjoy? Why did you like doing it? That’s going to help you discover some things about yourself that can lead to some clarity. What would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it? A lot of us subconsciously put the pressure of money on everything. I know I have done this.
- 20:32 “Well, I’m going to do this. It’s going to need to be a job for me. I’m going to need to make money from it. Can it make money?” We play out this whole thing, and we say, “No, it can’t make money,” so we don’t ever even do it. Remove that pressure completely. I’ve talked about my background with hand lettering. That was a thing I enjoyed in middle school, and I didn’t pick it back up until my 20s. Ben, we should have an episode about how to turn 30. I’m almost 29, and I want to get some insights from you.
- 21:15 Ben: From me? Okay.
- 21:17 Sean: I apologize, I assumed that you are over 30.
- 21:21 Ben: I am. I’m 35 now, and I don’t remember. After 30…
- 21:28 Sean: Spoilers! That’s a different show. I didn’t get into lettering until my 20s, because someone just gave me permission. They said, “If you enjoy it, just do it.” I was like, “Oh. I always thought that wasn’t something I could make money from.” Of course, the lettering stuff has made over half a million dollars if not more by now. Who would have ever thought that, right?
- 22:07 What do you talk about a lot? That’s an obvious place to look, but we overlook it. We’re like, “I just talk about that, but this is really what I want.” There is something to what you talk about a lot. It shows a side of you. There are the things you think, the things you talk about, the things you do… I would also look at what you think about a lot. Maybe you don’t talk to people about it, but you think about something a lot. That’s an area you can explore a little bit more.
- 22:41 Ben: As you’re talking, I’m trying to do this for myself. As ever, I’m having a difficult time. Part of what I realized as I was doing that is that there are things I have said in the past that I was interested in that I may no longer be interested in, but I’m holding myself to those things for some arbitrary reason. I wonder if there are folks who struggle with that, who feel like, “In the past, I used to talk about this a lot. This is something I used to do a lot. I said at one time publicly that I felt passionate about this thing.”
- 23:27 Maybe you feel trapped by that. “If I said I was passionate about that, then I think I still am. I probably should be, right?” People have that kind of back and forth with themselves.
Examine your interests at a categorical level, and see how the two most prominent ones intersect.
Don’t put money pressure on your passion in the beginning—what would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it?
Start With Skill
- 23:44 Sean: If someone is still stuck, try starting with skills that you have. You can think about things you want to do or things that you have enjoyed, but what are the things that you’re good at? I know, immediately, you might say, “I’m good at this thing. I’m good at audio engineering. I’m good at podcast editing, video production, writing, proof reading… But I don’t really enjoy them. That’s not really me. I’m good at it, but it’s a thing I’m good at because I did it in a job at one point, and that’s not me.”
- 24:22 I would not dismiss that immediately. Come back to this. Like we said, there’s nothing fun about doing something and feeling frustrated with the result—not doing it well, or feeling like, “I can’t make money from this.” Maybe you’re even trying to make money from it. You’ve tried, and you’ve had trouble making money from it. There’s nothing fun about that. There’s nothing enjoyable about that.
- 25:02 We make money from it. What better way to plant the seed for that than skill, something you’re actually good at, that can potentially provide value for someone else and create value in the marketplace, and produce a financial result for yourself? If you’re not sure, even then, where to look to or what examples of that might be, ask people that you know to tell you what they think you’re good at. What do other people think you’re good at?
- 25:35 You might say, “That doesn’t matter. I know what I’m good at.” Here’s the thing, when it comes to marketing yourself, your skills, your services, or your products, what matters is what other people think. It’s whether they think you’re trustworthy, you have a quality product, or you’re skilled at what you do, whether or not they want to hire you. Rather than going by what you think about yourself and what you think you’re good at, ask the people around you what they think you’re good at. That’s a really good indicator of what might be something that’s viable.
- 26:14 Ben: I have a LinkedIn account.
- 26:15 Sean: Why? I’m kidding. I’ve actually heard that it’s a lot better than it used to be a long time ago, I just haven’t gotten back into it.
- 26:25 Ben: I don’t know if it is. I hardly ever use it. I pop in every once in a while, and one thing that I think is still a feature is that somebody can assign a tag or a category system to a specific person as, “I know this person has this kind of skill, has worked in this industry,” or whatever. Over time, if you’re connected to enough people, it can become this cloud of common things that people know you for. It gives you a little bit of credit.
- 27:10 If somebody is looking for a specific thing and they come to your LinkedIn page, and they see that cloud and everything has to do with the specific skill set they’re looking for, that works really well in your favor. On mine, I think, it’s something like 50/40/10 for music, church related music stuff, web and graphic design, and I think I have a little bit of video credit in there now. I’ve been doing video stuff almost exclusively for two years now.
- 27:55 Still, it’s like they say. It’s a big ship with a small rudder. I find what you’re saying interesting, Sean. I wonder, for someone without as much experience, who hasn’t been doing stuff publicly as long, if maybe your friends and family are a great place to go.
- 28:21 If you’ve been doing stuff for a while, you might think, “I know what people are going to say. It’s that thing I’ve been doing for a long time that I may not be interested in doing anymore.”
- 28:35 Sean: It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It takes a really long time. For quite a while, you’re trying to find the edges and get the frame together. “Okay, here’s the sky. Here’s the green grass.” You can’t really tell quite what it is for a long time, but then there’s a point maybe halfway or 60% through where you start to get a really good idea of what’s happening here. You get a good idea of the picture, and you can start to see the end result.
- 29:08 It’s motivating. It’s also the point where you would almost say, “I’m tired of this. I’m done.” It’s just enough to where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can see, “I see where this is going. I want to finish this. I want to complete this.” That keeps you going and helps you push through. Until you get to that point, that 50% or 60% point where you can really see the end result, where things are coming together, if you’re an artist, the thing you’ve made may not be 100% perfect, but it’s the closest to what’s in your mind that anything has ever come.
- 29:48 Everything else you’ve made before this point looks like a lump of garbage. You crumple it up and throw the paper across the room. You can’t even make it into the trash can. That’s how much of a failure you are. This is what goes through people’s minds. I’m not saying that to them. That’s where the skill comes in. That’s why skill is important. That’s why you can’t just have passion.
- 30:21 It’s skill plus passion. When you have the ability to do something well, hitting a road block can still feel like a reason to quit. Passion will keep you from quitting. If you just have passion and no skills, you’ll be slinging paint around on a canvass like an elephant does with its trunk. No, it shouldn’t be $2 million.
- 30:45 Ben: It’s what the market… How does it work?
- 30:49 Sean: You need to put on an elephant costume. Maybe you can sell your art. If you don’t have the skill, you’re going to have a bad time.
We want to do things we love, enjoy the act of doing, appreciate the result, and that support us financially.
Your friends and family have an outside perspective and can speak to your skills.
- 30:59 Sean: What do you do? You can start with passion, but you’re going to very quickly get frustrated. You’re going to be passionate about something you’re not good at. Laci has encountered this. She has talked about it before. She is very interested in food styling, but to be able to show other people, you have to be able to photograph it. She’s not really passionate about the photography, necessarily. She’s passionate about food.
- 31:27 She’s passionate about the styling of food, but she’s had to learn the photography to be able to share that with other people. It’s the vehicle, the mechanism, for getting her work out into the world. It was frustrating for her, figuring out the exposure triangle, ISO, aperture… You change one thing, it affects the others. She was like, “Ah, this is frustrating!”
- 32:00 She sees what she wants other people to see, but she wants to be able to translate it. She’s like, “It’s over-exposed. It’s blurry.” There’s frustration in delivering that to the world. There’s frustration in each of the pieces not going well.
- 32:22 Deliberate practice is better to explain by analogy. Playing one-on-one basketball with your friend is not deliberate practice, but shooting 100 free throws is deliberate practice. It’s where you zoom in on one area and practice it over and over and over until you get that one piece right. It’s zooming in on one area. It’s using your camera on manual mode, even though you’ve avoided that for so long, for months, for years.
- 32:54 It’s saying, “No, I’m going to stop avoiding this thing that I’m scared of and frustrated with, that hasn’t gone well in the past, that I don’t feel good at, and I’m going to deliberately practice it. I’m going to get better at it. I’m going to develop my skill.”
- 33:12 Ben: I think that’s probably the bigger part of it, too. Doing the deliberate practice, working through those hard spots. What also needs to work with that is doing it live. There are certain things you learn about yourself when the pressure is on. You can practice for a long time with shapes and colors and orientation and all of that, but until you actually do a client project and you have to deliver something, the pressure isn’t really on.
- 33:54 At the right time, that added pressure can help take you to the next level. It will teach you things about yourself that you can’t learn from that repetitive practice, but both things are important.
You develop skill through deliberate practice.
- 34:14 Cory: I have some thoughts on passion. I know we’re kind of backtracking to that. I want to introduce a new way for people to think about passion. Most people think of it like, “This thing is my passion,” once they’ve found it. “Woodworking is my passion. Calligraphy is my passion. Video making is my passion.” That’s not what it is. You and Ben have both been wording it in a way that’s like, “You’re passionate about the thing.”
- 34:58 I think there are still people who say, “This is my passion.” Passion is drive and care that you can choose to give to something. You can choose to put forth passion into loving your spouse, even when it’s hard. Think of it more as a choice. Instead of saying, “Filmmaking is my passion,” I have passion. Every person listening to this has passion.
- 35:39 Ben: I like that distinction.
- 35:42 Cory: That’s how I feel about it.
- 35:44 Ben: It also makes room for the thing that you’re passionate about not being a fixed target. It’s not that it’s a moving target, but when you look at a map, if you’re zooming in on the app, as you zoom in, the details start to load onto the screen. You zoom in again, farther and farther, and it’s kind of like that. You can say, “I’m going to Texas.” Where in Texas? “I’m going to San Antonio.” Where in San Antonio? “I’m going to the North side.”
- 36:24 Sean: Don’t tell them where we live, Ben.
- 36:28 Ben: I’m saying, that’s a place I’d like to go sometime.
- 36:31 Sean: Yeah, I’ve heard good things about that.
- 36:42 Ben: As you apply your passion toward the pursuit of a thing, you might discover along the way that there’s a different direction you want to go. It brings more clarity. You might think, “I’m passionate about making videos,” or, “I’m passionate about watercolor painting,” but you could zoom in even more on that and say, “I’m passionate about watercolor painting figures.”
- 37:07 Or, “I’m passionate about watercolor painting children.” Or, “I’m passionate about watercolor painting children playing in playgrounds.” That’s specific. You can do something for long enough, and then decide you’re passionate about teaching other people how to do it.
Once you find what you’re good at and you enjoy, give your passion to that.
Pick One Thing Now
- 37:48 Sean: What if that’s just one of the things that I’m passionate about, and I have like six? I don’t know. What do I do? Which one do I pick? Which one is the right one?
- 38:01 Ben: Do you have to pick one? Is that a rule?
- 38:05 Sean: You don’t have to. You can do whatever you want.
- 38:11 Ben: The question is, “Which one do I pick to be the thing that I make money at?”
- 38:17 Sean: Not even necessarily money-related. We’re talking about skill and passion. Eventually, money can become a part of it, but even when you’re exploring, give time to a particular pursuit.
- 38:44 Don’t worry about it being the right thing, but give your energy to it. Do it. Enter into the act of doing it. Give your energy to it. Set aside time, and treat it like it’s something special. If it’s ever going to be, it deserves your time and attention now. We’re held back by the thought, “Is this the thing? Is this my passion?” Cory was saying that people say that. “Is this what I should be doing? Is it the one thing?”
- 39:17 I think that’s too much pressure. I think you can’t know. Who was saying that they didn’t know they were passionate about what they loved doing now until they entered into the professional workplace and started doing things. No one is born knowing they love mastering audio. You have to discover. Go out, do, and try. Even if you try the wrong thing, it leads you to the next thing. “I didn’t like that, but I liked this one piece of it,” or, “I met this person who told me about this other opportunity they have, and I started working with them. I discovered this other thing.”
- 40:13 Sean: It’s the lack of movement, the lack of action, that will keep you stuck. Indecision is the enemy.
- 40:23 Ben: You’re either going to love it, and it’s going to be the thing that you feel super passionate about, or you’re going to discover, while doing it, that it’s not something you’re as passionate about. There’s this other thing you wish you had chosen first.
- 40:38 Sean: It’s the discovering of something you’re not passionate about that most people don’t realize is progress. They think that’s failure. They think that’s a waste of time.
Pursue something—pick something and try it.
Movement gets you where you want to go.
Pick one thing now and don’t worry about whether it’s the right thing, because the “wrong thing” will get you to the right thing.
Exploring Is Not a Waste of Time
- 40:51 Sean: Exploring is the furthest thing from a waste of time.
- 40:55 Cory: I could be an example. People are hearing you say that, and they’re like, “Okay, I get it.” Most people who know me now, maybe not everybody, think of me as a film maker or a film director. I did this exploratory phase. I took architecture classes. I wasn’t just interested in it and read a couple of books and then gave up. I took classes in architecture. I thought that was going to be my passion.
- 41:21 Sean: Wasted time, Cory.
- 41:23 Cory: It wasn’t. I did enjoy certain aspects of it, but I was like, “I don’t think this is it.” There was something about it. I didn’t have the drive for it. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to spend eight years learning and being an apprentice. I don’t know if this is what I want.” I moved on, and I tried something else. I was like, “Well, woodworking has always interested me,” so I did that for six months or so. I bought tools and went to other people’s houses who had been doing it for 30 years.
- 41:55 They showed me all their tools and what they’ve made, and I was like, “This is so much fun!” I made some stuff. I made this little stool that I designed for my friend’s mom. I made Sean this plaque with the ampersand logo. I have some other designs, but after a while, I was like, “I thought this would be different. I thought it would feel different. I thought I would enjoy the process of all of it more.” It was a little bit discouraging, because I wanted to find the thing.
- 42:31 I have found film making, but it wasn’t something I was born knowing that I wanted to do. Some people, that is their story. I know people who have known their one thing ever since they were five years old. I was like, “I’m so jealous of that.” That’s not everybody’s story, and the exploratory phase that Sean talks about in the Overlap book, that’s such a necessary part.
- 42:56 Sean: A lot of people are frustrated. Someone else has known their passion since they were five, and it’s so easy for them. It’s not that way for most people, more than 95%. Probably 98%. Even the 2% of people who always knew their passion, not all of them go on to do that forever, for the rest of their life, and they’re happy. Some of them feel stuck. They’ve always known, this was always their passion, and then suddenly they think, “I don’t think this is it. I don’t think this is what I want to do.”
- 43:31 They feel stuck, like it’s so much a part of their identity that they feel like they can’t move on. They feel like, “Everyone knows me for this. How could I possibly change anything?” The first chapter of the Overlap book has sub-sections. I tell my story. I’m going to read the titles of the sub-sections. This is my story, and the book starts out with me 34 feet up in the air. It’s pretty fun.
- The Window Cleaner
- The Computer Repair Man
- The Web Designer
- The Hand Letterer
- The Graphic Designer
- The Course Creator
- The Teacher
- The Community Organizer
- 44:20 It’s continuing to evolve. Soon we’ll say “Software Company Founder.” There are so many stages. You could say that all of those were failures because I’m not still doing them today, but that would be silly. That’s not how it works. It wasn’t even the wrong thing. It was something I tried at that time that lead me to something else.
- 44:55 Ben: That’s the dangerous thing about thinking about passions as either the right one or the wrong one. If you leave something behind and you don’t allow yourself to carry with you the things you learned and some of the potentially related skills, you’re missing out on a lot. Even two things that seem unrelated are connected in some way. That’s why woodworking and film making, you can find a connection there between those two things.
- 45:32 You can look at that experience, and you might say, “I spent a lot of money. I bought a bunch of tools, and then I sold them and I didn’t make my money back. It was basically a loss.” Think about some of the things you can carry over, like the patience it takes, the perfectionism and attention to detail that goes into it, understanding how to choose the right raw materials ahead of time… There are so many lessons you can bring over.
- 46:12 If you think about it that way, and that’s your mindset, your future passion is going to benefit so much from the experiences you have along the way, with the things that weren’t the “right one.”
- 46:27 Sean: It’s worth just taking a moment and thinking about the things you’ve already carried from your past pursuits, the things you’ve done before, the past jobs and the people you’ve worked with. You have kind of compartmentalized those in your mind, and that’s in the past, but take inventory of the things you still utilize, the things you brought with you. I learned so much when I was doing the web firm with my partner.
- 46:58 We learned so much and grew together. We sent out proposals and learned to write design contracts, learned about pricing… I hadn’t networked or connected with anyone in my industry or built relationships, gone to conferences, or learned how to come up with concepts for logos, designing user interfaces, or producing screenflow recordings. Those are silly things, but they still continue to serve me. That’s just one area.
- 47:49 The true waste of time is sitting here, feeling like, “I don’t know which one is the right one,” and letting day after day, week after week, month after month pass you by without making any kind of progress or decision. Garrett in the chat said, “I have been working on this for years and here’s my advice: just keep trying things.” I really like that.
I wanted to be an example for others of finding my passion.
I continue to use skills I have developed in every job and pursuit along my way.
The act of exploring is not wasted time, and picking something that doesn’t end up being what you do for the rest of your life isn’t a waste of time.