Notes from Last Night - "How to Live a More Passionate Life"
Rebecca’s Notes from Last Night
When we are young we embrace imagination. Our experiences are so narrow, our thinking so fresh, that all worldly possibilities seem attainable. As children we are beings driven by the heart, by impulse and by the desire to create possibilities without the burden of self-criticism or rational analysis. We indulge what makes us happy, with no concern for status, social expectation or money. We want to care, we want purpose and we seek freedom and adventure above all else. When we are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, considerations of pay and pensions play a distant second to what is thrilling and fascinating.
Then the weight of the world falls upon us, and suddenly we no longer want to be zookeepers, astronauts or brain surgeons. London Zoo, Virgin Galactic and the NHS are no longer employers of choice. We leave school or graduate from university and are drawn into the corporate talent battle, desperate to climb the unyielding ladder of social success. We become our LinkedIn profiles. Our concern shifts from heart to head, and our paths are diverted from what we want, to what the market needs.
On a humid Tuesday evening, in a room near St. Pauls, a group of young passion-seekers met in search of wisdom. Having drunk the corporate kool-aid, and finding it to be rather bitter and unsatisfying, we are seeking a way out. And John Morgan was the man we turned to for a little encouragement and advice.
A self-made explorer, connector, creator and high-impact Coach, John has spent the past 15 years creating a life that he loves – and helping others do the same. Drawing on wisdom from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Oliver Burkeman and Walt Disney, John acknowledged all the fears, uncertainties and reservations that come with leaving the relative security of the 9-5 world and setting your own course.
His advice focused on the re-learning of our innate ability to imagine, the need to ditch the mirage of the “one true calling” and the need to trade probability for possibility, in order to live a more passionate life. Here are the three key lessons from his talk:
1. Use your imagination
Imagination is a creative process and can help unlock possibility. As a personal exercise, John recommended writing down 100 things you would love to do – both in your career and life in general – and then separating them into two categories: input (activities that serve yourself) and output (activities that serve others). This provides a useful first step in understanding your personal priorities.
2. Don’t put yourself in a box
Don’t look for ready-made opportunities, seek your own. Many of us hop from one job to another, hoping that the next job will be better than the last, and will satisfy our needs and passions. No matter how many hours you spend searching for jobs online, you will never find an off-the-rack career that truly fulfils your passion.
3. Embrace uncertainty
In creating your own path and leading a more passionate life, you need to accept that there will always be a level of uncertainty. The key is to embrace that feeling and use it creatively, to propel yourself from one possibility to the next.
John readily admits that seeking passion in our lives is a distinctively ‘first world problem’, but the very fact we have the opportunity to create a more passionate life for ourselves is a privilege not to be ignored. If you have the desire to live with more purpose, passion and creativity it will not go away. So go ahead and do something about it.
Rory’s Notes from Last Night
John P Morgan is incredibly good at what he does.
Last night he showed over 80 people just how good he is at it, speaking at Bathtub 2 Boardroom on ‘how to live a more passionate life’. Here’s a quick look at the awesome advice John gave.
Passion can’t be found
Setting out to find your passion is setting out to fail. Passion isn’t something to be found – it’s something to be created.
People often get caught up looking for their passion – hunting around for the perfect job that will let them live happily ever after, and that will let them tick the checkbox for ‘yes, I am fulfilled’. But that’s not what passion is – it’s not something you find once in a moment of clarity and then never have to worry about again. It’s something that you have to build for yourself, because no-one else knows what will make you happy. But how do you do that?
Find your colours
Everyone is a combination of experiences, skills, and knowledge, which shape our interests, desires, and passions. And each of these experiences is like a colour in a palette, waiting to be used to create your passion. But how do you find out what these are? And once you’ve found the colours, how do you use them?
Imagine and create
“If you are a colour palette, imagination is learning to use a paintbrush.”
John set us a simple challenge: write down a hundred things you want to do. It doesn’t matter what they are or how feasible they are, just that you think of them and write them down. Take the opportunity to remember how to use your imagination, and re-train it as a muscle.
By re-learning to use your imagination, you’re training yourself to use the things you know to create something new – and like an artist practicing painting, the more you practice, the more things you’ll be able to paint with the colours in your palette.
Expand your palette
Once you’ve brought your imagination back into your life, how do you find something fulfilling?
Fulfilment rarely comes from chasing your own satisfaction. John gave the example of someone with all the money and time in the world, setting off travelling, seeing new places, and meeting new people. For a while it’s fun and exciting – but eventually you reach a point where you realise you’re drifting through other people’s lives, without really doing anything and that hunger for something more sets in again. Chasing your own satisfaction, without being in touch with the needs of the world, isn’t the approach to finding passion and fulfilment.
Instead, get out and talk to people. Take your ideas and test them – see if they work in the real world, instead of assuming in your mind that they don’t.
Once you start creating, separate the critical process from the creative process. Create first, and say yes to everything – because everything is possible. Don’t criticise your ideas or pursuits until you’ve taken the time to get your hands dirty. We have a tendency to look at probabilities, not possibilities – ideas will probably fail, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them to succeed.
The best example is learning a new sport – you can read up on a sport all you want, and think through all the ways you won’t be good at it. But unless you get out on the field and give it a try, you’ll never know for sure.
Even when you’re out on the field the first time, you might really suck at the game.
But you know what? That’s okay. No one is a world champion football player the first time they step on the pitch. What gets them there is what John called ‘the opposite of fragility’. When something is fragile, taking a hit makes it weaker. What we want is the opposite – when we take a hit, we want to find a way to make ourselves stronger.
When a football player loses a match because they can’t run fast enough, they don’t retire; they practice running. They admit they’re not good enough, and find a way to get good. They practice, train, and come back the next year running faster than ever.
Don’t have a skill you need for a job? Find a way to get the skill. Teach yourself, learn from a friend, whatever – just don’t think ‘oh, I don’t have that skill, so I’ll never be able to do this’.
Coming full circle, John reminded us that there’s no end-point to living a passionate and fulfilled life. You don’t reach a magic goal, and say ‘yes, now I’m fulfilled, I can spend the rest of my life reading a book’. Passion isn’t like that, and anyone who’s felt that hunger inside to chase their passion knows that it’s not the sort of feeling that ever goes away. Passion is about being happy with what you do but not content with your success, and always learning and growing.
Guest Reviewer: This post was written by Rory Mcneice.
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