Curiosity, not passion

March 6, 2014

images-54Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favourite writers.  Her work is engaging, accessible and just all-round brilliant.  Her writing is delicious and sometimes I could eat the pages.   I know I have found a good author when the writing is good enough to eat.  But that’s just me.  I’ve always found reading to be a type of mental food that I absolutely cannot live without.

I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook and she often posts insightful, beautifully articulate essays on topics such as writing, self-discipline, finding your niche, coping with criticism, dealing with difficult people, perseverance and relationships.  She hits the nail on the head with God-like wisdom and insight.  I enjoy this writing of Liz’s even more than I enjoy her novels.

Recently she wrote about the pursuit of curiosity rather than passion.  It resonated with me and I want to share it with you.

DownloadedFile-3I’ve always been a big fan of Finding Your Passion.  For years and years, I’ve been searching high and low for mine and I still haven’t found the damn thing.  Following Your Passion feels as if I’m trying to catch a soap bubble.  I run after it and grab it, then it pops and I always think, ‘Dammit, that didn’t turn out well.  Maybe that wasn’t my passion after all.’

I always thought that training and teaching people was my passion but, when I did it in my job, I hated it.  To be fair it could have been the duller-than-dishwater material, which was out of my control.  Then I wondered if organizational psychology/HR and people’s career development in the workplace was my passion but then I realized that I don’t even like working with people.  People constantly disappoint or irritate me.  I realize I am unreasonably impatient, a little passive-aggressive and I don’t suffer fools which makes me hopeless at teamwork.  Imagine saying that in an interview.

‘What’s your weakness?’


No one would hire me.  That’s why, when I am asked that question, I say my weakness is perfectionism, just like everyone else does.

People say you should Follow Your Passion when you choose a career.  It stumps me because I don’t actually have a burning fire in the belly for anything.  Is that a bad thing?  Is there something wrong with me?

Then I read Liz Gilbert’s recent essay and I breathed a sigh of relief because I finally felt as if someone understood me.  She says that passion is often a tall order and you should follow your curiosity instead.  Passion is rare but curiosity is every day.  Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder that whispers, ‘This is interesting …’

images-43I have LOADS I am curious about.  I am curious about writing, about nutrition, about Pilates, about wellness, about literature, about cooking, about history, about World War 2, about child development, about religion, about psychology … about … about … etc etc.  I waste so much time searching for my big passion that I miss out on the little interests that bring me joy.

I admit that in many countries, choosing a career is a race against time and there is little opportunity to faff about following curiosities that ultimately fizzle out.  That is why the British system is so marvelous and lends itself to the curiosity concept.  When you leave school, you can do an off-the-wall or dead-end degree, perhaps History of Art or Marine Biology and then, after 5 years or so, you can become a Chartered Accountant.  But during the time at university, you have the opportunity to dither about and follow your curiosities and hope that one morphs into your passion before you reach your deadline and have to choose a proper, financially viable career.

Following my curiosity seems so much less intimidating than Finding My Passion so that’s what I am going to do from now onwards.  All these little things I am interested in don’t need to become a full-blown career but I am sure that if I pursue them and heed the tap on my shoulder and the whisper in my ear, life will be more interesting and a lot more fun.

Here is Liz’s essay:

I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)

But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.

Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…”

Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.

Curiosity is therefore a lot easier to reach at at times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower, easier to manage.

The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity. It doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?

For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.

Small steps.

Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.

And that’ll be the end of boredom.




Choose joy and then dance in the rain

April 29, 2013

During one of my random internet surfing sessions, I stumbled across an interview with Rick Warren, the author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life.  It resonated with me because I used to think that life came in waves – hard times, then good times, then hard times, then good times again.  Battle and blessing, back and forth.

But, Rick says:

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.  I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore.  Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.
 No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

I suppose what he is also trying to say is this:  Choose joy.  Don’t wait for the storm to pass.  Learn to dance in the rain.


2013 – The glass is always full

January 3, 2013

I have learned that the quality of my life experience depends on my attitude.  Our minds are very powerful filters.  Our heads – the way we think about things – can make us or break us.  I love being around people who are warm and open, have a positive, hopeful attitude, make the best of all circumstances and try to find the good in everything.  When I had Megan, the hospital gave me a plastic card that I must carry around with me at all times.  It contains some basic medical information including my blood type, which is B+.  B Positive.  BE POSITIVE!

2012 was a great year and I hope 2013 will be even better.  Well, it will be a good one because my attitude will make it so.  If my blood is always positive, then I should be too.  As you can see from the diagram below, the glass is always full – it just depends on how you choose to see things.


Everything will be okay in the end

June 22, 2012

One of my friends put this sign/picture up on their Facebook wall.  It is so simple yet it struck a chord with me.  My life is plodding along calmly at the moment but some people I know have been going through rough times.  I understand that we are guaranteed to have both battles and blessings.  As a Christian, at least we know how the overall story finishes – our struggles are temporary and everything will be ok in the end.  It helps if you keep the final chapter in mind when you are passing through what feels like life’s wood-chipper.


How big is your carrot?

May 3, 2012

Sophia, give me a teaspoon of your confidence

October 13, 2011

I’ve been craving a belly laugh.  I haven’t had one in ages.  The problem is a person can’t plan to have a belly laugh because the best ones jump up on you out of the blue.  The most memorable belly laughs happen when you least expect it.  That is the beauty of them.   A belly laugh is the type of laughter that bubbles up from deep inside and makes you cry happy tears and go red in the face.  Sometimes, belly laughs are so gripping that you gasp for air.  They give you a warm, happy glow for days afterwards.  You may be brushing your teeth, in a meeting, cooking dinner or whatever and then you will remember the situation that led to the belly laugh and you chuckle again.

I had a belly laugh today.

Every morning, I read the Daily Mail while I eat my muesli and psyche myself up for the day.  Today I read an article about two girls from Essex who sang a Nicki Minaj song on a YouTube video.  The clip went viral and it has been watched by millions around the world.

Sophia and her moral support, her cousin Rosie,  were invited on to The Ellen Degeneres Show and the Daily Mail attached a clip of their interview.  I love the confidence of these two children, especially Sophia with the brown hair. She cracked me up.  I wanted to jump though the computer screen and give her a big hug to thank her for making my day.

Sophia and Rosie’s extroversion and self-esteem reminds me of that saying, ‘Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt before and dance like no one is watching.’  As the interview progresses, they sing and talk as if no one is watching and I wish I had more of their boldness and audacity.  Rosie and Sophia inspired me today.  I want more of them in me.

NOTE:  If you can’t see the video I have attached to this post, follow this link to the Daily Mail clips.

What thorns do you keep in your feet?

February 10, 2011

I have recently discovered the author Wilbur Smith and I am devouring his stories.  His books are my new opium.  He’s written about 33 novels and my postman is popping them through the posthole in my door like coins in a winning slot machine.

During part of Smith’s first novel, the main character Sean Courtney grieves for a close friend who died tragically.  His servant, Mbejane, comforts him and gives advice which I thought was so profound.  I even photocopied that portion of the book and stuck it in my journal so I never forget it.

Sean looked back at the water. ‘Go away,’ he said.

Mbejane squatted down beside him with his elbows on his knees, ‘For whom do you mourn?’ he asked.

‘Go away, Mbejane, leave me alone.’

‘Nkosi Duff does not need your sorrow – therefore I think you mourn for yourself.’  Mbejane picked up a pebble and tossed it in the pool.

‘When a traveler gets a thorn in his foot,’ Mbejane went on softly, ‘and he is wise he plucks it out – and he is a fool who leaves it and says “I will keep this thorn to prick me so that I will always remember the road upon which I have travelled.”  Nkosi, it is better the remember with pleasure than with pain.’

I have a habit of stewing in my past and dissecting the bad decisions, relationships and events with my great gift of hindsight.  Enough of it!  I am plucking out the thorns that I have kept in my feet and am skipping into my future, focusing more on the pleasure and less on the pain.