Recently I wrote about finding your passion. The past few weeks, I’ve been nosing around in what it means to find a passion, and if “finding a purpose” is a more meaningful way to look at things.
In my 20s, I worked as a secretary in the engineering office of a local factory. My coworkers were great – nerdy, engineer types focused on getting the job done, creating new solutions for problems, and not giving up until they figured it out. I liked the energy around me, but after a few years, I grew restless. My work didn’t seem like “enough” anymore, so I mentioned this to one of the engineers I worked with. Al pondered a bit, smiled and said very nicely, “Bloom where you’re planted.”
I blinked. Ouch. I was a little taken aback, actually. Secretly I probably wanted Al to come around the desk with a hanky and a hug, to say that being stuck behind a desk all day must be pretty darn boring. Pity party, poor me.
It made me think, though. That job certainly wasn’t my passion, or my purpose, but what was I doing to make things better in the meantime?
Things have changed over the last two decades. Today, the number of “followers” you have or the number of hits your website got can become a measure of popularity, or worse yet, worth. It’s easy to eat this online attention like food for progress without knowing what purpose it brings.
I watched “20 Feet from Stardom,” the 2014 Academy Award-winner for best documentary about the world of backup singers. “Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names,” the synopsis says. Wow – imagine that – really! Following your dream and never truly being named. I love the rich harmony these singers bring to my favorite recordings, and was glad to learn more about them as people. Several, like Merry Clayton and Claudia Lennear, attempted solo careers that fell flat for several reasons. They sang regularly with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, but flying solo didn’t cut it, which was understandably very difficult for these talented women to accept.
The director interviewed Sting, who said something very compelling, which applies to anyone trying to hone their craft – writers, artists, gardeners, teachers.
“For real musicians, there is a spiritual component to what they do. It’s got nothing to do with worldly success. The music is much more of an inner journey. Any other success is just cream on the cake. There’s this idea that you can go on ‘American Idol’ and suddenly become a star, but you may bypass the spiritual work you have to do to get there. If you bypass that, then your success will be wafer thin.”
Finding your passion, then, isn’t something that you’ll find under a rock or on a TV program. It’s part of your experience. My friend, Cassy Tully, is a wonderfully talented painter, capturing mood and joy with color and texture. Her most recent painting, Bloom, celebrates her artist’s journey. Not her success – her journey. I’ve written about jobs and passion before, and what I’m learning comes through very clearly: your passion isn’t “out there.” It’s more of a purpose, part of your journey, part of the way you serve those around you and the world at large. Don’t make it an unknowable, mysterious thing – start small and journey from there!