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  • The day I got laid off from my job at Martha Stewart

  • I was relieved.

  • (Laughter)

  • I loved the job, I really did.

  • But the relationship was over

  • and I didn't know how to end it

  • and then it broke up with me.

  • Don’t you love it when that happens?

  • At the time I’ve been also hosting a radio show

  • for the Martha Stewart brand on Sirius XM.

  • And then not long after that got cancelled, too.

  • On the day of my last show

  • I got onto the elevator at the 36th floor

  • and as it started to drop,

  • I started to cry.

  • Every floor took me further and further from what I had been:

  • a magazine editor, a radio host,

  • the person with the cool job to talk about at parties.

  • You know.

  • And honestly I had no idea what I was gonna do.

  • And quite frankly no one was looking for me.

  • So, I did what anyone would do in that situation.

  • I was making some phone calls:

  • Hey, what are you up to?

  • Did I mention I’m available?”

  • I needed to get paid to do something, right.

  • I mean I live in New York City.

  • If youre not paid to do something,

  • youre not going to be there very long.

  • But this idea that I had to know what I suppose to do now is that

  • I’m supposed to pursue this passion.

  • It’s just bugged me.

  • It always had.

  • And that’s because it’s a dangerously limiting idea

  • at the heart of everything we believe

  • about success and life in general.

  • And it’s that you have one singular passion

  • and your job is to find it

  • and to pursue it to the exclusion of all else.

  • And if you do that

  • everything will fall into place

  • and if you don’t, you failed.

  • The pressure starts really young

  • and it goes your whole life,

  • but it’s perhaps most pronounced when youre graduating from school, right.

  • After this, “Wow, the world's at your feet! What are you going to do now?”

  • And it’s so intimidating,

  • it's like picking a major for life.

  • You know, I had a hard enough time picking a major for four years

  • and I changed that once, if not twice.

  • I mean it was like just intimidating, right?

  • And this compelling

  • I mean this really, you know,

  • forceful cultural imperative to choose your passion,

  • it’s stressful to me,

  • but it’s not just me,

  • it’s everyone I talk to agrees with me.

  • The woman who sold me this dress.

  • I told her what I needed the dress for, what I was talking about

  • and she said, “Oh my gosh,

  • I really need to hear this talk, because I just graduate from school.

  • My friends and I we don’t know what were passionate about,

  • we don’t know what we supposed to do.”

  • I’m leery of passion for a few reasons.

  • But one of them is that passion is not a plan,

  • it’s a feeling.

  • And feelings change.

  • They do.

  • You can be passionate about a person one day, a job,

  • and then not passionate the next.

  • We know this and yet we continue

  • to use passion as the yardstick

  • to judge everything by,

  • instead of seeing passion for what it really is:

  • the fire that ignites when you start rubbing sticks together.

  • Anyway, I was such a mess when I was in my twenties,

  • such a mess.

  • I was anxious and depressed and had no life to speak of,

  • I was temping to keep my options open,

  • and I was sitting around at night in my underwear

  • watching Seinfeld reruns.

  • Actually I still do that, that’s not the worst thing in the world to do.

  • It’s fine.

  • But I called my mother every night crying

  • and I was turning away perfectly good full-time jobs.

  • Why? Because I was afraid.

  • I was sure that I would pick the wrong one

  • and get on the wrong train headed to the wrong future.

  • My mother begged me, she said, “Please, take a job, any job.

  • Youre not going to be stuck, youre stuck now!

  • You don’t create your life first, and then live it.

  • You create it by living it, not agonizing about it.”

  • She’s right, she’s always right.

  • And so I took a full-time job as an assistant

  • at a management consulting firm, where I knew nothing about nothing.

  • Okay. Zero.

  • Except I knew I had a reason to get up in the morning, get showered,

  • leave the house,

  • people who were waiting for me when I got there

  • and I got a paycheck every two weeks.

  • And that is as good a reason to take a job as any.

  • Did I know that I want to be an office administrator

  • for the rest of my life? No! I had no idea!

  • Truly!

  • But this idea that everything you're supposed to do

  • should fit into this passion vertical is unrealistic.

  • And I’ll say it - elitist.

  • You show me someone who washes windows for a living

  • and I will bet you a million dollars

  • it’s not because he has a passion for clean glass.

  • One of my favourite columns is a piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams.

  • He wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal a few years ago,

  • about how he failed his way to success.

  • And one of his jobs was a commercial loan officer.

  • And he was taught specifically:

  • "Do not loan money to someone following their passion."

  • (Laughter)

  • No, loan it to someone who wants to start a business,

  • the more boring, the better.

  • (Laughter)

  • Adam says that in his life success fueled passion

  • more than passion fueled success.

  • When I got my first job as a magazine editor, in publishing,

  • I was thrilled.

  • But I had to take pretty big pay cut,

  • because at the time I’d been a catalogue copywriter at a wig company.

  • (Laughter)

  • Laugh if you will, clearly you are and many, many people did.

  • But wigs paid.

  • So I had to figure out a way to make some money.

  • A friend of mine invited me to a jewelry party

  • I said, "What is a jewelry party?"

  • She said, “It’s like Tupperware but with bracelets.”

  • I said, “Okay, got it, got it.”

  • I went and I had the best time.

  • I was there hanging out, trying on jewelry,

  • the salespersons having a great time

  • and I was like, "That’s a job.

  • I could...

  • I could do that."

  • I mean, really, she seems to be having a great time.

  • Now, I had no background in sales,

  • unless you count Girl Scouts, and I was terrible.

  • And I had no passion for jewelry.

  • I mean, honestly, my earrings cost 20 $. Combined, all of them.

  • And yet I was like, "I think I can sling silver jewelry to suburban moms

  • drinking daiquiris.

  • Yes, I could do that."

  • And so I did it, I signed up, I became a Silpada Designs rep.

  • And I…

  • Listen to me, I was not setting a world on fire right away.

  • Really. I was so awkward and afraid of selling.

  • And then I got better,

  • I got better,

  • I started making some money,

  • I started getting really passionate about it.

  • Not just because of the money, but because

  • what I realized was people wanted the stuff.

  • They were happy to pay for it.

  • I sold so much jewelry that year I won a free trip to Saint Thomas.

  • (Laughter)

  • It’s true.

  • I eventually let my jewelry business go, because my career path shifted.

  • But I was so glad that I did that.

  • Because it planted an entrepreneurial seed I didn’t know was there.

  • And that bears fruit to this day.

  • Now as you know an entire cottage industry has sprung up

  • around helping people find their passions, right.

  • Books, coaching, webinars, whatever.

  • And their hearts in the right place, it’s great, I’m all about self-discovery.

  • Okay.

  • But when you ask someone, or youre asked like,

  • "What’s your passion?"

  • It’s triggering.

  • It’s like, "Oh my god, I have to come up with a good answer for this."

  • One of my friends in her mid-forties and she’s looking

  • what’s her life going to be now.

  • And she’s like, “I don’t know what I’m passionate about.”

  • And she’s legitimately concerned about this.

  • She’s ready to hire a team of people.

  • It’s like, why are we worrying about this?

  • You know why, because she thinks something wrong with her.

  • I thought something was wrong with me when I was in the seventh grade

  • and everyone was really into like

  • the rock-bands and their actors

  • and they would carve the names of those bands in a tables in a library.

  • And I never carved anything, because I couldn’t think of anything to carve.

  • I mean I liked Bon Jovi as much as the next girl,

  • but not enough to deface school property, you know.

  • (Laughter)

  • It’s probably why I don’t have any tattoos either.

  • I’m assuming that’s why.

  • I was really boring, I thought something was wrong with me.

  • But that’s the fear, isn’t it?

  • That when someone asks you at a party, on a date, at a job interview,

  • "What are you passionate about?"

  • That you're not going to have this wow compelling answer.

  • And that’s mean that youre not interesting, or ambitious,

  • or that you don’t have a singular obsession

  • or scary talent that you hiding.

  • And that your life isn’t worth living.

  • And it’s not true.

  • Passion is not a job, a sport, or a hobby.

  • It is the full force of your attention

  • and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you.

  • And if youre so busy looking for this passion,

  • you could miss opportunities that change your life.

  • You could also miss out on a great love.

  • Because that’s what happens when you have tunnel vision,

  • trying to find the One.

  • We all think we know the kind of person we are

  • and the kind of person we could love.

  • But sometimes were wrong.

  • Blissfully wrong.

  • And sometimes you don’t know what you're going to do next, right?

  • I mean, I don’t.

  • I love not knowing what I’m going to be doing five years from now

  • or I will be into.

  • And that’s okay, it’s okay not to know.

  • You know why?

  • Because the most fulfilling relationships,

  • the most fulfilling careers

  • are those that still have the power to surprise you.

  • And as for the things you know you want to do.

  • You want to write a book, you want to start a business,

  • you want to change careers.

  • Great!

  • But if youre sitting around waiting for passion to show up and take it,

  • youre going to be waiting a long time.

  • So don’t wait.

  • Instead, spend your time and attention

  • solving your favourite problems.

  • Look for problems that need solving.

  • Be useful,

  • generous.

  • People will thank you, and hug you and pay you for it

  • and that’s where passion is.

  • Where your energy and effort meets someone else’s need.

  • That’s when you realize:

  • passion lives,

  • and realizing what you have to contribute.

  • Why do you think when were asking people what theyre passionate about,

  • they say, "Helping other people."?

  • So don’t wait.

  • Listen to my mother.

  • Just start doing.

  • Because to live a life full of meaning and value