Don’t Kill Your Dreams.
As a responsible business person, I thought it was the right thing to do.
I’m pleading guilty: in the one-pointed pursuit of my business endeavors, I killed off the most important passion of my youth.
In visiting with entrepreneurs and other leaders, I’ve noticed a similar trend: Many have abandoned things they were passionate about in their earlier days in order to create what they’d hoped would be successful, thriving lives and careers.
Chances are, you have too.
Well, you’re not as effective an assassin as you think you are. From experience, I can tell you your passions are not dead, and you can and should revive them. Here’s how it happened for me, and what you can learn from my journey:
By age 13, I discovered I had a talent and passion for music, and it became an integral part of my identity. In college I earned an English degree, but I still planned to make a career by writing and playing songs. Then I got married, had two children, and, at 24, decided the ideas of being a musician and feeding my family were mutually exclusive.
So, I hung up my guitar and got into the financial services industry.
It was extraordinarily painful to give up music. But, to me, it was a matter of dream priority. I also was passionate about having a family. I was giving up one heart-felt dream to pursue another. I wasn’t a prisoner, but I did feel a sense of regret. Music had been a big part of my personality, a key way I connected with people. Giving it up as a professional pursuit was so painful that I just shut it down all the way. I stopped playing. I killed it.
Professionally, I soon found that I loved being an entrepreneur, but I hated working in the financial services industry. It took a few years, but I eventually parlayed my business background into a career in professional development. Before long, and with the help of some great mentors and friends, I was making a living doing something I freaking loved to do–writing books, speaking, coaching, mentoring, consulting leaders and their teams. And I’m still doing it.
In time, I started playing music again, but just for myself. Then I played in a couple of open mics just to get that feeling. But it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started writing music and recording songs again. I sometimes even play during my keynote speeches. I don’t have any designs on a hit single, but I’ve found great satisfaction in fully honoring that really important part of my personality.
And it has re-energized every aspect of my life.
Interestingly, the path to rekindling my professional passions and my music passions covered some common ground. So, if you’re looking to rekindle passions in either areas, or both, consider these three lessons.
Ask the hard question.
At pivotal moments in my journey, I’ve voiced a difficult question that changed the course of my future. I once literally cried out in desperation, acknowledging that I knew I wasn’t supposed to be a financial advisor and asking, “What should I do next?” Later, when I was launching my own speaking and development career, I asked something along the lines of, “What’s my unique message of value that will help other people?” With music, it was, “Why did I stop in the first place?”
Deepen and depend on your experiences.
When we ask a question, there is always an answer. We might not like it. We might not recognize it. But our answers and insights are informed by our experiences. I’ve found my experiences nurture my passions and point me toward the best answers.
Take the risk.
Any discussion about re-kindling a passion inevitably involves a change that will no doubt take us out of our comfort zone. There is a risk – a risk that others will think we’re nuts and a risk that we might fail. But there’s a greater risk: Ignoring our passions, which leaves us with the pain of regret.
I did a podcast not long ago with my friend Adam Markel, author of the best-seller Pivot. My most immediate takeaway from his book, I told him, was that change doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Sure, sometimes we need to take the leap and burn the bridges. But more often, we can start with small things that add up to big things. We can make incremental changes that put us on a completely different trajectory. We can rekindle our passions with smaller steps, sometimes on parallel paths to other pursuits.
We can breathe new life into the passions and activities we’d left for dead.
This idea that we have to sacrifice one part of ourselves to nurture another is false. None of these things is mutually exclusive. Our ideal state, our radical edge, is to be successful in our business ventures and to amplify personal joy and meaning in our lives. Because we’ll never fully pursue any passion if we destroy others along the way.