What the Hell Am I Passionate About?

For the past several months I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching, or rather passion searching. I’ve been asking myself, “What the hell am I passionate about?” I have read countless articles, books, blogs and tweets on the subject*.  I’ve asked friends, family, and taken more tests then I can count.

For some people it’s obvious to them and to us what their passion is. Their social updates are 90% focused on one or two things and they become your personal guru on those subject matters.

Then there are those of us who like a whole bunch of things but can’t seem to really focus on one or two things in particular. I wrote about this in my blog post “I’m Not a Flake I’m a scanner

Well, the problem with liking a bunch of things is that you never get really good at any of them or can’t focus long enough to finish something. Fortunately for me I have been in the tech world for a really long time and have released a lot of products so I know that I’m really good at that. But now, I want to take that valuable skillset and apply it to something that I am completely and wholeheartedly passionate about.

I believe that figuring out your skillsets versus your work/hobby passion, is akin to liking someone a lot versus being in love. You might like someone a lot, but you don’t think about them all the time or want to be with them all the time like you do when you are in love. I might be really good at baking vegan muffins, but I’m not passionate about it enough to become a professional baker. When you are passionate you think about it all the time, you nurture it, want to hold it, baby it, and see it succeed.

I have felt passion for things in the past, but for the past year I’ve been so overwhelmed with so many ideas that I like, that I’m not sure if I’m in love with any of them. I’ve combed through my journal, tweets, and my daily activities in search of the answer to my question. I’ve asked friends to tell me what they think of when they think of me, in hopes that someone would just come up with the answer. Finding your passion shouldn’t be this hard, I mean, when you know you know, right?

Not exactly. From what I gather from researching the topic, if you have blockers in your life, it actually keeps you from listening and believing in yourself. You become full of negativity and that suppresses your ability to really hear yourself. By blockers I mean anything negative that is consuming your time and mental and physical energy. It could be an ailment, financial issues, a bad family situation, a dead-end job, depression, etc. For me, I have had a series of negative situations that I believe have been blocking my ability to turn that passion lightbulb on. Anytime I think I know what I want, I shut myself down and say “no, that can’t possibly be what you are passionate about.”

I am now in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally to really listen to myself and not immediately have a negative reaction when the lightbulb goes off.

The exercise that I have taken to really differentiate likes from loves is simply writing down what I am currently doing and measuring how much I’m into it.

For example, my friend Cecilie said she thinks I’m passionate about being vegetarian. My first reaction was, “Really? Hm…” I guess that is what it would appear to the outside world, I do talk a lot about vegetarian food and healthy choices.  But the whole reason I’m vegetarian is two fold: 1) I’m an animal advocate and I don’t want to see harm come to them; and 2) I care very deeply that my kid eats healthy food to fuel his mind and body.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Not everything is literal. Sure, I talk about yummy veggie food, but I’m not passionate about it to the point that I want to start a business or project based on it. I had to look deeper.

The next step was to ask myself, “are you passionate enough about animal advocacy and healthy choices for kids to focus time and energy on them?” I owned a horse farm and rescued horses from slaughter and I’ve helped build a garden for a local school. I post a lot of tweets and articles trying to spread the word on both those topics, but I’m not sure that I want to get that involved again right now. The answer is No.

So what else do I do and talk about? Music. I worked at Topspin and I continue to work with musicians now. In fact I’m a minority shareholder in a music production company. I’m definitely passionate about music and I’m actively working in that area. What I love the most is teaching musicians how they can reach their fans and have a successful career. Yes.

Transmedia/Interactive Entertainment. I’m a co-organizer for Transmedia LA. I never miss a meetup and I love the blending of storytelling, technology, and new media. That’s a Yes.

Teaching and mentorship. I have always taken the time to drop any bit of knowledge I have onto others and mentor or advise when I can. I am going to be volunteering to teach kids tech stuff and I’m super excited about that. It’s something I naturally do as a Mother to Ripley and will continue to do so. Yes!

Technology. I don’t think I need to get into how much I love software and gadgets, plus it’s been my career for 15 years. I get on every beta I can, I’m building an interactive kids app, and as part of my work with musicians I used technology to create their direct-to-consumer campaigns. In addition I want to work with smart women to help them get into tech or become more successful. YES!

Local. I like to be involved in my neighborhood and help make it a great place to live. I ran the Silver Lake 90026 Twitter account and Website for a long time and started the “Alive in Silver Lake” transmedia project. But I never made that extra push to finish it or take that extra step with my ideas. Naturally I’ll involve myself in my new neighborhood because it’s small, I have a kid and friends here and my husband is very active locally. I do like local but not enough to really immerse myself in it right now. No.

Storytelling. As far back as I can remember I have loved writing. I still have most of my writing samples from throughout elementary and high school. I have written many stories and scripts but rarely publish any of them because I’m self-conscious about, but I do love it.  Yes to storytelling.

So far I both really like and am actively engaged in:

  • Music
  • Storytelling
  • Teaching
  • Technology
  • Transmedia/Interactive Entertainment
  • Working with Women

This list looks good. I feel good about it. But I need to figure out how to put it all together into something I can focus on. I’m already working with musicians and teaching them about how to reach their fans so no need to stop that. And I’m working on an interactive and educational kids application with two lovely ladies which takes care of teaching, technology, interactive entertainment, storytelling and working with women.

So it seems that I am already working on something that fulfills many things that I love. Neat.

Of course, my skepticism creeps in at this point and asks, “But are you really really sure? Maybe there is something else. Look! Shiny object!” Something I read in Barbara Sher’s Book “I could do anything if I only knew what it was” was that you just need to pick something and put everything into it for at least 30 days and just see what happens. The other theory is to do a bunch of things and see which one(s) stick, but I’ve already been doing that and now I just want to pick something.

The last step is commitment. I’m going to give Ube (code name for kids app) 30 days. I’m going to set some goals for myself and put everything I can into it. After 30 days I will check-in with myself and see how I did. Was it a hardship to work on it every day? Did I think about it day and night? In addition, I will continue working part-time with musicians because I like it and it brings in some cashflow. Plus, I helped write and produce a music video and that’s pretty damn cool.

So there you go, that’s the process I’ve gone through to figure out what the hell my passion is. I’ll keep you up-to-date with how it’s going!

Are you trying to figure out what your passion is? Here are some resources that I found helpful:

  • For at least one week, anytime you get excited about something, write it down;
  • Write down 5 things that make you get out of bed in the morning;

If you have some ideas or tools you have used, please share!

By tara

Tara Tiger Brown is a technologist, educator, and author developing programs at the intersection of environment, education, and well-being. Tara is a certified Earth Charter Educator, certified GLOBE Teacher, certified Trainee in Forest Medicine. She has co-founded numerous educational-focused nonprofits and startups including LA Makerspace and KitHub and actively participates in community science projects.