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!

I’m Not a Flake, I’m a Scanner

I’ve actually never been called a flake. I’m a responsible person and I come through for people. But, I feel like I’m a flake. Over the past year or so I’ve noticed that the things I’m actively working on is increasing. I bounce from one thing to the next depending on my current state of enthusiasm and energy. Once I figure out how to do something, I get bored. This feels flakey to me.

It’s starting to get very frustrating for me because it’s exhausting to have so many things I want to do, and I’m not completing any of them. Couple that with having a 16 month old and my frustration is leading to a stale mate. When I have spare time I sit there and wonder what I should really focus on. I have had repeated conversations with Sean about what to do and he keeps saying “PICK!” I think he is getting frustrated with me too, but talk about calling the kettle black, or at least smudged. Sean does do a lot of things, but he tends to choose at least one or two things that he focuses on primarily. He has a massive list of accomplishments because he gets very obsessed and won’t stop. I think he is what you would call a “Diver.” The problem for me is that I don’t stop, but I also continue to accumulate.

Life used to be so much simpler for me before Google and Twitter and Facebook. I still had a bunch of interests and if you look at my history I’ve moved more than a dozen times over the past 10 years, have done a bunch of different things, but I didn’t struggle like I am now. It’s so much easier now to explore and research anything, I mean ANYTHING and so many things are interesting and have potential. Perhaps I’m still in an exploring what I want to do phase and haven’t quite figure it out. Regardless, I feel overwhelmed. I keep telling myself I need to let go of some things and FOCUS. But I can’t, my interests change depending on my mood and I always feel like I’ll regret it if I give something up.

This morning I woke up around 5AM feeling “off.” I think partly because I’m still working through my emotions about my Dad and this week a friend has been struggling which has affected me very deeply. I feel drained and without a feeling of direction and purpose. This sounds so silly coming from someone that just said they have a million things they are working on. I guess that’s the problem, too many things pointing me in different directions and I just end up standing still.

I picked up my iPhone and typed in something about “too many interests and can’t choose” and the first blog that came up is Scanners: Refuse To Choose! by Barbara Sher. Of course my interest was piqued so I did a bunch of reading on that blog and on some other related blogs such as “Scanner Tribe” and the blog post “Are You a Scanner” on her writing and I literally started to panic because it felt like she knew exactly how my mind works. I know there are a bunch of other blogs related to her work, and I’ll read them all.

“A scanner is the contrary of a specialist. Scanners are unable to choose one single passion or career, and if they force themselves to do so, they suffer (and their productivity suffers, too). Scanners don’t have only one field of interest, they have many of them. They seem to be interested in just everything. They usually have many projects running at the same time, and permanently come up with some great new idea. They also tend not to implement their ideas or not to finish the projects they start.

A scanner is the kind of guy who works with disabled children, studies physics at the distance learning university, learns Japanese, draws comics and reads everything he can find about archeology. But it’s not like having a job and then a few additional hobbies. The difference between a true scanner and a specialist with hobbies is that for the scanner, nothing is a “hobby”. For a scanner, all those things he’s interested in are equally important and he just cannot focus mainly or spend most of his time on only one of them, which would be required to do it as his career.”

“I know I should focus on one thing, but which one?”

“I lose interest in things I thought would interest me forever.”

“I keep going off on another tangent.”

“I get bored as soon as I know how to do something.”

“I can’t stand to do anything twice.”

“I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.”

“I work at low-paying jobs because there’s nothing I’m willing to commit to.”

“I won’t choose a career path because it might be the wrong one.”

“I think everyone’s put on this earth to do something; everyone but me, that is.”

“I can’t pay attention unless I’m doing many things at once.”

“I pull away from what I’m doing because I’m afraid I’ll miss something better.”

“I’m too busy, but when I do find time I can’t remember what I wanted to do.”

“I’ll never be an expert in anything. I feel like I’m always in a survey class.”

I’m definitely sure that I would be put into the Cyclical Scanner bucket, at least right now. I know I am a serial scanner sometimes – I mean, I managed to finish my degree and stick at Microsoft for 8 years (I did change groups a few times, so maybe that helped me): “Cyclical scanners have many but stable interests and passions (from 2 to 20+), and they oscillate periodically between all of those. For example a cyclical scanner is someone who starts a painting, then suddenly abandons it to program a computer game. Halfway through the programming work, he goes back to his painting, or starts a new painting. He finishes it, or not, and goes back to program his game. This way he spends his time alternating between programming and painting. In parallel to all this, he may regularly take classes to become a massage therapist.”

This all makes sense. I mean, look what I have my hands in. I’m contracting full-time at Shazam, I run the @900twentysix account, I’m developing an iPad app and a plush doll that uses soft sensors (my interest in haptics), I’m working with the record label 50/50/Konvict Muzik, I’m trying to write a Transmedia story, I want to do Cat Workout again, and I have several other projects that I dabble in.

I’m a skeptic and I’m always always worried that I’m getting sucked into some marketing pyramid or cult, so I have a lot more research to do on Barbara and her books, especially after looking at her website which freaked me out a bit, but I think I am onto something. Her book “Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love“ has received top marks on Amazon so I think I will pick that up and read it through.

Barbara has a YouTube Channel and so far I like what she has to say. Remember, I’m a SKEPTIC. Usually I think someone is trying to sell me something or wants something from me ($$). Sure, she sells books, but I don’t feel like she is a hardcore marketer. She’s pragmatic and FUNNY. Really funny. 

You have to pay attention to the slightest, slightest thing, that makes you feel good, because that’s hard, scientific evidence about who you are. And there isn’t anything else.

I’m not sure why I have never come across Barbara before. Maybe I just didn’t understand myself or I thought it was just me with this problem. After reading the blog posts on this topic and all the comments, I’m excited to read this book and start working on the methods that will help me to get done what I want to get done. Separate good ideas from things I want to actually implement.

Does the term “Scanner” resonate with you? Did you already know about this term? How do you deal with it?