One of the questions I was constantly asked in consulting is, “What’s the ‘so what’?” For every piece of information I received, there was an accompanying, “Okay, so what?” and this basically translates to the idea of key insight(s).
Old habits die hard and I found myself wondering about the “so what” of my India experience. I had decided (without my usual level of consideration) that I was going to spend a month in India, training in one of the world’s oldest performance arts, tracked down an airfare I could afford, packed my bags… and then, a month later, found myself dancing like I had never danced before… And here’s what I’ve learnt –
Passion is important. Freshman essay intro question but what exactly is “passion”? “Let’s first define passion.” (Note: I want to do this for those who are jaded or struggle to feel anything more than their emotional baseline, and even more so for those who beat themselves up over this lack of “passion”.)
I personally don’t like definitions like, “It’s a feeling”, “It’s a need vs. a want”; I find them fluffy and intangible and difficult to relate to. Instead, to get to the bottom of what someone might be passionate about, I like asking, “What is something you would do, even if you weren’t getting paid to do it?”
Laugh it up, you who say, “Shit, shower and shave”, I’m just going to ignore you.
What I really mean to ask for is a hobby, or something you consider more than. For me, that’s dancing and writing. Even if I weren’t being paid to do either, I’d try very, very hard to reallocate some of my time from my other activities to make sure that I get to dance and write. If you don’t have something you feel this way about, I’d encourage you to think hard and explore.
Here’s why I encourage everyone to be passionate or interested in something outside of whatever it is that occupies the rest of your time (read: your job).
1. Discipline and Focus
I have historically not been very disciplined though I can be incredibly focused if the activity matters enough to me. I used to think that the fact that something has to matter to me for me to want to even dedicate my time to it indicates a lack of discipline. This may, in part, be true. However, I honestly believe that the discipline I’ve exercised in the things I do enjoy, has put me in good stead to deal with the things I don’t quite enjoy.
If you keep a blog, or a journal, go to the gym, cycle, work out etc. often (on a scheduled basis that requires some form of commitment), ask yourself why you got into that activity. If it traces you back to another activity e.g. “I got into Yoga (current activity) to help me with a dance (initial activity) injury.” Then ask yourself why you got into dance.
Have a good think about it. Again, honestly and introspectively.
It’s quite likely that you got into it because you needed a way to get rid of some of that excess energy (creative or physical), to lose weight or be healthier, or because everyone else was doing it, or you thought it looked interesting, or perhaps you were dragged to a class and found that you really enjoyed it. Whatever the reason may have been, next, ask yourself what compelled you to stay and keep going.
2. You’re never too old to try
When I was 6, I pleaded with my mum for ballet lessons. My brother had had a near drowning experience a year or two before and we ended up swimming – “You don’t have the time” – a lot. When I was 17, I mentioned this to my cousin, who was a ballet dancer, and she suggested that I join an adult class if I really wanted to learn. I decided without even stepping foot into a class that I was too old and inflexible, and there was no point in me doing so.
I now wonder why there needed to be a point other than that it was something that I really wanted to do.
Recently, in India, I encountered women in their late 30’s to their 40’s stepping into a classical dance class for the first time. That’s no joke. One of them worked harder than any of us with prior dance training and I respected her more than the best dancer in our programme.
The fact is, if you give something your all i.e. thinking it through thoroughly and working your hardest to make it happen, there is very little that we can’t achieve. Now, let’s not be argumentative or naive – I said “very little” i.e. I don’t mean unrealistic activities such as becoming a rocket scientist if you’ve never even taken a day of math and/or physics in your entire life. No, you don’t have 100 years to live, to work on it tirelessly until you get there. With our finite lifetimes, differences in mental aptitude and intolerance towards failure and disappointment, we are limited. But hey! If you’re keen… no one’s going to stop you from trying.
Or let’s not even go that far. Let’s go with Courage.
It really is true that our biggest barrier is ourselves. Take that ballet thing, for example. For as long as I can remember, I’ve created excuses that have stopped me from pursuing what I really wanted to. Why? Simple. Self-preservation. I have never wanted to seem like a failure to myself or to others. And I realise that it’s gotten me nowhere.
I wrote about this a while ago in my post about branding – that caring about what others think is only going to get in the way of figuring out and actually doing what you want. So, who cares if you look like an idiot trying to learn how to water ski, or that you can’t run more than 1km and are aiming for a marathon? The point is, you’re trying – trying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, trying to do more, be more, to grow – you now understand yourself a bit better than you did before. And by default, this will contribute to your self-worth and your confidence.
Alright. That’s it from me today.
Over and out.