the pursuit of passion

Photo Credit: Lindsay Brown

Photo Credit: Lindsay Brown

"What are your passions?" has become a very common question. It's one that I want to answer but don't always know how. Time could be taken to make a list and check it two or three times until perfected, or time can be used to learn skills needed to make these passions reality. Eventually, a choice needs to be made, and it's okay if passions change—it doesn't have to be a forever thing.

Over the weekend, I had a great chat with my friend Brian. We met a few months ago through a mutual photographer friend in the city. Since then, we've gotten to hang a few times, most notably during a weekend in Rhode Island with a small group of New York-based photographers. 

Currently, Brian is transitioning into a new role at a new company. He's going to be working with people throughout the country, which will provide a new way to collaborate and communicate with coworkers. I know he'll do exceptionally well given his relational and organizational skills.

After hearing the "passions" question a few times and reading a couple interviews and news articles, I'm finding that there's more to answer than just rattling off items on a list. Sure, we can point out interests and hobbies, but should those automatically translate into vocational direction? 

Hobby, side gig, etc. 

As we were eating lunch, Brian mentioned this idea of having a "side hustle." This came up when I asked if he'd ever consider doing photography full-time as a freelancer. And from this conversation (and others similar in topic), it's becoming clear how important self-awareness really is, for sometimes a passion is only worthwhile as a side project or hobby instead of one's primary professional undertaking. (For example, I run long distances, but I don't have a desire to make it a full-time thing—it would take away the joy.) 

The hobby-related question is more striking to me instead of the typical "So, what do you do?". At least in New York, so many people tie identity to profession. People come here to work. It's what we know, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

Questions about activities and other interests provide much more for building longer term relationships because it takes away the pressure of feeling obligated to provide something other than friendship. It also guides a conversation along more naturally and could ever lead to another conversation or "hang-time" down the line.

Ultimately, I want to have an impactful career, but I don't want to be defined by work. My eternity rests in Christ and His sacrificial gift on the cross, and I hope the same is (or will be) true for you. In fact, I just read an interesting piece that explains this further, so I'll leave it here for you to read. (As posted by The Gospel Coalition.) It definitely resonates with me as I look for creative projects to pursue, skills to learn, and places to explore. 

Meaningless or meaningful? 

It's so funny when there's a week or so where everything I read hits me like a ton of bricks. I certainly don't want to treat each book or article as if it's the law or the sole basis for decision-making, but the collective reading experience better shapes learning and overall direction. 

For instance, there's a piece in the NY Times about Jodi Foster. She directed the upcoming summer movie Money Monster, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. The piece highlights the movie and some thematic specifics, but more importantly it unpacks Jodi's journey in show business and how she chooses work. 

Her main question is "Meaningless or meaningful?" This hits home for me on so many levels because I want to provide meaningful additions with everything I do. The Lord has blessed us with dreams and talents, so we should offer them back to Him and His creation (the world) as an act of worship—not as a self-seeking promotional tool. 

Trailblazing through. 

I've mentioned before how important it is to seek inspiration from various avenues, especially places where you might not look initially. For me, following Chelsea Handler's transition over to Netflix is a perfect resource. 

While I'm not endorsing the totality of her humor, I do find it refreshing how she's setting out to update the late-night television show flow. There's still much to be seen and heard as the project hasn't fully launched, but I am excited that she's wanting to tell stories and highlight important thoughts, movements, and ideas.

It'll be less about celebrity appearances for the sake of project promotion. Instead, she wants to change the system and experience life from a curious mindset—think life-long learner. I hope to have this approach with my own work, so I'm definitely going to watch to see how Chelsea weaves through the production. It's sure to disrupt the space, but change isn't always bad.

Next steps.

Passions are worth pursing because it provides an opportunity for joy, growth, and community impact. They may not lead to a new professional track, but they can certainly inform your daily life. Whether or not we understand the full scope of their impact, the process of learning new things and integrating them to address greater world matters can be quite refreshing. 

From here, I'd love to encourage you to brainstorm and respond in these ways: 

  • Make a list of what inspires you. Don't spend too much time "perfecting" it. Just make it, and then put in on your desk or some other commonly visited spot. 
  • Read as much as you can, from as many outlets as you can. I certainly wish I would have started doing this sooner, but I'm thankful for the content that's come across my desk so far during this new creative season. 
  • Ask someone his/her thoughts on a particular topic that inspires you. This is a good conversation to have, especially if you're asking someone that has a different perspective or background. It will help you identify the scope of a particular project and possibly identify pain points or opportunities in a given space. This will also help you learn how to better articulate ideas.
  • Improve skills. Look for friends who do things well, and ask them to teach you. This is a great way to hang out with someone in a way you might not have done in the past, and it provides an opportunity to learn or to practice teaching.
  • Be open to the next "next steps." This should be a continual pattern, whether you're wanting to leave a current situation, or simply just improve it. Don't worry too much about the end result; just let the process take its course. You'll be amazed at the amount of creative energy gained.

Passions inspire our day to day. They designate how we allocate time and make decisions. They can inform our worldview and introduce us to new people. Sometimes, they'll lead to a new business venture or career track; other times they're a creative outlet and safe place. We may not all have the same passions, but the important thing is that we're allowing ourselves to share God-given talents with the world in some capacity or another.