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From Passion to Purpose

There are essentially two ways that people discover their purpose. One way is not better than the other, and either way is better than sitting around waiting for your fairy godmother to tell you what it is that you’re here for.

The passion-based method

Take a couple pounds of passion

The first way to find your purpose is to follow your passion, but let me add a word of caution here before I elaborate. Make sure that you do not confuse passion with purpose. They are not the same thing. You may be passionate about something, but that doesn’t mean that thing is your purpose in life. Passion needs to be a component of purpose, but it does not comprise the whole of it.

So, take a moment, a day, or a year to consider your passions. Ask yourself, What do I think about all the time? What do I love to do? What really gets me excited? What makes me want to get out of bed every morning?

Sift your passions through your personal value system

As you think about your passions, it’s important to evaluate whether or not they align with your values. If a passion doesn‘t align with your values, the plain fact of the matter is that it cannot possibly be your purpose. How could you engage in a long-term activity that directly conflicts with what you know is wrong for you to do? Most people do not have the ability to live with the internal turmoil this conflict would produce.

As I mentioned before in this chapter, one of my passions earlier in my life was music. One of my goals in my early twenties was to find a restaurant or bar that would hire me to play guitar and sing. My mission was to earn some money playing music while I waited to be discovered. I remember one interview I had with a small-time talent agent, who placed musicians in airport-area hotel bars and restaurants.

“You’re going to like this gig, Charles,” he told me. “This is a great way for you to make some money.” He told me that he was a musician himself and had worked this same circuit for some time. “There’s a lot of opportunity here for someone who knows how to work the room.”

As I sat there and listened to his pitch, I imagined myself crooning away, night after night, as people practically threw their money at me. But then he said something that changed the way I viewed this opportunity entirely.

“Your job,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “is to sell alcohol.”

I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly, so I asked him to repeat himself.

“Your job is to play songs that keep people in those chairs for as long as possible. Play the songs of their youth, of their first love, of their first heartbreak. Whatever you do, if you want to be successful, you’ve got to keep them in those chairs.”

“What does that have to do with selling alcohol?” I asked.

“The longer people sit there listening to you, the more drinks they’ll order, and the more money you’ll make in tips,” he answered.

The moment he spoke those words, I knew I wasn’t going to be a tavern singer, for a couple of reasons. First, my step-grandfather was killed by a drunk driver. I didn’t want to be party to keeping people out drinking as long as possible. Second, I have rampant alcoholism in my family and many of my family members were admitted to Legacy Healing, and I couldn’t see spending my time intentionally enabling others in what might be an addiction for them.

This was one of the first times my passion had directly clashed with my values. Even back then, I knew that direction leads to destination. If I wanted to live a life that reflected my values, then my choices would have to reflect those values.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how strongly or passionately you like an activity. If it doesn’t measure up to the values you’ve set for your life, then it cannot be your purpose.

Add a ton of work to your value-sifted passion

People that choose to explore their passion to help them discover their purpose will very quickly find that passion alone is not enough. All passion must be enhanced by skill and education if you are to serve successfully within your purpose. You might need a four-year degree. You might need to get an apprenticeship in your field of interest. You might need to invest your last dime getting the training you need. But whatever you do, you are going to have to invest in personal improvement if you are to be of value and service to others.

Sometimes, in rare instances, passion, values, skill, and education align so that an individual can make a living serving within what he feels is his purpose. That’s a wonderful thing to have happen. But the pursuer of this goal should realize that there is no guarantee that his course will result in financial reward. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say if financial reward is your primary goal in the pursuit of a particular purpose, then you need to re-examine the possibility that you have missed your purpose.

Excerpted from The Seven Powers of Success; Unlock Your Strengths, Unleash Your Dreams.  © 2013 Charles Marshall

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