All the Small Things

(with apologies to blink-182-). I’ve been reading a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Do yourself a favour, read it (and also read another one of his books, Deep Work).

I wish I would have found this book a lot sooner in life. You see, Newport has articulated so well something I have been trying to say for a long time. That the idea of “following your passion” as the manifesto for how you live can be terrible, reckless, full of “unrelenting angst” and dangerous.

Yes, this is contrary to the daily mantra we have become accustomed to, the movement that encourages us to have the guts to follow our passion as this will bridge our happiness and fulfilment void.

The problem is that it rarely does. For many people, the leap into the big unknown that is their “passion” is a move riddled with excitement, change and many times, disappointment as it does not play out as expected. For others, not knowing what their “passion” is but desperately seeking it, leads to feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

Yet in this whole “passion” seeking exercise, we seem to forget about the importance of ability. Newport reminds us that if we really want a great job, an excellent career, a life-enhancing mission, we need to be good at something before we can use these descriptors. We need to possess rare and valuable things that we can offer in return or as he quotes comedian Steve Martin, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Makes sense right? Finding our “why” is less important if we do not know how to express it. We need to put the work and time in. These small things we put on help us build ability and credibility and the more we work on these, the better we get. And as we craft our unique art, those rare and valuable things that we can offer to society and others, our adjectives of “great”, “excellent” and “life-enhancing”, will flourish in our lives. Often, our how will take us to our “why”, as the better we get at some things, the more visible our options and opportunities become.

So ask yourself, what are the small things you can put on to develop your art? What rare and valuable things should you be working on? 



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