How Do I Live a Good Life?

April 16, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”Carl Rogers, American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology.

Johnny Depp likes to tell the story of when he met Marlon Brando before the filming of the 1994 romantic comedy-drama Don Juan DeMarco. Over dinner at Brando’s house, Depp began to recite the prologue to the William Saroyan play ‘The Time of Your Life,’ which he considered a road map for how one should live life. Halfway through, Brando finished the soliloquy for him verbatim. Depp then pulled out a dog-eared version which he’d carried around in his wallet for years to show him. At this point Brando got up to show Depp his own framed copy which he had also carried around for years in his wallet.

Go here to hear Depp telling the story. In the meantime, below is the prologue that guided the lives of two of the finest thesps the silver screen has seen. Enjoy!


The Time of Your Life (prologue) –  by William Saroyan

“In the time of your life, live — so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches.

Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed.

Place in matter and in flesh the least of values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away.

Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world.

Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.

Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man’s guilt is not yours, nor is any man’s innocence a thing apart.

Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand.

Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.

In the time of your life, live — so that in that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

Citation. Prologue from the play in three acts. Copyright ©1939 by William Saroyan.

The Upward Spiral, Karma, and the Science of Gratitude

April 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


Stop searching for life’s big kahuna burger to make you happy.  As I made the case in my previous post, success in life is measured in increments.

In Upward Spiral, UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb writes about how happiness and depression aren’t as hardwired as you may think. Little things you do habitually can create an upward spiral of positive feelings in the brain.

There’s science to prove it.

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine.

Gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.

Everything is interconnected:

Gratitude improves sleep.

Sleep reduces pain.

Reduced pain improves your mood.

Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning.

Focus and planning help with decision making.

Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment.

Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going.

Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

To a Buddhist, Karma is the law of causation and is dependent on the interconnectedness of phenomena. Karma does not deal with any notion of justice. Karma states that all the actions a person undertakes have consequences.

If you recognize these simple truths, you will have uncovered the key secret to a good life backed by ancient wisdom and scientific research.

Start today. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It’s simple (though not always easy).

What do you have to lose?

What do you have to gain?

 

The Wisdom of the Little Tramp

April 10, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Charlie Chaplin


In a career spanning more than 75 years, Charlie Chaplin is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of all time. Beyond acting, Chaplin was a humanist who believed ardently in the power of laughter and tears as an antidote to hatred and terror. The iconic actor of the silent film era was also a deeply reflective man. Few people know just how insightful and intelligent the he really was was. Even though he passed away almost 50 years ago, he continues to inspire. His movies were great but one of his greatest works is as this poem he penned which offers his unique and perceptive understanding of life and self-love.

Charlie Chaplin – as I began to love myself

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

Charlie Chaplin

Happiness is the Wrong Pursuit!

 

March 29, 2017 • 9 minute read • by Saeed


“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

When you wake up in the morning, do you throw the covers off raring to go or do you pull them over your head and hide from the day as long as you can?

Are you engaged in your work and life?

You know What you do and you know How you do it but do you know Why?

In his famous TED talk and book titled Start with Why, Simon Sinek defines the Why really well.

Most leaders and companies focus on What.

But inspired leaders think, act, and communicate with Why.

The Why is your purpose, your cause, your reason to exist.

  • Why does your organization exist?
  • Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
  • Why should anyone care?

Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

To make his case, he points to Steve Jobs.

He says, “If Apple were like everyone else,” they would say,  “We make great computers, they’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?”

But instead Apple says: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Jobs challenged the status quo. Jobs was a different kind of thinker. He also studied and was influenced by the principles of Zen aesthetics found in the art of the traditional Japanese garden and Japanese minimalism.

In Japanese, the term ikigai translates roughly to “a reason for being.”

Let’s break that down: iki, refers to life, and kai, roughly means “the realization of what one expects and hopes for.”

Ikigai is the singular force behind your life, and as seen in the image below, it combines four areas: 1) what you love, 2) what you’re good at, 3) what you can be paid for, and 4) what the world needs.

Ikigai

Your purpose is found in the space where these four elements meet. It is in this ‘sweet spot’ where you provide the most value to the world and where life gives the most meaning.

Though it can be illusive and hard to discover, everyone (and everything) has a purpose and “a reason for being.” But once you discover it, you can achieve the satisfaction and fulfillment that gives meaning to life. The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worth living.

Defining your ikigai does not have to be complicated but it is also not simply about following your passions. Getting there requires reflection, experimentation, and patience. Take a moment to contemplate it.

  • What do you love?
  • What are you great at doing?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you make a living doing?

What is your ikigai? Why do you exist?

If you know the Why, you will figure out the What and the How.

Jobs used to say, “I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself if today were the last day of my life would I do what I am about to do today, and whenever the answer has been ‘No’ too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

The average person spends over 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.

What are you doing today?

Why?

 Ikigai watercolor by the Paper Seahorse – for Creativity and Mindfulness. http://www.paperseahorse.com

5 Ways To Reboot Your Motivation

December 19, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

– Bruce Lee –

Your manager’s job is not to motivate you. If anything, your manager’s job is to maintain the motivation you started with.

Remember? You, like everyone else who starts a new job, came on board with excitement and enthusiasm. You grinned from ear to ear when you met your new colleagues. You liked the view outside of your window. You liked your new desk. Your cubicle. You liked it all.

But along the way, your managers slowly sucked the motivation out of you. Dysfunctional systems, lack of clarity, kooky policies, late nights, wacky performance reviews and, well you know the rest. That’s why people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.

Even if your manager’s job was to motivate you, they wouldn’t know how. To be fair, some do. But most don’t. If they did, a recent Gallup Poll would not have found that worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work! Listen carefully. These extrinsic factors can be demotivating, but research shows that even if managed brilliantly, fixing these factors won’t motivate you to work harder or smarter.

Most managers are still stuck on the carrot-and-stick approach of the industrial age. The secret to high performance isn’t reward and punishment. Far from it. True motivation is intrinsic. It is the drive to do something because it is meaningful and fulfilling. Most managers think you are motivated by money. But you and I know that you are not. Countless surveys on employee motivation have shown that money is much farther down the list for you.

In his book, Drive, former Al Gore speech writer Daniel Pink says true motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us, and purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves.

Motivation that is sustained is based on meaningful work, challenge, learning, growth, increasing responsibility and feeling good about what you do. You may or may not be able to attain this on your current job. You may have to find another one or even switch careers. You may have to stop doing meaningless work and finally go after that thing that has always stirred your passion. You may have to start mainlining frappuccinos.

But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to reboot your motivation where you are now. At least, you owe it to yourself to try.

1. Take responsibility for your own motivation

What if you were in control of your own outcomes and learning objectives at work? Talk to your manager. They may have assigned you a goal but they probably did not assign how you are supposed to reach that goal. Trust in your abilities. If you lack skills, learn new ones by taking a class. Talk to your colleagues and ask for help. There is no shame in that. Learn to take initiative and be proactive on a daily basis. Become more self-directed. Take responsibility for your own growth.

2. Get inspired

Inspiration is one of the best motivators around and your best source for inspiration is your own sense of creativity. Do you like photography? Take a class. Do you like to write? Start a blog. Do you like art? Go to a museum. Are you inspired by ideas? Listen to a TED talk. Think back to your childhood. What did you love to do? When did you feel so lost in an activity that you lost track of time? Do more of that. Join a community of people who are doing more of that. Meetup is a great source for this. Reach in – reach out. Don’t be afraid. It’s medicine for your soul.

3. Find your purpose

It may be stating the obvious, but your purpose is entirely unique to you. To find your purpose, you need perspective. You have to see the dance floor from the balcony view. Ask yourself: what am I really good at doing? What do I love to do? How would either of those things add value to the world? What would I be happy to do even if I wasn’t paid for doing it? If you are not sure yet, volunteer your skills at a non-profit or a community group. Giving to others selflessly, will help you feel fulfilled and purposeful. The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others (hint: that includes your teammates and your boss). Finally, try this: imagine yourself on your deathbed looking back at your life. What kind of life would you have had to lead in order to feel it was a life filled with purpose? Write the answer down. This is your manifesto from now on.

4. Write stuff down

Your deepest thoughts in a leather bound journal is great. But even for mundane daily things, write stuff down. When you make your own schedule and write your own to-do list, you will recognize what needs to be done and the best way to do it. You’ll become more efficient, focused and more effective at your daily life. You’ll feel more empowered and in control. You’ll get more stuff done. You’ll feel better and more motivated. Writing is also cathartic. We move so quickly from day to day that we barely have time to process what happened to us on Monday before it’s Friday again. Journaling, even for a few minutes a day, will help you understand your own feelings and motivations. Then, you can strengthen the things that motivate you and abandon those that don’t. Try it, it works.

5. Get a coach (or at least a cheerleader)

This may be one of the more expensive ways to motivate yourself, but the investment is worthwhile. We can all use a thought partner in the journey of life. That person is not always our relationship partner. A professional coach will work with you in a structured framework with the aim of achieving tangible results. Professional coaches know about motivation. If you struggle with communication, they can help you be more assertive. If you struggle with stress, they can help you combat it. If you struggle with your boss, they can help you find ways to manage up. They can help you face your fear of success or your fear of failure.

I know a lot of this is easier said than done. But give it time, be patient. Results won’t come overnight but they will come. Work towards creating new habits and abandoning old ones that no longer serve you. Monitor your thoughts to keep them positive. If you hear negative thoughts, stop them. If you are unable to achieve your goals, it may only be because they are too big not because you are incapable. So break them down and create mini goals. Take smaller bites off the apple and take responsibility for your own success. Ultimately, you may even shape the organization you are in and have a positive impact and legacy. You may even begin to like your job again.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

5 Strategies to Deal with The Pain of Divorce

December 14, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story. In a story, everything has an end and a beginning. “

– Olga Kurylenko –

Let go. That’s the advice we often receive when dealing with difficult break-ups. Easier said than done. This advice does not usually come with any strategies to support the process of letting go. Unlike fine wine, divorce does not get better with age. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Number one on the list is Death of a Spouse. Number two? Divorce.

Getting over a divorce involves two overlapping processes—recovery from grief and restructuring your life. Experts say most people should give themselves a good two years to recover from an emotional trauma. In addition to the financial and emotional upheaval of an acrimonious divorce, the time that it takes to drudge the misery of your relationship through the courts can take a serious toll on your health, job and even social status. To counterbalance that effect and help you deal with the pain, you need a survival plan based on daily routines and strategies that establish a foundation for your new future. You need to implement that plan and pace yourself so you can sustain it for the life of the divorce, and thereafter. While only you can design the specifics of your plan, there are 5 key areas that it should encompass:

 

  1. The Social Strategy: Humans are social animals – there is no way around it and time and again researchers have found this to be the single most effective strategy to cope with divorce and the accompanying effects of isolation and loneliness that go with it. So tap into your social network and if you don’t have one, prioritize developing one. This strategy is particularly important for men to adopt since men are more prone to socially isolate themselves.
  1. The Physical Strategy: You need the right nutrition, sleep, and exercise to look and feel your best. Period. All three are common stress busters but the secret is to routinize them in your life. If you are a parent, you know the importance of routines in children’s lives. Routines give a sense of stability, continuity, reliance, and consistency. This is counter to the realities of divorce: change, instability, fear, and uncertainty. So develop personal self-care routines and stick to them – no matter what.
  1. The Mental Strategy: Therapy works but only if you visit the right kind of therapist with the right kind of therapy. Shop around and find the right fit for you and then invest in this strategy wholeheartedly. To get the most out of it, be honest and do the work it takes to heal. The process itself will help keep your depression at bay and give you perspective when you need it. Whether male or female, make sure you find someone who is going to be in your corner: non-judgmental and compassionate. Most importantly, remember: therapy is not just an intellectual exercise. You have to feel your own pain. You have to go to war with it to overcome it. One stress reducer common across all history and every culture is the simple mechanism of releasing salt water from our tear ducts.
  1. The Spiritual Strategy: This is about getting in touch with your core self and whatever method you use to do it, be it prayer, meditation, yoga or trimming your Bonsai tree, just do it. Develop a routine and stick to it. Hard core Yogis devote a minimum of three hours a day to their yoga and meditation practice. You may not have that kind of time, but it’s the routine that matters most. It’s the routine that will ultimately anchor you and give you a platform from which to start your life anew.
  1. The Financial Strategy: The longer your divorce takes the deeper the financial ditch you will find yourself in so it’s imperative that you stay on top of your finances, which include vigilance over your credit score, assets and debts. If you can afford a financial planner, hire one. If not, see if you can tap into free community services, get help on-line or just talk to your bank.

There will be times when it will all feel insurmountable and you will feel like giving up. It is at those times when it’s important to fall back on these strategies and on your own specific plan. And remember, never ever lose hope. In the words of the great Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

To Find Your Passion, You Have To Face Your Fears

December 10, 2014 • 15 minute read • by Saeed


“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” 

– Joseph Campbell –

When he famously uttered the phrase “follow your bliss,” Campbell meant it as a sort of sacred call to action for the soul to pursue whatever makes it happy on the path to ultimate fulfillment and success.

Since this concept now occupies a more and more central role in my own research and work with clients, and since the idea of following your bliss (or passion) has been adopted and incorporated into our zeitgeist by such business luminaries as Steve Jobs (most famously at his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech), I felt it deserved closer examination.

As the conventional wisdom goes, follow your bliss and success will follow you. So let’s see what’s at the end of this yellow brick road.

Is Passion a Pink Unicorn?

Passion is defined by Merriam Webster as ‘a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.’ It is also associated with anger that ‘causes you to act in a dangerous way’ as well as a strong ‘romantic feeling.’

Thanks for nothing Webster.

Bliss is defined as ‘perfect happiness’ and ‘great joy.’ When blissful, you are thought to be ‘oblivious of everything else.’

Again, gracias por nada.

Interestingly though, this concept is akin to the concept of ‘Flow’ as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – one of the godfathers of the positive psychology movement. In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi defines the concept as: a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is so fully immersed that they become oblivious to their surroundings and singularly focused on that task.

If you don’t know what that looks like, just watch a five year old at play. For adults, it is the state of optimal mental performance.

While the formal definitions of bliss and passion are differentiated and nuanced, it’s safe to assume that Jobs and Campbell likely used these terms interchangeably (as will I) to denote that you should pursue whatever rocks your boat. In truth, passion has an infinite variety of meanings, and for many, it simply means strong emotions of any kind. And while, it’s difficult to nail passion with a satisfying definition, it’s easier to ponder what it is not:

Passion is not passive.

Passion is not a quitter.

Passion is not disengaged.

Passion is not a bystander.

Passion is not love.

Passion is not happiness.

That last one should have given you cause for pause. It is clear that, whatever passion is, it emanates from inside and compels us to engage the worldoutside.

Regardless of the actual word chosen (or even its specific meaning), implicit in this idea is that each of us has a pre-determined journey, at the heart (or end) of which lies our passion and/or bliss. Therefore in life, we are being called to ‘discover’ that passion, and once discovered, to follow it. Then, and only then, will we be met with synchronicities and seemingly “lucky” moments that are guiding our path towards eventual (and inevitable) fulfillment and success.

That’s all good. Theoretically.

The problem is that it’s pretty hard to pursue something you are unsure about. The whole idea that you come pre-equipped with a passion for some particular thing and that it’s only a matter of finding it through introspection, is pre-deterministic at worst, assumptious at best and potentially highly damaging. It leads people to believe that one day an apple (no pun intended Mr. Jobs) will fall on their heads and they will have a moment of epiphany and know what their passion is.

And therefore they wait listless for that magic day to arrive.

If you can’t seem to find something you’d love doing, you’re not alone. Many of my coaching clients struggle with this question either because there is nothing they feel passionate about or there are multiple things they feel passionate about each competing for their attention. Here, it becomes not a problem of passion, but one of focus. I have known many others still who have become successful entrepreneurs in their own right but weren’t necessarily following their passion. It was after their foray into whatever venture, that their passion (s) became clear. Often, they had to face a central fear to move ahead. So to find your passion, you have to face your fears.

You Have To Fail In Order To Find Your Passion

Even on Campbell’s utopist journey, he reminds us that we will have tests, trials and “dragons” to face on our quest and that these dragons are really our inner fears working against us.

Fear, however, gets a very bad rap.

We are taught to fight, resist, avoid, suppress, deny, and medicate our fear away (or for that matter fear’s live-in relatives: anger, insecurity, and anxiety). We are taught that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” and that fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real.”

That’s a pretty catchy backronym with one problem: the appearing evidence is not always false.

Anthropologically speaking, fear is a primal response to danger. Fear is adaptive, functional and necessary for our protection. When we lived on the savanna and the threat we faced was becoming lunch for a lion, fear was the self-protection mechanism that shut down our prefrontal cortex and allowed the limbic system (which regulates emotion) to take over and protect us from these legitimate threats. The evidence of one hungry lion, was real enough and prompted a physiological response that we now know as “fight or flight.”

The result was that we lived to see another day. That’s a super-sweet beneficial byproduct of fear.

Lynne Isbell, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis goes further. In her theory she suggests that fear of snakes drove pre-human evolution. She posits that (because) snakes and primates share a long and intimate history, both groups were forced to evolve new strategies to survive. Primates developed improved vision and larger brains to detect and avoid the reptiles before they could strike. In other words, without fear our species may have never survived or, in turn, ever evolved.

Be it fear of snakes or fear of success, experts advocate exposure to, rather than avoidance of, fears. Exposure involves gradually and repeatedly going into feared situations until the fear begins to subside. Exposure involves not avoiding the fear that comes with uncertainty which often underpins the search for a great career.

At the height of his fame, Steve Mcqueen was the highest paid actor of his time (and the King of Cool). He pursued acting because that’s where he found women and money (not passion – that he found on motorcycles) and it is reported that he lived in constant fear that one day the public would find out that he was a fraud and that it would all be taken away from him. The anxiety felt by many successful people suggests that early in their lives they were not sure they had found their passion, they had many failures and even when they had found success, they continued to struggle with insecurity, anxiety and fear. In other words, they had to fail many times over, before they found their success or their passion. Passion, like success, was something they pursued and worked towards. They had drive.

By turning towards rather than away from our fears, we create the opportunity to transform them from a stagnating force to one that is single-minded and transformative. Exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them. It’s a pre-requisite to removing the clutter that keeps our passion from remaining undiscovered. Perhaps the reason you haven’t done xyz is because you haven’t faced your fear about it.

At the end of the day, it becomes like the fabled Cherokee story of the Two Wolves. And the question to be pondered becomes: which wolf do you want to feed?

Know Thyself

Today, our quotidian threats are less life threatening than those our ancestors met on the African Savanna. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of loss. Nonetheless, they still prompt our fight-or-flight response. Fortunately, we have evolved enough as a species to better understand the complexity of our emotions, and know that reacting without thinking, doesn’t serve us well. Instead, combining cognition with strategy, we take the time to reflect which gives us the opportunity to make a more considered choice about how to respond. In other words, it’s in the course of evolution that we have learned to ‘check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.’

How do we learn to learn?

The term meta-cognition – defined as “thinking about thinking”- has become de rigueur in educational psychology over the last couple of decades. Most of us think our thoughts are accurate. We trust our own thinking so much that we do not think to question our own thoughts or thought process. When acquiring knowledge, you’ve pushed the play button on your cognitive abilities. When actively using the knowledge you’ve acquired in a strategic manner to ensure that a goal is met, you are in full meta-cognition mode. That is to say, the process of learning how you learn, leads not only to acquiring knowledge but also to how to use that knowledge.

Bobby Fischer was insanely passionate about chess. However, he was very ‘objective’ about evaluating his position while playing. As a matter of fact, that objectivity, or the ability to step outside of himself and observe himself playing, was one of his greatest virtues as a chess player.

Integrating Passion with Profession

Campbell and Jobs seem to assign ‘bliss’ and ‘passion’ to a realm of esoteric romanticism. Passion, however, is less esoteric and more pragmatic than that. In truth, passion comes from the Latin word ‘pati,’ meaning to suffer or endure. Passion requires us to forego, to sacrifice, and to endure in the face of failure and rejection.

Passion is diligence.

Passion is mastery.

Passion is perseverance.

Passion is pursuit.

Passion is intention.

Passion is curiosity.

Passion is action.

Passion is focus.

Passion is rigor.

Passion is discipline.

Passion is drive.

Passion is the third pig in the famed children’s story, the one who built the brick house. Passion is about how sharp you keep your tools, how well you recognize your worth, and how you work systematically to make yourself (or your product) invaluable.

In identifying flow, Csikszentmihalyi hypothesized that flow is possible in any circumstance as long as three conditions are met: clear goals, feedback loops, and self-confidence. He went further to posit that people with very specific personality traits such as curiosity, persistence, and intrinsic motivation may be better able to achieve flow. Some of the challenges to staying in flow include states of apathy, boredom, and anxiety. Being in a state of apathy is characterized when challenges are low and one’s skill level is low producing a general lack of interest in the task at hand.

So being challenged and developing the skills to meet the challenge is a prerequisite for flow. But importantly, with practice, mindset and the right circumstances, flow can be achieved anywhere, anytime. Even at work!

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell, argues that to be really good at something, to be great at something requires significant investment of time. He uses The Beatles and Bill Gates as examples for what he calls the “10,000-Hour Rule”. The Beatles performed in seedy clubs in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times between 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time (therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule), before making a big splash on the music scene of the time. Microsoft founder Bill Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it. That is mastery. That is passion at work.

In other words, passion equals hard work and perseverance because that’s what allows you to be good at something. In turn, this allows you to create environments of trust and open communication; synergizing people; supporting and nurturing teams and colleagues; creating operational efficiencies and effectiveness; positively impacting growth, productivity, innovation, and profitability.

It may be that passion and bliss await us at the end of the yellow brick road of our careers after a long journey of discovery. But overnight successes, free rides and apples falling off trees belong to the realm of fantasy and mythology. The real journey of passion is replete with determination, hard work, self-knowledge and self-confrontation.To find your passion, you have to face your fears and work your tail off. Passion is ‘discoverable.’ But this journey is marked by focus, discipline, and rigor; not happenstance. It is the journey of the Jedi Warrior. It is the journey of the wisest pig and the one that builds the strongest house. I would argue that passion is not inherent to be discovered but emergent to be explored.

To find your passion, you have to stop chasing unicorns and start slaying dragons.

Oh yeah, and put a sign on the door: No Wolves Allowed!

Good luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A