3 key notes about finding your passion (or widely-applicable life lessons from my father)

If one year ago you told me that today I would be a) getting ready to begin my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at The New School, b) a member of Norwood Club and c) working in Thought Leadership at PwC, I would be over the motherf-cking moon.  Today, all three of those things are true. 

Needless to say, passion, happiness and gratitude have been front-of-mind lately. If I'm really being honest, though, they always have been. Ultimately, it's what the Tangent Pursuit is all about: finding pockets of free time to explore and enjoy your world in a positive way, thereby inching that much closer to an ideal existence. 

Growing up, my dad spoke frequently and candidly about life and the pursuit of passion. As an immigrant who genuinely came from nothing, he was always keenly aware of the opportunities that surrounded him and he made a constant point of it to my brother and I. So, in an attempt to dish out the knowledge I've acquired on finding and pursuing one's passion(s) while remaining happy and grateful along the way, it only felt right to pay some sort of homage to my pops at the same time. Dad, this one's for you. 

3 key notes about finding your passion (or widely-applicable life lessons from my father.)

1. To learn what you DO like, you have to first understand what you DON'T like
At various points in my life when I was frustrated with something I was experiencing, my father would remind me that in order to get closer to the things that make you happy, you have to distance yourself from the things that don't - but first you have to be able to discern between the two! 

As a self-admitted "jack of all trades/master of none,"  I have spent a large portion of my life siphoning through one short-lived hobby to the next - of course taking away pros and cons from each experience, but nevertheless finding myself, at times, frustrated by my easy enamorability (not a word, I know. Whatever). I started a farmer's market, ran a marathon, taught English abroad, etc. The list truly goes on. I mean, does anyone remember when I opened an Etsy shop for handmade feather headdresses? ...hopefully not. But really, I was obsessed. I became totally immersed with this idea of feather headdresses and spent a solid amount of time and a little bit of money pursuing it, only to learn that it felt like I had confined myself to my own personal sweatshop and it wasn't really my thing. But that's okay! From that experience, I was able to take away a set of conditions I knew I didn't like about being a small business owner while also becoming semi-fluent in SEO and website building which would later prove handy. Plus, now I can say I made someone's alternative wedding veil (true story!). 

The point, a la Ze Frank's Brain Crack, is that I gave each idea a legitimate shot and saw it to full fruition prior to abandoning it. Then, when I realized it wasn't for me, I was able to move on without all the internal shoulda/coulda/woulda that comes along with emotionally giving up something you've never actually tried.

To know what you DO like, you have to figure out what you DON'T like. Sometimes, that means trying out a whole bunch of random shit.

2. Know your options 
No joke, these three words are actually inscribed on the back of my dad's business card (he's an independent financial advisor). I like piggybacking this piece of advice on top of the first tip above. Because once you start getting a feel for what you do like or what your passion might be, the focus turns to knowing what your options are in regards to pursuing it. 

To put this in context, I'll give you another personal example. Around 4 years ago, I started writing. I always loved literature and oscillated in and out of stages where I kept a journal or jotted down random snippets of creative thought, but I had never exercised my passion for it regularly. When I finally started working writing into my weekly routine and churning out somewhat readable content, I began submitting essay upon essay to the ever-admirable site, Thought Catalog. Eventually, I ended up getting published. For my 22 year-old self, that silly little nod was the best thing that had ever happened to me, period. It gave me a huge confidence boost. It made me realize that just because I majored in business in college didn't mean I was confined to that world. Ultimately, it led to me becoming more involved in a creative lifestyle. Over the next  three years, I would have articles accepted by Elite Daily and poetry published by the Artist Catalogue. Eventually, I would build my own blog (thanks to some help from that Etsy experience!) and even start a small, successful artist collective. One small pat on the back became impetus for all this imaginative energy. 

However, after 4 years, I finally wondered how I could merge my passion for writing with my every day life. My first thought was an obvious one: change careers and go into journalism. I looked into graduate programs for journalism, searched jobs, etc. It just didn't feel quite right. Was that truly what I wanted? After a lot more research and plenty of time spent thinking about how to satiate this creative urge, I took a gander at Creative Writing MFA programs. Now this, I thought to myself, looks like a way in which I can spend my time. See, it took a significant amount of time and trial and error before I was able to understand what all my options were and then move forth intelligently.   

Same goes for Norwood Club. Over a year ago, my dad (again, go faja!) brought up Soho house to me and suggested I apply. That one suggestion opened my eyes to an entire subculture of compelling social clubs throughout New York. After doing plenty of homework and speaking to a few clubs, I found myself cozily at home at Norwood - and mostly thanks to that small artist collective + writing! 

3. Regardless of what's happening, you gotta live your life 
At the end of the day, my dad has always reminded me that regardless of what's going on, "you gotta live your life." There will, no doubt, be difficult obstacles to work through during this journey.  "Finding your passion" does not happen overnight; working it into your life in a meaningful manner takes even longer. When you experience setbacks or hurdles, it's certainly important to persevere. However, sometimes you have to step aside before you can step forward. Basically, don't forget to take in life's small pleasures and remain grateful. Take a moment to enjoy the sunset, share a glass of wine or laugh at a comedy club. Don't neglect exercise, vacation or any of the essential delights, solely in the name of your passion. And think about this: the last time I went on vacation, I got tapped on the shoulder by a PwCer out of the clear blue sky. It's when I was at my most relaxed that I was introduced to the job I now have. 


The Single Best Way to Start Your Day

Some people prefer a nice, long stretch while others swear by things like cuddling with a loved one, taking a shot of apple cider vinegar, or even using the circadian rhythm alarm clock. Regardless of preference, though, one thing is for certain: people’s morning routines have long been a point of discussion. And it makes sense that we would care. After all, how we wake up is usually pretty indicative of how the rest of our day unfolds. If you’ve ever woken up late, spilled something on yourself first thing, or had a really bad dream the night before, you know that an interrupted morning routine can really throw you off.

But what if I told you that adding one thing to your morning routine could have a genuine, positive impact on the rest of your day every single time? Furthermore, what if I told you that it took 2-3 minutes tops, you could do it ANYWHERE, and it cost virtually nothing? Would you believe me? Probably not, but it's true.

Enter: the art of practicing gratitude. 

Think about the very first thing you do when you wake up. It involves your phone, doesn't it? Checking our phones first thing is a tough habit to break - after all, what else wakes us up easier than the dopamine-fueled activity of scrolling through a social media feed? Unfortunately, this means that we are already outside of our own heads within our first waking moment - it means we have immediately relinquished any sense of control over our environment and have handed the wheel over to whatever external factors jump in our path. That's kind of terrifying isn't it? Next time, try turning off your alarm and putting the phone back onto your nightstand. Sit up straight. Take a few deep breaths. And, well, count your blessings.

This doesn't have to be a religious thing  (though, it's alright if it is). It's really much more of a spiritual practice; a way of stepping back and taking stock; a method for starting your day off with a clean slate. Sure, the first few times you are groggy-eyed and foggy-brained it may be difficult to think of 3 things. But the more you practice it, the easier it will come.

A tip: if you really have trouble "thinking" first thing in the morning, count your 3 things before you go to bed the night prior. Write them down. Then, when you wake up, read them back to yourself. 

I've been practicing this for about 7 months now and I can genuinely say it has changed my life for the better. By practicing gratitude, I am forced to wake up and immediately acknowledge the positive circumstances of my life. Here's what this morning's list looked like:

I am grateful for...

1) cozy Friday evenings cooking dinner and drinking wine in a warm apartment

2) the freedom of being young

3) the power of natural sunlight

By taking pulse of my physical environment, current events happening in the world and my own internal feelings, I'm able to kick my day off to a much more positive start. I tend to come back to the things I counted in the morning later in the day when walking to get lunch or spacing out for a moment at my desk. If you keep at it, this practice really weaves a wavelength of good vibes through your day. Lately, I've been writing it down as often as possible which I also find helps. 

In our western society, we often forget how much power we truly have internally. For the slightest of health concerns, we quickly turn to pills, procedures and the like. For relationship issues, we vent outwardly to others. For happiness, we aim to acquire material possessions. But, at the end of the day, we still go to sleep with only our own peace of mind (or lack thereof) and wake up just the same. Perhaps, it is time to focus within, even if it is only for a few brief moments...