Most advice seems to apply to everything and nothing at the same time. One of the most commonly repeated lines has to do with your life’s work and purpose. “Follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
It’s a great bit of advice because no one will argue with it, particularly those caught in a bad gig or on a wayward path. We all want to make a life out of what we love most. Say the line out loud and you’ll feel the hope bubbling up in the back of your throat. But there’s a reason you’ll likely find some iteration of this advice in most motivational eBooks, life blogs and Tony Robbins keynotes. It’s an easy thing to say, but what do you do with it?
With endless options and indefinite answers it’s easy to feel paralyzed. But if you manage to keep reading and searching you’ll find other pearls of wisdom that resonate. Maybe you will find Oscar Wilde, who aptly wrote, “The only good thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”
That could explain the endless flow of sugar-rush motivational quote-pics currently polluting your Instagram feed. It’s always easier to share advice than to take action.
Pardon one more quote pic
I don’t want to bullshit anybody. I love a good sugar rush. There’s always plenty of room for pop, so to speak. But when it comes to figuring out how to get your shit together, or what to do with your precious portion of time, you should do what resonates. As Oscar would say, find something that is useful to you. Great advice should not only pop and inspire you, it should leave you with something real – You should be able to see actions that might fill your life with passion.
Like I said, I don’t want to bullshit you. And I don’t want to be guilty of dishing out shallow, generic advice. So, I’ll do the honest thing. I’ll tell you what helped me.
I’m a late bloomer, which is a quality that I’ve grown to love, mostly. But during the bulk of my twenties this was a burden. I had no idea of what to do, or what was possible. So I took all the advice I could get.
I tried to be all kinds of things – A football player, doctor, professor, corporate team player, the list is long. It’s hard to say exactly when my passions stopped being the most important thing.
Along the way I was fortunate enough to find some advice that would eventually change my life. It came from Christopher Hitchens, a drunken contrarian journalist who also happened to be one of the most prolific, powerful, and honest writers that I had ever encountered. While addressing a crowd, Christopher was asked to give his best advice to young writers. This immediately resonated with me because a “Writer” was one of the things I hoped I might be some day.
The advice was crystal clear and actionable. “There are two kinds of advice for writers,” Christopher replied. “The first thing is that, if you want to write, it must be what you have to do. Not the thing you want to do, or would like to do. It must be that without which you could not live. If you’ve got that much you’ll be alright. You’ll survive the disappointments.”
Christopher’s next line made be believe that I could actually improve, and that I could find a voice of my own. “The second thing I try to say to all of my students…If you can talk, you can write. The idea is to find a voice. I try to write as if I were speaking with people. In fact, I often hear from readers that they do feel personally addressed, which is vindicating.”
You probably don’t want to be a writer, but I doubt you’re exactly what you want to be, right? Some big goal remains. If that’s true, you might consider this same advice.
Don’t worry about everything you could do. Don’t burden yourself with the search for your destiny. Just focus right now on what you can’t live without. The thing you have to do. Get better at it. Do it harder, much harder than you think is possible. And please learn how to use your unique voice along the way. In the end speaking up for what you love most is a very important thing to do.
It’s not perfect advice, but I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.