The “do what you love and the money will follow” phrase was popular a few decades ago. As I study entrepreneurship and how to run a successful business, that phrase often garners heavy criticism. Simply loving something, such as hot tea, doesn’t mean money will follow.
Various popular marketers I’ve been studying suggest you get a blank sheet of paper and draw two circles that overlap. Inside one circle write what you love to do. And in the other circle write what you think the world needs. The golden answers are in the section where the circles overlap.
I think there’s one other key question to ask that belongs in this method: what where you want to offer help.
Draw a third circle and write in it what you feel passion for improving in the world. Then look at where the three circles overlap.
Don’t be too quick to disregard what you love because you don’t think the world needs it.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
Those were the words of highly admired teacher, author, mythologist, Joseph Campbell.
The other day I heard author Neil Strauss mention this quote when Timothy Ferriss interviewed him on Creative Live.
I had to write it down because it reminded me of a session I once had with an adviser who said the best career path for me wouldn’t be “secure.” And this baffled me.
The way the adviser (who will remain anonymous but she has advised the rich and famous in New York) explained it, my steady day job at that time bored me but created structure.
If my home environment was also “secure,” then I would feel boxed in.
So as she saw it, I was the kind of person who needs some element of challenge and having two stable structures I would feel “boxed in,” depriving me of the change and variety I thrive on.
Surprisingly, her advice was for me to go with what wasn’t safe and secure, which was to work pursue painting and photography and work for myself. It would be changing all the time. Which would then make me appreciate and want stability in other parts of my life.
Isn’t it refreshing to hear that Joseph Campbell promoted that attitude?
It’s the “Leap and the net will appear,” (John Burroughs) kind of trust.
Campbell chose an insecure way during the Great Depression when he decided not to continue his doctoral studies at Columbia and spent some time on a farm in upstate New York. (The Joseph Campbell Foundation website has a full description).
“[I]f you follow your bliss, you’ll have your bliss whether you have money or not. If you follow money, you may lose the money, and then you don’t have even that. The secure way is really the insecure way and the way in which the richness of the quest accumulates is the right way.” — Joseph Campbell (An Open Life, 1990)
I think the concept of bliss appeals to me so much because it makes so much sense and is so opposite of what I was told in my childhood. Even Donald Trump says “You have to do something you like!”
MOYERS: Would you tell this to your students as an illustration of how, if they follow their bliss, if they take chances with their lives, if they do what they want to, the adventure is its own reward?
CAMPBELL: The adventure is its own reward – but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond control. We are following our own way, not our daddy’s or our mother’s way. So we are beyond protection in a field of higher powers than we know. One has to have some sense of what the conflict possibilities will be in this field, and here a few good archetypal stories like this may help us to know what to expect. If we have been impudent and altogether ineligible for the role into which we have cast ourselves, it is going to be a demon marriage and a real mess. However, even here there may be heard a rescuing voice, to convert the adventure into a glory beyond anything ever imagined.
MOYERS: It’s easier to stay home, stay in the womb, not take the journey.
CAMPBELL: Yes, but then life can dry up because you’re not off on your own adventure. …
From p. 197 of “The Power of Myth,” by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, 1988.
So following your bliss may not be totally blissful. Pack some powerful doses of courage in your toolkit.