October 29, 2015

Follow the Call (Slowly)

Footsteps - Jacques de Villiers

I love the sentiment behind this quote by Joseph Campbell, ”Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

But, for most of us ‘following your bliss’ is a bit of a Grail quest, isn’t it? It is near impossible.

I hear motivational speakers and authors say things like:

  • Follow your bliss
  • Find your passion
  • Figure out your purpose
  • Go for it
  • Just do it

It’s easy to sprout this stuff when you’re earning R20 000 for an hour talk. But, for most mere mortals who are stuck in the day-to-day grind of eking out an existence, ‘following your bliss’ is not an option.

It’s (nearly) Impossible To Follow Your Passion

When you’re stuck solidly in survival mode, it is nearly impossible to think about following your passion.

But, this is not to say that we shouldn’t strive for our calling. Finding something to do that really makes you happy is a sure way to discovering your bliss.

The problem with a calling is that most people think it is an all or nothing deal. That you have to leave your job to write the novel that is just dying to get out, that you have to leave your family to travel or go to the wilderness to find yourself.

You Don’t Need A Damascus Experience

I blame Saul’s ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion for the illusion. He basically left everything he stood for on the dusty road and followed Jesus.

There was no easing into the thing. It was an all-or-nothing deal for him.

Now many of us don’t ever have a Damascene experience. And, if we did, we probably wouldn’t have the wherewithal to follow our new-found passion in any case. Or the courage to commit to an irreversible path.

Even if we did know what our bliss was we don’t follow the call because we fear that we have to sacrifice everything to do it. There’s no rule that says following your passion is a zero-sum game. Who says that you can’t ease into your calling?

They Kept Their Day Jobs

For example, is it inconceivable that you can follow your passion of being an author whilst still working? These authors kept their day jobs and produced memorable art:

  • Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)
  • Bram Stoker (Dracula)
  • Franz Kafka (The Hunger Artist)
  • Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes).

Work it out. If you just spent an hour a day and knocked up 300 words (An A4 page) in that time, you would have 109 500 words in one year. That’s close on 50 000 words more than the average novel (60 000 words).

Who says you can’t ‘find yourself’ by going to the ‘wilderness’ one weekend a month. You don’t have to give up family and friends and your lifestyle to do this.

So figure out what your calling is and then take small (and slow) steps to following your bliss. Because success after all is in the journey and not in the destination.

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