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Highlights from a hot church weekend, circa 1987

Ever go on a church retreat? I did. 

Antioch Weekend at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Roseland, New Jersey. In the 80s.

You got to wear your Jordache jeans and sleep over at host houses and hang out with kids you didn’t know (read: boys you didn’t know) from public school. Hot. 

We sat in the school classrooms, but it didn’t feel like school. We had prayer groups and discussions, talked about life and faith. Then we’d stand in a circle and hold hands and sway to Led Zeppelin (because it was a “cool” church weekend). 

Maybe someone would cry. And it was totally normal to hug a lot, which provided an off-the-charts oxytocin-addled high. 

It was the first time in my life that I felt like an adult. Not a student, not a kid, but a person, with  feelings and opinions and ideas that mattered.

I felt closer to the other kids after a single weekend than I did with the kids I’d known my whole life. I felt seen and known. We all cried when it ended. I learned that bearing witness for another person was one of the most important things I could do. I believe it still is. 

A few years ago I attended a different retreat—a writing retreat, led by a woman I’d never met. We were in Rhode Island, the leaves starting to turn, and I woke up the second day and felt it—that same elevated, energized, happy feeling.

Only this was way better. I wasn’t fumbling through prayers and awkward teenage hugs. 

I was writing. Writing in ways I hadn’t written in years—free of judgment, free of fear and criticism and self doubt. I was absolutely high on it, on the energy in that room. 

I left that retreat changed. It was an intoxicating blend of feeling totally new and yet returning to something familiar. 

That’s the goal of a retreat, the best kind—to discover and remember. Both things. 

I still go on those retreats, led by the fabulous Suzanne Kingsbury, who’s become a close friend. And she trained me to lead my own. 

And tomorrow, I’m headed to Austin for The Intensive—the three-day writing retreat I run for professionals of every stripe (some identify as writers, some not at all) who want nothing more than to move their work out into the world. 

Using a specific approach called the Gateless Writing Method that Suzanne created—a critic-free approach to creative generation—we’ll uncork, unblock, and uncover their brilliance so they can craft powerhouse talks, books, podcasts, stories, blogs. We’re also going to swim. And drink wine. And laugh a lot.

This one filled up so fast that I scheduled a second one, same place, for October 17-20, and I happen to have a few spots left for that one. 

Does it sound fun? Want to learn more? Want to see pictures? Here you go.  

It’s not for everyone, certainly. But maybe it will tickle at your brain, make you wonder, “What if? What if it were amazing?”

And more importantly, this: “What if I could take a few days to focus on what I want to work on, instead of what everyone else needs from me?” YUP. That’s it. 

>>Want to apply for one of the few remaining spots? Go for it. 

You don’t need any cool-kid criteria to join us. The point of the application is to make sure we can assess if it’s a fit for you. 

P.S. See if The Intensive is right where you should be Oct 17-20, 2019, in Austin, TX! And if you’re not sure, just ask!

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Stop Searching for Your Passion (Do This Instead)

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There’s tremendous pressure to “find your passion” lately. Too much pressure, if you ask me. It’s also misleading: If I tell you to “find your passion,” we must presume that it’s been lost, like a set of keys or that coupon for a free burrito at Chipotle.

Not only is it lost, it’s now a job requirement: Unhappy in your work? Well, are you not living in or aligned with your passion? Are you not doing the work of your dreams? If you’re not absolutely compelled and swooning over our work, we’re told, you’re doing something wrong. We use passion as the barometer and measure of everything. And it’s a mistake.

Go ahead—call up any life-slash-business coach for an initial consult (I’ll wait), and in that first conversation, I guarantee you’ll be asked, “What are you passionate about?”

The pressure so many of us feel to “find your passion” is the pits. It can become little more than a self-indulgent navel gaze, and until you put rubber to road, it doesn’t amount to much. It also presumes you’re supposed to know something you don’t. I can’t tell you how many people, including myself, have thought, “Jesus. I don’t know what I’m passionate about. Why don’t I know? It must be because I’m devoid of drive and substance, and a complete waste of space.” This is not the kind of thinking that fuels great success.

I’m passionate about lots of things. But this notion that you must have some secret, singular passion does you and your work a disservice.

(WATCH: My two-minute talk on why passion isn’t the answer to everything.)

 

“I want to help people!”

You know what everyone tells me their passion is? Helping people. Yawn.

That’s not a passion; that’s a prosocial instinct that we’re born with to keep us from (completely) annihilating each other and isolating ourselves. It makes you human and not a monster. Saying your passion is helping people is no different than saying you’re busy. Everyone is. And to say either thing as a way of distinguishing yourself is to assume the other person isn’t, and it just never lands right. (I’m busy AND passionate, too, thank you very much!)

Passion is an emotion, and emotions are fickle and transient and will trip you up every chance they get. You push beyond them by doing, acting, responding, and using the tools and talents you have to create, make, or offer a thing that’s useful and valuable to other people. And if it’s not useful, than tweaking it and trying again.

That’s why I want to move the conversation past what your True Passion. Because who cares, really? My motto is that it’s one thing to have passion; it’s another to be compelling. And no one will buy your yogurt or hire you to do their taxes or donate to your cause just because YOU happen to be passionate about doing it. You have to do it very well, and you have to make what you do compelling to me. That’s the job.

 

Passion Follows Success

One of my favorite columns ever is this piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that ran in the Wall Street Journal years ago. In it, he argues that passion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion,” he writes. But when things go down the drain, the passion can drain, too.

“In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked,” he writes. “But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

I’ll tell you how I’ve been able to grow my own business, and it’s not by waxing poetic about my passion, but by doing—coaching, writing, speaking, connecting. Doing it, sometimes well, sometimes not well, every day. That’s how my real sweet spot emerged: I have knack and  honed skill for getting people to bust through their hangups, biases, and blind spots so they can see what they do in a whole new way.

This is particularly relevant as I gear up to run a half-day workshop on Friday, July 10th  in New York City for entrepreneurs, visionaries, brand managers, and freelancers who are having trouble finding their sweet spot (wanna come? Seats are still available!) They feel stuck and aren’t sure why. They’re wondering where passion has failed them. They question who they are and how to communicate what they do in ways that compel other people. And on July 10th, we’re going to bust through all of that together.

(Register now and receive a free 30-min coaching session with me.)

When you have a clearer, crisper sense of what you DO, not just what you’re “passionate about,” the wheels click into gear, and start to turn. You gain momentum. It feels amazing.

It feels….well, like passion.
(The event, btw, is called “Nail Your Brand & Revitalize Your Business” and it’s happening FRI 7/10 from 9am – 12pm at Wix Lounge in Manhattan—space is limited. If you register before July 4th, you’ll also get a free 30-min coaching session with me, and I promise not to ask you what your passion is.)