His books include The Magic of Findhorn, The Next Economy, The Ecology of Commerce, and Blessed Unrest.
His work includes starting and running ecological businesses, such as the tool company Smith and Hawken, writing and teaching about the impact of commerce upon the environment, and consulting with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy.
He life is dedicated to changing the relationship between business and the environment, and between human and living systems in order to create a more just and sustainable world.
Among other things, he is also someone who lives a Low Density Lifestyle.
On May 3, 2009, Paul Hawken gave the commencement address at the University of Portland. Like the commencement speech of Steve Jobs that I published not too long ago, Hawken’s speech was an inspirational talk designed to encourage the audience not only to do what they love, but to have it be something that could make a positive impact on the world.
To close the series on Doing What You Love, I give you Paul Hawken’s speech in its entirety:
Commencement Address to the Class of 2009
University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009
When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.
Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.
This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.
There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.
You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.
Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown — Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of
people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.
The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.
The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.
This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.
In yesterday’s article, I discussed how if you want to do what you love, you may have to create your own work. In essence, to do what you love you may have to become an entrepreneur.
But to go off on your own is a scary thing for many people. Even if you’re not happy working at a job, there’s a certain comfort level and feeling of security it gives you.
But if you’re not happy working for someone else, you can have all the comfort and security in the world, and you will never feel appeased. You will always have an uneasy feeling gnawing at you.
And the reality is, if you’re working at a job, working for someone else, you may never feel like you’re doing what you love, because it just may not be the fullest and truest expression of who you are.
I talked in an earlier article about Carpe Diem, of Seizing the Day. That is what it takes to let go of the comfort zone and to venture into the unknown.
But it’s not really an unknown, because it’s fully known: it’s who you really are. It’s living your dream and your passion, and being true to yourself.
And to get past the fear, it just takes a certain mindset.
Here are 7 things you can do right now to get past the fear and attain the mindset of being willing to do what you love:
1. Reclaim your mind.
This might seem a little strange, right? Who would think that they don’t own their own mind? The truth is that most of us live with partially free minds. We act on our intentions as long as our comfort zone is not violated. We rebel when the risk is minimal.
In order to reclaim ownership of your mind (and stop renting it out) you have to demand of yourself nothing short of a completely free, unadulterated mind. Underline this in your mind: “I won’t let anyone else have control or dictate the contents of my mind. Only I have that power.”
2. Put yourself on auto-response.
The ability of the leader to take action, despite not having a clear course, is a highly coveted skill in the entrepreneurial world. A leader takes action while others wait around for the situation to become more favorable. He has the “auto-response” of “I’ll figure it out.” When faced with a tough decision, or unclear path, he takes action instead of waiting for orders.
The more you’re able to take action despite having all the facts, the faster you’ll get results. You’ll adjust your course when you make mistakes and ultimately get there much faster than the person waiting around for the perfect plan to materialize.
All of our decisions are interconnected. A choice in our health could create an improvement in our productivity. A shift in our spiritual practice can cultivate a calm state, where your focus increases. A move toward working for yourself will dramatically impact your freedom of time and movement, and greatly improve your happiness. All of our decisions are interconnected and a smart renegade knows this. She or he tries to make high leverage holistic decisions that will have a ripple effect across all aspects of their life.
Think holistically. See how the changes in all areas of your life impact each other, not just in business, but in the areas of health, fitness, finances, mental/emotional and spirituality.
4. Question authority.
Too much skepticism will make you unbalanced, and will honestly probably turn you into a conpiracy-theory nutcase. A healthy amount of skepticism, on the other hand, is essential to working intelligently.
One of the oldest living renegades, Siddhartha Gautama (also known as the Buddha) once said, “Do not believe anything that you’ve been told, unless it agrees with your own common sense.” The same advice applies 2,000 years later. Listen to yourself first, before you listen to the experts. Test before you assume.
5. Focus on interdependency.
We all have certain communities of people or tribes that we naturally connect with and are attracted to. Seek out these people, help them, start conversations with them. These are the people that are most likely to identify with you, therefore the most likely to also support and promote your work.
Find a way to connect with influential leaders or members of your tribe today. Whether it be through sending them a message on twitter, contacting them through their blog or emailing them directly. And if you can, try to get one of these people to mentor you. It can’t hurt to ask and you’ll be surprised at how genuinely helpful some of these people can be.
6. Defrost your passion.
If you’ve been stuck in a cubicle-farm for some time, or have been in a less than ideal work situation, you’ve probably given up hope on some level. Being surrounded with people you’d rather not work with, grey walls, no windows and bad coffee tends to dampen your spirits. This dispirited condition may have progressed so far that you have trouble remembering what it’s like to be excited about your life.
That’s got to change. It’s time to reconnect with what you’re truly passionate about and wake up to the possibility that you can start making your own rules. Life doesn’t have to be a struggle of paying your dues with the occasional bit of fun. Realize that you don’t have to live in the way you think is required.
There’s obviously a certain societal value to being practical. But what’s easily overlooked is the value of being highly impractical. You have to be willing to take risks, and keep your head in the clouds to be a successful trailblazer. You have to strike a balance between having roots (practicality) and wings (innovating).
Realize that all major revolutions in the world were first seen as crazy, ridiculous and absurd. If you want to innovate, you’ll have to accept that the majority of the population will view you as a lunatic. You secretly know, though, that your level of lunacy is quite possibly your most valuable skill.
So there you have it – 7 things you can do to help you get past the fear and do what you love. Once you do so, you’ll be happier, healthier and feeling more fulfilled.
If you are doing what you love, you may have to create your own work.
It’s not always easy to fit into a defined and set job if you are doing what you love, because it often means that you are listening to your own muse and setting out on your own path and finding your own way to express who you truly are.
If you decide to go your own way and create your own work, you are following the time-honored path of entrepreneurship.
It is the entrepreneurs who are the innovators, who move forward even when the naysayers say it can’t be done.
In fact, failure is not part of the vocabulary of an entrepreneur, because as long as they are doing what they love, whatever the outcome, they are succeeding.
They see failure as not pursuing their dream.
The reality is, is that entrepreneurs can change the world – watch the above video and you will be inspired as you realize this is true.
Just by pursuing their dreams, entrepreneurs are changing the world, by also inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
And with their creative imagination and innovative drive, entrepreneurs are changing the world, by creating new ways of doing things, or by making adaptations to current ways of doing things.
Entrepreneurs are also changing the world by shining the light of hope where there once was darkness.
It takes a Low Density Lifestyle mind to be an entrepreneur with a fertile creative imagination.
Which isn’t hard to do. It just starts with doing what you love.
This is all well and good, but what happens if you’re not sure what your dream specifically is – in other words, how can you do what you love if you’re not sure what that might be?
Don’t feel guilty if you’re not sure of what it is that feeds your passion, because most of us make life choices based on expectations.
We go to college and do what is expected of us, and along the way we get married and settle down and have kids, because that’s what everyone else does.
Dreams then become buried deep down to the point that you don’t even know that you have them; yet, even with this, the dreams still will come through as a kind of itch, ache or longing.
Life is meant to be full of passion and chasing after desires, not going from life to death without experiencing joy. If you think you might be one of those people who has buried your dreams so that you could live how others expected you to live, you don’t have to continue like that.
Here are seven ways that you can rediscover your dreams and add passion back into your life and start doing what you love.
1. Talk to your preteen self
Before we started worrying too much about growing up and settling down, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted out of life. A child has fantasy dreams and adults for the most part worry about being grown ups and being responsible. Our preteens selves, however, had a good mix of wonder and practicality. Are you doing what you wanted when you were that age? And if not, can you explain why without using the words “I grew up?”
2. Do something out of your routine
Many of us live using the autopilot. By breaking our routines, we open ourselves up to making conscious choices and to shaking ourselves out of a kind of stupor. Once we’ve broken the bonds of habit, our desires and dreams can start sliding through the cracks in the wall of comfort we’ve built around ourselves.
3. Think about what terrifies you
Think of an action where your response is “I could never do that” then ask yourself why not? Most things we say that about we secretly want to do it but we’re just scared.
4. Ask someone else what they think your dream is
Often our friends and family know what we want more than we are willing to admit to ourselves. In your question do not use the words should or need – that’s asking for their opinion which means they will project their own desires onto you. Ask them instead to start the sentence with “I believe you want to…” and they will have a harder time telling you their own hidden dreams.
5. Pretend you have amnesia
While we are shaped by our past, too often we let it define us and box us into making certain choices. By pretending to have amnesia the only things open to us are the present and the future. Given how you feel in the moment and forgetting everything that has happened in the past, ask yourself what you want for the future.
6. Write “I want to…” thirty times and start filling it in
Asking ourselves what we want usually produces a quick answer, something habitual, but if we go deeper and keep asking the same question over and over we force ourselves to find hidden desires and dreams. If you can complete the sentence “I want to…” thirty times without struggling, up the number to 50, or 75 or 100 – whatever it takes to start pulling out the dreams you’ve hidden in dark corners of your mind.
7. Throw away your plans
While some people live too much in the past, others live too much in the future. They create plans and set them in motion following through on them without thinking. Trouble is people and situations change. Plans need re-evaluating. We need to stop the plan and ask ourselves whether we still really want this dream or whether we are just moving forward with momentum instead of passion.
Pick one of the above actions and do it today. Don’t wait. You deserve to fulfill your dreams. Now.
It’s a surefire way to live a Low Density Lifestyle.
In yesterday’s article, entitled Life is Too Short to Not Do What You Love, I discussed the importance of doing what you love, from the perspective of the fact that life is too short to waste it doing drudgery type-work that will only drain your energy and keep you embedded in a High Density Lifestyle.
I gave you excerpts from an essay by the Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca entitled, On the Shortness of Time. “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it,” Seneca said
When you live by the Carpe Diem mantra, of Seizing the Day, you know that life is too important and to vital to waste even a single breath doing the things that aren’t in synch with your soul.
The most integral thing in your life then becomes doing what you love and living that way each and every day.
In the spirit of Carpe Diem, I give you quotes on the subject. May they inspire you to Seize the Day and live your dreams to the fullest.
Here they are:
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting. ~ Dr. Seuss
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~ Abraham Lincoln
There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. ~ George Santayana, “War Shrines,” Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, 1922
To always be intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it – this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed. ~ Walter Scott
I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see. ~ John Burroughs
To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions. ~ William James
You may delay, but time will not. ~ Benjamin Franklin
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
If you wait, all that happens is that you get older. ~ Larry McMurtry, Some Can Whistle
The word “now” is like a bomb through the window, and it ticks. ~ Arthur Miller, After the Fall, 1964
Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw
Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information. ~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice. ~ Indian Saying
though love be a day and life be nothing, it shall not stop kissing. ~ e.e. cummings
Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture. ~ Russell Baker
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. ~ Diane Ackerman
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~ Mark Twain
What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness. ~ Jean de La Bruyère
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once. ~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 1600
I think I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth – I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace. ~ Henry James
May you live all the days of your life. ~ Jonathan Swift
Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. ~ Johann von Goethe
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. ~ Thomas La Mance
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. ~ William Shakespeare
You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now. ~ Joan Baez
We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~ Japanese Proverb
There are but three events in a man’s life: birth, life, and death. He is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live. ~ Jean de la Bruyère
How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
I have been talking about Doing What You Love in this series, and have been focusing on the importance of Following Your Bliss.
When you live in this way, you feel healthier, happier, more fulfilled and more in tune with living a Low Density Lifestyle.
The tricky thing is that sometimes it takes awhile to focus on the thing that really turns you on and is the thing that you love. In the interim, you may see many years go by of slogging along and doing something you didn’t love.
Life is too short to spend it doing something that is drudgery. We are on this planet and gone in the blip of an eye, and everyday is precious. Once you find the thing that you love, you have to pursue it relentlessly.
Don’t let your doubts and fears get in your way. As a certain foot apparel commercial says, Just Do It!
Below are excerpts from a famous essay by the Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca entitled, On the Shortness of Time. “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it,” Seneca said.
Seneca may have lived in a time much unlike ours – he lived in the time of the Emperor Nero – but he was a keen observer of human nature and saw how so many people wasted time not doing the thing they love.
Here are the excerpts:
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.
“The part of life we really live is small.” For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.
In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal. And so I should like to lay hold upon someone from the company of older men and say: “I see that you have reached the farthest limit of human life, you are pressing hard upon your hundredth year, or are even beyond it; come now, recall your life and make a reckoning. Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, how much with a mistress, how much with a patron, how much with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count.
You will hear many men saying: “After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.” And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!
Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply,
There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.
Can anything be sillier than the point of view of certain people—I mean those who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves very busily engaged in order that they may be able to live better; they spend life in making ready to live!
“Why do you delay,” says he, “Why are you idle? Unless you seize the day, it flees.” Even though you seize it, it still will flee; therefore you must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it, and, as from a torrent that rushes by and will not always flow, you must drink quickly. And, too, the utterance of the bard is most admirably worded to cast censure upon infinite delay, in that he says, not “the fairest age,” but “the fairest day.”
All the greatest blessings are a source of anxiety, and at no time should fortune be less trusted than when it is best; therefore, must the life of those be who work hard to gain what they must work harder to keep. By great toil they attain what they wish, and with anxiety hold what they have attained; meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return.
Reasons for anxiety will never be lacking, whether born of prosperity or of wretchedness.
You win love in an office in which it is difficult to avoid hatred; but nevertheless believe me, it is better to have knowledge of the ledger of one’s own life than of the corn-market.
The condition of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but most wretched is the condition of those who labor at preoccupations that are not even their own, who regulate their sleep by that of another, their walk by the pace of another, who are under orders in case of the freest things in the world—loving and hating. If these wish to know how short their life is, let them reflect how small a part of it is their own.
To do what you love means to feel deep down in your bones a calling.
It’s the calling of nature’s muse, saying to you, You are meant to live your life in the way that is most meaningful to you.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily come easy, or come to you automatically. For some people it’s a process, a path that you walk down for many years, until it at last comes to you.
For others, it comes in a flash, and they know immediately what it is that they want to do.
Either way, the key is to partake in the Dance of Life, to embrace life and not be afraid to fail. There are many follies and foibles along the way to discover what it is that you love to do, yet the only way to get there is to not be afraid to try – and fail.
Life is a dance. And when you feel the resonance of the pulse and rhythms that the dance of life can send through your body, you will have arrived, and there will be no turning back, because: Why will you want to go back to the mundane when you have tasted the fruits of the tree?
When you take part in the dance of life, you feel more happy, more fulfilled, more energized, more healthy, and more in synch with who you are. And that’s because you are living a Low Density Lifestyle.
The above video is a dance that took place at a train station in Liverpool earlier in 2009. The video below it is reactions of some of the people who witnessed the dance.
When you watch it, you’ll feel your body come alive, you’ll feel the passions and the energy of that exact moment. That’s when you know that you are feeling the pulse of life rush through your veins. You feel very vibrant when you are in that state.
Remember that feeling and carry it with you everywhere you go, because that’s the same feeling you feel when you are doing what you love.
It’s called the flow state, when you feel fully in the flow and connected with everything around.
And it’s how you feel when you’re living a Low Density Lifestyle.
Following your bliss and doing what you love doesn’t always mean doing what people expect of you. In fact, to follow your bliss, you sometimes have to go to the beat of your own drummer and flat out go your own way.
And you may have to overcome tremendous obstacles to do so, defy expectations, and overcome your own fears and confidence issues.
But if you do so, you will be much happier in the long run.
A few days ago, I told you about Paul Potts, the shy and unassuming cell phone salesman who in 2007 appeared on the English television show Britain’s Got Talent, singing in front of the audience and judges, including the notorious Simon Cowell, and displayed an amazing operatic voice.
Today I tell you about another singer who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, Greg Pritchard. Greg is a hotel waiter, yet he had an unabiding dream to sing, and on the show he displayed his voice.
When Greg began, it was assumed he would be singing a rock song, since he came dressed in that way. But Greg defied expectations with his song and his singing style.
You see, Greg’s dream is to be an opera singer, and this is truly what he loves doing. He has a male soprano voice, and he showed extraordinary range as he sang “Nessu Dorma” in front of the judges. It was the last thing anyone expected him to sing.
It’s an incredible performance, and you can see it in the video above.
And it’s a prime example of the fact that following your bliss and doing what you love sometimes mean you have to find your own way, and find your own voice, no matter what people may think of you.
That is what Greg Pritchard did, both literally and figuratively.
One of the greatest commencement speeches ever was given by Steve Jobs at Stanford University for the university’s 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005.
Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Jobs, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself.
It is a great speech and a true inspiration to all of us. It will get you to ponder your life and reflect on whether you are truly doing what you love.
Watch the above video and you’ll see what I mean. You can also read the transcript, which follows below:
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
Yesterday’s article was about doing what you love and following your bliss, which is a term developed by Joseph Campbell.
What does following your bliss and doing what you love look like? It obviously is different for every person. But ultimately it will be the best thing you do, because it will allow you to be in alignment with your true nature.
Today, I give you the incredible case study of Paul Potts. Paul was a mobile phone salesman in England with a majestic operatic singing voice, yet lacked the confidence to follow his dream of pursuing a career in opera.
He had sung opera on and off for a few years, but had not sung for years when he decided in 2007 to audition for the British televison show, Britain’s Got Talent, a show similar to the American television show, American Idol. Both shows feature Simon Cowell as one of the judges.
The first of the above videos is Potts’ audition in front of Cowell and the judges, along with the studio audience of 2,000.
Potts came out, and the judges sized him up. Potts was nervous, and the judges assumed by his temperament and makeup that he would not have much to offer.
But once Paul Potts began to sing, hearts melted and tears flowed out of many people in the audience, including one of the judges. In fact, you will have to see if you can keep dry eyes while watching him sing.
The second video above is of Paul Potts being interviewed by a Hong Kong television station on a recent trip that he took through China to promote an album. Paul talks about following your dreams and the importance of doing what you love.
It makes all the world of difference if you are. And it’s not hard to do so.
All you have to do is dream.