The best thing I read this past week was a post on Medium by Umair Haque that asserts that suggesting people “do what they love” [a.k.a. “follow their passion”] is not sufficient. Instead, he offers these three pieces of advice:
- Do what moves you
- Do what loves you
- Do what loves
Because I frequently mentor students and peers, Haque’s piece really resonated with me. It resonated with a lot of other people too: I posted it on the Pave Program Facebook Page and it had over 1000 hits within an hour or two.
What moves you, as Haque explains, are the things that the “things you love” have in common. I’ve written here before about how cooking, lighting design, teaching, and entrepreneurship have common threads that propel my interests. What are your “common threads” and how do they move you?
As an arts entrepreneurship educator, I feel it is my job to help artists understand that their work can and should feed them both literally and figuratively. Haque’s idea of work that gives back to you, that has the potential to nurture your body and mind, is analogous to the ouroboros concept central to my next big writing project. The work we do should be generative and regenerative simultaneously.
Finally, Haque suggests we should do work that loves others. I was reminded, as I got to this third leg, of the “Good Work” concept developed by Howard Gardner, William Damon, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Good Work” is work that is excellent, ethical, and impactful. Haque’s three-legged stool is analogous to theirs and, in its last leg, roughly synonymous. He advises people do: “What really cares for, nurtures, benefits people. What enhances, transforms, and changes their lives.” This last resonated specifically with the work of my past week on leadership and leadership values. If, as Denhardt and Denhardt write, “Leadership is about change, moving people in new directions, realizing a new vision, or simply doing things differently and better,” then we had best lead in a way that cares for, nurtures, and benefits people.
(Joseph Frank, Three-legged stool, c. 1928)
Something I’m beginning to see as problematic is telling people to do what they love. I know quite a few people who don’t know “what they love” and thus, feel lacking. They feel like something is wrong with them that they don’t know what “this” should look like. I’ve begun to wonder if my wording should be more a la Elizabeth Gilbert “follow your curiosity.” I like your word choice of art “Feeding them.” Yes, let’s be well fed by the things we explore and the work we do.