When the prolific song-writer Jimmy Webb was 14, the very first single he bought was by Glen Campbell. He describes how he played the record so much that eventually it wore out and he had to buy another copy. He also describes how he dreamed that one day he’d write a song for Glen Campbell. A decade later he famously wrote Wichita Lineman which Glen Campbell recorded.
Jacqueline du Pre was only four years old when she heard a cello being played for the first time. She told her mother that she wanted ‘one of those…’ and went on to become one of the most celebrated cellists of her generation.
When we’re very young we do what we instinctively love to do. We haven’t yet been influenced and moulded by societal norms or persuaded that we should take a different course by pressure from others. During my career as a coach I’ve worked with many clients who knew what they were passionate about, but had drifted into other careers, or given in to pressure from family, peers or teachers to take a different path. As a result they were absolutely miserable.
In his excellent book Screw Work Let’s Play, John Williams makes much of the fact that to be happy in our work we need to reconnect with the things we love to do and that we’re passionate about — these tend to be things we’re naturally good at — and that if we can find a way to make money from doing them, then we’ve hit the mother lode.
Looking back to our childhood can often give us valuable insights into what will make us happy. I recall working with a client many years ago who had found significant success as a senior finance officer in a big company. She had gone into accountancy, against her better judgement, and when she reflected on what she’d loved doing as a child she remembered the happy hours she had spent in the garden, making things with wood. That was all it took. She devised an exit strategy from her job and retrained as a furniture maker.
Thinking back to your early years, what did you love to do? Or, thinking about your life now, which activities do you get so wrapped up in that you completely lose track of time?
There are other ways to connect with your passions. One of my favourite exercises from Screw Work Let’s Play is the Year Out Exercise. Imagine that you could take a year off with as much money as you’d ever need. What would you choose to do with your time? Yes, you’d probably take some time out to have a holiday or chill out for a while, but what would you do after that? Your answers could hold valuable clues about where your passions and purpose lie.
A few months ago I heard an interview with Steve Coogan. He said that when he was a child he remembered watching Fawlty Towers and wishing that he could create a character as loved as Basil Fawlty…
Have you turned your back on your true passions in life? The things that make your heart sing? Or is now the time for you to release your Alan Partridge..?!