How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

15 Questions

Duncan Hull - Flickr

Duncan Hull – Flickr

This list was borrowed from Tina Su’s blogpost which focuses on a purpose rather than passion seeking. I am merely using her method, if you want more methods like this I strongly suggest going to her blog.

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)

Films, good conversations over wine with friends, old stories, helping someone “get it” when they didn’t before, compliments, new experiences, getting to the summit of a mountain or hill and then enjoying the mad descent. Finding out how something works for the first time, having a moment of realization about the world we live in.

  1. What are your favourite things to do in the past? What about now?

In the past it was painting, role play games, Judo, guitar, travel, meeting strangers and talking. Now I am working so much at the school I have little time for hobbies, I guess I like to meet with friends, walk around town, meditation… I need to do more stuff now apparently.

  1. What activities make you lose track of time?

Debating people about subjects I feel are important, researching something, walking in the countryside, reading (or listening) to a good book.

  1. What makes you feel great about yourself?

Getting people to understand something they didn’t before, receiving praise from people about my work.

  1. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?

In my personal life I would say Kevin Carr; for his determination and perseverance to follow his dreams despite their enormity. Andrew Medlin; Who dedicated his life to his martial art and who constantly works to improve himself in whatever it he’s doing whether it be bartending or Computer Science. My brother, for his dedication to his writing and his lens like focus on his career.

In public life, Martin Luther King and  Mahatma Gandhi; both inspired entire movements that created great change and who did so with a completely non-violent approach. To peacefully inspire such a profound changes to the world they lived in constantly blows my mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Malcom Gladwell et al. Those writers who try and understand the human condition and try to see ways to improve it.

Neil Degrass Tyson, Steve Nye, David Attenborough et al; All the passionate scientists and researches who through their works have helped me learn a great deal about the world we live on and the universe we are just beginning to discover.

  1. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)

I would say I’m fairly good at explaining concepts using allegories, similes and metaphors; taking something complex and reframing it so it is more accessible. I am good at thinking up concepts and novel solutions to problems but I do need to work on actually seeing them through.  I also am a moderately good programmer, although I’m out of practice on that front. Oh and I’m very good at finding stuff quickly on the internet either to defend a position or find a solution I can find it if given a few minutes!

  1. What do people typically ask you for help in?

Computer problems, I generally can fix most issues. Many people now are starting to ask for my help in the domain of English and translation (scary stuff).

  1. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Hah! Trick question :), I already teach English!!

  1. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Well that’s 3 questions not one so I’ll answer each in turn.

  • Doing – I’d be disappointed if I didn’t visit more of the planet, I’d love to travel more and see the world, from South Africa all the way to Norway and likewise across the America’s, Asia and Australasia. I don’t have to see every mountain and tree but I want to end my days well travelled.
  • Being – A manager of my own company… I mean technically I am right now, but I’d like a permanent staff, a working business and a stable enterprise before I feel like a true manager. In fact more than some manager I’d like to be a leader of something bigger than me, I don’t just want to make a school, I want to make a movement that helps teach people.
  • Having – A family, whether mine or adopted, a nice cabin on a mountainside somewhere, where I can relax meditate read and contemplate.
  1. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.

That I have left something meaningful that can grow and help future generations become more than they were.  To have touched the lives of others in a meaningful way.

  1. What are your deepest values?

    Select 3 to 6 (See list of words to help you ) and prioritize the words in order of importance to you.

  • Variety
  • Curiosity
  • Respect
  • Inner Peace
  1. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?

No easy answers here, I struggled through University, I found my first job as a programmer and struggled to get to be good at that, I cycled around the south of Europe overcoming mountains, extreme heat, cold and wind. At the moment I am struggling to create a school here in France. How did I do these things? Mostly I’d like to say it was through determination, although it’s also because of massively supportive parents helping finance some of the more ludicrous things I’ve done. I’ve also been exceptionally lucky in all my endeavours, leaping into things without a plan has always been an issue and I need to do much better in the future in that regard.

  1. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?

I find very few causes I strongly connect with in the way you’re implying I like Sir Ken Robinson’s cause to change education to be much more centred around the individual learning than the current system allows. I like Ben Goldacre’s campaign to have all medical trials released to improve the medical system. Maybe I should get more involved in some kind of movement, in fact maybe that’s what I’m missing in life.

  1. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?

We need to do more for the future and not just focus on the immediacy of our lives. To paraphrase JFK

“Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world.”

His “Ask not” speech galvanised a nation, it made them put up with adversity, it took a nation and asked them to accept the difficulties and fears of the time and face them. I don’t think we need to completely lose our limited time here by doing everything for those that follow, but I do believe we need to seriously look at creating something that will last into the future with a net positive benefit to humanity.

  1. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? ( to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

I could help program, teach (English or Programming), help organisations notice bottle necks and re-organise or change established routines. I would happily go to impoverished regions and help people with maths, English and basic literacy.

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

So if you read my older post on passion being overrated then you’ll know I have embarked on a journey of self discovery to find my why, my raison d’être and not necessarily a particular activity that I enjoy but the reason behind my motivations. I followed that up with Daniel Priestley’s “themed rant“, now I’m taking some advice from @Miss_Georgette who said mind mapping and brainstorming might help.

Apparently I can't decide between capitals and lowercase

Some things about me

While currently this doesn’t say too much about me it’s a start, the idea is to look for common themes or threads, brainstorming just the basics about me gives me a reference I can work from. I am also presently listening to the book So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport. It talks about cultivating career capital and a craftsman mindset. In fact it’s the complete antithesis of the passion mindset that I doubted in my first post.

While I like the alternative look I think it’s a little severe in the opposite direction. Think I’ll continue sketching and mind-mapping new thoughts as time goes on. Either way I am feeling very motivated at the moment!

How to find your purpose (attempt 1)

How to find your purpose (attempt 1)

So if you read my last post on passion being overrated then you’ll know I have embarked on a journey of self discovery to find my why, my raison d’être and not necessarily a particular activity that I enjoy but the reason behind my motivations.

The Daniel Priestley rant method

I have just listened to the Entrepreneur Revolution, 3 times… It’s partly what made me start this process in the first place. All that aside you should really read the book itself to get a good sense of all that he talks about.

In the book Daniel says that while he believes peoples passions are important, they are not enough. His theory is that our ‘theme’ is usually hard to articulate and can be better expressed as a diatribe or rant on something we feel strongly about. By doing this we can start to grasp our motivations and inherent interests.

Rather than pontificate about the book (seriously, read it, if you have any interest in being a self governed entrepreneur it’s a must) I’ll just give you the phrases he suggests you use to start your rant, and then I’ll attempt it.

Discovering Your Theme

  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the the intersection of _______ and _______

  2. I deeply believe that the world needs _______

  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______

  1. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and / with _______

So there you go! Try them yourself, you needn’t read on to see my rants but I have found the experience very revealing, so I strongly suggest it to everyone.

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the the intersection of society and  technology.

What I mean to say is that technology and the development of systems like genetics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics are moving at such a pace that they are quickly entrenching themselves into every aspect of our lives. The technical push that is happening today is faster than at any point in history.

The exponential growth of computers, the increased understanding of our genetics and the innovations of electrical engineers are converging in ways that their inventors and discoverers could never have predicted. The future has always inspired me and for much of my youth I was both entranced by the future technologies and the progress mankind has made, conversely I am also extremely fascinated by our history as well. I think that there are elements of our history that need to be reinvigorated or cut away if we are to step into this future with our eyes open and focussed.

The technological progress in the world is far outstripping our economic and social development, fundamental changes to the way data, economics and global business are practised are not being utilized effectively at a society or governmental level because people either don’t see it coming, fear the change it may bring or don’t know how best to apply the changes.

On the social side, peoples entire social framework is changing due to the internet, people are shedding privacy and embracing openness, fun childhood antics, once online, stay there, forever. People have more information, more data, more inputs than ever before but we still use an archaic method of education that punishes people for doing things we reward in the real world (think about copying, collaborating, finding the answers online, getting someone smarter than you to do it for a reward).

People need to realise how different the world we live in will be, not in 1000 years but in 10 – 30 years time. Any child born today will be at a career age by 2032. If you think you know what life will be like at that date I would say your either a prophet or deeply misled.

I deeply believe that world needs to better prepare people for life now and the future.

People living now need to embrace the technology we have invented to help reinvent the systems that are entrenched in our social, business and political models. We also need to educate and inspire people to reach their potential in this world.

Education is not, as many people believe,  a preparation for life. Public education holds a minimal amount of vocational skills. Academic focus, and subject preference has lead to a hierarchy of importance for different subjects, it also highly compartmentalizes them removing the myriad ways you can relate to and understand the topic. For someone far more eloquent than I to explain things you should watch this video by Sir Ken Robinson:


In fact I would say read and watch everything he does, he speaks fantastically well and he nails the fundamental problem of how we treat education, what the problems are, and why it needs to change.

I especially agree with him that we need to realise that the fundamentals of any education are not any particular group of superior subjects or disciplines, the fundamentals of education are the purpose for which we do this. Until everyone can talk about exactly what the purpose(s) of public mass education are, it is almost meaningless to talk about the hows, the whats, means and processes required to reach the desired result.

I believe we need to teach people learning strategies and methodologies, techniques to find data and analyse the validity of what we find, we need to stop trying to have people memorize the order of the kings and queens of England and start having them take apart why wars started in the past and how democracies have formed. We need to teach kids and adults alike to be adaptable, note opportunities and use every mental resource they have to approach the world around them.

Never in the history of the human race have we had access to more opulence and information than we do now, and those lucky few of us born into this life need to educate each other and our children to use this opportunity to our fullest possible potential.

Never in history has there been a better time for reinventing and restructuring the societies and organisations we live and work in.

Whether we are talking about archaic paper based governing systems, cultural ideas that have become like bloated ethical appendices, or ageing computer software and technology  that are used simply because they have always been there and they work.  I have seen COBOL programs running in international finance institutions, I have seen thousands of pounds worth of stock sitting in warehouses and unused behind desks, simply because people ignored the problem for so long that a minor inconvenience earlier have expanded outward like a malignant tumour.

Think of it like the cables behind your TV, when was the last time dared look there, I imagine you haven’t because there is no longer a neatly organised set of leads but a spaghetti junction of interlacing confusion. The dirt under your couch the disorganized closet or bathroom draw full to the brim of various accumulated junk are typical examples of things that need to be organised. While these examples are minor inconveniences at best, the problem is that human nature does not end at the individual, companies, multinationals and even whole countries are riddled with similar issues.

Left to fester these problems can and have caused disaster. From ageing computer systems opening the companies to cyber attacks to entrenched systems of education that no longer reflect the actual needs of society. I believe it is necessary for companies and governments to look internally and seek new radical forms of change that will make processes and systems faster, more effective, clearer and more empowering for the people who interact with them.

My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix traditional or established ideas with unfamiliar or unusual settings.

This really has just emerged as I’ve been writing the above but I have always liked putting things in unfamiliar settings or roles. To go way back in time, when I was at university and before I used to be into RPG’s. Yes I know it’s hard to believe that someone as nerdy as I was once even geekier and yet, here we are.

The reason I mention them isn’t because of the games per se. I still have fond memories of my friends and I battling beasties and solving convoluted issues. It’s the fact I made my own. Not just settings and scenarios from a 2000AD like future to a fantasy land set in the modern era. But I also created all the rules, cultures and tried to move away from the established settings that dominated the genres at the time.

For just an example I created a fantasy setting seething with problems of inter-cultural and inter-species unrest, I wanted to put all the tropes of fantasy into the setting but in the wrong order. The orcs (famous from Lord of the Rings) ended up being a sage, tribal species that communed with nature and were more akin to monks or Native Americans than their typical violent incarnations. By contrast the Elves were a complete product of survivalist  mentality, completely warlike and somewhere between a predator and a hostile hive mentality like killer bee’s.

Ollllld artwork, back when I could still draw. I must return to this level again. Based on Cat skull.

My design for an Orc for one of my settings.

Fear not I won’t bore you with all my games, monsters and systems, of which there were far too many, but it does illustrate me trying to put things we know or are accustomed to in different perspectives, tinkering with combing  different ideas to make something fresh. It also had me designing and testing new rule systems to try and find new and ways to simulate real life in game play.

In a more recent creative enterprise I started my thoughts about how a kibbutz like community or monastic group based upon science, reason and technology could work. I spent literally hours of time on buses writing Exploration I. I am still writing up that thought experiment now and will probably continue with it along with other thoughts about how communities can function.

I have similar views on education, take for example the grading system that exists presently in schools. The idea of grading implies a scale of which there are numerous levels. In the European languages there 6 official levels based on the CEFR. In the UK the music exams are graded from 1 to 8, with Grade 1 being the entry level, and Grade 8 being the standard required for entry to higher study in a music college. Different courses at GCSE and A-Level are marked from A* – G, another 7 levels, although anything below C is considered largely irrelevant, the same can be said for Degrees 1st with honours – pass, so we can say in total between GCSE and a PHd there are 5 qualification GCSE, A-Level, Degree, Masters, Doctorate. But each grade is not a continuous line and each one is considered a separate mark in comparison to the others.

If however one compares this to the usage of Japanese Kyū and Dan grades in martial arts and sports, you find the levels extend over a much larger bigger scale. From 10 Kyū – 1 Kyū where you learn the basics and then from 1st Dan – 10th Dan where you attempt to perfect them. This is a whopping 20 nuanced levels from absolute beginner to someone considered the world class expert (as decided by a council of their peers). That would mean 10th Kyū would be the kid starting science classes at 10 years old and Stephen Hawkins being 10th Dan.

Why is this important? Because while the traditional belt and grade system of Japan is archaic it shoes a much more nuanced appreciation of evolution than the western grading system. Imagine I take a year of mathematics A-level (ages 16-18 in the UK) but after a year and a half I get ill and can’t continue. By all official standards I have learned nothing, no qualification = no level. But we know that’s not the case, I would have studied quadratics, functions, vectors, integration e.t.c. I should have elevated my grade from before. A consistent clear and unbroken elevation of levels in a subject until you reach higher education (Dan) and specialise, just seems to make more sense than testing people nationally once every 2-4 years.

In such a system there would be constant assessment by local bodies on specific skills, you could imagine if not a belt system a scout badge system that states I have mastered ‘Trigonometry’ in the same way that the Scout badges proudly proclaim I have mastered ‘Fire building’. On that note why not have a

Rant accomplished, now it’s your turn

Wow, that was interesting! I don’t know how Daniel Priestley thought of this method but it works. I feel I could have written for a lot longer on those topics I think I’ll write about them in a book for now, I don’t want to fill my blog with every random musing.

Certainly given me a lot to consider. I’ll try some other methods over the coming weeks anyway to see what more I can dredge up.

If you do a rant of your own then tell me in the comments! I’d be interested to read it!

How to find your passion? Or Not…

There seems to be an obsessive refrain on the Internet these days that you have to find your passion, DWYL (Do What You Love), find your purpose, be in your element. With everyone apparently having the capacity to be rich, happy and fulfilled if you can just do find your personal sweet spot.

This sounds, to many of us, fantastic. I know I would greatly appreciate a sense of flow in everything I do, a purpose to my life, a passion that kept me focussed on a particular aim in the future.

I am also pretty sure that the excessive claims of many book writers and pundits are somewhat fanciful. Having said that, I can admit that they are correct, in so much as that if you can find your passion/element/purpose you can, if determined and persevering enough, turn it into a career. That’s not to say that I believe that all those passions can be turned into a fantastic million dollar money trees but I think they can turn into an important part of your life that means you can live while  doing what you love rather than wasting your time doing something you hate. What more can you ask from life?

Some people are even more sceptical about the “passion” industry Goals are for Losers. Passion is Overrated I have to say I have a lot of sympathy to what Scott says.  Passion is, by itself, not enough, lots of people are passionate and fail, lots of business have a good idea and collapse in ruin. There is a heavy dose of perseverance and as he puts it, investment in systems, that are required for success. But let’s go a step further than that, what if passion is really important, but there’s a big problem …

What if I don’t even have a passion?!

Worse than the potential overly optimistic yodelling of the successful few is a nagging fact, I’m not even sure I  have a passion for something, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy things, I love my job, I love a lot of activities but they don’t really constitute the overriding passion that seems to be necessary to call them something that drives my life.

More to the point  I don’t think I’m alone in this regard, many people say the same thing, there’s a whole set of questions on asking exactly that question. It is a question blossoming on all our entrepreneurial  lips, “how can I find my passion / element / positive synonym”. Are we the dysfunctional few, do we have a hole in our heads or heart where our passion should be? What kind of people are we, how can we achieve all this greatness promised to us when we are missing such a fundamentally important component.

Seek and ye shall find

The current way of thinking seems to be that we must find and try out every possible experience to  something that ignites our passion whether it be cooking or SCUBA diving, cycle touring or zoology, brainstorming, talking to people, searching the internet, thinking of what we dream and have dreamt of and more. It’s like we have to blindly sniff out from the world around us what we find entrancing and captivating. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate this activity, and there is nothing wrong with, trying everything available to us in life, it is not only fascinating but it gives us the chance to really experience life rather than let it slide past.

But it is only recently that I have come to an slow realisation that our ‘passion’ might not really be what we are searching for. Or rather our passion might not be as simple as an activity that we can undertake. In Daniel Priestley’s book Entrepreneur revolution he talks about passion a lot but he gets it slightly closer by saying that it is hard to articulate and not just an activity.


“so that the real frustration people have is that they’re expecting passion to hit them like it’s this clarity or clear bolt of lightning, or this hundred percent sentence that says ‘Oh, now I’ve discovered my passion’.”  – Daniel Priestley (2013)

In Simon Sinek’s book Start with why I think he made an important distinction for businesses and individuals when he said you have to start with why and that the outputs in our life or business are merely different ways we manifest our inner belief or purpose.


But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?” – Simon Sinek (2009)

I think both writers have the same idea, articulated differently, furthermore, it explains why people like me are finding it difficult to find the activity we are passionate about, because we’re framing it all wrong. It’s not right for us to ask “What is my passion?” but we should rather be asking “What is it that makes me do the things I enjoy?”

It’s not what we do, it’s what motivates us

I think this is so key, that I’m going to reiterate it. People undertaking a quest to discover their particular ‘passion’ are, for the most part, asking it in the wrong way. All our activities, all the things that make us get up in the morning, are just the whats and hows for our personal why.

People are searching for passion in the activities that we perform or hobbies that we enjoy. We get disheartened when something we like doesn’t constitute the all consuming passion that we think should be there. We are thinking as Daniel Priestley stated above, that there should be one clear and concise answer to a very complicated question.

We are looking for a simple answer, there are no simple answers for something as important as your life purpose. If it were so simple we wouldn’t need to search for it.

So why the confusion? I think partly it’s semantics, people who are successful have usually found a way to turn their purpose into a tangible activity that produces money. Some people point to artists, dancers and musicians who have found their element.  I can’t deny these people have achieved considerable success in what they do. I think though that these creative or business outlets are only part of the picture.

Many successful people are lucky enough to be passionate about a very particular activity, Olympians, world class magicians, Nobel prize winners, business men and women know why they get up in the morning, because they love what they do. It’s their raison d’être it’s not only their why but fortunately for them it’s a very clear activity as well. If you really are passionate about a hobby or activity it’s likely you already know it and do it every moment that you aren’t working already.

So where do we go from here?

I’m on a mission to find my purpose, my why, the reason I get up in the morning, not just some activities I enjoy but the reason behind the activities.

So for the next few weeks I’ll find methods, exercises and methods to help discover those things, post them here along with my review as to how they worked.

If you know of any methods to find your purpose or passion which focus on the why and NOT the activities let me know in the comments below and I promise I’ll try them out too :).