What To Do When You Don't Know Your Purpose

Jennie here.

When I was younger, my dad used to tell me something that’s stuck with me ever since.

"Life’s not about passion,” he would say. “It’s about providing for your family and then making sure your kids have a better life than you do."

From that moment on, I let go of any notion that I could be an artist.

 

Prosperity vs. Purpose

I understand the mindset of my parent’s generation. As refugees from the Vietnam War, merely surviving in America was a daily struggle. I remember when I was younger, my mom waking me up at five in the morning and dropping me and my siblings off at my grandmother’s house on her way to a sixteen hour shift at a jewelry manufacturer. My dad worked the late night shift at a factory which meant he and mom would never see each other during the week.

Who had time for passion when you could barely make ends meet?

Poverty locks you into a mindset of scarcity, into thinking that because money rules over your life, there will never come a time when you’ll have enough.  

But that’s simply no longer my reality today. In a sense, my parents have already done their part. I’m living better than they ever could’ve imagined.

So now what? What’s my job? How do I make sure my (hypothetical) kids have a better life than I do?

What does “a better life” even mean? Does it mean if I end up making half a million per year, that I should make sure my kids make a million? Is that all there is to it?

Of course not. It turns out that my dad was only half right.

Yes, it’s important to take care of your essentials, to pay your bills and put food on the table, but life IS about passion. Passion is actually the whole point. What most people miss is that everything which comes before is just preparation for it.

A better life to me means having a purpose, and a purpose means having the freedom to dream.

 

Next Steps: searching for my purpose

With our round the world trip departure date slowly creeping up on us, I’m beginning to wonder…

What do I want my path to be over the next few years and what are the steps I need to take today to get there?

In a year from now, I technically don’t have to work because of our extensive financial planning and savings goals. Now I have to reassess what my life after my current job will look like. And that’s a strange feeling and place to be in because I’ve had a job in some shape or form ever since I was 15 years old. The thought of becoming stagnant and simply depleting our savings is not my idea of a good time. If I’m giving up a steady paycheck, then I’d best be working towards something of real value to me.

Prior to L.A., I thought that being a well-rounded person meant having a healthy social life with several close friends, being intelligent (enough), financially independent, and occasionally introspective. Now in L.A., with no friends and no distractions -- I came to the realization that there was creative void that had been largely tossed aside in my life/identity for the past decade.

I had been living my life by father’s words instead of defining my own rules and conclusions.

So what does this mean for me?

  • I need to find a new purpose after the 9-to-5 life that will make me happy.

  • I need to start developing skills that I want to explore, not out of necessity or survival.

I’ve reached a point where I can stop being so practical and start finding more ways to fail.

 

Courage To Start Over

I didn’t think I’d say this but in an effort to re-vamp and rediscover old and new passions, I’ve started the learning process all over again. Things I’ve been recently exploring include drawing, painting, filming/video editing, and photography. Oh, and I’ve also started running as well -- mainly to hedge against my growing physical complacency in a car-crazy city.

Yup, this is me, Jennie. I enjoy getting back to the basics and pursuing the creative void that I've left untended for over a decade. I'm not an artist but that's okay. We've all got to start somewhere.

Yup, this is me, Jennie. I enjoy getting back to the basics and pursuing the creative void that I've left untended for over a decade. I'm not an artist but that's okay. We've all got to start somewhere.

Fortunately, I’m leveraging every tool at my disposal including:

  • Free classes all over YouTube

  • Inspiration from those younger (and older) than myself

  • Signed up for 3 months of (again, free) classes on Skillshare.

 

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Life / Just Do It

In the end, it doesn’t matter how much I learn if I don’t actually do something about what I want. So, little by little, I am start working on what my engineering coworkers would call a MVP (minimum viable product). I need to start building by creating the cupcake and slowly work my way to a full cake.

The idea of “starting with a cupcake” is metaphor for how product managers at Intercom approach scope. Source: The Inside Intercom Podcast

The idea of “starting with a cupcake” is metaphor for how product managers at Intercom approach scope. Source: The Inside Intercom Podcast

Just like running, I need to start small.

Step 0. Stop the bitching.

Step 1. Commit to waking up and getting dressed on “running” days.

Step 2. Run (or slow jog) for as long as my weak mental and physical state can handle.

Step 3. Finish, even if it’s not that great.

Step 4. Slowly, iterate.

What will happen next? I’m not 100% certain, but I do know that I can’t squander this window of opportunity.

A purpose is too precious a thing to waste.