Follow Your Passion, Or Just Enjoy Life

In each moment we’re writing the story of our life based on the decisions we make, and a big part of that story revolves around the career path we choose. On that point, the sage wisdom of the 21st century is to follow your passion. Which, by definition, implies that everyone has a passion to follow. But in my experience, that’s not always the case.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of business leaders, entrepreneurs, professors, veterans and students, developing personal stories that include such career-based decisions, and the driving forces behind those choices.

The word passion does come up during these conversations, but not in the way one might expect. As it turns out, life decisions – both personal and career related – involve a complex medley of intellectual and emotional threads coursing through hearts and minds, often in a most confusing and perplexing pattern.

When the topic of passion does arise – I’ll overly simplify here for the sake of discussion – people tend to fall into one of three camps. They have too many passions, they have clarity on their one, true passion, or passion wasn’t a factor when determining their vocational path.

Breakingpic Black and White Headphones

Image by Breakingpic from Pexels

We’ve all met people who knew what they wanted to do from an early age. They fell in love with science while standing in the backyard watching the night sky, were captivated by art and carried a sketchpad everywhere they went, or they spent hours each evening incessantly practicing an instrument. Decades later they were still pursuing that one passion, as no other opportunity that crossed their path in the ensuing years had caused them to stray.

Alex Socha Doors Pixabay

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

For those with a handful of passions, life tends to be a blend of excitement and frustration. Too many pursuits with so few hours in each day. In some cases the choices are narrow in scope, such as which discipline to pursue within the field of neuroscience, but the options can also be quite diverse, such as whether to become a doctor or a ballerina.

Sometimes that journey leads to a major/minor relationship. A brilliant surgeon by day, and musician by night, a best-of-both-worlds sort of life, though it must be said this particular combination doesn’t work so well in reverse. Other times the choice is made, often for more practical reasons such as money, and there was no looking back.

Then we have the aimless souls without desire or direction, just stumbling through life. Or so the purpose pundits would have us believe. But when I ask these folks about passion, they smile, and say something like, “Don’t have one, have never needed one, I just enjoy my work.”

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Mark Twain

And that mindset can result in a string of jobs that, in many cases, cover a number of career paths which overlap, intersect, or build upon each other. The graphic designer that shifted to building websites and, ultimately, toward creating content which took them into social media. It’s not a matter of reaching a skill-based pinnacle, but rather a quest to explore and stretch.

Truth be told, I’m a proud member of this cohort. Looking back, I would have to say that my career path wasn’t a result of following a passion, but rather a series of opportunities, each of which offered the promise of learning, which is one thing I enjoy above most everything else.

I’ve enjoyed my corporate adventures in operations, information systems, marketing, and a CEO stint. And my days organizing TEDx events – despite the trials, travails and tribulations – were most enjoyable. The team members I worked with were incredible (I learned a lot from each of them) and there was nothing more gratifying than seeing speakers (and performers) take the stage to share, illuminate and delight audiences.

Mark Lovett backstage at TEDxSanDiego 2015

Backstage at TEDxSanDiego 2015

The thought of having pursued one of these avocations has an appeal, to be world-class in a specific discipline. To be at the top of my game, complete with all the industry adulation. But I would have lost out on the diversity of learning that I’ve enjoyed. The viewing of life from so many perspectives.

So if you have a passion that drives you, then dive in, go deep, and master your craft. But if professional passion is not your cup of tea, it’s okay to just enjoy what you do, and let it feed your passion for life. In the end, it will still be a story well told.

Storytelling Newsletter

Find Your Bliss, Your Passion, Your Ikigai

“Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell
“Follow your passion,” said everybody else on the planet

I’ve heard these phrases mentioned since I was born, or at least it feels like it’s been that long. So I find it interesting that millennials are, to a large degree, pushing back on this approach to life, and they have a point.

The point being, “how do I know what my bliss/passion is? and if I don’t know, how the hell can I follow it?”. Well said, and I know what they mean.

While most of my friends jumped from high school to college, then dove into their career the moment they graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school, which may explain why I found myself building helicopter landing pads in Augusta, Georgia at the age of 18, and why I’ve bounced from one discipline to another, from VP of Ops, to CIO, CMO and CEO in the decades that followed.

It’s only by looking back at this point in my life that I’ve come to see how I was, in fact, following my passion. But as it turns out, that passion was for learning, not for a specific career.

The reason I took on so many different roles was that I was fascinated by the process of acquiring new skills, of challenging my mind to discover procedures and processes as a way to understand how things worked.

And I see that same trait in a lot of millennials. They’re hungry for learning, and will jump from one job to the next, decide to become an entrepreneur, or adopt the life of a freelancer, rather than pursuing a “career”, as is often expected of them. New gets them excited.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the idea of bliss, or passion. It just means we should look at our life a bit differently, which is what I found myself doing as last year was coming to a close.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but as each new year comes around I do take some time to reflect on the last twelve months gone by, and the next twelve months on the horizon.

It was in the waning moments of 2017 that I discovered an article on Medium by Remo Giuffré. Remo is something of a savant when it comes to people, and in this post he talked about finding one’s purpose.

He brought forth a new term (well, new to me) to describe the intersection of many factors that lead to discovering our purpose – Ikigai. According to Wikipedia, Ikigai is a Japanese concept which means “a reason for being”, and according to Japanese culture, everyone has an Ikigai, though we often have to search for it.

Ikigai Toronto Star Graphic

I invite you, as I did, to take some time and examine this visual concept. I admit it’s a bit complicated, especially the empty sections surrounding your Ikigai, but I think you’ll come to realize that Ikigai is far more than passion – it’s service, it’s fulfillment, it’s the gift that only you can share with the world.

For me, it represents the work that I’m doing now, which is storytelling, by way of storylistening. Passion + Mission + Profession + Vocation. And it took decades to discover. So to those who buck the trend of being defined by their career, who have this unbridled thirst for knowledge, and experience, and service, you’re doing just fine. While some will find their Ikigai early on, don’t worry if it takes a lifetime to discover. Enjoy the ride, and remember that each day you’re writing your life story.

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Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Sharing Ideas in San Diego

Whenever I get an email from the San Diego Diplomacy Council, I know something interesting is afoot. In this case, it was a group of entrepreneurs with the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative coming to San Diego, and they wanted to know if I could develop a storytelling workshop for them. How could I possibly resist.

San Diego Diplomacy Council Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds linkages between younger leaders across the hemisphere and address the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering entrepreneurs and civil society leaders with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights and good governance in the hemisphere.

On October 20th I had the pleasure of meeting a dozen entrepreneurs from a dozen Latin America and Caribbean countries who had founded a dozen very cool companies, each with a different focus.

Aarón Bendfeldt, founder & executive director of Grønn (Guatemala)

Aarón Bendfeldt Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGrønn upcycles glass bottles collected from Guatemala City, then makes and sells new glasses, pots, vases, and other products, all handmade by local women.

He previously participated in SPOR, an exchange program between Guatemala and Norway. Aarón is studying Chemical Engineering at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.



Altagrace M. Maignan, founder of Belle Créole (Haiti)

Alatagrace Maignan Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBelle Créole is a micro-enterprise program that empowers people, particularly young women, who are living with HIV and AIDS to rise above their circumstances through learning a skill and creating and selling their work.

She serves as a Manager at Fondation Esther Boucicault Stanislas. Altagrace holds a Master’s Degree in medicine from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.


Andrea Baltodano, founder of Maracao Beachwear (Costa Rica)

Andrea Baltodano Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMaracao Beachwear designs swimwear that promotes women’s confidence and empowerment, while helping at-risk women from marginalized neighborhoods by offering ethical employment practices and fair wages to its employees.

Andrea holds an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Design from the Universidad Creativa of Costa Rica.



Carolina Ramos, founder & COO, Natural Pop (Ecuador)

Carolina Ramos Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeNatural Pop produces natural snacks out of local grains from Ecuador in order to provide affordable and healthy snacks to the local community.

Carolina has a degree in Food Engineering from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and attended graduate school for French and Social Skills at the Institute de la Providence de Herve in Belgium.



Christine Daley, founder of DoodleSurprize (Jamaica)

Christine Daley Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeDoodleSurprize provides monthly subscription activity boxes for children ages 4-12 in order to help kids discover themselves and their passion through art, crafts, and science.

Christine has previously worked in Accounting, Marketing, and Project Management at Digicel Jamaica, Zinergy International, and Black Ink Marketing.


Jau Ramírez, co-founder & president of Movimiento SOMOS (Venezuela)

Jau Ramírez Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMovimiento SOMOS is dedicated to defending the rights of LGBTQ people through legal counseling and legislative projects, as well as educational and cultural initiatives.

He also works as a Communications Coordinator for Grupo Social CESEAP, and has led communications trainings for a human rights program on the border of Colombia and Venezuela.


Junieth Machado, founder of Cousy (Nicaragua)

Junieth Machado Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCousy seeks to increase the self-esteem of housewives and single mothers by developing their business and communication skills. as well as inform women of their rights and train them on violence prevention.

Junieth previously worked for DeHumoTV as a journalist and producer, Imaginarte Films/Abre Tus Ojos as a trainer.


Miguel Ángeles, co-founder of CIRSYS (Peru)

Miguel Ángeles Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCIRSYS provides technological solutions to recycling and waste management with IRBin, a social robot that automatically classifies solid waste.

Miguel previously worked as a production manager at Corporación Ingelsa S.A.C. and as a junior project engineer at Gloria S.A.


Pedro Young Parietti, co-founder & GM of Huerta en Casa (Uruguay)

Pedro Young Parietti Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHuerta en Casa supports urban homeowners so that they can produce vegetables organically by providing all the tools necessary to start a home vegetable garden and advises on maintenance and production.

Pedro has previously worked at Estero S.A., a seed production company, where he managed the experimental field.


Roniel Guzmán Toribio, CEO of Hub Makerspace (Dominican Republic)

Roniel Guzmán Toribio Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHub Makerspace gives members access to workspaces, tools, and machinery – from sewing machines to 3D printers – allowing them to develop their projects and work with the guidance of mentors.

Roniel previously worked as a Project Manager at Domotics Dominicana, and he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo.


Shamiro Anita, founder & CEO of Bizness Success (Curaçao)

Shamiro Anita Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBizness Success provides growing businesses with help and services to expand, such as training, courses, software, and other tools.Before this, Shamiro worked at his family’s video store and eventually became the manager. He started his own fire safety, security, and automation contracting company in 2012. Shamiro holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Business Management and Organizational Control.


Stephanie Hong, co-founder of Garateá (Brazil)

Stephanie Hong Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGarateá tackles the inefficiency in emergency public services by empowering communities with first-aid training and certification, as well as alerting first-aid-qualified volunteers through an app, victims can be helped before ambulances arrive, even in rural communities. Stephanie is currently a Lawyer at Pinheiro Neto Advogados.


After going through the basics of personal storytelling, and a session on brand storytelling, many of the entrepreneurs got up and gave the audience a two minute overview of their company, and the ways in which their product or service would changes lives.

That’s the reward I get when working with entrepreneurs, especially from outside the United States – so passionate and dedicated – focused on the the critical issues that millions face in everyday life.

Hats off the the San Diego Diplomacy Council and the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative for allowing entrepreneurs to share ideas, wisdom, and best practices, across countries and continents.

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