“You know, you’ve been talking a lot about doing what you love doing, but what if someone doesn’t know what they love doing? What do they do then?”
Alan looked at Jake for a few seconds, thinking about what the younger man had just asked him. “Yeh, that’s a good question. If you’ve never really thought about it, I can see how it’d be a tough question to answer.”
Jake nodded. “There’s a saying that’s often thrown around: ‘If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you choose to do?’ Once you’ve thought about that, you’re supposed to go out and do it. It’s all very well to say that, but those of us that have to think about that NEED to worry about money.”
“I know,” Alan replied. “It’s because you DO need to worry about money that stops you from taking that giant leap of faith to do what you love.”
“Exactly,” Jake said.
Alan continued. “And because you’re worrying about money so much, you’ve never got the time to even THINK about what you love doing, ’cause you’re working too hard to make money!”
Jake smiled as Alan started getting excited about what he was saying. “Yeh, so… what’s the solution?”
“Well, one of the important things you need to do,” Alan said, “is find what you love doing that can actually make you money at the same time, so that you don’t have to worry about it.”
“You know that’s easier said than done,” Jake replied, frowning.
“I know,” Alan said, smiling. “Most people are working their butts off doing stuff they hate doing. They’re trapped, stuck in a job that’s going nowhere, just to make ends meet. They’re on this treadmill that has them working hard going nowhere and they’re too afraid to jump off it, because at least it’s giving them the money they need to stay afloat. How can they worry about doing what they love when all they see is the treadmill?”
He paused as he sat back, thinking about it. “I do know what you’re saying. I think it was Thoreau who said, ‘leading lives of quiet desperation’. I think it’s really sad that they they’re too afraid to do anything about it.”
“Afraid?” Jake asked. “Of what?”
“Well, afraid of losing their income, for a start,” Alan replied. “They’ve got a lifestyle to maintain, bills to pay, families to take care of. Imagine the problems they’d have if they lost their income! It’s FEAR that stops people even considering doing what they love, including the fear of what other people might think of them for doing something that might be so crazy and foolhardy.”
“So what do you think they need to do?” Jake asked.
“Well, the reasons they’re not doing anything is because they don’t know what they love doing, and they’re afraid of doing anything in case it doesn’t work out. The fear of failure, that the risk is not worth the reward, all of that. But if they can work out what they really love doing, then that’s a good start to overcoming the fear. Fear of the unknown disappears when the unknown becomes the known.”
Jake nodded, thinking about what Alan said. “But you still haven’t said anything about how they can find what they love to do.”
Chuckling, Alan nodded. “First, let me ask you something. Do you know what you love doing?”
“No, not really,” Jake said.
“Do you want to know?”
“Of course I do! Why do you think I’m talking to you about it?”
“I’m only asking,” Alan said, smiling. “There’s no point in understanding how to do something if you’re not actually going to do anything about it. You have to be prepared to actually get off your butt and do something, especially if you know what you need to do.”
“And you know what we need to do?”
“Well, I think so, but I believe we already know what we need to do. We just don’t do it. As someone once said to me, ‘You might know what to do, but do you do what you know?’ Most people don’t do what they know. They get caught up in the act of procrastination due to fear, and then before they know it, life’s over.”
“Yeh, and that’s what I don’t want. I’m too young to waste my life being afraid of the unknown! I want to do what I love, but I haven’t had the time to try and find out what it is I love.”
“Well, that’s where I disagree with you,” Alan said. “We all have the time to do whatever we want, we just don’t take the time to do what’s really important for ourselves. We have time to watch tv, go to sporting events, read the paper, talk for hours on the phone, play games on our computers, go nightclubbing and getting drunk, and all kinds of other things. People are wasting their life doing things that don’t matter!
“I really get frustrated seeing people wasting their lives doing things that aren’t important. And I know I’m not that much different either, which also frustrates me. For me, I know what to do but I don’t often do what I know. Not as much as I want to, at least. I want to do more of it.”
“More of what?” Jake asked, still trying to get to the bottom of it all.
“More of spending time with myself,” Alan replied. “I want to meditate more, think more, write more, focus more on myself and my life.”
“And that’s the secret to learning what you love doing?”
“Sort of. It’s a start. Even though you need to spend more time with yourself, there’s a strategy you need to apply to learn what you love doing.”
“And that is?” Jake asked.
Alan got up from the couch and moved over to his desk, grabbing a notepad and a pen. He brought it back and, as he sat back down again, put the notepad on the coffee table between him and Jake. He then drew a line down the centre of the page, splitting it into two columns. At the top of the first column he wrote ‘SKILLS’, and at the top of the second column he wrote ‘INTERESTS’. He turned it around and passed the pad and pen to Jake.
“Here you go,” he said, explaining to Jake what was required. “In the skills column you write down all the skills you’ve got. I mean ALL of them. Go back to your childhood and include the skills you had then, and work your way through to the new skills you have today.”
“But I know all of them,” Jake said, interrupting. “They’re in my head already, I know what my skills are.”
“Sure, but there’s a lot from our past that’s stored away in the old filing cabinets of our mind,” Alan explained, smiling at his analogy. “As you write things down, you’re shuffling through those file cabinets, remembering the skills you used to have. It’s amazing what you can dig up as you remember things that were forgotten ’cause they’ve been stored away for so long.”
“What kind of skills should I write down?” Jake asked, thinking.
“Everything,” Alan said loudly. “Everything you ever did! I don’t care if it includes how good you were at blowing bubbles with your spit. You can include everything you did, like computing, biology, basketball, plays, football, magic tricks, anything. Don’t stop with just your childhood though, I’m just suggesting where you can start. Move forward and write down all the skills that you’ve learned over the course of your life. Driving, handling money, using a rifle, fixing computers, making web pages, helping people with something, like being a teacher. You have to write down everything. All of the skills you’ve ever had and have today. Use up lots of pages if it takes that many. Include the skills gained from jobs over the years, anything.”
“And I guess I do the same with interests?”
“That’s right. Interests aren’t necessarily skills, although skills often come from doing things we’re interested in. Interests are those things you’ve been interested in, whether it’s insects or spiders, sports, shoes, babysitting or kids in general, fishing, martial arts, movies, can openers.”
“Can openers?” Jake asked, looking up from the notepad.
“Yeh, I knew someone once who collected can openers. That was something that interested them.”
“Ok,” Jake said, sounding dubious. “And what’s the purpose of all this?”
“Well, believe it or not, doing this is spending time with yourself, and helping you find what you love doing. It’s better to do it by yourself though, in a place that’s quiet and where you won’t be distracted.” He got up and turned off his phone, ensuring they wouldn’t be interrupted. “Whatever you love doing has to be leveraged from something that you’re skilled at.” Alan sat back, watching Jake start writing. “By writing down all your skills and your interests, you’re not just remembering the things that you have skills and interests in – you’re allowing yourself to see connections between them that you might never have seen before. You can see them on paper, and they can inspire new thoughts in you.”
He thought for a moment, and then continued. “Also, when we’re kids, we have great ideas about what we’d love to do when we grow up, but once we’ve grown up we forget what we wanted to do. The passion that existed in us when we were kids, when we didn’t have any worries in the world, if we can remember some of that it can be a major influence at helping us work out what we want to do today.”
“Ok, I get it,” Jake said, beginning to get interested in what he was writing down. “Hey, can I have a drink?” he asked.
“Sure,”Alan said, standing up and heading to the kitchen. “Beer or juice?” he asked.
“Beer will do,” Jake said, still writing. “Thanks,” he said when the beer was put in front of him. He kept writing. Alan sat back, smiling, and looking out the window.
“Why don’t people do this?” Jake asked after a few minutes. “It’s pretty easy…”
“I know,” Alan said. “They spend a lot of time doing their taxes, cooking, watching movies, reading, getting drunk…. but when it comes to their own personal future, they never have any time for that.” He looked back from the window to Jake again. “Really, what’s more important? TV or your future?”
“That’s a stupid question,” Jake replied, not looking up.
“Maybe you could explain why it’s stupid to everyone that thinks it’s more important to watch TV,” Alan said.
“I get your point,” Jake said, continuing his writing.
While Alan waited for Jake to finish, or at least pause, he sipped at the beer he’d gotten for himself. He was watching what Jake was doing, amusing himself by trying to read Jake’s writing upside down. Deciding to do something productive, he went to his computer to do some writing of his own.
After a while Jake called out that he was finished. Alan was washing the dishes by this time, both of them having finished the dinner he’d ended up cooking.
“Ok, I’ve finished,” Jake said. “Now what?”
“Now’s the interesting part,” Alan said, sitting back down again. “Now you have to ask yourself a very simple question. WHAT WOULD YOU LOVE TO DO ON A DAILY BASIS, USING BOTH YOUR SKILLS AND YOUR INTERESTS, THAT WILL PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT VALUE FOR POEPLE.”
“Alright, no need to yell it,” Jake complained, rubbing his ears.
“Sorry, I get excited about these things,” Alan said, smiling. He went on to explain. “When you include the value part to the question, that’ll inspire you to find a way to make money doing what you love.”
“Hey, I think I get it!” Jake exclaimed, almost jumping up and down while seated on the couch. “When you think about how you can add value to people’s lives with your skills and interests, you can discard all those skills and interests you’ve written down that don’t add value!”
“That’s right,” Alan said, nodding. “You can do that. So you can probably cross out that you like watching tv and that you love video games… But that’s just another step in the process. The next thing you have to do is get another bit of paper and write down some answers to that question.”
“What was the question again?” Jake said, looking up. Alan sighed.
“Write it down, ok? So you don’t forget it again – what would you love to do on a daily basis, using your skills and interests, that inspire you to find ways to make money doing what you love.”
Jake nodded and grinned as he wrote it down, and then he started writing various thoughts that were coming to him.
“A lot of people think so much about how to make money,” Alan continued,”they fail to realise that money is simply a side effect of adding value to people’s lives in the form of a product or service. When you know how you can add value doing what you love to do, you’ll know how to get money.”
“What about if an answer is stupid?” Jake asked, looking at his list.
“It doesn’t matter. The stupidest ideas could lead to the most amazing answers.” Alan paused for a moment as he thought about something. “Which reminds me of a story I read some time ago. A town with a ski resort attracted a lot of tourists. But when it snowed a lot, the snow would collect on the power cables, until the weight collapsed the cables and resulted in several power outages. The tourists eventually stopped coming, so the town had a meeting to work out how to solve the problem. Solutions were thrown about for a while until someone yelled out, ‘Let’s hang pots of honey on the cables so that bears will climb up, and the movement will shake the snow loose.’ Someone else thought that was stupid, as they wouldn’t be able to refill the pots of honey. Someone else suggested using a helicopter to refill the honey pots, and then suddenly they realised that they could use the helicopter to blow the snow off the cables with its rotors….”
“So what you’re saying,” Jake said, “is that one stupid idea can lead to another stupid idea, which could lead to the answer you’re actually looking for?”
“That’s right, and you’d never get there if you never wrote down all those skills and interests to see where you can take advantage of what you know and love, to make money from it by adding value to other people.”
“Gotcha,” Jake said. “But how will I know which of my ideas is what I really love to do?”
“Good question. You have to feel it. When you look at it on paper, and when you feel what it would be like to be doing it, how does it feel? Does it feel good? Does it feel right to you? Would you be able to talk about it for ages, to anyone that might be interested – and even those that aren’t? You have to have absolutely no reservations about it. You have to know that, against everything that seems logical, this is it.”
He paused at that moment, because he could see that Jake was crying as he was looking at his list. He smiled and said, “And if you can cry about it, then you know you’ve found it.”
He stood up and got some tissues for Jake, then waited for Jake to regain his composure.
“I’m looking at this,” Jake said, pointing at his sheet of paper, his voice still a bit emotional, “and I can already see how I can make money from it. And it’s something I’d just absolutely love to do, and I can’t believe I never thought of it before!”
Alan nodded. “And if you want to find more ways of making money from it, just go through those steps again. Your skills and interests, then ask yourself the question of how you can use those skills and interests to provide value to others. The more you do it, the more you’ll find.”
Jake nodded, his eyes still a bit red. “This is pretty amazing stuff. I take it you’ve done it as well?”
Alan nodded. “I’m doing what I love to do – helping people grow, and think a bit more about themselves and their lives and how they can find ways of improving things for themselves. It’s what drives me every day.” He smiled at Jake. “I’m yet to make a lot of money from it, but I know this is just the beginning. Opportunities make their way to me, and the more I do what I love, the more it will reward me, in so many different ways.”
Standing up, Jake went over to Alan, who stood up as well. Without saying anything, Jake hugged him, and silently they stood there, arms around each other as they shared Jake’s special moment. It was moments like these, Alan thought, that made it worth so much more than money.
“Thank you,” said Jake, stepping back.
“Don’t thank me,” Alan grinned. “Thank yourself. You found what you love to do. Now go out and do it.”
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