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On Being an Expert and Following your Passion

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

About a year ago, at my last job interview, I was asked describe what I am an expert in. I gave a really bad answer, which probably cost me that job, and to this day I still think about that question. Until just the other day, I did not have an answer. I was chatting with a friend and she mentioned how her accountant or insurance guy told her that he works with people all the time that are starting businesses related to their passion. From how she described it the dude was scoffing at the idea. Of course he was, he is an account or insurance guy.(That’s a whole different blog). Regardless, I know it made my friend question herself and her business and our conversation led to me questioning myself and Tribe Retreats.

It seems to me that asking someone what they are an expert at is like asking someone what they are passionate about. Besides both questions making you feel like a failure when you don’t have a great and immediate response, they go together like a marriage of words that are lost without each other. For example, my brother in law is a pilot. He worked towards being a pilot since he was a little kid and is now a Captain on a major airline. He makes good money, and loves, loves, loves his job. His job is his passion and I expect he is an expert at it, at least I would hope, so since hundreds of peoples lives are in his hands every day he flies. Anyway, I really think he is part of a small population of people. Bottom line, I am definitely not my brother in law, how many of us really are?

After college I sat down with a blank slate as far as what to do for a job or going to school and I didn’t have a particular passion. I chose to go down the science path and I loved sampling bugs from streams and laboratory work, I really enjoyed learning flow cytometry but never felt called to make the huge life investment required to be successful as a researcher. I have ran, biked and done triathlons for years. I even just took a running coaching certification class but I have years of work to do before I could call myself an expert or coach.

So, I struggle. I struggle often with what I want to do and how to do it. I struggle with how much to invest to learn new things. I struggle with my confidence that retreats at Tribe will be amazing? Will anybody come? Get a day job? Oh, yeah, childcare is too expensive for that. And finally the worst thought. Who do you think you are? Why do you think you can do that? (That is shame by the way, that is me too worried about what others think of me).

So, back to job interviewer. If I get that question asked again, I am going to say, “That’s a tough question. A lot like being asked, What is your passion? I don’t think I have ever been an expert at anything. I do the best job I can do and I make an effort to learn and explore at all the things I do in life but I have never been passionate about something enough to ever become an expert at something. I have enjoyed doing and learning many things just as I have followed inspiration on many things.”

And back to insurance or accountant guy. First of all, he shouldn’t be judgy, but I can’t control him. I hold my ground and say “Passion is the wrong word, inspiration is a better word, don’t you think?”

Tribe Retreats came to me as I was struggling with a bad boss and being laid off. It came to me as a wave of inspiration on a run one day when I really needed something new, fresh, and completely opposite of working on a university campus. That day I chose to grab on and see where we went. In my struggle and since reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic, I have realized that I needed to partner up with my inspiration because grabbing on meant listening to people like the accountant or my old boss. Elizabeth Gilbert gives great definition to inspiration.

"A different way is to co-operate fully, humbly, and joyfully with inspiration.

This is how I believe most people approached creativity for most of history, before we decided to get all La Bohème about it. You can receive your ideas with respect and curiosity, not with drama or dread. You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work. You can lay off the booze a bit in order to have a keener mind. You can nourish healthier relationships in order to keep yourself undistracted by self-invented emotional catastrophes. You can dare to be pleased sometimes with what you have created. (And if a project doesn’t work out, you can always think of it as having been a worthwhile and constructive experiment.) You can resist the seductions of grandiosity, blame, and shame. You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures. You can battle your demons (through therapy, recovery, prayer or humility) instead of battling your gifts – in part by realising that your demons were never the ones doing the work, anyhow. You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting – its partner – and that the two of you are working together towards something intriguing and worthwhile. You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognise that this is not really the point. And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence."

Passion and expert seem to be words that go together that really describe a small number of people, however, for some reason we think we should have a passion and be experts and just feel bad about ourselves when we can’t actually live up to it. However, if you think about it like jobs/tasks/activities, in replace of expert and inspiration in place of passion the whole world seems to open up. All of those things can be where you choose them to be and you can stay in the driver's seat to direct them where YOU need to go. You are in control of inspiration.

In all honesty, selling Tribe Retreats has been harder than I thought. My inspiration doesn’t seem to be reaching out to the world in the way I had envisioned. I am choosing not to let this one go though. Like the vision for Tribe as a place for people to evolve, I too will evolve and so will Tribe. So until next time. Peace out everybody.

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