Existential Friday Newsletter

v41: If you don’t know this, the way you think about passion is about to change.

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When I walk into a bookstore I quickly sniff out the well worn path to the self-help, business, and art sections.

One of the challenges with non-fiction (especially self-help and business books) is that a lot of the advice is predictable, overly simplistic, or doesn’t feel actionable. It’s an ongoing search for truth or answers (seeking) that’s never fully satisfied. When you read non-fiction, you’re usually looking for information to alleviate pain or increase prosperity. I’ve spend a significant amount of time reading about meaning and purpose as expressed through vocation.

Many discussions about meaning and purpose circle back to passion. The “pursue your passion” advice is really popular and we’ve talked about the benefits before. There’s also the opposing view saying that “pursue your passion” is just wrong. Cal Newport was one of the earlier people to speak out against pursuing your passion and instead advocates deep work and practice. He argues that passion develops as a function of mastery. What if both groups are missing the point?

Before we go any further, think about the word passion conceptually. What do you think of when you think about passion? Most of the time we think about something that’s naturally and deeply captivating. We also tend to associate joy with whatever it is that we’re passionate about. Is that sort of what you think about? If so, it’s about to change.

One of the more interesting things I’ve seen about passion lately comes from Martha Beck. In her book, “Finding Your Way In a Wild New World,” she points out that the etymology of the word passion involves suffering. Don’t believe me, check this out.

Beck says that we should identify both our areas of competence (where we already have our 10,000 hours) and what has caused the greatest pain in our lives. Identifying what we’ve done for 10,000 hours is pretty easy. Identifying what has caused us great pain can be a little tougher. Her suggestion is to pair the two as a way of building meaning and purpose in the world. One of the examples she gives is a business that runs bicycle trips for men recovering from divorce.

Matching our areas of suffering with our areas of competence comes back to finding yourself and helping others. By identifying what you struggle through and then pairing it with what you know well, you’re automatically helping others alleviate their suffering. As it turns out, people always want that.

Here’s a post from Martha Beck to read more. I also recommend her books.


This is something I’m thinking about today:

“Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.” -Virginia Woolf



In case you didn’t know, I journal every day. A friend passed this along and it’s, well, awesome.

Are you looking for something motivational that will make you pause and think about what you’re doing? This talk from Arnold might be it.

The Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China and the 2nd tallest in the world. This video shows the full construction wrapped up in three quick minutes.


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