Have you noticed how useless the advice “Follow your dreams and passions” usually is? That’s because it doesn’t help. Here is what we often think this process of finding a path looks like:
If it were that easy, you wouldn’t be here; you’d know exactly what to do. But here you are. That’s because “follow your passion” raises so many other questions.
1. What is my true passion and how do I make sure I pick the right one?
2. Can someone actually make a living doing that?
3. What about me personally? Could I overcome the competition? etc. etc.
See, more questions and more assumptions than ever. So how do people do it? Those people I work with always seem to “stumble” upon their answers out of nowhere. At least from the outside perspective. That’s because the actual process of finding a path is about trying new things, challenging your old assumptions, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. On a chart it would look something like this:
Finding Your Path Through New Experiences
Let me tell your the story of Tony. He was 28 years old and your typical millennial. His parents pushed him into college to “get an education and then a good job.” He graduated 3 years ago from software engineering and has been working for an empty shell of a company in an empty shell of a job. It pays the bills, and everyone around him is happy, but he’s not.
So what kind of assumptions did Tony have about himself? He has never thought himself very creative and he would spend most of his spare time tinkering with electronics and computers. His job fits his skills pretty well and he doesn’t have to deal with people very much besides the project manager. Unfortunately, sometimes he’s also late to work because he lacks the motivation to show up. Here’s what Tony’s life would look like on a simple matrix. First, let's go over the four quadrants.
What you don’t know you know – These are Tony’s requirements for his ideal life (Link to New Article to Come Soon). They were buried deep within him and he couldn’t verbalize them. It would take deep introspective work through the Life Engineering Program to bring those into the light.
What you know you know - Here is where a lot of people spend most of their time. Tony knows he likes computers, isn’t creative, and knows he doesn’t like dealing with people. He’s also working on getting less late to work, so discipline isn’t his strong suit.
What you know you don’t know - Tony also knows that he’s not financially literate. He has a savings account, and that’s about it. It’s something he would like to explore at some point. Same thing for skydiving and filmmaking. These are his potential interests.
What you don’t know you don’t know - This is where things get interesting. These are the black swans of Tony’s life. Things, experiences or ideas that he has no idea even exist but would radically change his life if he were to stumble upon them. What’s in here? Such outlandish ideas include dancing, enrolling in the Mars colonization program, or volunteering at a homeless shelter. Who knows?! No one knows, not even Tony.
Learn The Lessons Those Experiences Teach
After all the requirements and design work, Tony went on to challenge all the things he thought he knew and wanted. Here is how it turned out:
What you don’t know you know – After working for 6 weeks with the Life Engineering program, Tony could articulate his purpose, values and best strengths. While incredibly useful, it's not entirely relevant to the point of this blog post, so let's keep going.
What you know you don’t know - The first thing Tony did was to go try out skydiving. It was always on his bucket list. It was a pleasant experience, but nothing more. So, off the bucket list it goes. He also added traveling to his list of things he knew little about. Let’s see how this happened.
What you don’t know you don’t know - This is where Tony spent most of his efforts in the last year. Trying new things and exploring the black swans of his life. He enrolled in a cooking class but didn’t get much out of it. But then, hearing about his exploration process, one of his friends suggested he start a dance class. So, he enrolled, just for fun, and ended up loving it. It is now one of his hobbies and we add it to the corresponding section.
Through these last six months, he realized that he enjoyed people’s company more than he thought and that his original aversion to human contact came from bad experiences at work. So now he goes out regularly. All of this also made him get in touch with his creativity and he actively seeks ways to express it.
In one of his final experiences for that year, Tony went on a month-long trip to walk el Camino de Santiago. A friend invited him, and he convinced his boss to leave without pay for a month. He didn’t expect much of it, and his lack of discipline in preparation showed while on the trail. It wasn’t always a fun experience. Tony has traveled before, but never like this.
Every day his feet hurt, sometimes it rained, and he was wet and miserable, but every day he met new and exciting people, he contemplated how he was living his life. It was a very moving couple of weeks that gave him an idea. More on that in the next section.
What you know you know - Here is where the greatest deception of our lives lies. Tony thought he knew things about himself that were rock solid. But then he tried one experience that invalidated his huge assumptions about himself. It wasn’t true that he wasn’t creative or a people person. He just had to have the right experience to discover these new sides to his personality. Tony has spent years making career decisions based on these false assumptions. This is true for all of us. We do it all the time.
Here's how all of that looks on Tony’s new chart.
Find the Most Valuable Lessons
None of the experiences Tony lived through was more striking than his travel to France and Spain. He had traveled before but mostly stayed at all-inclusive resorts in the tropics. He was never one to advocate traveling that much, but this was a different experience. While sitting on a rock somewhere, massaging the ache out of his feet, he thought about how much this experience has taught him about himself and, more importantly, what would happen if more people experienced such a thing.
That moment right there was when Tony knew what path he had to take. First, he would spend more of his time and energy trying to get himself and other people into life-changing travel experiences.
What did it mean to him, and how would he make that happen? He still had no idea. Would he quit his job immediately upon his return? Obviously not. Would he start a side hustle as a Travel Guide? Maybe; maybe not. Would he do this for the rest of his life? Probably not. But it was a start. Some sort of hope to escape from his daily grind at a boring job.
Now that he has discovered this, he has to go back to the drawing board. Are the assumptions he made the first time still valid? Is what he wants out of life truly accurate and will bring him total happiness? Obviously not so he iterates and keeps going. Where will this new path take him? No one knows, but maybe another black swan event will reveal the answer for him, but only if he keeps looking for it. If he keeps saying yes to new things, that fire will burn within him.
Challenge Other Assumptions You Make About Yourself
Tony would have seemed to just stumble upon this new dream and possible career path to all outsiders. But Tony knows better. He has worked for a whole year to get to that point. Like Tony, we often spend too much of our time figuring out a way to make a career fit within the parameters of what we think we know about ourselves. But what if that category is only 10% of your potential?
A more fruitful approach would be to discover the other 90% that is still out there. What if everything you thought you knew about yourself was wrong? What kind of decisions would you make? What kind of goals would you pursue? What kind of self-imposed limits would you remove? What if I told you that there are at least 10 black swans out there immediately around you that, if you discovered them, would radically change the way you live your life?
This is what finding a life path is all about. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and start exploring, finding ways to experience the life you think you want. And also experience the life you think you would hate. Because often the things that we think we hate hide other black swan events.
So be like Tony: go out, take massive action, say yes to new things even if you don’t know where it will bring you. Even in the worst case, you will learn more about yourself. This is what experiences are for.
Coming to this point is where my clients often go through a weird experience. They have a fire lit inside of them, they are passionate and motivated to try out new things, but they are also terrified of their own success and suddenly every manner of excuse starts coming up why they shouldn’t do this.
Fortunately, this is exactly what we specialize in. Our coaching will help you deal with those fears, give you the tools you need to answers all those existential questions and move forwards with a proven system. All you have to do is to schedule a call with us, we commit to spending two hours with you at no charge to understand how your particular situation.
The post you just read is an excerpt of our E-Book called The Ultimate Guide To Life Engineering where you will find much more content of this quality. By clicking the link you will be taken to the resource section of our site where you can download it.