LSR #7: Pursuing Passion

pas·sion/ˈpaSHən/ Strong and barely controllable emotion. N.

—Dictionary.com

Before I transitioned from acting/modeling/writing to writing full-time, I felt like I was in a polygamist marriage of four in a house made for two. Once I filed for “divorce” (ex-nayed the first two), I hit what some might call…popularity. I called it turbulence.

The acting career I’d been neglecting, after months of angst over lost passion, ignited. I was in higher demand than I’d been in ages. What, were the thousands of other actress on strike??? I tried to ignore agents’ calls, but they kept coming. And the more I ignored, the more prevalent they became.

One day my theatrical rep called with a “huge” opportunity. “I know you’re thinking of ending your contract,” he said, “but you’re a shoe-in for this. They asked for you specifically. Please, tell me you can make it… For me?”

Ugh! Wah! I don’t wanna!  “Sure, if it’s that important to you,” I said, shunning myself for caving in. I felt like a hypocritical brat.

Shortly thereafter, my commercial agent called:  “Hey, remember that yoga casting last month?” (Uh, the one I hoped I wouldn’t get?) “The client wants to check your availability for tomorrow.”

And so I surrendered to one more day of pounding the Hollywood pavement—a fit model job followed by a director’s meeting for a primetime show. I could put the modeling cash toward writing expenses, I rationalized. They said it shouldn’t take more than an hour. Maybe I’d write about an actress one day. Chalk the audition up to research. I even went so far as to meet with my acting coach to prepare.

The “short” modeling job went loong, landing me with a hefty parking ticket and audition tardiness. The time and money I’d spent preparing the three-page monologue in part-woman/part-alient dialect went down the tubes when a “star name” arrived at the studio. The casting director shrieked, hugged her and brought her in ahead of me. When I had my chance an hour later, I was ready to put all of my frustration into that monologue. (Take that!)

“Just give me the last two lines, Amber,” the CD instructed, barely looking up.

“It’s August,” I said.

“Huh?” she replied. “Oh, right. Go ahead, Autumn.”

Grrr…I considered improvising—something like: $%*($#(%*&*&(#*$&%($#*%&!!!! Instead, I recited the lines like a learning-to-read robot in need of a battery recharge and walked out, more certain than ever that my heart belonged with the page.

The whole ordeal felt a test from the universe, God, Buddha and Mother Earth combined, assessing whether I was really up for the career change.

So when my agent phoned with a call-back request—the CD must’ve been smoking crack—I declined. I felt terrible saying “no.” I respect and like the guy and he’d put energy and work into my career and this audition. But if I didn’t learn from my earlier choices, I’d learn soon. And my gut told me that the repercussions of repeat choices would be harsher.

The next day, when I could have been alien-ing it out at the call-back, I finished the first draft of my first novel. Tears filled my eyes as I typed the last word, confidant I’d made the right decision.

All goals and dreams require some amount of sacrifice. Prioritizing our passion can feel selfish, but it’s the farthest thing from it.

How would you feel if your favorite author never scripted her series because she chose to pursue a job she hated and spent all of her free time cleaning, partying or running errands for friends? What if Mozart, the Beatles or Elvis chose accounting careers because the arts seemed foolish?

We have a responsibility to nurture and prioritize our passions, particularly if we desire successful careers. 

Like the other Lifesaving Resolutions, pursuing our passions can help save or elongate our lives. Numerous studies have linked happiness and job satisfaction with boosted physical and emotional health. Researchers at the University College London found that happy people are 35 percent less likely to die within the next five years compared to their less giddy counterparts. Happy people are also more likely to eat well, keep up with physical and dental exams, practice gratitude and exercise.

“Generally, people flourish when they’re doing something they like and what they’re good at,” said Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” in an interview with the New York Times. Put another way, following our hearts and working our butts off lends itself to financial and overall success.

I’ve found this to be true time and time again. Within weeks of cutting ties with the acting and fashion worlds I had new writing clients. Six months later, I met my soon-to-be literary agent—during a time I would have been in Sweden, had I accepted a TV gig. And I’m far from a solitary case.

A few famous examples: Susie Orman started her career as a broke waitress. Walt Disney was an ambulance driver. Brad Pitt handed out flyers in a chicken suit. Robin Williams began as a street mime. And before her mystery writing success, Mary Higgins Clark was a single, full-time working mother of five. A common thread among these successful celebs is the desire, willingness and commitment to pursuing their passion.

Whether you’re passionate about writing, painting, dancing, singing, ping pong or marketing, I believe the following steps can help fuel your passion, increasing your odds of health, happiness and success.

Eight Ways to Pursue Your Passion with Gusto

1. Talk about it. Having a passion means we’re crazy-hyped up about something. Sharing it with others amplifies our excitement, motivating us to forge on. We gain and give ideas and plant our enthusiasm and commitment more firmly in our minds. And you never know where the conversation may lead. (Charlize Theron met her agent at a bank.)

2. Learn to say no. Before our passions become full-time careers, others may not take them seriously. But we should. When I write, I’m working. This means that, barring emergencies, I’m not available to tend to the neighbors’ cat (cute as she is), pick up the dry-cleaning (bare as the closet may be) or meet a friend on the opposite side of town for lunch (fun as it sounds).

3. Limit distraction. Phone calls, Facebook, Twitter and web surfing all have places in our lives and, in many ways, help our careers. But spending more time social networking and promoting and less time creating work we can promote is counterproductive. Commit to working in a work-friendly, distraction-free environment whenever possible.

4. Congregate with passionate people. Passion is contagious! Spending time with other passionate folks boosts our morale, inspires passion-geared conversations and makes for an overall better existence. Conferences, aerobics classes, upbeat church services, Twitter #MyWANA conversations (for writers) and motivational speaker events are great places to start.

5. Don’t let others—or you—get you down. Negativity is also contagious. Passion and success can stir up envy, harsh criticism and greed in others. These aren’t the people we best hang out with or listen to. Our own fears and insecurities can function similarly. Keep a distance from negative influences. If it’s you, consider an attitude makeover or “check up from the neck up.” 😉 Talk to supportive friends and keep moving forward. Eventually, your emotions will catch up with your proactivity.

6. Study others’ success. As soon as I started writing my first novel, I purchased and read How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words. While I wasn’t sure how my own path would pan out, reading others’ tales inspired me on multiple levels. We can learn oodles from our successful forefathers/mothers.

7. Give back. Having passion generally means we have something to give—our energy, knowledge, talents… Volunteer to share your talents with others. Support the work of others with similar passions. When it comes to social media, sharing of ourselves and supporting others are the BEST ways to go. To learn more, visit best-selling author/social media guru Kristen Lamb’s fantastic post: Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books.

8. Just do it. Suddenly quitting one job to pursue a passionate alternative isn’t always realistic, easy or wise. But whether your passions fall into the brand-spanking-new or hobby categories or you’ve been plugging away at or resisting them for years, action is necessary and doable, as in right now, today.

More rockin’ resources:
The Year to Slay Your Dragon: Ingrid Shaffenburg inspires us to get rid of heavy breathing “dragons” and dream big.
2012 and Planning for Success in the New YearKristen Lamb provides practical tips and inspiration for goal setting and seeking.
Gene Lempp’s Goals and Gremlins, posted on Lyn Midnight’s blog, reminds us to share our goals and allow some wiggle room.
Entrepreneur magazine: Steve Jobs and the Seven Rules of Success, by Carmine Gallo
Oprah.com: What to do if You Can’t Find Your Passion, by Elizabeth Gilbert

What do you do to empower to your passion? What additional steps are you willing to commit to? Any areas you struggle with? I’d love to cheer you on.

Speaking of PASSION, this Friday, I’ll be cheering talented bloggers on as part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. If you’d like to participate by sharing a story or donating a prize, click here. To participate as a cheerleader and have a blast, visit my blog Friday. You just might win a Kindle/$99 Amazon.com gift card or other fab prizes! 🙂

Leave a comment

71 Comments

  1. One of the hardest things for me is having a day job that eats up so much of my time. And I don’t have a day job that can be left at the office. Most people I work with let the job become who they are, so I feel guilty that it isn’t my life. It is hard to balance work, with writing, with rest and exercise, and life. I so look forward to the day when I can leave the day job and write full time. I just have to figure out how to be less stressed and find more time for me in the meantime.

    Reply
    • I know how you feel, Emma. Your frustration is a great thing, as unpleasant as it is right now. I’ve seen artists in L.A. get so immersed in and committed to their day job that they end up sacrificing their creative work.

      A friend of mine finished her novel by working on it for 30 minutes each morning. She’s now published and day job-free. With your talent and gusto, I bet that will happen for you, too.

      Reply
  2. Great post! I’ve just worked up the guts to do it and this makes me feel even more sure that I’ve done the right thing!

    Reply
  3. Coleen Patrick

     /  February 6, 2012

    “We have a responsibility”–this stood out for me. It’s inspiring and even validating. Thanks August!

    Reply
  4. This was fascinating. What a glimpse into something that most of us see as glamorous but you only saw as a pain in the arse lol. I’ve done the same thing, I left behind my career in graphics to pursue this writing thing full time. I was thinking the other day if it doesn’t work out I’m royally screwed. In my business, once you are out more than 2 years nobody wants to hire you. Well, it’s been two years. I guess I better make this work!

    Reply
    • Good for you, Melinda! I think it takes passion, faith and gusto to really go for it with little or no “backup plan”—the same ingredients necessary for crazy, awesome success. 🙂

      Reply
  5. EllieAnn

     /  February 6, 2012

    what an awesome story, and very motivational.
    I feel like my first job is motherhood, and my second is writing. So when writing cuts into my motherhood time, it feels icky–not what I want. No matter where my writing goes, I’m keeping it second.
    It’s whats important to me, I feel like I’d regret it forever if I missed my kid’s babyhood and was in front of the computer instead.
    great post!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Ellie. I think your priorities seem precisely as they should be. I have no doubt that you’re a fantastic momma and can have an equally fantastic writing career, no matter where it leads… Love is great fuel for writing, right? 🙂 The fact that you nurture your creativity as well is a great gift to your little one.

      Reply
  6. Hi August.

    I’ve got to admire the fact that you had the courage and conviction to give up one career for another. I certainly don’t have the former and my self-doubt undermines the latter!

    I liked the statistic “happy people are 35 percent less likely to die within the next five years.” I wonder if they’re happy because they’re more confident their not going to die?

    I have to go now, I need to do some smiling and ward off the grim reaper!

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Ha! Good point, Nigel. I’ll have to ask ’em. 😉

      Some people see career swapping when passions shift, particularly in the arts, as foolish or crazy. I don’t function well any other way. Thanks for the laugh and support!

      Reply
  7. I think we know immediately when we have made the right decision; when the doors start opening instead of being slammed in our faces. When I started writing almost one year ago, the whole world opened up.

    I am an enthusiastic girl and can sooooo relate to #5. I have been faced with a lot of jealousy so now I stay away from some and keep limit my shouts to FB! if they want to join in, they do…

    Great post!
    You obviously made the right decision and yet who knows, with the right offer, you could do both!

    Reply
  8. Catherine Johnson

     /  February 6, 2012

    Great post August, you had me laughing at them getting the name wrong. That just says it all. No one will ever get your name wrong when it’s plastered all over books 😉

    Reply
  9. You have the craziest stories, August.

    Reply
  10. You have a gift for helping others to explore their gifts, August!
    What a wonderful way to spend your days!

    Reply
  11. Very inspiring and motivational, August. Thanks for sharing. It’s definitely a bit of a step off a cliff to pursue your passion, especially when everyone around you is negative and/or unsupportive.
    Thankfully I’ve been able to write full time and still be home with my kids (my two greatest passions) and contributed to household expenses – which is just plain bonus. I’m blessed, but I work hard at it too. I’ve had people comment that I’m just lucky, or happened to have good contacts – it was a lot of hard work, there’s no other word for it. And it’s a little insulting to have people think I just fell into this and happen to be good at it. Having a passion for something, or an aptitude, doesn’t negate having to work, practice, and strive for success just like everyone else.
    Sorry – having a snarky day. 🙂

    Reply
    • Please don’t apologize, Lisa! Love your snark and comments. 🙂 You’re so right—”luck” is rarely random chance, especially when it comes to creative ventures. It’s not like we wake up and POOF, a publish-ready manuscript we’ve authored appears. Very important to recognize the time and energy writing and other passionate pursuits require.

      Reply
  12. This series is EXCELLENT. Thanks for sharing how you shed two careers to fucus on writing. Thanks, too, for the “eight ways.” I’m working on numbers two, three, and five–my personal bugaboos.

    Reply
  13. So true, what you said about feeling guilty writing…I have all the support in the world, but I still feel like a schmo when my husband comes home after working a double and I’ve been writing stories all day (la la la). Thanks for sharing…I needed the encouragement!

    Reply
    • You remind me of a musician friend of mine who talks about the “little jobs” she books. “It’s no big deal or anything,” she says. Yes, it is, and so are your stories! Creative work takes an incredible amount of energy and discipline.

      Writers and stories can change the world. Say that out loud. Okay, again.
      *steps off soapbox* 😉

      If we want to grow and thrive, we have to respect our craft and us within in it. So glad you found some encouragement here!

      Reply
  14. Loved reading your story, August! I’m a person who has always opted for passion, but those choices have given me a crazy, often difficult lifestyle that can make me vulnerable to negative messages, both internal and external. Thanks for the reminder of what it’s really all about and for the great motivational tips.

    Reply
  15. Another fantastic post August. So true, how when we decide to pursue our passion, the stars seem to align. It’s about listening to your heart and the signs around you. I see it a lot with women trying to make bad relationships work when it’s just time to let go.
    I loved your tips – all of them rocked. Learn to say no spoke to me most because that’s likely my biggest issue. Or more accurately, saying YES to me. I often try to get “everything else” done before I sit down to write when I need it to be the other way around! I’m learning!
    Thanks again for the FAB post!

    Reply
    • Marc Schuster

       /  February 6, 2012

      I have to agree with your point about #2, Natalie. It’s a life skill I’m developing a little late, but one I’m gradually getting more comfortable with. And I also think this is an excellent post! (Thanks, August!)

      Reply
    • Such a fantastic point, Natalie. As artists, our hearts are tightly linked with our work. It seems to me that failure to trust our instincts and follow our hearts makes us vulnerable to poor relationship decisions and vice versa. ALL the stars align just as fully as they un-align when we don’t listen.

      Thanks for your note, Marc! #2 isn’t an easy one, but I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made for me. When I have the occasional slip-up, I’m reminded of how much creating those boundaries matters. Glad you’ve been honing it!

      Reply
  16. Elena Aitken

     /  February 6, 2012

    Excellent post, August.
    Living your passion is SO important! I just blogged about it last week, too. It’s hard, it’s full of challenges, but as you know…SO worth it.
    Great tips, too! Thanks.

    Reply
  17. Your audition reminds me of an audition a couple of years ago for The Johnny High Show, a local music show that launched LeAnne Rimes, Lee Ann Womack and Boxcar Willie. There were 150 of us trying out for maybe 20 or 30 spots, and I was something like number 115.

    They started out letting each singer do two numbers (to karaoke discs). By the time they got to me 6 or 7 hours later, they let me sing about half of one verse and then thanked me for coming. I haven’t been back.

    Reply
    • Oh no. Did they also yell “Next?” 😉 In L.A., union talent gets paid for appointment delays. But if you’re not into it, not worth it anyway!

      Reply
  18. August,
    You are an inspiration in so many ways. The more I learn about you, the more I respect and admire your strength and courage.
    I am so glad I read this post today. I needed to hear every word to remind me to stop listening to the negative and start hearing all the positive.
    I know I’m on the right path, but some days I just need a little reminder.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Jennifer

    Reply
    • I can’t tell you what that means to me, Jennifer. Thank you!

      We all need reminders at times… Happy I could provide some for you today. 🙂

      Reply
  19. Very interesting and heartfelt post, August.
    Ending a well- established career is hard but pursuing your passion and a clear dream is priceless.

    Reply
  20. Excellent reminder, my friend! I always tell my kids, follow your bliss. In fact, I bought my daughter a pendant that says this so she’ll never forget. It took me several years to remember my bliss, but now I’ve found it and I’m never looking back. I’m so glad you followed yours, too.

    Reply
  21. mgmillerbooks

     /  February 6, 2012

    I do all these things! Now. The hardest part to overcome the last few years was letting myself get me down because of all the crap I’d been through the first time around in publishing. Like so many of us, however, now the day job eats my soul during the week, and there’s hardly anything left of me, except on weekends. But. I was able to quit the day job before, and I’m striving to do that again. But patience is key. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen next year, but the tortoise, after all, did win the race. Yes? Thanks for another great post, August. You should post a sound bite of you speaking alien.

    Reply
    • Ha! Seems I’ve blocked that script out of my memory bank, otherwise, I’d take requests. 😉

      You said it yourself: you were able to quit the day job before… It’ll happen, MG. I believe that. Patience along with commitment, taking whatever steps we can… As long as we move forward, even at tortoise pace, we get there.

      Reply
  22. August you must have read my mind as lately so many things have been “popping” up and stopping me from writing. I will keep what you said in mind, thank you.

    William

    Reply
  23. Well, August, again you are right on point about pursuing your passions. And, I especailly can relate to the don’t let negativity get you down. I often suffer from this mostly because I expect other peoples’ work ethic to be the same as mine and I get discouraged when it’s not. My own negativity also stands in my way sometimes. I hate having to give myself those pep talks, but they usually work!

    Thanks for the reminders, quotes of wisdom, resources and sharing your own expeirence.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
  24. journalpulp

     /  February 6, 2012

    Did you know that the word passion — truly one of my favorite words, the word born to mean suffering — comes from the Latin pati, which means pain?

    Reply
    • I didn’t realize that. Sure explains a lot! 😉

      It seems to me that pain is part of most passionate journeys. Pain from sacrifice, hard work, sometimes resisting what our hearts desire…and because we love so much it hurts. Thanks, Ray. So thought provoking.

      Reply
  25. Wow. Love this post and thank you for including me. I’m still in that “polygamist” marriage. If only by a few shoe strings. But my heart and mind are slowly letting go. It’s a process but it’s so reassuring to read about your experiences since they’re so similar to mine. Writing and my new business are at the forefront and I just keep checking in with my heart to see where it’s at. Which is really all we can do right?!

    Wonderful post!

    Reply
  26. Really loved this. Fabulous tips.

    Reply
  27. Kourtney Heintz

     /  February 6, 2012

    August, awesome post! I love how you combine real life experience with practical knowledge. You totally affect my mind and heart with each post. 🙂

    On a side note, I’ve been working on my writing more the past year than I did the past two. I went to the doctor and she told me my blood tests were the best she’d seen in the 8 years she’d been my doctor. That was proof to me that happiness does make a huge difference.

    Reply
  28. Awesome post August!

    Charles Dickens worked in a poor house as a child due to his dad’s debts. You never know!

    I remember when I decided to change my career from the civil engineering field to the art field, it was a rocky go for a long time! A major pay cut that I’m beginning to make up finally! 🙂

    Your eight points on staying focused are very well stated.

    Reply
  29. Oh my, learning to say no can be so so hard! I mean, when I seriously take into consideration the amount of work that goes into accomplishing different tasks, and how many hands were on deck, I just wanna take the finished product no matter how mediocre it is. This is where I can say “I hate group work sometimes!” Everyone is heading for a shipwreck and to be in everyone’s good graces I sometimes have to keep my mouth shut. Time to change that…no more settling for less. Thanks for this inspiring post! 🙂

    Reply
  30. Another fave post of yours, August! I loved learning more about your journey towards full time writer and I so appreciate your honesty. I think all of us have those moments where we succumb to “ok, I’ll try this route one more time” and then beat ourselves up that it didn’t work AGAIN. At least I know I’ve been there. Your story is inspiring and I will be checking out the links. My biggest goal that I can do to help myself is find a new job that isn’t such a total exhausting time suck of a career path. Writing makes me happy, but I rarely get to do it as much as I need to and want to cause my “day job” is demanding. Part of my saving plan includes building up rent money should I ever be able to make a big leap of faith and put writing first. *bites lip* I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

    Reply
  31. Fantastic post, August! Love your list, especially since I’ve worked my way through all but #8. WOOT! I’ll be a broken record repeating others about how the day job just sucks the energy right out of me. The worst part is the limitations the day job puts on my ‘thinking’ time. I can’t quit yet, but I’m working toward that goal. But I have been putting my writing first (so much so, I had to take some time off blogging to get some other things done!) Thanks for the encouraging words in this post!

    Reply
  32. I love what I do and want to share with others what I know. As a physical therapist of 24+ years, and practice owner, I am you to connecting with the patient/client in front of me. I am now initiating the act of writing. I found your site, and well, inspired by your story, and how you reach out with Gusto. Good job, and keep it up- Randy Bauer

    Reply
  33. My first Major & career for one year was in healthcare and later on moved on to Software Engineering. I am glad to see I am not the only one out there with evolving mind set for career. I did face early challenges but finally was able to justify the change I opted. That’s my career; travelling & writing has been my hobby since childhood. My hobby and career complements each other for the most part. Career earns to support the hobby (writing doesn’t cost anything but travelling does) and my hobby helps to relieve career stress & rejuvenates me to work. The cycle continues.

    Reply
  34. I just want to tell you that I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I think you have a great blog. To learn more about the award have a look at my post: 15 Great Blogs.

    Reply
  35. If more people pursued their passion, the world would be a happier place. Kudos to you, August, for putting your writing before jobs you hated. I had the opportunity to do so last year. I grabbed it and I’ve never looked back.

    Thank you for the wonderfully inspiring post. 🙂

    Reply
  36. Oh am I ever so glad not to have missed this post August! You amaze me.

    Thank you for sharing your life lessons with us. You obviously appreciate where you are in your life right now, though I know it took a lot of trial and error. And we’ve all been there ourselves. Yet, you seem to grasp the imprortance of gratitude and the joy of pursuing your passion.

    Thanks for writing this awesome post! 🙂

    Reply
  37. Sorry it took me so long to comment August. This was a really great post. So many important things to remember here, things I need to remember. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Oh, where were you and this post during the decade I spent agonizing whether or not to just take the writer’s leap?! But I’ve finally taken it and loving every minute of it!

    Thanks for another inspiring post!

    Reply
  39. AWESOME!! AWESOME!! AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I’m so thrilled you pursued your passion! You give me energy and hope to pursue mine.

    Reply
  40. This post really resonated with me. Great stuff, August! Learning to say no is the challenge in my world. However, if I really want to be a writer (and I do!), I have to close some doors for others to open. Thanks.

    Reply
  41. Bravo, August! This post should be bookmarked and printed out. It had a huge impact on me, maybe because your story has a few similar points with mine.
    You’re a source of strength and inspiration, and I’m so glad we all get to meet you and read you.
    I loved that you have a list (I’m a list maker) with action items; truly useful advice that we all can apply.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, all of you, for your wonderful words! So thrilled this resonated with you. Any bit of inspiration you gained, please go forth and use it with gusto. 😉

      Reply
  42. What a wonderful post! Thank you for your inspiration. You have motivated me.

    Reply
  43. Love the message here, August…er Autumn, or is it Amber? I think you chose well. Your writing is beautiful and has so much heart. obviously this is what you were meant to do. We all must follow our passion…sometimes the road is a bit crooked but hopefully we all get there just the same. Very inspirational post and something to remember daily. Thanks.

    Reply
  44. August, you’re on fire!! Pursuing your passion has obviously agreed with you.

    I absolutely believe that there is a current in the universe that each of us is supposed to find and ride through life on. When we do that, everything works. When we swim upstream, against our current, NOTHING works.

    Lovely post.

    And p.s. It is killing me that I didn’t get to participate in the Beauty of a Woman blogfest – I’d promised y’all the Triberr post but I SO wanted to throw you over for, well…you! 🙂

    Reply
  45. Amazing post as always August! I now consider you my inspirational guru. 🙂

    Reply
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