When I was a kid, somewhere between 8 and 12 I’d guess, I had considered becoming a librarian. One day, my father, who worked for the state, brought home a civil service description of the position of Head Librarian for the State Library. I looked at the salary of what was probably the highest paid librarian in the state and decided that was not my path forward. I doubt that my father’s intention was to discourage me from the career. He’s too kind and supportive a father to assume that kind of intention. Rather, he was probably attempting to give me something to aim at. Little did he know of my Herculean ability to find even the most minor flaws in any plan and use them to justify not going down the less than easy road.
My own sins aside, I have recently been pondering paths forward for this site and my personal brand as well. I have larger goals for where I want to be in the long term, but those, as of now, don’t inform my short and intermediate term goals very well. Napolean Hill would suggest that having those long-term goals primes the pump of creativity and openness to reveal opportunity. As a psychologist, I have no qualms with that statement. A more recent exposure to the work of Gary Vaynerchuk gives a potential scaffold for insight to fill in the blanks. Social Media has its vices, but no one will beat a path to your door unless you actually tell them you’ve built a better mouse-trap.
Vaynerchuk is a master of social media, and his humility in the face of his impressive success lends him enormous credibility. That humility and his boundless enthusiasm have infected me to the point where I am able to overcome my natural lethargy and seriously ramp up my efforts. But that leads to the questions of How and What. How do I get my self out there and what self do I put forth? For me, the avid film fan, video as a how seems a natural choice. As for the what?
There are a lot of questions people use to figure out what their passions are. One of the most common is, “If you had financial independence, what would you do with your time?” This assumes you have an idea already. Another is, “What do you spend your disposable income on?” This assumes you aren’t spending primarily on things that allow you to go through life in a moderately unconscious state.
This brings me back to libraries. I believe that my interest in them was not because I wanted to maintain them as a librarian, but in their existence itself. I have no strong desire to check materials in, shelve them, organize them, or assist patrons in finding them (not to overdramatically simplify the job) although I am eternally grateful that some people do. I just love libraries themselves, the diversity of buildings, the role they fill in our society, and Jo Godwin’s point that every great one should have something in it to offend everyone.
Whenever I travel, I always have a part of my brain, deceptively quiet most of the time, that keeps an eye out for the local library in any town I pass through. I have a minor impulse to be sure that everyone has access to at least one, and when I see it I get a tiny sliver of joy. If it’s a special one in terms of its location or age, and I have the time, I like to go in and explore. When I have less time, sometimes I just pull over and look. Recently, I did that and an idea struck me.
What would you pull over for? What catches your eye most often when you’re walking? What intrudes into your consciousness when you’re being unconscious?
The question of what you would do if you were financially independent is actually a daunting, scary one. It presupposes you know what you would put all your effort into if all of your financial responsibilities disappeared at once. All the stress of the predictable need to support yourself replaced by the chaos of complete independence. Research on lottery winners shows that that rarely ends as happily as you might think.
Perhaps, for me and maybe for you and for anyone who has trouble finding the passion that they want to show to the world, a smaller question is better. Maybe you can find a path you’re willing to take one step down instead of a thousand. Maybe the confidence you gain from taking the first step will give you the courage to take nine more. Maybe all you need to start the journey is to ask yourself, “What would I pull over for?”