Sitting on a rooftop terrace with a cold beer in hand, I leaned in to my circle of friends and asked them the one question most people spend their entire lives avoiding:
"What should I do with my life?"
Then, a few days later, I repeated the question with another friend, super coincidentally on another rooftop.
Asking this question has turned into a weird hobby of mine. I go around and ask people I love what they think, how they view my future, what they think I should dedicate my life to.
Not because I think they know best or have all the answers. I believe strongly in my own gut instinct and intuition when it comes to my creative process. But I am so curious about how others view and describe the value I add to this world.
And I've gotten some incredible answers: personal trainer, college professor, business coach, life coach, and more. For example, a friend recently had this to say about a conversation we had:
"It was like sitting down with a younger version of Yoda who doesn't speak in hyperbaton and told me exactly what I needed to hear at just the right moment."
Which is a total honor, of course. That's when I realized:
Growth happens in conversation.
All the major breakthroughs in my life happened as a result of conversations and the questioning that accompanied them.
Deep talks & important questions
Fascinating conversations happen in the strangest places—or maybe there's just something about me and traffic jams.
I was lucky to be a part of another great talk one night in Panama. Two friends and I were driving back to the hotel after a day of exploring, when our light chitchat quickly turned into what I call a "deep talk." Love, legacies, engagements, babies, parents, siblings, fear, future plans, and more—all in one car ride.
I'm such a sucker for deep talks! :-)
Our ride ended just as our conversation reached its peak, discussing balancing our careers and our relationships. And I went from the car, into the hotel lobby and then my hotel room, thinking, thinking, thinking about this:
I have to really care about my work to make it worth being away from my family.
When I step away from my JJ's, it's for things I care about deeply, like helping someone I love or working on myself (exercising, journaling, reading, Facetime with my bestie). But it's been six full months since I closed my business. Stepping away from them for work hasn't been an issue.
But now I'm ready.
So the question is... what actually matters to me enough to work on?
Here is my answer:
To so many people, life is business. And when business gets tough, life gets tough. Is that how we're supposed to live?
I love this quote:
"The problem was that whenever I considered 'earning a living,' I thought mostly about the 'earning' and nothing about the 'living.'"
— Fr. James Martin, SJ
In my time as an entrepreneur, I was stressed, anxious, and pretty close to depression at some points. It was an awful way to live.
But it's avoidable.
Life isn't business. Life is everything. The trees outside my window, the flowers swaying in the breeze, the sound of my clicking keyboard, the heat pressing against my clothes, my phone vibrating with messages. Life is everything.
I want to shine a light on this.
I want so much to relieve people's suffering. But surely that's impossible... Or is it?
When we first think of suffering, we think of diseases, hunger, no access to clean water, lack of education and employment, and so on. I'm not the person to remedy all that. (Amazing organizations can do it 100 times better than I can!)
But maybe there's something else I can do...
The thing about suffering is that it can happen no matter your circumstances, your income, or your quality of life. It isn't so much in our physical environment than in our minds.
Suffering doesn't happen externally. It happens internally.
So it's there that I can do my work: in the heart, in the mind.
There are people suffering in plain sight, even the ones you think look "happy." Even the creative ones, the makers, the ones who quit their job to "do what they love." Maybe even you?
So, I could maybe—if I work really, really hard at it—help a few people change how they approach and view their work.
I'm no expert, of course. I've just been through it—over it—and can tell the story.
One of my favorite books, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, tells of a school in New York City that replaced quizzes and homework with opportunities for children to "teach" what they'd learned to an online avatar. McGonigal explains:
"You're not being tested to see if you've really learned something. Instead, you're mentoring someone because because you really have learned something and this is your chance to show it."
So, I've decided to take these important conversations public!
I'm going to be releasing a podcast (!!!) focused on managing the ups and downs of creating and achieving peace of mind despite that creative rollercoaster.
Releasing this podcast is my way of embodying all this I've been writing about. To teach, to submerse myself in this material, to better learn it myself and to help others, too.
But that's just my answer, my project. I invite you to ask yourself:
What matters to you? What matters enough to work on and help solve?
PS. If you want to know when the podcast is released (in the next few weeks), you can sign up below. I'll also send you my favorite questions to start meaningful conversations. :-)