Passion, Hard Work, and Systems for a Sustainable Lifestyle

Last week I discussed some ideas for finding your passion and even your purpose in life. I want to continue on that vein this week and discuss what to do next. I want to discuss turning your dream into reality; turning your passion into a lifestyle through a business that opens the doors for you to live the life you want. I will discuss refining and defining your passion into something you can work at, matching that passion with hard work, setting up systems and structure to direct the flow of your work, and reaching a sustainable lifestyle.

Defining your Passion through Work

From my perspective, I view my ideal situation as not sitting on the beach sipping a pina colada while watching the waves crash on the shore. There are times for relaxation, but once that time is over, I like to find a productive outlet and to do work I enjoy. This is why when I find myself idle, I naturally gravitate toward seeing what others are doing and helping those in need… that is where my passion lies as I have spoken of in the past. So I come with the perspective that if you have a passion and a desire, you will act on it… or as one analogy puts it, if you have sails, you raise them to catch the wind. If not, well then the following might not help much. If so, I want to help you raise the sails and get pointed in the right direction.

For me, this starts (yes I have done this multiple times) by sitting down by myself or with my wife to discuss a dream. I write out on paper what I am feeling and what I would like to do. I then discuss what it would be like to live that dream if nothing was in the way. This looks like a sketch of my “perfect day” or goals for my life or even a business/life plan. It doesn’t really matter, but I just want to get the ideas out there.

Following sketching out the ideas, I sketch out how this would apply to doing work. Not working for someone, or even working for myself at this point, but I on what it looks like to work with my hands and doing something with my passion. For some of my friends this is making jewelry, taking photos, writing and performing music, designing and building furniture, and so on. If you are passionate, it will have an outworking in your life in some form of work with your head, hands, and heart.

Working Hard

So hopefully this doesn’t sound like it is going against the grain of what I am saying, but going down this road will require hard work. It will not be easy, nor should it be. Nothing in life worth having comes easy and without a cost. This is the simplest and hardest reality of all – you will need to work hard in order to succeed. At the same time, whenever I see someone doing what they are passionate about, the hard work is almost an afterthought as people are so focused on their passion that they lose track of time, energy, lunch (hate the low blood sugar), and cost. If the thought of hard work makes you cringe, then I would question whether you have found your passion and purpose in life.

Let me give you an example of finding out I hadn’t found my passion in my own life. The true musician practices for hours on end to create music, then goes on about his/her day singing, whistling, listening to music, and writing music. They are always focused on it, even when they don’t have their instrument as an outlet.

I consider myself a musician and have played the French Horn since I was 10 through High School and into the Marine Corps Band. I always had a love for music, and still do, but it wasn’t until the Marine Corps that I realized that my love for music was not the same as my expression of music through the French Horn. I really enjoyed playing the French Horn all the way until I went to the Armed Forces School of Music. It was there, practicing for 40 hours a week on top of 5-8 hours a day of rehearsals of different sorts that I began to resent the French Horn. I feel this was due to my lack of skill that inhibited me from expressing the music I heard in my head out through the French Horn. I began to see it as a job and really lost my enjoyment altogether.

It was a hard 4 years as I felt like I wasn’t really a musician and didn’t enjoy it anymore. Yet, every time I would go home or in the car, I would whistle, turn on music, hear music in my head, and always have a song going. My wife calls me the whistler and always knows what kind of mood I am in depending on whether or not I am whistling and what tune I am whistling. I ended up getting out of the Marines because I couldn’t stand the thought of 4 more years playing the thing, and though I have 3 horns in the closet, I haven’t played them since – and I don’t miss it. Yet I still whistle, I still sing, and I still love having music on all the time.

All that to say the French Horn was not my passion as I originally thought, and it took working really hard at it to realize that. So if you go down this road and find you resent whatever it is you thought you loved, then consider you may have missed the mark and need to join me and start back at square one again.

Building Systems and Structure

So you know your passion, have a practical outworking of that passion, and you are excited about working hard. The next step is to build systems and put structure in place to funnel that passion and work into a profitable reality. This is the crux of everything I do here and the central purpose for why I am doing this blog.

For me, doing work means coming alongside people and building systems and structure around their passions and talents and helping funnel them into productive and profitable realities so that they can keep on doing what they love (yep, I’m working on it right now!).  This is my goal for you and what I want to help you achieve. This next step is to work on setting up a system to run the logistics and structure of a business that will free you to do what you love and to fulfill your purpose.

This is not a side project or something you end up doing after a grueling 40 hour week at a job you can’t stand. This isn’t about setting up a business that will drag you along behind it kicking and screaming. This is about building a structure in your life to do what you love first and working hard at something you enjoy, then bring in income for yourself and your family so that doing what you love can become sustainable.

The systems and structure you put in place need to be well designed so that they continually provide opportunities for you to work on what you are passionate about. It is a sad day when the business systems and structure become more important than what they are built for. When this happens you get a shell with no substance, a body with no soul. If you don’t know what I mean, look at a religious organization that was built around a revival or great leader. First comes the passion, then comes the organization, and slowly but surely the organization becomes the focus and the vision and passion driving those at first turns into a museum or a memorial. It just feels hollow, and that is not how I want to define my life and my life’s work.

Sustainable LIfestyle

Well I want to make sure you put first things first and understand that while systems and structure are important to helping you along, they cannot become the focus or you will lose your passion and end up resenting what you are doing. If you can understand how to put everything in its right place and keep it there, it will hopefully lead to what I define as a sustainable lifestyle. If I can put it into an equation, it would look like this:

Passion + Hard Work + Effective Systems and Structure = Sustainable Lifestyle

My goal for you is a sustainable lifestyle. What do I mean by that? I mean waking up every morning without a feeling of dread in the bottom of your stomach. I mean getting off the high blood pressure pills from that stressful job. I mean building into your own life and what matters to you instead of building the sand castle for your boss while he/she sits on top causing it to crumble faster than you can build it. I mean enjoying what you do, working hard at it, and enjoying the fruit of your labor.

This is the central focus of my work here and my goal for you. Every post I write will be leading in this direction and is designed to help lead you to a sustainable lifestyle. I thought I would get more into the details of what effective systems and structure look like in this post, but I needed to set the big picture before getting into the weeds. That said, I will be back next week helping you match your passion and hard work with more details on the systems and structure to reach a sustainable lifestyle.

Until then, Keep Reaching!



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