Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Experimental Recipe for Creating Passion

Uh-oh, I have to admit that in my present stage of life, I'm lost as to what to do, or what to dedicate myself to. In trying to choose my next major endeavor, my ideas are rather dry.

These past several years I wanted to become a chef who owned his own restaurant (and beyond), much to the caliber of the still-living legends of Grant Achatz of Charlie Trotter, but such a dream has faded. My interests in the culinary arts will probably remain strong for the rest of my life – for the love of cheese, charcuterie, and pemmican! – so I just no longer have the interest in the particular vein of becoming a chef-owner of a restaurant. I've hit a dead-end since I lacked the knowledge that working one's way up from the dish-pit is a impractical route, for too many employers have the perverse incentive to keep you there, so I'm going to have to pursue my culinary interests and education by another route.

That urges me to reopen the thinking topic as to what the ingredients to passion actually are, that fierce set of emotions that throw you into a career or set of careers your whole life, driving you to work harder and longer than anyone of weaker interest could ever make themselves. Having passion is one of the things that make life worth living, for it consists of deep, rich, and consistent emotions that make life worthwhile, and its experience gives one that sense of certainty that one's chosen pursuits are the right ones to be dedicating time to, other options not worth worrying about.

I think it's a huge fallacy that so many people giving advice on choosing a career focus on cycling through options to choose what's most suitable. It neglects the first essential step of actually enabling one to emotionally experience passion in the first place, thus putting the horse behind the carriage. Without nurturing a emotional capacity that can generate passion, choosing a path in life one can feel certain and fulfilled in is impossible, so any cycling through options is hopeless guesswork.

Generating passion isn't easy in actual practice, but in thinking about my own experiences, the process is surprisingly simple to comprehend and convey. If you approach life in a way that nurtures passion, then you'll be able to begin thinking about what options to choose, and it'll be amazingly easier at that stage. Almost inevitably obvious, even.

It may sound simplistic, but the simple recipe for generating passion is to: concentrate on meaningful tasks that offer up a personal reward, and keep tackling interesting threads until one can grasp that ones thinking is growing consistent upon a certain subject – that one's thoughts “orbit” around a specific subject planet – and that will reveal what you'll be most satisfied doing in life. My thoughts are only slightly formed to date, though, for I still need to figure out better how to combine this with sustaining momentum.

All shall be clearer by my describing how I came upon the choice of becoming a chef in the first place. Before I felt the incredibly intense desire to cook for a living, I was actually in the process of just some hodge-podge self-improvement, and my commitment in that self-improvement enabled me to identify that choice.

Before I chose to become a chef, I had freshly dropped out of college to become an autodidact, as I had (and still am) become disenchanted with formalized education given my thorough lack of actually being educated. (My teachers irrationally thought I was mentally disabled and put me in special-ed.) Feeling so inadequate to go into life as a competent adult, I thought it best to start an autodidact regiment to recapture all the lost knowledge that wasn't obtained in my youth. I studied grammar, mathematics, philosophy, and so on, going to great lengths to concentrate deeply, take notes, underline, create personal homework, and so on.

It was through struggling to concentrate deeply on these tasks that I understood that concentrate opens up new levels of emotional experience. I had never experienced such intense feelings of contentment and pleasure as when I put my brain through the wringer, as I would glow and be at great peace after intensive study, and deep concentration was the skill that enabled that.

My intense dedication to self-study initiated a period when I took self-improvement in general more seriously, and started changing many areas of my life, from my thinking patterns to diet and exercise.

It took many months, perhaps even over a year, but eventually I hit an interesting turning point when I decided to change my nutritional habits dramatically. A friend started talking about her “Paleo diet” and gave praise to the book Good Calories, Bad Calories. I ignored it for several weeks, but hearing her mention it enough times finally moved me enough to pick up the book, and I read it.

My views shifted greatly as a consequence, and so did my eating habits. I quickly weaned myself off the Standard American Diet and converted to Paleo, but I actually didn't expect any good to come of it; I thought I was already at max health, and that the Paleo diet would simply add a few years to my life that I wouldn't notice in my perceptual well-being.

It came as shocking, then, when my perceptual well-being did radically transform. Weight melted off without my trying, my eyes didn't sting in the sunlight, all acne went away, I had more energy than I knew what to do with, and on and on. I had literally never felt that good in my life.

Upon experiencing such incredible effects – combined with the deeper emotions enabled by focus – I instinctually shifted in my interests. I began cooking more, looking up recipes more, reading up on nutrition and food more, watching cooking shows more, and thinking about food more. My mind just began orbiting around food more, as I didn't have such highly pleasurable experiences with food as I did now, for prior things like bread and cereal tasted only mildly good and made me feel like vomiting almost always, so I had a negative opinion of food most of my life. Learning to value a steak and see how it kept me feeling good afterward totally altered that opinion.

Then the epiphany came. One day while working at my nature park job, shoveling leaves into an outdoor vehicle we utilized, I was contemplating my life while engaging in an intermittent fast suggested by a health website I enjoyed, and was trying to figure out what career I'd like to go into. Rapidly I made connections: One of my favorite shows was Good Eats, I continuously looked up and tried new recipes; I loved grocery shopping, especially at the farmers market; I loved dark chocolate, I loved cooking, I loved learning about Paleo nutrition and cuisine, and my thoughts frequently revolved around these topics day in and day out, 24/7. Ah! There's a theme to all of this: Food! Becoming a chef would be the most fitting career to unite these interests!

From there I began seriously pursuing the culinary industry by starting to apply at restaurants, and have worked in restaurants ever since then.

Thus, that how I came to develop my passion, identify where I wanted to exercise it, and began taking steps to realize it. Though, to emphasize, my current state of frustration is not due to burn-out or of impractical self-improvement, but in lacking the knowledge that there's better routes than dish washing to make it in the field, and how I needed to learn how to judge people more effectively, so I ended up spinning wheels in the mud with employers who valued me too much in my starting position, dish washing.

In summary, to write out a formula, my passion came about by:

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1.) Concentrating

I know it sounds weird, but I still stick to my position that this is a thing worth becoming obsessed about. New levels of performance and being are unlocked the deeper one can concentrate and avoid distractions, and that includes new depths of emotions. A deep emotional capacity is necessary for passion, for what else is passion except a set of deep emotions?

2.) Choosing meaningful goals and consistently applying myself

Note that in the above process I wasn't actually trying to identify a career or anything; I just happened to be choosing self-improvement pursuits, and some unexpected goals in diet and exercise just so happened to be more meaningful than I would have ever anticipated. In an approximate way, you could say that it was practically random.

The key is that the “random” goals were meaningful ones I sought out to the end. In autodidactism, I would grind away at a book until I was exhausted . . . and until it was finished! In improving my diet, I ignored my immense sugar cravings and difficult hunger pangs in the body-adjustment phase . . . and saw it through until I actually changed! And so on and so on.

3.) Contemplating the “theme” of my thoughts

After having enabled myself to emotionally experience passion and unknowingly shifted my life towards food-dominated interests, I then looked inward to observe that my consciousness was primarily composed of these interests, to seek out educational culinary programs, new recipes, new foods, and so on. I introspected and saw that my mind orbited about the planet of the culinary arts, and that's how identifying becoming a chef would be the most fulfilling option.

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The process is really that easy to understand. Adjust your life in accordance to these principles, and your emotions will naturally reveal to you the path to the happiest life.

To formulate usable directions, in order to nurture passion you should:

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1.) Strengthen your concentration and keep it consistently strong

You can't be obsessed enough!

2.) Choose goals of personal meaning that can be completed in medium-term time frames, and strive to complete them no matter what

Choose something that's meaningful to you, but be careful to keep the time frame limited, otherwise you could lose time for examining other opportunities.

For example, an instance of a manageable goal could be to pick up a 200-page educational text, and commit to reading it as deeply and as thoroughly as possible, getting it done within two-to-three weeks.  Use a daily tally or something to keep yourself aware that you are putting sincere effort forth and getting the reward you're chasing, as opposed to running the eyes over the text while not paying attention.

Not only will it be satisfying to have completed goals like that, it will also offer one more threads to tackle, and as you see new potential interests rise up, set medium-term goals for them too. And if your interest begin to hover consistently around a certain portion of the spectrum, let them do that!

As an example, let's say you really enjoy playing video games, and want to know more about them, so you pick up this book and set a medium-term goal to read it deeply, putting effort to learn the names of creators and so on. You commit to it and actually finish it, and find that you're enticed by the art of arcade cabinets, so you start looking up resources on how they're made, conventions displaying them, and so on. After pursuing more threads, you might find yourself as a furniture builder, for the process of building a cabinet fascinated you so much you got a apprenticeship to learn more about it, and found it to be fulfilling work.

3.) Think about the “theme” of your mind

Once you enable yourself to have a deep enough emotional capacity for passion, begin setting and achieving goals, and keep tackling the new threads that arise, you should be able to pause and ask yourself what interests dominate your mind most of your waking hours, week after week. It may take some weeks or months of cultivating and nurturing passion to get to this point, but when you do, it'll be almost obvious once you see what trains of thought your mind doesn't want to leave.

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Yes, it's an inherently messy process that seems random and unpredictable, but I think that's how passion comes about. Again, I never initially entertained become a chef as a viable career; I was just randomly attacking a thread, a fringe interest, “diet and exercise.” Its complexities was so unexpectedly rewarding that becoming a chef was the obvious choice.

Though, while that about does it for creating and identifying passion, there's still the process of maintaining it and utilizing it practically. Maintaining the emotional capacity is easy: Just maintain the high-concentration and meaningful lifestyle you set above to get here in the first place. Beyond that, it's worthwhile to consider establishing a daily tally and asking yourself some momentum protection questions so that you don't remain unaware of things that could sneak up on you and derail your ambitions.

Additionally, I also highly recommend the books Talent Is Overrated and Mastery for they are excellent bar-none treatises on how to make the best of your life and how to most practically go about it. The former is thorough on the science and principles of what makes abilities and talents grow, and the latter is extremely principled about all the realms of life that one needs to master in order to fluidly move ahead in life, from seeking out an apprenticeship to developing “social intelligence” to keep adversaries out of your way.

All of the above writing is my own assignment too. Another conundrum is losing your passion, for it you don't feed it continuously with the above kind of lifestyle, it can fade and go away. It can be reborn by recreating those habits, and it can also be reincarnated in whole new areas of work too; don't fear radically changing your decisions, for you'll live a happy life regardless.

As such, aside from creating better habits to nurture passion within me again, I'll alter my path. I'll hunker down on autodidactism and health self-improvement again, and get a new job in a new sector since dish washing is so impractical. Perhaps my interests may arise in a new area, such as becoming a professional writer, and perhaps I may just take an odder path to my original goal, such as taking random and cheap cooking classes on top of culinary autodidactism at home.

All in all, ignore those people who give you advice on how to choose fulfilling goals in life; they're unaware they're giving you tools you cannot use yet. Deepen your emotional capacity, and the richness of life will reveal the logical path for you.

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