Finding My Passion

I would have thought by now, at the age of 57, that I would have found my life’s passion. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I still don’t know what my purpose in life is, what I am meant to do.

I’ve read lots of great books, followed several inspirational blogs, and watched some motivational videos on personal development and finding your passion (see the list below), but I feel that I am no closer to figuring out my purpose in life despite the powerful messages contained in these books, blogs, and videos.

When I come upon the often-cited challenge of “what would you do if money were no object”, I have no answer.

And I am not resistant to change;  I left corporate America in my mid-20s after I realized I didn’t want to spend the next 40 years of my life doing such work, and decided to pursue a career in academia instead. Several years later, in part motivated by many of the books listed below, I decided to start my own business, and ran it for close to four years (as noted in yesterday’s blog, an unprofitable, but valuable learning experience), but I realized that such a venture was not quite what I was looking for.

So where does that leave me? While I believe my work as a teacher has meaning and enjoy such work, I still do not think it is my “calling” in life. When I look at the work my wife does as a teacher, it is clear to me that she has found her calling, her purpose in life, and her young students benefit tremendously from the passion and love she brings to her job. I just do not feel the same way. When I listen to Steve Jobs speech in which he says that if you wake up too many days in a row and answer no to the question, “is what you are about to do what you want to do for the rest of your life”, then it is time to change. I often answer no to such a question; the problem is – what do I do instead?

And please don’t get me wrong. I am quite happy with my life, and consider myself one of the most optimistic people I know. Sometimes I think that maybe reading these types of books and blogs, and watching motivational videos, is part of the problem. That ignorance is bliss, and that perhaps there is not something else out there that I should be doing.

But then I think that maybe it is the search for meaning that is important, and that perhaps that is my purpose in life, to keep looking for my passion.

As I get closer to my planned retirement from teaching (only about 8 years away), I find myself thinking more and more what I would like to do with the next stage of my life. Some ideas I have flirted with include becoming a nurse, a paramedic, a math tutor/teacher, a swim coach, starting an online business, or working in customer service at a hotel/resort. Having several years before I will begin such pursuits gives me the opportunity to develop the skills needed for any of these positions. One thing I do know is that whatever path I choose, there will be a significant service component to it. For example, teaching math at a low-income elementary school seems quite appealing to me since I believe that such work has meaning and makes a difference.

In the meantime, using the closing words from Steve Jobs’s speech, I’ll continue to “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”.

Thanks for reading, and below is a list of some of my favorite inspirational books, blogs, and videos, along with helpful links to each item on the list (NOT Amazon links!).

Books I’ve read:

Strengths Finder 2.0
What Color Is Your Parachute?
The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything
Man’s Search for Meaning
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Awaken the Giant Within
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
The Power of Less
Start Something That Matters
The Four Agreements
Way of the Peaceful Warrior
The Icarus Deception (the best book I’ve read in decades!)
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.

There’s also a few books I look forward to reading this year:

The Start-up of You
How Will You Measure Your Life?
The Happiness of Pursuit

There’s also a few web sites I’ve read over the years that often focus on personal development, passion, and happiness:

Seth Godin
Steve Pavlina
Zen Habits

Finally, here’s a few videos that I have found quite inspiring:

Steve Jobs’s graduation speech at Stanford
Neil Gaiman’s graduation speech at University of the Arts
Gary Vaynerchuk’s speech from the Web 2.0 expo in 2008.

9 thoughts on “Finding My Passion

  1. Nice post Jim… I sometimes wonder whether finding your life’s passion wouldn’t be better off described as living your life full of passion!

    Some interesting post retirement career choices you add in there.


  2. This is an important and thoughtful blog! Although from the very young age I knew my passion and goals, the path to achieving my goals has been changing. When I was in high school in Afghanistan, I wanted to become a lawyer to help women. When I moved to the U.S., I wanted to work for the nonprofit organizations or UN to help women around the world. Although I got my dream job, I decided to move on and get my masters in Peace and Justice, I even applied for the program. But This year I’m thinking about studying journalism to become a voice for other women and share their stories with the world. Now I learned that time and experiences add to our expectations and make us want to take bigger risks and do different things.
    Thank you for this blog . I am looking forward to reading more of them! 🙂


    1. Hi Marzia! Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have always been impressed with your desire to make a difference in the world, and I am confident that you will be do so. I think journalism would be a great choice, since you have a chance to let your voice be heard by such a large number of people. Please keep us informed as to what you are up to, and say hello to Jim and Martha for us!


  3. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in questioning my purpose in life. At 43, I’m realizing that it’s okay to just live my best possible life, be kind to others, be as positive an example as I can be, etc.

    But as far as your own questioning goes, I wonder if your purpose isn’t just being the inspiration that you are? Sometimes, I think that our purpose isn’t always obvious to ourselves, but more so to the people we inspire, help, assist, or otherwise impact in profound and meaningful ways.

    By the by, I hope you don’t mind me spending some time in your older posts. 🙂 I don’t want you to feel stalked, haha! 😉 Your posts are always so rich and full, which makes them quite interesting!


  4. I agree that living a good life is indeed a noble purpose. Perhaps someday I’ll wake up and realize I’ve been living my passion and purpose, but I’m not there yet. And feelfree to spend as much time as you want with my old posts, I appreciate the kind words!


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