Finding My Passion, Updated

Below is the second post I wrote, more than seven years ago. Back then I was questioning what my passion in life was, what my purpose was. Well, now I’m 64 years old, and I don’t think I’m any closer to discovering my purpose and passion than I was back in 2015.

I am still energized by my teaching, it is a joy working with such highly motivated young people. But I just don’t know if that is what I was meant to do (how many kids grow up wanting to be an accounting teacher?) I mention my wife in the post as someone who seems like she was meant to be a teacher. Blogging has exposed me to a few others who seem to be the same way (Beth, Pete, and Jennie, for example). It seems like teaching is in their blood; I don’t know if I can say the same thing.

When I look at the jobs I mentioned in the post below that I would be interested in after I retire from Villanova (nurse, paramedic, math tutor/teacher, swim coach, starting an online business, or working in customer service at a hotel/resort) I realize I am still interested in a few of those – swim coach, customer service (Marriott perhaps), and starting an online business, whereas the others are less appealing at this point. I did start preparing for the math teacher possibility by taking five math classes at Villanova over the past few years. But once the courses were at night and they weren’t exactly what I was looking for, I dropped about midway through my sixth class and rethought my priorities. I have also added a couple of new possibilities: writer, YouTube creator, professional movie streamer/bum.

So now I wonder if I will ever find my passion. Will I still be asking the same questions seven years from now?


January 2, 2015:

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 about 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 are 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 are also a few websites I’ve read over the years that often focus on personal development, passion, and happiness:

Seth Godin
Steve Pavlina
Zen Habits

Finally, here are 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.

*image from Meredith Wilson

62 thoughts on “Finding My Passion, Updated

  1. I think anything gets boring if you stick with it long enough. Passion is fickle. It changes more often than a cesspool repairman has to change his socks. So be careful about following your passion, or you might find yourself running around in circles.

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  2. Why should there be one life calling or passion? One of the joys in life for me is discovering new passions and interests all the time. Sometimes I run with them, and sometimes I don’t. It may seem hectic to have many of them, but at the same time, why look for an ultimate one and only?

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  3. I love that you shared this post. It’s fun to look back and see how our perspective changes or stays the same over the years. One of the biggest benefits of retirement is that you won’t have the financial pressures of house payments, putting kids through college, etc. That often prevents us from making a drastic career change in the middle of our lives. The beauty is you could try some of those things you’ve considered (i.e., swim coach) knowing that you have the financial freedom to say, sayonara if you find out it’s not what you want to do. On the other hand, you may love it and think, “I should have done this a long time ago.”

    One of my latest endeavors (I’ve only done it three times so far, but I’m going to start doing it twice a week) is reading to seniors in an assisted living center. It is so gratifying, and I feel like I’ve made someone’s day better. I didn’t know what to expect, but it has far exceeded my expectations. Last week I was reading to the grandma of one of my former students. How cool is that? I’m sure I’ll blog about this in the coming weeks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am looking forward to the freedom that retirement will offer.

      And I love how you are volunteering at an assisted living center. and what a coincidence about the grandma – this family might be thinking that this Springer guy just won’t leave our family alone! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found my yearbook from when her grandson was in my class and brought it to show last time. Just seeing her smile made my month.

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  4. That’s a good reading list! My personal favourites for changing my life was ‘7 Habits…’ and ‘Man’s search for meaning.

    Thanks for sharing this post – I’m quite interested in the topic of finding your passion, because I don’t think a lot of people know. I’m still looking and just learnt to enjoy the experience of keep looking and trying different things.

    As your aware I’m into my fitness and had the opportunity to pursue some of my interests getting to volunteer as a karate coach, then getting paid to be an ice rink Marshall- both were good as I got to do lots of karate and ice skating, but something I grew to dred as I had to deal with disrespectful teenagers and kids who just weren’t interested in learning but bundled along by parents!

    Those experiences have made me wary going all in with something I enjoy in my leisure time as a career!

    Regarding ignorance is bliss – that’s a good point, the problem with the Internet is it heightens the sense that we should be doing something else. It wasn’t until I joined Twitter where you’d read constant 9 to 5 bashing and tell you to start your own business.

    This created a sense for a while what I was doing wasn’t enough, until I realised I enjoyed the freedom of a 9 to 5 to do my hours then go home.

    Thanks Jim for sharing this post!

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  5. Although you may not be passionate about the work, you are definitely passionate about your students. I hear that in every story you share. And I wouldn’t get too caught up in figuring out what is next. Whatever you choose, if it does not fit your passions, you can always change direction. That is the beauty of being retired!

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    1. I do get caught up in wanting to see my students do well.

      and good point about a post retirement job. if I don’t like it, it will give me material for my blog posts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jim, I could probably write a whole series of posts on this issue but it could get somewhat narcissistic! So I’ll confine myself to a longish comment. It starts where I am today, 74 years old, retired since 60, having done lots of things in those 14 years ranging from mountaineering in the Himalayas to creating and running and education charity in Nepal, from writing a couple of books to travelling the world. As you know I’m a Buddhist so following a Buddhist path has been superimposed on my life for 25+ years and there’s a connection with what you wrote. For a while my wife and I looked back on our education work in Nepal quite negatively until it dawned on us how much we’d left behind. We’d put more than mere “education” into our staff and thousands of teachers; a strong set and sense of values that many of us take for granted ……. integrity, work ethic, learning, ….. professionalism etc etc. In Buddhist terms this is our “Continuation Body”, a massive legacy that goes way beyond the genes inherited by our children. In Nepal alone we influenced thousands to think and see things differently. I’ll shut up, but I’m sure you have done the same to all of your students even if they never become accountants! Finally, a book for you and all of your readers Travels With Epicurus by Daniel Klein. Over 20 years ago Klein asked the same questions as you and went to live on a Greek island for a few months. Hilarious, insightful and extremely useful to people our age DO get it, you might just find your answer.

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    1. thank you for such a thoughtful comment Dr. B! You have had an impressive post retirement life. I do like how you reference Buddhism when you reflect on your decisions. I will defintely pick up that book – thanks for the recommendation…

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  7. My aunt once said ‘I wish I had something I could be enthusiastic about like other people.’ People range from those with all consuming passion for their career or talent down to those who drift through life and we can’t all be the same. My sister always knew she wanted to be a doctor and loved studying from school onwards. I was a career disaster and if I have finally decided what to do when I leave school it could be writing, but that would not have earned me a living. I did enjoy being a stay home mother but that is not a lifetime career. Try something completely different Jim, for the ‘recycled teenager’ years. My aunt did love gardening, I think most of us have a passion for various things, but not many have a passion that can be a life time career. I would say my pastime passions are writing, gardening, walking and exploring new places ( not mountain climbing kind of exploring! )

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    1. thank you for your thoughtful comments, Janet. I do plan to spend a lot of time reading, trying to practice juggling again, and learning to play the guitar. But I would not consider any of those a purpose in life 🙂

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  8. I agree with you, about the importance of passion. I teach a lesson in my classes called “Genius Hour” where students get to spent 20% of their time exploring their passion. Which means they must first decide what it is.

    I consider myself blessed that I fell in love with writing just as teaching was waning because I hate being bored!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the idea of the Genius Hour; how did you still manage to cover everything that was in your curriculum?

      and what a wonderful transition you have made to being a writer!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The kids were excited about exploring their passion so were more motivated to work hard the other 80% of the time. They learned as much of the standards as any other year AND found out about stuff they loved. I’d recommend it for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. As you like planning ahead, why not make a plan to spend the first three months of your retirement considering the options open to you before making any decisions. I don’t think you can really plan ahead too much for retirement, as it changes your perspective on life and you might just end up asking yourself all of these questions again if you aren’t entirely sure about what choice/s you do make.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jim, you bring up a very valuable point. Not everything has to be a journey, not everyone has to have a “passion.” Also, sometimes people’s passions are not tangible in the form of monetary gain. I can’t think of anything right now off the top of my head but my sister is going through this right now. She has worked so hard all her life and is finding her career very unfulfilling and is always wondering what her passion is. But honestly, I don’t think everyone needs/wants/should have a passion. I think as long as you have a purpose, you do what you like/love with work and/or the other part of your life, then you’re doing just fine. If you feel like something is missing, then it’s always good to try different things to see what could help you identify/fill that void- sometimes it’s not necessarily that something is missing but perhaps better understanding of your past and how that connects your future?

    I do love that Steve Jobs question though- “What would you do if money were no object?”- I think it can be very transformative depending on what other people’s answers are!

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    1. I guess it’s good to know I’m not alone in this feeling of wondering what I should bevdoing with my life. But I guess ultimately, if I am happy and I feel like I’ve made a contribution somehow, then I should be satisfied that I’ve led a good life.

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  11. I think that we are all ever-evolving, and it’s good to change and adapt as you go through life. sometimes what we think is the ultimate thing in the future, doesn’t seem so appealing as we get closer to it. I like you ideas, and I still would not take clown/juggler/stand up comic off of your list of maybes. I plan to retire in 2ish more years and work/volunteer part time as a baker/indy movie theater worker and/or with refugee children – so who knows what it will be? maybe something I haven’t even thought of yet

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  12. Don’t stress it. I think you have some great ideas and that in time it will become more clear. Like others have said I don’t think you just need one passion, you can have many. The most important is to enjoy life, as cliche as that sounds. But its true savor the important things and I believe you do that by how you talk about your family and friends. You are on the right track! 🙂

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  13. I think that a way to find / follow one’s passion is to remain curious throughout one’s life. Adapt to change. Explore the new. Know what is happening. Stay in touch. Participate. Fight – life is a beautiful daily struggle.

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  14. Oh, Jim…I am impressed with your reading list but if you haven’t already maybe it’s time to pass them on, donate them to charity, take a breath, stop thinking too much and go with the flow…see where it takes you, not all roads lead to Rome…Does it have to be a burning passion or just a moment(or ) a few months in time and then on to something else…Good Luck, listen to your heart and above all enjoy and be at peace…

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    1. I love your philosophy on life, Carol, and perhaps once I retire, I’ll learn how to go with the flow a bit better. I like the idea of trying things a few months at a time, and then moving on, assuming that didn’t capture your fancy…

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      1. Absolutely…the jewellery making lasted for a good few months the bread making is now something I do regularly..but Lily is now interested in making jewellery so my boxes of beads, ribbons and wires etc etc have come out again…sometimes what we learn goes a full circle and we can pass it on and move on…:) x

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  15. It is Jim and the time I spent learning isn’t wasted although I don’t do it anymore..maybe Lily will take up the mantle and pass it on to her friends…and I get rid of boxes which makes hubby happy when he decides to tidy a cupboard and ask me why I keep them…:)

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  16. Jim, I was struck by something you said. But first, thank you for linking me with Beth and Pete. Yes, we have found our passion. Frankly, you are also a born teacher/giver. You might need to alter that direction after retirement from Villanova (one or two years?) to hone in on that passion. We teachers thrive on passion. So, back to what struck me: … “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. ” Bingo! You love teaching, you just need to find a place where your teaching makes a difference. And maybe that’s not a school. “Oh, the Places We Go.”

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  17. I wonder if someone people are just never meant to figure out who they were supposed to be. It’s sad if you think about it. I think I might end up being one of those people, but until then – I will try. I find that oftentimes we want to do something until we actually give it a try and then we realize that it’s not really what we wanted after all.

    Professional movie streamer/bum sounds exciting. No, not really. But I kind of feel like that’s what the young generation is saying when asked that question.

    Many of us would like to do something IF it brought us money and success. Otherwise, it’s not really worth it (or sustainable).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree; money has to be a consideration. We need a place ot live and food to eat.

      maybe that’s why when people retire they start purusing something they are interested in, because money may not be as much of an issue at that point…

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