Updated: May 29, 2019
It can be really hard to dream big when you need to deal with the practical considerations of feeding and clothing yourself. On top of that, you need to have the means to pay for all the other amenities and conveniences for the lifestyle you're accustomed to. Being occupied with a full-time job and other obligations can make it feel impossible to dream up an alternative career or future, but at the same time, it's just as hard to let your imagination take flight when you have a completely obligation-free period of time! So where's the sweet spot? In the last couple of weeks I've been trying out fitting a small amount of "dedicated dreaming time" into my regular obligations and routine, and it's actually pretty motivating, enhances my attention span for that period of time, and brings importance to the very crucial exercise of imagining dream careers for myself. Ideation and imagining professional projects and activities is main focus of Module 4.
Cultivating Passion, Making Your Discovery & the Birth of Mini-Experiments
Module 4 is full of many more questions than answers, which makes sense in a self-discovery course. It begins with a call to action: spend some time alone in nature, and let your mind wander without a plan, and just generally ask it big questions like “Why am I here?” “How would I like to spend my days?” See what happens. This is an addition to “creating your environment” with people (from Module 3) - you are making space for your mind to be creative. Once this directive is established, the course gets you to brainstorm the craziest fun ideas you can think of, or “Separate Creativity from Reality.” In Design Thinking, this is the “ideation” phase. The idea is not to stamp out any nascent ideas before they have had room to percolate - it’s easy to discard an idea that seems infeasible at the start, when it actually could have become a really good one! Instead, try to come up with as many varied ideas as possible.
In order to expand that brainstorming list of ideas, the course provides a rigorous set of self-discovery questions to spur your creativity, and some encouragement to continue learning and self-educating constantly about new things. The questions posed are basically thought experiments that get you coming at the task from a bunch of different angles: past experiences (what’s made you most proud, things you get angry or impassioned about, etc), removing time or money from the equation, and perspectives from close friends and family. There are several inspiring expert interviews to get you thinking, too. I’m still working through those now, but very much enjoyed hearing zenhabits.net blogger Leo Babauta’s philosophies on building trust with customers and his stripped-down-to-what’s-most-important approach to blogging and products. According to Leo, you don’t need a ton of people on your mailing list to offer something valuable to them so that they can support you in return; rather, you just need 1,000 people who trust you and are interested in what you are doing. He stresses building trust, instead of eroding it in a quest to make money faster. Show that helping people with your content is your #1 goal - not selling them something. This really resonated with me.
Wrote four pages of project / career ideas throughout the last two weeks!
Spent time in nature: Habitable Spaces, Padre Island National Seashore, a few greenbelt walks, sitting in the creek at the Flats, walk with the band at Walnut Creek
Got perspectives on my passions from good friends and family members - thanks Andrew, Rachel, Lara, Dad, Mom, Auntie, and Gramma :)
Learn new stuff, like how to make farmer’s cheese! Finished reading Take Risks and started the Celestine Prophecy, listened to and gained ideas and inspiration from 8 hours worth of the Location Indie podcast
Determined the amount of money I’d need to make monthly to comfortably live the lifestyle I want right now: it’s $3,000 per month. I used the budgeting app I currently track my expenses on to figure this out pretty quickly, and it’s so nice to have a number - now I know what I’m shooting for. Shout out to Trav and Jason from Location Indie for the suggestion to determine what my number is.
Continued creating my environment of inspiration and cultivating authentic connection by spending chill, unstructured time with seven more friends one on one, plus my good old open mic gang of fantastic indie musicians, authors, and dreamers.
Made some more headway towards organizing things to live on the road: got an updated contacts and glasses prescription, sent my flute for maintenance (easier to get back in the mail when I have an address), got an oil change for my car, and cleaned half of my apartment. I also camped in my car at the beach - I’ve slept in the custom “bedroom” I have set up in the back on a few camping trips, but I figure it can’t hurt to get more accustomed to it and see if I’m missing anything.
Performed in Michael Zapruder’s chamber opera, In Light, which went great!
Played the four back-to-back FlecHaus shows the band has been practicing for all month. We successfully prepared four new songs for these shows, and we’ve got more than enough music to tour with in July!
played third flute & piccolo with the Round Rock Symphony for a couple of educational concerts for an audience of incredibly enthusiastic elementary school students.
Focused on cultivating my creativity by singing a lot more in the band, writing two more blog posts (including this one), and composing some more.
I’m going to just keep listing this as a win forever: continuing my regular meditating and journaling!
Making space to create. I’ve been feeling more and more inspiration and compositional and career ideas lately in the last couple of weeks, but I kept putting them off in favor of other, seemingly more important, errands or tasks. Since I know that creating is one of my biggest values in life, though, I can’t compromise on it. A few days ago I decided to experiment with giving into my creative impulses / inspiration whenever they strike, and barring any scheduled meetings, which I luckily don’t have many of, I can move everything else in the day to fit around the creativity. So far I’ve composed and blogged more, which feels good, we’ll see how it goes as the week progresses.
I stopped going to the gym time this week with everything going on. I still remember how good it feels though, so will be getting back to it!
Mixed messages. I’m noticing one mixed message I have trouble reconciling in the course: Module 4 is explicitly about ideation, not yet analyzing the feasibility of any of the dreams or career ideas that I come up with. However, there are concurrent messages about learning by doing, getting started producing content or offering services before you feel like you’re “ready,” and facing your fears. I’m not quite sure how to walk this line, but for now my “doing” is composing and building the right environment, and I’m keeping the rest in the brainstorming phase until I reach the next module.
Final Thoughts and What I’ll Share Next Week
It makes me a little nervous to be doing all this self-discovery stuff and not actually having chosen a plan of action to start a business yet, but I trust that understanding my values, beliefs about the world, and dreams is the right way for me to go about it. Since I’m already so picky about how I spend my time, it’s important for me to make sure I ask myself all the important questions I can to have a good starting point for business experiments. Better to do that than to barrel down one path that seems financially promising only to find myself right back where I started: financially safe but yearning to do something I’m more passionate about.
Next week, I’ll share some of my favorite ideas from the 4-page list I ended up with, and some more specific insights I took away from the expert interviews at the end of Module 4! I’m focusing on making space for creativity this week, so I probably won’t start on Module 5 yet. Instead, I’ll share a new composition, that will hopefully flourish in that extra space. Next post: Live Off Your Passion Journal Part 5: Crazy Ideas and Horn Calls