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Weekly 3: Uncover your core motivations


Idea Journal Weekly 3

June 6 · Issue #194 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Identifying your true interests and motivations can be hard because of external influences, fear, and other factors. This issue explores three ideas to help you see yourself and what you actually care about more clearly.
(~5 min read)

#1. You don't have to create your core inclinations, you already possess them
Author Robert Greene writes in his book Mastery that in order to master a field, “you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it.”
In order to develop such a genuine and powerful connection to a field, you first have to understand your particular makeup and tendencies – what makes you unique.
As Greene points out, unfortunately some people never become who they are: “they stop trusting themselves, they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature.”
The problem is that as you get older and more sophisticated, you can lose touch with your true self.
It gets buried under the subjects you study or the jobs you work, and it is often distorted by the desires of others – whether parents or peers.
One strategy that Greene recommends for surfacing your “primal inclinations” is to reflect on your childhood.
What you’re looking for are traces of visceral reactions to particular activities or topics during your earliest years:
  • Did you find yourself repeating an activity without getting bored?
  • Did you have an unusual amount of curiosity for a particular subject?
  • Did you sense feelings of power when you performed certain actions?
#2. Live your true life, not a metaphor
Author Steven Pressfield writes in his book Turning Pro that sometimes, when we’re afraid of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a “shadow career” instead.
That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. It has a similar shape, but it entails no risk: “If we fail at a shadow career the consequences are meaningless to us.”
He gives a few examples:
  • The musician who spends more time drinking and doing drugs than writing music.
  • The employee who works in a support capacity for an innovator because she’s afraid of taking the risk and becoming an innovator herself.
For Pressfield, both are cases of amateur behavior.
The amateur knows that becoming himself means being different from others. He knows that this could mean violating the expectations of the tribe, and he believes that without the tribe’s support, he can’t survive.
Therefore, the amateur stays in place and remains inauthentic: someone other than who he really is.
Pressfield advises: “If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for. That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.”
#3. Use the "passion recipe" to fulfill your potential
Author and entrepreneur Steven Kotler writes in a blog post that there’s unnecessary mystery surrounding the word “passion.”
As Kotler points out, the reason passion is important in your career and life is both simple and practical: “it’s a profound focusing mechanism.”
We pay more attention to things we believe in, and this drives performance, increases productivity, and triggers the flow state.
Kotler recommends the below 5 step process to find your passion:
1. Make a list of curiosities
Write down 25 things you’re curious about.
To help identify what should be on the list, ask yourself: If you had a spare weekend, what topics would you be interested in reading a couple books on, or speaking with an expert about?
The key is to be as specific as possible.
For instance, if you’re interested in fitness, you might write down “how to have good posture while jogging.”
Or, instead of writing down “food,” you might write about the potential for grasshoppers to become humanity’s primary food source in the future.
2. Look for intersections.
Now try to find places where your 25 curiosities intersect.
Taking the examples from Step #1 above, if you’re curious about jogging and about grasshoppers as a potential source of protein: Would grasshoppers or other insects make a good post-workout food?
This is an important step because curiosity alone is not enough to create passion – it doesn’t entail enough focus or commitment.
You’re looking for an overlap between your curiosities because our brains love pattern recognition: “the linking of ideas together.”
3. Explore the intersection
Once you’ve identified the intersection, feed your curiosities by studying the topics. Even 10 to 20 minutes each day of watching videos or reading books and articles is helpful.
You want to become familiar with the history and language of the associated ideas. This will lead to more patterns, more dopamine, more motivation, and over time, some degree of expertise.
4. Be social
It’s not enough to identify and explore the intersection of your curiosities.
Kotler argues that you also need “public successes”: positive feedback and reinforcement from a group (e.g., talking to others interested in the same topics, joining a community).
The key is being able to enter the conversation around these topics with your own ideas and something to say.
5. Find a purpose
Kotler writes that in order to build a business or your career around your passion, you need to turn it into a purpose.
He recommends the following exercise: write down 15 global problems that you would like to see solved (e.g., hunger). Now ask yourself: Can your intersecting curiosities be applied to any of these problems?
For Kotler, the world’s biggest challenges are also the world’s biggest business opportunities.
Quote of the week
“Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call ‘vocation.’ But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves … to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life.”
- Philosopher Jose Ortega Y Gasset in his book Man and Crisis
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