I was recently in Austin, TX giving an In the Right Seat talk for a conference, and was sharing with the audience how my journey through homelessness has guided many of the decisions I’ve made, the charities I’ve chosen to partner with, and influenced the approach I took to building my business. I asked the packed room in attendance to, by a show of hands, tell me how many of them knew what they were passionate about. A smattering of hands were raised. An older lady in the crowd then asked me, “How do you know what you’re most passionate about?”
“What breaks your heart?” I replied simply.
I told the stunned audience then that I choose to partner with charities who help people who are homeless and have helped organizations like The Salvation Army and others to raise millions of dollars to get families off the streets because homelessness breaks my heart. I was once homeless. I remember every detail of what I went through, suffering which has now become a clarion call of victory in my life. And it breaks my heart that others, men, women, and often even children, are in that same position. I filter every decision I make though the lens, through the paradigm, of heartbreak. My passion to effect change for this cause is directly derived from how much it breaks my heart.
If you’re looking for your passion using the heartbreak paradigm, here are 3 tips:
1. Look to pivotal moments in your life.
One woman in that audience stood up, and fighting through tears, shared that she witnessed the abuse her elderly grandparents endured in a nursing home when she was a child. The pain that inflicted on her family left an indelible mark on her psyche, and led her directly to her vocation, administrator for a nursing home. She shared with the crowd that her reason for choosing this career was that she didn’t want to see another family go through what she saw her grandparents go through. Pain led directly to her passion.
2. Ask the people closest to you.
Your parents, spouse, business associates, siblings or close friends, particularly those who’ve known you since before you settled into the routines and pressures of adulthood, will often have particular insight into what makes you tick, and into what you might be missing. They may remember childhood traumas or challenges you have long since suppressed. Ask them, and give them time to think before responding.
3. Remember your escapes.
Many of us have the seeds of our purpose, of our passion, in us from birth, or early childhood. Formative joys, pain, interests, and accomplishments can all hint at the deeper purpose for our lives, and direction for our endeavors throughout them. Following the heartbreak paradigm, what became an escape from pain or heartbreak for you? For me, I was teased mercilessly when I was a child. My head was always a few sizes too big for my body (I grew into it eventually) and my nose too big for my face (not quite so much), and my clothes were never quite as nice as the most popular kids in my school. Singing was my escape from the resulting insecurities. I never felt more confident, brave, or strong than when I stood up in front of a crowd and opened my mouth to sing, and the same kids who teased me off the stage, often came to cheer for me on it. Music became my escape. Although I couldn’t have known it then, the seeds of my love for singing helped to establish the foundation of my self-esteem, and sprouted forth from roots so deeply entrenched within me that the resulting musical branches have now impacted millions of people all over the world.
What escape did you have as a child that could point to your passion?
The truth is that formative pain stays with us, often throughout life. We have limited control over that fact; however, what we CAN control is how we use that pain. Using it to drive us to do good for others allows us to take that which would otherwise destroy us to build up those around us.
What breaks your heart? What is your passion?