Chip Is Alive!, Issue 3

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Welcome to Issue 3 of Chip Is Alive!, where we examine thought-provoking life strategies and issues which may or may not be of interest to you. Chip Is Alive! is inspired by Chip Vivant, the app who thinks he's alive and wants to be your friend and help you in ways that other productivity apps can't. You can meet Chip at www.empathynow.com.

In this issue, we'll:

  • take a critical look the notion of following your passion
  • talk about how you can use To-Dos for people other than yourself (Take out the trash!)
  • show how you can get an Empathy Quick Hit without logging in

Enjoy. Feedback always welcome. Also, have you claimed your free Break Timer from last week's issue?

Following Your Passion: A Counterpoint

A popular theme among life coaches and self-help experts is the notion of following your passion (a.k.a. "following your bliss"). People with a religious bent might term this "following your calling". The idea is that you try to discover what excites you or makes you feel alive and gravitate towards that; by listening to the universe and being attuned to what it wants of you, amazing and unforeseen things happen which make you a happier, fulfilled person.

I'm not a life coach, psychologist or guru. I'm just a computer guy who thinks he knows a thing or two about how computers can help and comfort people. I do have some questions about the notion of following your bliss / calling, though. I'm writing my analysis here and also reaching out to several people who believe in this philosophy for counterarguments which I hope to publish in upcoming newsletters.

I had been exposed to this philosophy informally, but the first real expounding of this came with my purchase of Fred Gratzton's The Lazy Way to Success: How to Do Nothing and Accomplish Everything, a beautifully-illustrated, motivational hardcover book that can be summarized in a few pithy sentences:

  • Follow Your Bliss.
  • Do what you love and the money will come.
  • If you love what you do, it's not work.

Again, the notion is that if you follow your passion, the universe will reward you for doing so.

This sounds fantastic, but it's at variance with a lot of things I see.

Here's a case in point: Mark Windsor, a patient who had a cancerous tumor removed from his neck at the age of 27, thought he was cancer-free, then quit his company job with health insurance to pursue his passion as a photographer. The cancer returned, he was uninsurable, and eventually ended dying of the cancer[1,2].

Another case in point: what about all of the people in <insert an example country here> who are starving to death through no fault of their own, or have contracted HIV through no fault of their own? What passion or bliss are they supposed to follow in order for the universe to start dispensing its bounty on them?

I felt that Gratzton's model was flawed, so I did more soul- and web searching and came across Peggy McColl's website[3]. She seems to have the same message as Gratzton, but dramatically improves the model by saying that in order to make money, your passion has to intersect with the set of things people are willing to pay for. This makes a lot more sense, but I'm still left wondering where the people who are starving or otherwise living in abject misery fit in. Are they in a different group? (I should disclose that I spoke with Peggy at length on the phone once and she might have answered the question and I forgot. I've reached out to her again concerning this.)

For many, following one's passion means starting a business of their own, which is probably doomed to fail, based on the grim statistics[4]. Again, as a computer guy and analytical person, I have a hard time imagining that positive thoughts and bounty from the universe can counteract these grim statistics in all cases.

I am heartened by the fact that highly-successful business people like Steve Jobs strongly believe in following your passion[5,6]. One quote from Steve Jobs is "I'd get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about", so he found passion very important. Sadly, though, not everyone can be a Steve Jobs and people can encounter a world of pain, heartache and disappointment on the path to eventual failure.

Again, I'm not trying to depress or discourage people here, just play devil's advocate and elicit responses.

Cal Newport recently wrote an article on cnn.com[7] and guest posted in Ramit Sethi's blog[8] about an alternative to what he calls the dangerous notion of following your passion. He says that rather than blindly following your passion, you should identify a target lifestyle, find a job which supports that lifestyle, then cultivate a valuable skill for that job. This seems to me to be a more sustainable path for many. Also there's no notion of the universe here and the thorny questions of why so many seemingly deserving people aren't getting the payout from the universe which to my untrained eye, they seem to deserve.

(I should note that I'm being somewhat hypocritical here because I am following my passion with EmpathyNow.)

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't consider the observations of those like Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who recorded the top five regrets of countless individuals in the last twelve weeks of their lives. Their main regret was not having had the courage to live a life true to themselves[9,10].

What's your take on this? Which of the two models do you think makes the most sense? And if you believe in the notion of the universe bestowing its gifts on you if you follow your calling, how does this apply to the people suffering in misery in this world? Or have I misinterpreted the message? Please go to EmpathyNow Facebook page and weigh in in the comments underneath the post for this newsletter.

Chip's Tips: Empathy Quick Hit and Take Out The Trash!

The first tip is a quick and easy one. If you're feeling down and need a quick hit of empathy, simply visit the Empathy Now Quick Hit page and indulge yourself. No need to create an account or anything like that. That said, creating an account takes all of thirty seconds and you can do many more amazing things.

The second tip is a cool To-Do trick. You can create To-Dos for other people who don't have an account with EmpathyNow. Want your significant other to take out the trash? Simply add them as a new contact, then create a one-time (or recurring) To-Do for them. They'll have to verify their email address, so make sure you sweet-talk them first, but once they do, you can beam your chore and errand requests to them to your heart's content.

If you enjoy these newsletters, please Like the EmpathyNow Facebook page and consider following us on Twitter. Have a great weekend and see you next Friday!

Gratitude

In addition to the people who are close to me and whom I've thanked personally, I'd like to extend Thank Yous this week to Rebecca Hulse, a life coach who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for using and providing valuable feedback on EmpathyNow, Nancy Colasurdo, a nationally-renowned life coach and writer who gave me a free coaching session, feedback, and nice validation out of the goodness of her heart, and Peggy McColl, a best-selling author and mentor who's taken the time to provide valuable email feedback.

Web References

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