A gentle rain drizzles upon the lake. There’s a foggy silhouette of pine trees in the distance, getting bluer and whiter the farther away they become. Close up, majestic pines surround my screen in the octagon-shaped lakefront porch, with dark lace-like branches and needles obscuring the view. Just the way I like it, nestled in and safe like a warm blanket, while the sound of droplets landing on the water tickles my ears.
Visitors tell us our little porch is very special because it darts right out to the edge of the lake. Inside, the ornate woodwork on the peaked ceiling is something builders tell me could not be replaced today because there are few craftspeople who would know how. The diamond-paned windows were handmade, along with the house and porch, in 1894.
Doing It By Hand
I try to imagine building this house at a time when there were no power tools, sourcing logs from this boat-access-only property and carving them into a masterpiece. The house was built by some young man who was trained by his father, a master woodworker who was trained by his father. A chain of training over generations.
Why, then, is there no one who can do what they did today?
The modern world offers other distractions. People have more choices than to continue a family tradition of woodworking. And parents often want something different for their kids, to let them avoid the hard labor on cold and icy days or up on a roof in intense heat. Instead, their children become college-educated and chase their own passions.
The Cycle of Life
Perhaps in the past, one generation and then the next knew hard work was part of the requirement for survival. But at some point, that changed. Each generation now tends to look ahead and hope to prevent their kids from having the hard life or difficult upbringing they had to endure. Soon, we got softer and softer, to the point where our kids didn’t experience the harsh discipline of our parents. Another generation later, there is less and less discipline, less and less carrying on of family gifts, and soon the kids are cowering in corners, not wanting to work because they believe they should be taken care of and their feelings never wounded.
Then, once everyone is soft, the cycle perhaps reverses and kids don’t want to be lazy like their parents, so they return to the land to live off the grid, to grow their own food, build their own homes, and even refuse to use modern power tools. Suddenly what was uncool becomes romanticized. And in another 25 years, their offspring will have the skills I can’t find today,
But I digress.
“Do What I Did”
I’ve heard many stories of parents trying to discourage their misguided kids from pursuing a passion. Doctors want their kids to be doctors, yet the kids don’t want to repeat their parents’ life of late-night hospital calls and Thanksgiving dinners disrupted to deliver babies. They often don’t see the passion Mom or Dad found in medicine; they see only the hard stuff.
On the other hand, in my lifetime I’ve encountered many people with multi-generational gifts. Imagine how good you can be when you learn something from your mom or dad, who learned from your grandparents and great-grandparents. The gift is perfected as each becomes better than the teacher.
Still, so many of us look at what Mom or Dad do, and we don’t want to follow in their footsteps.
That was me. My dad wanted my brothers and me to carry on in his metals business, but none of us had any interest. The more he pushed, the more we went in the opposite direction. He provided well for us, but what he did wasn’t sexy in our eyes. For me, it wasn’t as appealing as the lure of something I was interested in.
In hindsight, I did follow my father’s and grandfather’s path. Both came up with business ideas and built them. I have zero fear of starting businesses because I watched my dad start so many. I just applied the gifts he passed on to my own passions.
How about you? What did you experience, or what are you experiencing now?
When my kids’ friends were at our house, I’d ask them what they wanted to do with their lives. One kid told me his parents were insisting he become a doctor like they are, but he wanted to become an entrepreneur. Another doesn’t want to become an engineer like his father and is only going to engineering school because his parents won’t cover college otherwise. He has a different passion and is miserable living his father’s dream instead of his own. Perhaps the parents know best, knowing that once their kids get the education and maturity they will find that they love having the same career.
I tell them all: Follow your passion. You don’t have to do what your parents want you to do. But don’t ignore what they are offering, because they know things about it that you don’t. At least consider it. But ultimately, this is your life, not theirs.
Stuck in Chains
I also tell these young people never to stay in a career because they were forced into it. Once I interviewed a young lady and asked why she would leave a high-paying job as a lawyer for a much lower-paying editor’s job. She told me her third-generation-lawyer parents insisted she be the fourth generation. They pushed her through law school. Upon graduation she discovered she was miserable in her job and could not identify with being a lawyer. After giving it a couple of years, she became intensely depressed because she was not following her passion. So I hired her because she had the courage to follow her own path.
God has given us each a passion and a gift. It’s our responsibility to listen to our hearts and follow that passion, then develop our gifts to become the best we can be.
Passion Isn’t Forever
But passions last a lifetime for some and a season for others. I’ve always had a passion for being an entrepreneur. I told myself I would never work on something I don’t love. My rule is that if I wake up and hate going to work more than 50 percent of the time, it’s time for a change. If I lose my passion, or become more passionate about something else, I’ll move on.
Everyone has a gift. If you have not found it yet, you will. Others may point out your gifts because sometimes you don’t see them yourself. So listen carefully when someone offers encouragement or tells you that you seem to be really good at something.
What do you love?
What are you really good at that you can’t get enough of?
What do you think about night and day?
If it’s good, if it’s ethical, explore it.
If you are desperately trying to find it but aren’t sure what it is, try a lot of things, including things that seem uninteresting. Volunteer, work in different jobs, take courses online even though you might tell yourself you don’t have what it takes.
You CANNOT Do This
When I first considered the thought of learning to paint, my critical mind told me I could not even draw a circle. I rejected the idea that I could someday become an artist and be proud to show my art to others. I foolishly believed that talent was a requirement. Yet I never believed good doctors or nurses were born with medical knowledge. They had to learn it, knowing it would be hard. Once I realized I did not need talent, I only needed to be taught, I started learning. It was hard. But it was always fun, and I’m happy and passionate about doing it.
Whatever you discover that you’re passionate about…
You have what it takes.
You can really do anything you can envision.
You simply have to find what you love, find someone who can teach you, and override the negative voices in your head.
There are also seasonal gifts. If you have a lifetime of experience, you can put it to use in new ways, teaching others, helping them find their gifts, or discovering entirely new things. I believe no one should live at any time without pursuing a gift and passion. I’ve never been a fan of retirement. Perhaps one day it will appeal to me, but the key to any retirement is to find something to be passionate about. Being sedentary is not a viable option. If you’re breathing, you have a purpose.
I once asked a man what he was passionate about. He told me he hated his job and could not wait to retire. I asked what his hobbies were. He had none. “What will you do when you retire?” I asked. He had no idea, but he hated work so much that he just wanted out.
Don’t let that be you.
Don’t let that be your loved ones.
Don’t waste a single day more as a slave to a job you hate. Or at least know that when you get off work each day, you’re looking forward to your passion.
A life well lived is a life filled with passion. Find your gifts and live them.
PS: Last week at a dinner party I showed a painting I had just finished to the woman sitting beside me. She stared, and she talked about it for a long time. Her compliments were gushing, not the typical polite words. Then she said, “I’ve gone to a paint-and-sip several times, but my paintings are awful. I know I could never do something like this.” Of course I went into my speech about how anyone can do it, all they have to do is find the right teacher, the right technique, and find time to practice. Yet I could not convince her. She was stuck on the idea that she could never do it. I promised her a lesson to prove to her that she could.
If it’s painting you don’t believe you can learn, take my free online course at www.paintbynote.com. I believe I can teach anyone to paint. Then get my video The Easiest Way in the World to Learn Painting if you want to go to a higher level. You can do this.
Or attend Realism Live this November. It’s all online, features 25+ top masters teaching, and it’s a game-changer.