Are you happy right now about your life? Think about the next few days. What do you have planned? Are you just going to wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to sleep and then repeat? Or are you going to wake up, read a chapter in a book while you’re eating breakfast, listen to a pod-cast on your way to work, do a crossword at work (during break), finish your pod-cast on your way home, go on a walk with your family (or alone), eat a picnic dinner in the park across the street, have game-night with your family (or at your friend’s house) then finish your day off by looking at the stars?
Are you inserting things into your day that fill you with joy, passion or a greater meaning? If your outlook on life is negative, boring, mundane or drab, you might be only pursuing duties. However, if you are fulfilled in life, feel like you are “a part” of something greater, choose to be happy and joyful and always have something to share with others when they ask, “How are you?”, then you are probably following your passions and duties.
What is duty? What is passion? They are both vitally important in life. Can a man live on
one alone while totally putting the other aside? Are both needed in order to exist in a fulfilled, wholesome, well-rounded life? What do you define or label yourself as? Father? Mother? Husband? Wife? Accountant? Nurse? Electrician? Educator? Christ follower? Agnostic? Hiker? Scrap-booker? Hunter? Lover of books? Cyclist? Dog owner? Snowboarder? Traveler? Photographer?
There are tasks, jobs, a series of projects that must be accomplished daily, weekly and monthly. Take a shower, clean the dishes, change the oil in your car, go to work, fold the clothes, take out the dog, mow the lawn, shovel the snow. These are called “duties”. They are what keeps us surviving in a world where no one else will do these things for you unless you get them done yourself (unless you can afford others to work for you). Duties are things that must be done or else you will get behind in bills, you will start to smell funny, you will lose your job, you will become a hoarder and your car will eventually cease from functioning. You will then most likely end up living as an unsettled, panhandling drifter, digging through dumpsters and holding one of those signs that says, “DISABLED Veteran. single father of 4. looking for work. Anything helps. God bless.”
A great example of a duty is your job. Very few people can say that their job also matches their passion unless they’re a surfing instructor, a photographer or a research genetic scientist. Although sometimes you may find the occasional Subway Sandwich Artist (yes, that’s what they call them) who is passionate about his job. I once frequented a Subway in Lakewood, Colorado every Tuesday. Back then, I would receive a “stamp” on my Subway card for every purchase. Once I filled my card, I got a free foot-long. When I entered in the front door, a particular “sandwich artist” behind the counter would say, “Welcome to Subway! Today is DOUBLE STAMP TUESDAY!!! Come get your double stamps!” He was so passionate about what he was doing despite the bored, expressionless attitudes of the customers. He was one of the few examples I’ve ever seen of someone who was passionate about a job that is usually a duty.
Have you ever heard of Mike Rowe? He has hosted and narrated a number of TV programs including World’s Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs. In a video on Prager University, he commented about following opportunity instead of passion in their occupation.
“On Dirty Jobs, I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner, a multi-millionaire, who told me the secret to his success: ‘I looked around to see where everyone else was headed,’ he said, ‘And then I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. And then one day, I realized I was passionate about other people’s crap,’
“I’ve heard that same basic story from welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, HVAC professionals, hundreds of other skilled tradesmen who followed opportunity – not passion – and prospered as a result.”
The point Mike Rowe was trying to make was to not follow your passion in your job.
“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”
He meant that in your job, follow the opportunity that entails the duty; don’t follow your passion. You might be passionate about being a home builder. However, you may find out later down the road that your skill and your passion were very far apart. Mike Rowe closed by saying,
“Staying the course only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. And while passion is way too important to be without, it is way to fickle [unstable] to follow around. Which brings us to the final Dirty Truth: never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”
Can one survive and endure in this type of a life where their only purpose, their only existence rests on accomplishing duty? Yes, they absolutely can. But where does that leave them? All they’re doing is serving their existence. Living in a shallow shell of survival. Their life is lived from a “sepia colored perspective” instead of from an angle where they see and live things in vivid detail.
Duties are vitally important though. They must be the groundwork of your life. The under-layer of your daily reality. If you don’t have a job, you can’t afford to enjoy your passions, right? Duty does not make you unique, it just keeps you sturdy, grounded and in place. Duties must not be neglected or overlooked or else you should not pursue your passions. Duty comes first. Everyone has time for duties. Everyone also has excuses to not have a passion.
Passions are those extra things in your life that make you uniquely you. They are the simple bonuses that define who you are. The icing on the cake, the silver lining, the charm, the extra sparkle, the twinkle in your eye, the bounce in your step. Passions are usually hobbies that people indulge in where they can pass the time, enrich their lives, branch out and meet new people and feel like they can “own” their satisfaction instead of delay it or find excuses.
Think about the happiest person you know. Ask them about what makes them that way. Why do they choose, despite all their hardships, to remain happy? They don’t have to be rich and usually aren’t. Actually, they are typically just normal, everyday people who find an extra charm in their life. Most of them will point to a specific passion or passions as to the reason for their voluntary happiness. Most of them can also point to a person or people who they share their passions with.
If I can think of a person who is at the pinnacle of living a fulfilled, well rounded, happy
life, it would be Dennis Prager. Many of my life’s applications and philosophies have come from him. If you don’t know who Dennis Prager is, I’ll briefly describe him to you. He is a 68-year-old Jewish-American who lives in Los Angeles, California. He is on his third marriage and has several kids. There; I just gave you all his labels. This description can include many men in Los Angeles.
However, what makes Dennis unique are his passions and hobbies. He is a conservative political commentator, he has written seven books, he collects fountain pens, he is a connoisseur of fine cigars, he has a high-quality sound system, he enjoys classical music, he has three college degrees, he started Prager University (an on-line library of ideas and enrichment), he is an orchestra maestro, he has hosted a radio talk show since 1982, he has been used as a resource for issues on Judaism and Israel on many TV and radio shows and there are so many other things that make him unique.
If I could use an example of someone who is happy, content, confident, self-assured, secure and satisfied, it would be Dennis Prager. However, he is all those things because he has led a life of devotion and has been faithful in many areas including his duties. However, he didn’t get to where he is without going through tragedy and hardship. I mentioned before that he is on his third marriage. Divorce (especially with kids involved) is one of the hardest things any family can endure. In 2009, Dennis’ mother died. The death of a parent, even if they have lived a long life, is always painful. However, Mr. Prager continues to enjoy a life of fulfillment and gratification; full of wisdom and experience that he passes on to others through his radio show, books and through Prager University.
I was asked once by a coworker what I liked to do for fun. It wasn’t a loaded question. There wasn’t a hidden meaning. He just wanted to find out what my hobbies or passions were. At the time, I was married with no kids. My wife and I should have had many hobbies and passions we enjoyed as a couple or individually. Before kids, we had all the time in the world! However, I didn’t really do anything but work. During my off days, I did read a lot but who didn’t read? I gave my coworker some lame answer like I enjoyed hanging out with my wife at home. It didn’t make me lame; I was just following my duties at the time and not many of my passions.
There are three things single men do with their passions once they tie the knot at the alter and become a family man:
1) They allow them to fade away
2) They continue to pursue them
3) They “hobbify” them.
The first option is the most common alternative many married men select. However, it has become an epidemic around the globe. Many family homes are used to seeing fathers as emptied out, couch potatoes who have no motivation or drive. They are “ghosts at the table”. That is because they have abandoned their passions to follow the duty of husbandhood and fatherhood. Men need a passion that give them an identity, drive and interest. Something they can escape into and feel alive in a masculine way. Men who choose the second option and continue to follow their passions as a married man (to the same degree they did as a single man) are paving the way for a very unhappy spouse and eventually a failed marriage. You don’t have to give up what you love to be with someone you love. You can still follow your passions to some degree when you’re married. Maybe you can even do them together with your spouse. However, you must leave room to pursue your spouse. And this brings me to the third option: the hobbification of your passions. This is the best route to take. Saying yes to your passions doesn’t necessarily mean saying no to your family. Instill your passions into your family. Go fishing together, camping, hiking, play board games, talk religion, philosophy, politics. Take your bikes out regularly. Make memories. Teach your son woodworking. Teach your daughter how to draw. But also take time for yourself to enrich your own passions in the form of a hobby 3.
I married young and gave up a lot. I stopped writing my zine (a personal publication with poetry, blogs, band interviews and music reviews). I quit playing drums in a band. I stopped going to see bands I loved. I quit pursuing many of my passions to instead pursue my duty of being a husband. That’s where it was all wrong. I gave up passion for duty. I was miserable sometimes.
When I was married and my wife was away, I wondered who I was at my core being. If my job, degree and family were stripped away, what would I be? What was my identity? A husband, father, college graduate and employee? Any of those could have been taken away. My passions should have defined me but I didn’t have many passions then. I realize now that I didn’t have much of an identity while I was married. I just went along with whatever happened around me. I was a different man back then who had some direction of my own but who also walked in the footsteps of others. Unfortunately, now I know this as hindsight.
Since being single for almost seven years, I have developed, enriched and found new passions and hobbies. If you haven’t already noticed, I like to blog. I am also a novice cyclist. I love hiking and backpacking. I research genealogy. I study the bible and history. I listen to and enjoy playing music. I serve at my church on the media team. I go on long walks. I like to talk about politics and world news. I’m involved in The Samson Society (a group of Christian men). There are so many things about me that make me unique from other men like me.
I can label myself as a single father in his late 30’s, I’m a son, I’m a Christ follower, a healthcare worker, I have a master’s degree, I live in Littleton, Colorado, I’m Caucasian, I’m taller than most people, I’m a conservative politically. But these labels don’t define me. They place me in a group with other similar men. However, I want to be unique. I want to stand out from the rest. I want to belong to a group, which in itself makes me exclusive. I want to grow and be enriched through my uniqueness. I want to attract others to my exclusiveness and help point them towards a more active, fulfilled, successful, happy life.
You may be reading this and think, “Good for you Dave! You have finally ‘found yourself’. I’m happy for you. However, I feel stuck. Like I can’t escape from this box of routine I’m in. I want to become more fulfilled and unique but I don’t know where to start,” First of all, what were you passionate about as a kid or a teenager? If you’re married, what did you like to do for fun when you were single? Is there a way you can still enjoy those things as an adult? Maybe you liked coin collecting, bike riding or you played baseball. Can you get back into those things? Do you have friends who enjoy certain things that you can join them in? There may even be passions out there you can dive into that you are totally unaware of at the moment.
Maybe this following list can help. There are seven basic types of hobbies or activities that I would describe as passions:
- Enrichment Hobbies – hobbies that enhance your mind or spirit
- Leaning a foreign language
- Studying the bible or history
- Writing or blogging
- Listening to music or playing a musical instrument
- Sports – nothing professional, just activities that keep you fit and help you meet new people
- Weight lifting
- Team sports like basketball, flag football, golf or tennis
- Social Activities – these involve two or more people who share the same passion
- Going to a sports game
- Playing card games
- Volunteering at a church, a hospital or homeless shelter
- Special groups like church life groups or an antique car club
- Creative Hobbies – these involve artwork and opening up the creative side
- Painting or drawing
- Needle arts
- Collecting – adding items to a collection you started but never finished
- Coins or stamps
- Baseball cards
- Animals – not recommended if you want to get married
- Outdoor Hobbies – going outdoors for an activity that doesn’t require a youthful physique
- Birding (also known as bird watching)
- Hiking or walking
- Hunting or fishing
- Domestic Hobbies – these are mostly hobbies enjoyed by women – however cooking can be quite rewarding for men too
- Quilting or knitting 2
You might try one or several of these hobbies to see which one you enjoy the most. Hobbies shouldn’t be about competing; they should be about satisfaction and fulfillment. They shouldn’t be draining; they should be a way to sometimes relax or reach a goal. If you are clueless as to where to start, look up a website about local clubs that do these hobbies. It might cost a little bit to join and purchase supplies but sometimes that’s what it takes to fulfill a passion.
Well, that’s it folks for this first blog post. Although passion and duty are very far apart in this definition and scope in life, they are both vitally important. Duties are fundamental to your daily survival. They pave the groundwork for success in your life and your job. However your duty shouldn’t be your only lot in life. Follow up your duty with your passion. Find something in life that you might not necessarily be good at but that you love to do. But remember, as Mike Rowe said, “Just because you’re passionate about something, doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it,”
Scroll through and read my next blog post (Passion Versus Duty Part 2 – Where do you Find Your Identity?), the sequel to this one. Happy reading and remember to bring your passions along with you wherever you go!
- Don’t Follow your passion [Video file]. (2016, January 6). Retrieved October 25, 2016, from https://www.prageru.com/courses/life-studies/dont-follow-your-passion