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Search about support contact bookshelf newsletter literary jukebox art tip jar Brain Pickings remains ad- free and takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit, between the site, the email newsletter, and Twitter. If you find any joy and value in it, please consider becoming a Member and supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a fancy dinner: $10 / month You can also become a one- time patron with a single donation in any amount: newsletter Brain Pickings has a free weekly interestingness digest. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week's best articles. Here's an example. Like? Sign up. Name Email subscribe How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love by Maria Popova Why prestige is the enemy of passion, or how to master the balance of setting boundaries and making friends. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” But how, exactly, do we find that? Surely, it isn’t by luck. I myself am a firm believer in the power of curiosity and choice as the engine of fulfillment, but precisely how you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. Still, there are certain factors — certain choices — that make it easier. Gathered here are insights from seven thinkers who have contemplated the art-science of making your life’s calling a living. PAUL GRAHAM ON HOW TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE Every few months, I rediscover and redevour Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham’s fantastic 2006 article, How to Do What You Love. It’s brilliant in its entirety, but the part I find of especial importance and urgency is his meditation on social validation and the false merit metric of “prestige”: What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. […] Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. […] Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself. Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’ s the recipe Page 1 of 7 How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings 1/2/2013 http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love

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A Brain Pickings Guide to finding your purpose and doing what you love. You can also reference Y-Combinator Paul Graham 2006 article - how to do what you love. Both are good reads.

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  • Search

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    Brain Pickings remains ad-free and takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit, between the site, the email newsletter, and Twitter. If you find any joy and value in it, please consider becoming a Member and supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a fancy dinner:

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    How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Loveby Maria Popova

    Why prestige is the enemy of passion, or how to master

    the balance of setting boundaries and making friends.

    Find something more important than you are, philosopher

    Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness,

    and dedicate your life to it. But how, exactly, do we find

    that? Surely, it isnt by luck. I myself am a firm believer in

    the power of curiosity and choice as the engine of

    fulfillment, but precisely how you arrive at your true calling

    is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery.

    Still, there are certain factors certain choices that

    make it easier. Gathered here are insights from seven thinkers who have

    contemplated the art-science of making your lifes calling a living.

    PAUL GRAHAM ON HOW TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE

    Every few months, I rediscover and redevour Y-Combinator

    founder Paul Grahams fantastic 2006 article, How to Do What

    You Love. Its brilliant in its entirety, but the part I find of especial

    importance and urgency is his meditation on social validation and the false

    merit metric of prestige:

    What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of

    anyone beyond your friends. You shouldnt worry about

    prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world.

    []

    Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your

    beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on

    what you like, but what youd like to like.

    []

    Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well

    enough, youll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now

    consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to

    mindthough almost any established art form would do. So

    just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

    Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want

    to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the

    way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. Thats the recipe

    Page 1 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

  • favorite pickings

    for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on

    committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a

    good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didnt suck,

    they wouldnt have had to make it prestigious.

    More of Grahams wisdom on how to find meaning and make wealth can be

    found in Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age.

    ALAIN DE BOTTON ON SUCCESS

    Alain de Botton, modern

    philosopher and creator of the

    literary self-help genre, is a

    keen observer of the paradoxes and delusions of our

    cultural conceits.

    In The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, he takes his

    singular lens of wit and wisdom to the modern

    workplace and the ideological fallacies of success.

    His terrific 2009 TED talk offers a taste:

    One of the interesting things about success is that we think

    we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about

    what it would mean to live successfully are not our own.

    Theyre sucked in from other people. And we also suck in

    messages from everything from the television to advertising

    to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that

    define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I

    want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas

    of success, but that we should make sure that they are our

    own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we

    own them, that were truly the authors of our own ambitions.

    Because its bad enough not getting what you want, but its

    even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find

    out at the end of the journey that it isnt, in fact, what you

    wanted all along.

    Page 2 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

  • CULTURAL ICONS ON THE MEANING OF

    LIFE

    HOW TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE AND

    DO WHAT YOU LOVE

    10 TIPS ON WRITING FROM DAVID

    OGILVY

    THE BEST BOOKS OF 2012

    THE DAILY ROUTINES OF FAMOUS

    WRITERS

    9 BOOKS TO HELP YOU READ MORE

    AND WRITE BETTER

    HUGH MACLEOD ON SETTING BOUNDARIES

    Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod is as

    well-known for his irreverent

    doodles as he is for his opinionated

    musings on creativity, culture, and the meaning

    of life. In Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to

    Creativity, he gathers his most astute advice on

    the creative life. Particularly resonant with my

    own beliefs about the importance of choices is this

    insight about setting boundaries:

    16. The most important thing a

    creative person can learn

    professionally is where to draw

    the red line that separates what

    you are willing to do, and what you are not.

    Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The

    more you need the money, the more people will tell you what

    to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you

    will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and

    plan accordingly.

    Later, MacLeod echoes Grahams point about prestige above:

    28. The best way to get approval is not to need it.

    This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex.

    And just about everything else worth having.

    LEWIS HYDE ON WORK VS. LABOR

    After last years omnibus of 5

    timeless books on fear and the

    creative process, a number of

    readers rightfully suggested an addition: Lewis

    Hydes 1979 classic, The Gift: Creativity and the

    Artist in the Modern World, of which David Foster

    Wallace famously said, No one who is invested in

    any kind of art can read The Gift and remain

    unchanged.

    In this excerpt, originally featured here in

    January, Hyde articulates the essential difference

    between work and creative labor, understanding

    which takes us a little closer to the holy grail of

    vocational fulfillment:

    Work is what we do by the hour. It begins and, if possible, we

    do it for money. Welding car bodies on an assembly line is

    Page 3 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

  • JOHN CLEESE ON THE 5 FACTORS TO

    MAKE YOUR LIFE MORE CREATIVE

    JOAN DIDION ON KEEPING A

    NOTEBOOK

    HOW TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS YOU

    HAVENT READ

    100 IDEAS THAT CHANGED GRAPHIC

    DESIGN

    7 MUST-READ BOOKS ON THE ART &

    SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS

    work; washing dishes, computing taxes, walking the rounds

    in a psychiatric ward, picking asparagus these are work.

    Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid

    for it, but its harder to quantify Writing a poem, raising a

    child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis,

    invention in all forms these are labors.

    Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the

    will. A labor can be intended but only to the extent of doing

    the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly

    prevent the labor. Beyond that, labor has its own schedule.

    There is no technology, no time-saving device that can alter

    the rhythms of creative labor. When the worth of labor is

    expressed in terms of exchange value, therefore, creativity is

    automatically devalued every time there is an advance in the

    technology of work.

    Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has a term for the quality that sets labor

    apart from work: flow a kind of intense focus and crisp sense of clarity where

    you forget yourself, lose track of time, and feel like youre part of something

    larger. If youve ever pulled an all-nighter for a pet project, or even spent 20

    consecutive hours composing a love letter, youve experienced flow and you

    know creative labor.

    STEVE JOBS ON NOT SETTLING

    In his now-legendary 2005 Stanford commencement address,

    an absolute treasure in its entirety, Steve Jobs makes an

    eloquent case for not settling in the quest for finding your

    calling a case that rests largely on his insistence upon the power of intuition:

    Page 4 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

  • 5 MANIFESTOS FOR LIFE

    7 ESSENTIAL BOOKS ON OPTIMISM

    JOHN STEINBECK ON FALLING IN

    LOVE: A 1958 LETTER

    CREATIVE CARTOGRAPHY: 7 MUST-

    READ BOOKS ON MAPS

    ISAAC ASIMOV ON SCIENCE AND

    CREATIVITY IN EDUCATION

    Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only

    way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great

    work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you

    do. If you havent found it yet, keep looking. Dont settle. As

    with all matters of the heart, youll know when you find it.

    And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better

    as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Dont

    settle.

    ROBERT KRULWICH ON FRIENDS

    Robert Krulwich, co-producer of WNYCs fantastic Radiolab,

    author of the ever-illuminating Krulwich Wonders and winner of

    a Peabody Award for broadcast excellence, is one of the finest

    journalists working today. In another great commencement address, he

    articulates the infinitely important social aspect of loving what you do a kind

    of social connectedness far more meaningful and genuine than those notions of

    prestige and peer validation.

    You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of

    affection, with the people youve helped whove helped you

    back. This is the era of Friends in Low Places. The ones you

    meet now, who will notice you, challenge you, work with you,

    and watch your back. Maybe they will be your strength.

    If you can fall in love, with the work, with people you work

    with, with your dreams and their dreams. Whatever it was

    that got you to this school, dont let it go. Whatever kept you

    here, dont let that go. Believe in your friends. Believe that

    what you and your friends have to say that the way youre

    saying it is something new in the world.

    THE HOLSTEE MANIFESTO

    You might recall The Holstee Manifesto as one of our 5 favorite manifestos for

    the creative life, an eloquent and beautifully written love letter to the life of

    Page 5 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

  • 7 OBSCURE CHILDRENS BOOKS BY

    FAMOUS AUTHORS OF ADULT

    LITERATURE

    WHY WE LOVE: 5 BOOKS ON THE

    PSYCHOLOGY OF LOVE

    7 MUST-READ BOOKS ON MUSIC,

    EMOTION & THE BRAIN

    BERTRAND RUSSELL'S 10

    COMMANDMENTS OF TEACHING

    5 TIMELESS COMMENCEMENT

    SPEECHES TO TEACH YOU TO DEFINE

    YOUR OWN SUCCESS

    purpose. (So beloved is the manifesto around here that it has

    earned itself a permanent spot in the Brain Pickings sidebar, a

    daily reminder to both myself and you, dear reader, of what

    matters most.)

    This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you dont

    like something, change it. If you dont like your job, quit. If you

    dont have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking

    for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you

    when you start doing things you love.

    The Holstee Manifesto is now available as a beautiful letterpress print, a 57

    greeting card printed on handmade paper derived from 50% elephant poo and

    50% recycled paper, and even a baby bib because its never too early to instill

    the values of living from passion.

    Page 6 of 7How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love | Brain Pickings

    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/

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    1/2/2013http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/27/purpose-work-love/