The Powerful, Life-Changing Effects of Experimentation When Seeking Your Passion

“There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” ~Buckminster Fuller

Some of you may know my story of (finally) discovering my life passion — or at least the one I’m loving right now!

For those who don’t, here’s a synopsis: (There is a take-away for you at the end. If you don’t want to read my compelling, mind-blowing story, scroll on down to get the good stuff!)

My Compelling, Mind-Blowing Story

After high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was passionate about boys, clothes, and books. (Is your mind blown yet?)

Since I couldn’t major in boys, and since my liberal arts college (which I selected in order to follow a boy) didn’t offer a fashion degree, I majored in English Literature. (It was really called an English major, but English Literature sounds smarter.)

This allowed me to read lots of books. It also forced me to do a lot of writing, where I had a modicum of ability.

I also had an affinity for psychology and philosophy. I liked helping people with their problems and yacking about the meaning of life. But by the time I discovered this, I was well into my major and felt it was too late to change. Plus, all of the good philosopher jobs appeared to have been taken.

Once I graduated, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I toyed with the idea of law school, but only because it sounded prestigious and I could wear classy business suits. But I had no real interest in law.

As good fortune would have it, I saw an ad in the paper for an entry level job in the public relations office of Macy’s. This seemed right up my alley — fashion,writing, and (I assumed) glamor.

The day I interviewed for the job, I remember taking a peek at my application when my soon-to-be-boss left the room. She had written: “blond, timid” at the top. Stellar credentials. I have no idea why I got the job, but I did. Maybe she thought she could walk all over me. She was right.

A Grand Experiment

I didn’t know it at the time, but this first “real” job was a grand experiment.

Having had no direction or inspiration in high school or college for what my passion was, I just bumbled around and followed my nose, relying on what I thought would be “fun” as my guide. Frankly, I didn’t know passion was an option.

But fun isn’t a bad guide, and much of that first job and my subsequent PR jobs was fun.

  • I got to meet interesting people and work with the media and celebrities.
  • I got to write and work on creative projects and events.
  • I was around fashion every day.
  • I became less timid and more blond, gaining self-confidence about my skills and my hair.
  • I eventually landed in New York where I did all of the above at a higher level with more responsibility and a little more money (which I promptly spent on clothes).

Through my experiences in the fashion PR world, I learned that I like working in teams, I like helping people find solutions, I like the creative process of taking a project from beginning to end, I like being a communicator — a funnel for ideas and information.

But I also learned what I didn’t like.

  • I didn’t like the hard-nosed, often abrasive personalities that seemed to be attracted to retail (not all, but many).
  • I didn’t like the 9-5 grind and often having to work evenings and weekends for someone else to help make them more money.
  • I eventually didn’t like the superficiality of the fashion industry and promoting the latest trend as “the most important thing of the season.” Tell that to the homeless people on the streets of New York.

The Sieve of Experimenting

Through the grand experiment of my first career, I put my skills and experience through a sieve and learned what I did and didn’t want to keep. Through the process of elimination, I was closer to my passion, but not there yet. I wasn’t really actively searching.

After a few years in NYC, I moved back to Atlanta to start a family. At that point, I took another leap of faith and began a new chapter of experimentation.

I started my own PR consultancy so I could have the flexibility to be with my new baby. It was scary to launch out on my own, but safe enough since there was another income to fall back on. And it worked out. I was able to pick and choose my clients (in the arts, education, law (ha!), and other less fluffy disciplines).

I loved being my own boss.

I love the flexibility of working from home.

I loved being able to work with clients who matched my interests and felt more “meaningful.”

I knew I never again wanted to be employed in the traditional way.

Of course, I wouldn’t have known these things had I not experimented with being a consultant. So now I had more information to draw from.

But within a couple of years, babies 2 and 3 came along, and I back-burnered my career to focus almost exclusively on raising children.

I threw myself into child-rearing with a fierce passion, born as much from a desire to create for my kids the childhood I didn’t have, as from a love of singing Barney songs and being Room Mother of the Year. But I did all of that and more.

Experimentation with Purpose

I learned one hugely important thing during the grand experiment of raising kids: don’t allow your work (especially if your work involves giving a lot of yourself to others) to squelch the flame that burns inside of you for your life passion.

There are seasons and reasons in life for many things, but if you aren’t living your passion in some small way, you will feel disoriented, disconnected, and restless. If you don’t know your passion, you must keep experimenting.

During those child-rearing years, although I didn’t have a lot of spare time, I tried my hand at drawing, volunteering in various capacities, serving on the board of arts organizations, running a small antiques booth, taking classes and workshops, and other mini-experiments that kept the small flame of passion flickering.

It wasn’t until my first child left home, and I had a huge gap of time on my hands, that my focused experimentation began in earnest — experimentation with a purpose. And the purpose was to find my passion.

All of my previous experiments helped me tremendously in learning what I did and didn’t want for my life. But there was no structure or plan to my experimentation. I didn’t have a name for what I was doing.  It just happened.

Once I had the time (and took the time) to proactively learn more about myself  and focus my experiments in areas I was clearly suited for, then I finally uncovered my passion (coaching, blogging, writing, helping others find their passions). I learned that experimentation is even more valuable when you lay the groundwork first. (I created a course based on this groundwork if you are interested.)

Your Take-Aways (Finally!)

So what can you learn from my story here? Damned if I know. Your story could be entirely different.

But perhaps you see some similarities in your own life experiments and the search for what makes you come alive, your passion.

If, like me most of my life, you don’t know that you should be actively looking for your passion, you should be. Life is just so much better when you live it through your passion — whether in your work, your hobby, or some form of recreation.

So I’ve distilled what I’ve learned here in some handy-dandy bullet points that might resonate with you. Here’s your take-away:

  • Life in itself is one grand experiment. Everything you do and have done in the past is information that teaches you something. Pay attention.
  • If you haven’t already done so, look back over the careers or jobs you’ve had in the past. Put them through the sieve and find out what you want to keep in your life.
  • The path to finding your passion in life is not linear. It shouldn’t be. Life and experience are your teachers, so you must go down different trails to learn. Don’t avoid the trails. Experiment every chance you get.
  • Sadly, our time on Earth is limited. Make the most of your time by focusing your experiments in areas where you have at least an inkling of  your interest and skill. If you need to do the work to learn more about yourself, check out my Discover Your Passion course. This is the work I did to find my passion.
  • Once you’ve found your passion, whatever you do, don’t stop experimenting! Who says we can have only one passion in a lifetime? Or that your passion may not lead you in different directions? Plus, experimentation can offer its own set of thrills and pleasure.
  • Shift your perceptions of “trying something out” as a waste of time or a delay in getting to what really matters. Trying something out could lead you to what really matters, and it may not be what you think. As Shakti Gawain says, “this or something better” could be happening for you right now.

What have been some of your grand experiments? How have they impacted your life? Please share in the comments.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your “experimented story”! 🙂

    Glad you found your passion!

    Well, I think I found my passion and I am working on it. I use the word “think” because I am not 100% sure that’s my true passion. But I love what I am doing right now.

    My Passion (I think): work at home and no bosses please 🙂

    I searched for a job and got the job immediately. I worked for a week and I quit. I feel it is meaningless and always have the idea “it would be better if I use the time to build my own business at home”.

    Right now, I am internet marketer (information), online retailers (fashion), and forex trader. You see, all work at home stuff (smile)…

    Hope I could find more passion while experimenting throughout the journey of my life!

    Again, thanks for your story 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Dennis,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. Working from home is wonderful. I could never go back to working in an office environment. So I would see your challenge in finding the area of online work that makes you come alive — the niche that really excites you. Have you found that yet?

  2. Doctor Cris says:

    I too love helping people and that is why I am a professor, career mentor and now delving into the Lifestyle area. I find that loving your authentic self and valuing your health, spirit and well-being gives us the ability to continue dreaming and following our passions. I believe that your passion can take you into so many areas—that my life is a source of great joy, continued learning and experimentation.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are a great “testimonial” case study Cris. If you have ever lived outside of your passion, and then you find it, it feels like coming home. It is such an amazing awakening. I’m so glad you have found it.

  3. Hi, Barrie. I completely agree with “trying something out” as a good thing. When the outcome is not quite what you thought it would be, it’s an opportunity to evaluate it. On my journey to finding my own passion, once I sorted out what I liked/loved and what I didn’t like in all of the “experiments”, I searched for the common denominators. It then became much clearer what direction to go on my journey. I recently wrote a blog post called “Life is an Apprenticeship”. The concept is similar to, as you put it, “Life in itself is one grand experiment.” When we take what we’ve learned from our apprenticeship/experiments and apply it to the process of finding our passion, it’s worth every minute!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Ruthann,
      I love the idea of finding the “common denominator” in your life experiences. (I may borrow that for a blog post title if you don’t mind!) We have to sort the wheat from the chaff, right? And sometimes we don’t know what we do or don’t want in life until we try it. I don’t think we should ever fear trying. There is always something to take away.

  4. Working on excavating the passion that I have had buried beneath many years of working in the corporate world and raising my children. What seems to be helping me a bit is to look back and see what the common thread is that I keep going back to. I am going to look into your materials to see if perhaps they will help me to distill things. Thank you so very much for your insight!!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Good for you! You have to do some of that searching and excavating to get to the good stuff. I like to think of it as refining your life to the most beautiful parts!

  5. Barrie,

    I don’t know if my first try at commenting went astray or not!

    Reading your story made me feel comforted – my story is so similar! I was an English Major too. I took a round about way to end up as a marketing writer.

    I’ve been feeling so discontented lately, and I refuse to chalk it up solely to menopause. I feel like I need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, because I’m not satisfied with where I am now.

    I started on the blogging journey in the hopes of finding … something… and I have lots of ideas but little time to carry them out.

    Although new to blogging, I am already fascinated with Mary Jaksch and the bookshelf behind her head!

    Thanks so much for a shot in the arm and a reminder that I’m not alone!
    Janeen

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Janeen,
      We English majors always have to take a round-about way to get somewhere! Blogging is a great way to take your love for writing and your passion for . . . (fill in the blank) and potentially make a living from it. If this really interests you, I would recommend you read this article by the amazing Corbett Barr: http://thinktraffic.net/unique-selling-proposition
      Everything on his blog is worth reading to help you become a successful blogger. 🙂

  6. *Love* this post Barrie. I’ve ‘dabbled’ in many things in my life, some of which I was very passionate about…but as I grew and developed I found deeper passions to explore. I laughed off the “you’re a quitter’ comments…and continued to experience this grand adventure called life. I’m with you..who said we can only have one passion in life? Just live with as much gusto as you can muster. It’s all good!
    Encourage one another.
    Elle

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Elle,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. You never know if people will yawn or enjoy your personal story. 🙂 I’m with you about living with gusto. Why not? There is so much to enjoy about life.

  7. Oh, WOW, Barrie–A great deal of your life is like mine! A great deal is NOT, as well! I love all the details you shared, which triggered memories which helped me continue to fine-tune my own passionate pilgramage and writing EVERY DAY and getting it OUT THERE, as another blogger, Jeff Goins, so strongly and correctly urges us to do. I want to thank you profusely for saying we should continue to experiment as we travel on the road towards that we have passionately set as our true life’s goals! Wonderful!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Rose, I absolutely love your enthusiasm! I agree that everything we do is part of the process of “fine tuning.” That’s a great name for it. Like the old saying — “life is a box of chocolates.” We can pick and taste and decide what is the most delicious. 🙂

  8. Nea | Self Improvement Saga says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your personal story. Mine is somewhat similar as I experimented quite a lot with my career. I’ve worked since I was 14. I was a waitress, a bank teller, an accounting assistant, an administrative assistant. During and after college, I worked in Information Technology which allowed me to indulge in all the cool techy stuff. What was missing for me was an outlet for writing, which was the one thing I’d loved since I was 4 years old. The other thing I’d loved since before I was even a teenager was self-help books. I was this weird 12 year old who was trying to tell my mom how to fix her life. Yet, none of this had ever been a part of my career.

    It took a lay off to get me started with blogging and I quickly realized that blogging about self improvement would allow me to do what I’d always been passionate about. That was 3 years ago and it led to my new career as a life coach. It feels so good to finally know what you want to do with your life…to feel the sense of passion and purpose.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Nea,
      I’m glad you enjoyed it. It sounds like you have done a good bit of important experimenting. Now you have so much to bring to the table with your blog! I hope your coaching career is going well. Your blog will be a great resource for your clients and many others. There is so much you can bring to your blog from what you learn from your clients.

  9. WOW. It amazes me how I can stumble upon something at just the right time.

    I am crying writing this as you hit a strong cord in my current life. My passions has been put out everytime I try to push forth with them. I am stifled in my current situation…which is complicated, and I feel like I cannot truly be who I was CREATED to be in this ‘place’ I am in.

    My passion is to write, coach (health/nutrition/athletes), and be independent.

    My story is too long to write here…but I’m now inspired to write about it on my blog. (which I’d love for you to see if you like 🙂 )

    Thank you for sharing. I will be reading much more of your blog now.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Selena,
      I am so glad the post struck a chord with you. You never know when that is going to happen, but sometimes just the right combination of words can help make a huge shift in thinking. I would be delighted to read your story when you write it. Just let me know!