Love what you do

I love what I do—love, love, love what I do.

I don’t remember when it was exactly, but somewhere between the ages of eight and twelve, I distinctly remember deciding when I grew up, I would love my work. I promised myself there wouldn’t be a single day when I’d wake up and dread the workday ahead. I’m pleased to say, so far, I’ve managed to deliver.

While I held several positions in different industries before and during college, I consider my “real” jobs the two after graduation. The first was with PEN American Center. I remember waking up every day, revved up to fight the good fight: working to relieve the plight of censored, persecuted and imprisoned writers around the world. The second was, and continues to be, with Executive Success Programs (ESP). What do I do with ESP? I still fight the good fight. In my own words: I help people think more critically so they can make better decisions, and I help them build their capacity for joy.

A couple of nights ago I came across one of those demotivational posters; it was on the subject of “Madness.” It read as follows:

Madness does not always howl. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “Hey, is there room in your head for one more?”

It tickles my funny bone right down to the marrow. I can say, as a normal human being, I too have heard this voice late at night (or was it one of its cousins?). Building the strength to respond to it in earnest—to say the simple yet defining “not one more”—is what my work now is all about.

I can’t imagine a single person on Earth who doesn’t struggle with something they’d like to change or improve. I know I do—everyday. My friends do too.

People do things for different reasons. Before working with ESP, I did things for three reasons primarily: (1) for a reward, (2) for fear of what people might think of me if I didn’t do the thing, and (3) for fear if I didn’t do the thing, the “bad thing” would happen. (A little-known fact: there’s also fear behind door number one.) It’s because of my work with ESP that I’m now able to have this perspective. What’s more: it’s helped me lessen all those fears in a very practical and, needless to say, tangible way. This poses an interesting conundrum: If I’m to be motivated by something other than fear, how then do I act?

Back to love: I love, love, love what I do. And I have one person to thank for it: Keith Raniere. See, he’s created a bunch of tools to help people think more critically, make better decisions, and—by eliminating fear—infinitely expand their capacity for joy. I use these tools—daily. But here’s the kicker: when you eliminate fear—essentially, the accelerant to your motivation fire—what are you left with?

You’re left with, well, you.

So what do you do? What do you do when the “reward” is no longer enough to lure you towards it? What do you do when there isn’t enough fear to scare you into action? What on Earth do you do?

You act freely—you choose of your own accord, your own volition. Why? To uphold what’s important to you—call them “values,” “principles,” whatever you will.

Little one-word catch here: uphold.

I love my work—my work now, specifically. It’s probably the hardest work I’ve ever done, and probably the hardest work I’ll ever do: it’s given me the space to choose freely, of my own accord, to decide to act for no other reason than for what and whom I love. I think this is freedom—the essence of free will.

But guess what? “Free” doesn’t mean “easy.” Quite the opposite.

So back to those posters… If I were to create one of my own—not to demotivate, but hopefully to inspire through truth with a little grain of salt—it would be this: