Finding Your Passion
As long as I can remember, being an athlete was my identity. It was all I cared about, and I loved the admiration and accolades that came with being a great athlete. From the age of 4, I began my organized sports career as a swimmer. I was dominant as a 6-year-old competing in the 8 and 9-year-old divisions. I moved on to basketball and football, where I was even more of a force. Fast forward to high school where I won Student Athlete of the Year and was committing to playing college football in Grinnell, Iowa. While at Grinnell, I earned the honors of Defensive Rookie MVP, All-Midwest Conference Honors, and Grinnell College Freshman Athlete of the Year. The next 2 years were a bit of a let down as partying seem to be at the top of my priority list.
However, going into my Senior year, I stayed in Iowa to prepare for a season that would propel me to professional ball. I had no ideas of grandeur of playing in the NFL, coming from a small Division 3 school where we weren’t very good, but I knew European Leagues, Canadian, or Arena could be in my future. From there, who knows? That summer, I worked out in the morning and ran, went to an internship 45 minutes away from school, then returned to another lifting and running session. I was bigger, faster, and stronger than I had ever been.
During training camp, as a 5’10”, 195lb young man, I benched pressed 335 lbs. No lie! I was ready. Our first game came and unfortunately, my career ended. I won’t go into details of the game or the aftermath, but in a nutshell, the inside of my ankle touched my groin. Yeah, picture that one. What is even more spectacular is no one ever touched me. I simply landed funny. The aftermath was no better (if you are ever curious for the full story and the betrayal felt, just ask). After surgery, now weighing 145lbs soaking wet, I set out for rehabilitation of my new bionic knee with multiple screws and the Achilles tendons of cadavers that replaced my obliterated ligaments.
Most heart breaking of all, my passion was gone. My future career was over. Cast hip to toe for nine months, taking more than a year and a half to run again, I knew I would never play pro. That brought on a new obstacle. If I wasn’t an athlete, who was I? I have been on a journey to answer that question for over 15 years now. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? I have lots of interests, which led me to earn a master’s degree and a Doctorate. It led me to coaching High School football, being a fitness instructor, a speaker, a writer, an amateur photographer, and so many other things I do and love. Yet, I searched for my passion as if I had lost it on the field that day.
This journey was not a fun one. It was devastating and an elusive fifteen years of heartache, negativity, mask wearing, regret, and feeling like a victim. This went on for years, until I realized, for me, a single passion is nonexistent. We all have multiple things we are passionate about and some of us are lucky to have a passion so strong that we pursue it as a career. Others have some job they work to fuel one of their passions. For those of us still seeking, I am here to tell you to stop! It doesn’t work that way.
It took real honest reflection to see that things unfold by doing. My first passion was swimming. Unfortunate elitism ruined that experience, so I moved on to basketball. That was my real love. I watched the Lakers all the time and was always on a court or had a ball in my hand. Football was secondary, even when playing Pop Warner. It wasn’t until high school that football became my number one sport that took me to college, even though I had good enough grades where they could disguise recruiting through an academic scholarship. After football it was coaching. The path and the passion were forever changing and evolving, just like me.
Now, you might say that all these different sports are still the passion of sport. Further self-evaluation revealed the fact that the sport itself was only one component of what I loved. I was passionate about the team, being a leader, the comradery, the aspects of learning and sharing, and the competitive nature of it all. Above all else, learning and sharing stood out. That is what I do. That is who I am and have always been. I can learn and share in so many capacities, it is almost overwhelming. That is when I realized, I need to stop searching and start doing. Simply do something what I enjoy and become good at it, if not great. From there, things evolve and who knows where the road may lead.
If you are struggling to find your passion, try these few things:
1. Stop looking for it. Start doing things that are of interest. Let one of your passions discover you. The more things you try, the better your chances of growth and with growth comes opportunity.
2. Identify things of interest. Simply note down things you like to do. It doesn’t have to be something so grand that it is Earth shattering. Make a list or note throughout the week, the things you enjoy and wouldn’t mind learning more about.
3. Start somewhere. The saying of “paralysis by analysis,” is more accurate than you know. The more you sit and ponder what next, that next thing has moved on to someone else. If you ever wanted to start writing, then write something. If you ever wanted to perform, then start to learn the guitar or take singing lessons. Simply start somewhere, anywhere. You never know where it can take you or whom it can bring to you.
Once you stop, identify, and start, then become great. Spend the time and effort to learn about the topic. Practice the skill and have fun with it. If you love to dance, decided to take a Salsa class, then commit to be the best Salsa dancer you can be. That doesn’t mean you need to spend Kobe Bryant hours of preparation on the dance floor. Interestingly though, you may just find out that you want to spend Kobe Bryant hours on the dance floor. Point being, put some real effort into the craft.
This may seem simple or it may seem that it leaves your question unanswered. Think of this. You have spent so much time trying to find your passion, yet you are reading this article in hopes for the answer because you are found wanting, still searching. You can spend more time in the depths of uncertainty like I did, waiting fifteen years. By all means, enjoy the misery. The other option is to stop and try something different, something that eliminates the pressure of it all, something like the plan outlined above. Happy hunting!