Following Your Heart

Driftwood on the beach photo by Erik Schepers via Flickr

Driftwood on the beach

The other day I was talking to my friend who is in somewhat of a life crisis. He wants to do what he feels in his heart, but at least for right now the pressure applied by society is making him do what is the responsible adult thing to do – work a 9 to 5 job.

He’s not even 30 years old, has no serious commitments, no pets, no mortgage, no spouse.

Living in the United States brings with it great blessings but also an enormous amount of pressure. One thing is the pressure to conform. We are taught from our toddler years to sit down, shut up and follow the rules. By the time you hit adulthood you feel the pressure of your family expecting you to get a job, find a spouse and move into a house.

For many people doing those things is indeed following their heart. Personally I love all that stability because I know I need it to thrive. But I also know that I am not everyone. Some people are meant to be nomadic. They function best when they are exploring new things, new people and new ways of viewing the world.

I like the way I first read about the Hunter vs. Farmers theory from Seth Godin’s blog.

10,000 years ago, civilization forked. Farming was discovered and the way many people spent their time was changed forever.

Clearly, farming is a very different activity from hunting. Farmers spend time sweating the details, worrying about the weather, making smart choices about seeds and breeding and working hard to avoid a bad crop. Hunters, on the other hand, have long periods of distracted noticing interrupted by brief moments of frenzied panic.

When I look back on my life I see opportunities missed. We tend to let opportunities slip by because of the reasons we never say out loud. Reasons like, what if I fail, what will my dad think, what will it look like on my resume.

I went to college to please my dad. At the time I thought it was what I wanted, but looking back I can see that I was self-sabotaging at every turn. I had zero interest in it and would have probably been better served by spending those 7 lost years in the military learning a little self-discipline and getting some self-confidence.

My advice for my friend is to live life in a way that makes you happy. There’s already enough people leading lives of quiet desperation.

Looking back, what would you have liked to follow your heart on?


  1. I used to work for a UK owned company. As was normal, folks from the UK would come to the states. Now, if you know anything about Europe, most companies have a liberal “holiday” policy – minimum 5 weeks annually (and don’t even get me started on the 1-2 years of maternity leave). But the thing that has always stuck in my brain is the comment a colleague made after watching our IT team work average 14-16 hour days during a project:

    “You Americans, you live to work, you don’t work to live.”

    It’s true, so much of our identity is wrapped up in the position we hold in our work life, we forget that the MAJORITY of our day is not taken up by the 7-8 hours we’re supposed to be committing to work. Instead we work at the office, at home, at night on the weekends… we don’t disconnect from work… ever.

    So my advice to your friend is – you will never have less responsibility, debt or dependents – explore the opportunities that interest you, go ahead and try things out, and don’t be afraid to fail – there are a lot of lessons to learn from mistakes.

    As to following “your passion” – don’t ask me about that one, I’m not much of a fan of “passion” as a divining rod for your career. Be happy in what you do – whether for work or life, but don’t get bogged down in expecting your work/career to be the answer to your life’s happiness. Work is a means to an end.

    Work to live — not the other way around.

  2. follow our heart is the best thing we can get success. in my dream I want to explore all possibility. to struggle, to build my dream. I sometime dream how to live in USA and Europe. I grew up in under developing country (Indonesia), To get more opportunity, I have to learn English, I spent many years just to know it. and until now I still don’t know very well. now, I am working as a farmer with poor income but I never give up. I don’t know what happen with your friend, he should take opportunity, good facility, good education system and absolutely he knows English very well….hheheeh

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