How to find your place

Are you a young person wondering what the hell you’re meant to be doing? Trying to find your place? Are you a parent with a beloved young person in your life who is struggling with their place?

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My suggestion: read famous creatives’ graduation speeches. They are truly inspiring frothings in which said famous creative confesses they, too, had no idea when they were young as to their allotted groove, with tricks on how to “settle” into it.

Journalist Pamela Druckerman recently shared this piece of writing when she was struggling to draft a commencement speech for her students at a Paris Arts College. This is the part that struck me most.

Pay attention to what you’re doing on the side.

“I started my writing career as a financial journalist. On the side, I took samba-dancing lessons, and eventually wrote a first-person article about this experience. It was the first piece I’d written that lit me up inside. Though it took years before I got to write that way for a living, I had found my place, the tiny hole in the universe shaped like me,” she shared.

Same with me. I was studying law and politics and waitressed for fun (and survival). My love of food saw me explore further in this realm. I did work experience at a magazine and offered to redesign the food pages over the weekend…because my love of food steered me to this. Monday morning I got the gig as the paper’s restaurant reviewer. My first gig in journalism.

Do what you love doing. Even if it’s on the side. It will lead to something. Druckerman also advises, “Everything that happens is potential inspiration.” Nothing is a waste. Even doing a degree that you’re not so sure will lead to a job. As Steve Jobs once said:

“when you follow your passion, all your strange choices eventually make sense”.

Here are a few things other smart people have to say on the topic of finding your place in this world.

Be vulnerable

A few years back I interviewed University of Houston vulnerability researcher Brene Brown for my column. She’s spent eight years studying thousands of people to determine how best to live a wholehearted life. Her findings? Vulnerability is the key. It was what all wholehearted people had in common, and it led to authenticity and connection with others, and also creativity and joy. To get truly happy and to find one’s place we need to strip our defences.

Just show up

Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has shared her experience of struggling with creative work in her new book “Big Magic” and a TED-talk I have previously written about. Her advice for people who are going through similar struggles is simple: Just show up. Gilbert says: “Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then ‘Ole!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. And ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”

I totally believe in this. I live this way. I feel like crap sometimes but I’ll show up nonetheless. I’ll show up for a walk – I tie on my shoes and get out the door. And yes I might only commit to a 20 minute stroll, but – once I start walking I’ll often find I want to go further.

It’s normal to take a while

This American Life“-producer Ira Glass has another important piece of advice. He says: “It simply takes a lot of work to make good stuff. Don’t worry about your work being perfect from the start. It won’t be. Most likely it’s going to be quite average.”

But the most important thing is to keep trying and at some point your work will be as good as your ambition. It’s a long process. Don’t rush it. Trust your gut.

Any other great ones I’ve missed? Has this calmed any of you out there struggling with all this?


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