This is a guest post by Pace Smith.
You want to get paid to exist. You want a zero-hour workweek. You want to blaze your own trail, follow your own path.
That’s awesome! You can do it. It’s possible.
And I want to make sure you’re not wearing blinders when you imagine what getting paid to exist might look like for you. I want to make sure you’re not letting your past limit your future. I want to make sure you’re not falling prey to a dangerous myth:
The Myth: My path will make use of the skills I’ve learned.
Finding your path is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without being able to see the picture on the front of the box. But the pieces of your jigsaw puzzle aren’t your skills.
The jigsaw puzzle of your life forms a picture, and your skills are in the foreground of that picture. Your path is the background. It’s the common theme that threads in and out through your life.
I spent 17 years of my life researching artificial intelligence. Now I help spiritual entrepreneurs bridge the practical and the profound. My artificial intelligence skills are completely irrelevant to the current leg of my path.
If I had looked only for paths that used my skills, I would have never found my true calling.
Sometimes a lawyer switches gears to become a yoga teacher, and finds his true calling.
Sometimes a yoga teacher switches gears to become a lawyer, and finds her true calling.
But how can my path be something I’m not skilled in? Don’t I need to practice for 10,000 hours to become a true expert?
It’s easy to get discouraged by the 10,000-hour rule. It’s easy to think, “I haven’t put 10,000 hours into practicing yoga/law/glassblowing, so I’d better keep my mouth shut because I’m not an expert.”
So let me ask you this:
What have you put 10,000 hours into?
- Have you spent 10,000 hours learning how to love and be loved? You’re an expert on love.
- Have you spent 10,000 hours appreciating nature? You’re a nature appreciation expert.
- Have you spent 10,000 hours practicing knowing yourself in all your parts? You’re a self-knowledge expert.
- Have you spent 10,000 hours struggling through heartbreak, grief, and loss? You’re a grief expert.
- Have you spent 10,000 hours following your heart, seeking your purpose in life? You’re a pathfinding expert.
Sometimes we’re blind to our expertise because it doesn’t fit the mold of a commonly accepted profession, like glassblowing or accounting. But shine the spotlight of your attention on the parts of your life you take for granted.
Listen for the backing vocals instead of the lead melody.
- That decade of working odd jobs? Maybe you were learning resilience and flexibility.
- Those long years getting into and out of that abusive relationship? Maybe you were learning self-respect and boundaries.
- That dead-end tech career that wasn’t aligned with your heart? Maybe you were learning analytic problem-solving.
What have you been learning from your life?
To find your path, look at the background of your life, not just the foreground. (click to tweet)
You’re not done yet, bust the other 10 passion myths to find your path
This is Myth #2 of The 11 Most Dangerous Myths about Finding Your Path, a free eBook by Pace Smith.
Maria Mar says
I fully appreciate you bringing this up, Jonathan. We are so focused on measuring our success and power based on what we do, and the skills others acknowledge that our deepest strengths and most organic gifts are often invisible to us and therefore we don’t value them. I have learned (and guide others in learning) that all our life is a Sacred Design for our life purpose. Those wounds, traumas and learned limitations we overcame through years of courage and labor are part of how we are perfect for our purpose. You’ve hit in one of the myths that most often confuses people who are seeking a path to make their purpose their practice. Thanks for sharing this insight.
Maria Mar says
I did not realize this was a guest post. Kudos to Pace! (And to you, as this guest is so harmonious with your usual voice and values that I did not recognize it was not you.) Well done for both of you and thanks!
It’s great to see someone share these thoughts. One of the most stressful things I’ve had to go through is feeling the frustration of not knowing how to turn an experience in life into a “path”.
The experiences, skills, and knowledge we gain along the journey are exactly like pieces of a puzzle.
Excellent way of working it…
Thanks Pace and Jonathan,
A very different way to look at advice that can be daunting! When I look around, plenty of credible experts have not spent years honing skills before becoming respected teachers. Thank you for pointing this out, and offering some fresh ideas for approaching a new path!
Lol “commonly accepted professions like glass blowing”. Totally.
In sincerity though, Pace this is amazing. And so true- I’ve been holding on to th fact that I am a graphic designer because not only is it what I went to school for, it’s a profession people understand. It’s safe and easy for me to get those clients and explain that job- but it’s not the one I love. Even after figuring out your calling and your passion, it can be tough to let go of labels and ways of being that society understands !
Thank you for this post.
Hmmm…. so now I have to figure out a new heart-based way to use my analytic problem-solving skills! Thanks for posting this.
M. Catlett says
This is an excellent article, my favorite of the day. It took me most of my life up to this point to figure out that my official title and training didn’t dictate my future career path – hopefully this resonates with a lot of people and they don’t have to learn it the hard way as I did.
Keep up the great work, friend.
Tom Reber says
Great article. 2.5 years ago I sold my painting company and began speaking/coaching..motivating others to Live True, Work Unafraid & Be Uncommon.
From time to time I hear the voices telling me I haven’t put my time in…10k hours.
Thanks for the reminder to hear the background music.
Great post Pace. I agree that many people write themselves off as not having the knowledge to embark on a new project, when often they overlook their previous experience.
Pace Smith says
@Maria: Thanks! I take that as a great compliment!
@Kate: YEAH! So happy it struck a chord with you!
@M. Catlett: So pleased to hear you’re not stuck in the hard way anymore!
@Tom: Right on!
@Joel: *nods* It’s often helpful to enlist others’ help, since we take our own skills for granted.
Robert Petrie says
Life is about growth and staying at a job or career we are not happy in is not growing. There are some people that find out early in life exactly what their path is and go for it, others can take 10, 20 or 30 years to realise that the career they trained for is just not fulfilling their desires and that is when they need the strength to follow their passion.
A very interesting post, thank you Pace.
Kyle B says
I really enjoyed your perspective on the 10,000-hour rule. Admittedly, I’ve spent too much time focusing on what my current common skills are and much less on my more uncommon skills. Your article was a huge help for me!!
Thanks for sharing!
Michael Knouse says
This is such an important consideration – that there’s a difference between being an expert in a specific skill vs. something that may be less obvious. I think this is a brilliant point that should be talked about more often. We are all multi-dimensional, multi-talented beings and it would serve us all well to look beyond the obvious and dig a little deeper to find our brilliance. It’s there, probably overshadowed by all the stuff going on in the foreground. Great article!
Craig McBreen says
Enjoyed this, Pace.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to make big changes at any age. Let’s just say I’m on the wrong side of 45, and am making some major life changes, and creating new career. Something I’ll be writing about on a new site. This crafty little post has just amped me up and made me feel even better about where I’m headed :)
Just wanted to drop in and say I loved this. Very inspirational.
jamie flexman says
Of course, if you put 10,000 hours into your comfort zone then you’re an expert at living within it.
Time to break free and do something different!
Great post! I often have to remind myself that there is always a path under my feet. Even when we branch into something new, or can’t see the connection between the past, present and future, there is always a path there, we just have to have the courage to trust it.
Interesting perspective you offer Pace. I feel that your summary is somewhat contradictory though, as you indicate that we may in fact find use for our skills in an indirect manner?
I too followed a path which, to an outsider, seems irrelevant to my current cause (engineer to freedom coach). I see it different though . Much of the knowledge I use can be somewhat linked back to my past learnings. Even more, I’d speculate that who I am right now is a product of what I’ve learnt. I wouldn’t have chosen the path I’m on now unless I had the training I’d chosen in the past.
I totally agree that what you’ve done in the past, has no bearing on the direction of your future. We are at control of our abilities, we just need to believe it’s possible, and take structured, purposeful action towards its attainment.
Great article :)