Listen: Our Passions
by Douglas E. Welch
Two weekends ago I attended the latest incarnation of BarCampLA. This unconference has become one of the highlights of my year as I get to “confer, converse and otherwise hobnob with my fellow wizards!” For a more detailed overview of what BarCamp is, you can visit the web site at http://barcampla.org. While that will give you a somewhat technical definition of BarCamp, for me is it a weekend devoted to passions. Passions about life, work and the world at large.
In one room, you might see a session devoted to the Yahoo User Interface Library and its uses, while in another room someone is waxing rhapsodic about the joys and zen of sandwich making. Learn the art of the DJ in one room and how to create artificial life in another. Imagine anything you might be passionate about and someone, perhaps even you, can present a session on it.
To be involved in a weekend where everyone is exploring their passions can be quite a heady experience. I spent most of Monday recounting the best parts of the weekend to my (only slightly interested) wife. It can be a high unlike any other and a big part of what draws me back each time.
Why do you need events like BarCampLA in your life? Simply because most of us don’t get enough time to engage in our passions in the course of our daily lives. We slog through all the tasks that MUST be done (paying bills and laundry come to mind) and allow our passions to fade away among the noise of our lives. Reconnecting with our passions, though, can be one way to make it through the normal ways of life and work with our sanity still intact. Even more, our passions can show us ways to make our lives more interesting and productive, even if our passions have little direct connection to our daily work.
Engaging in your passions at an event like BarCampLA engages your mind and energizes your spirit. Simply placing yourself in this special environment, away from your daily pressures, allows your thinking to change. You worry less about the “how” of doing things and spend a little more time thinking about the “why”. This type of thinking is horribly lacking in most companies where you can sometimes pursue a project for years that is then found to be obsolete.
Next, you are exposed to new ideas and new people in a non-threatening and even welcoming environment. Everyone is there to learn from everyone else. The most frequent exchange I hear in the common areas and hallways of a BarCamp is, “You do what? Cool!” Would that our workplaces were such an open place! Sometimes we simply need a place where “everybody knows your name” so that you can find the comfort and peace of mind to do the thinking that really needs to be done.
Finally, BarCamp events point out the fact that most of us do our very best work when we are engaging in our passions. You might be a pretty good accountant, but when it comes to building complex structures out of Lego you really shine. Maybe you write sparkling ad copy or create beautiful advertising graphics, but when you are talking about your online storytelling project, your eyes light up with a fire typically unseen during your average work day.
It is so important that we feel these moments of joy, even if they are fleeting. Reaching for the clouds is so much easier when you have been there before.
It is so important that we feel these moments of joy, even if they are fleeting. Reaching for the clouds is so much easier when you have been there before. Once you feel the excitement of engaging your passions you can start to look for ways to have similar experiences in your day to day life. These moments entice you forward and give you a reason to be passionate about all your work, not just a few chosen tasks.
If you aren’t out there engaging in your passions every so often, you might think you have lost them altogether. Don’t let everyday stress and worry drive you away from your passions. Find ways to re-engage them on a regular basis. This might be through a BarCamp experience or some other method of your own. Whatever the method, though, do it. You will be amazed at how engaging with your passions in one aspect of your life can truly effect everything you do.
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