It’s a passion project.

I’ll never forget those insinuating words.
“I understand… it’s your passion project.”
I was on my third or fourth Skype call.
Dancing with a film industry pragmatist.
Hoping to have our screenplay made into a movie.
But the dance music was composed by a computer.
It was nothing but a steady beat of numbers.
Production costs, demographics, ROI.
And so I was tripping over my feet.
Because the melody (the story they loved) was drowned out.
And then came… the screeching feedback.
A grating sound that moved me off of the dance floor.
“I understand,” he said. “It’s your passion project.”
Really?!
As if passion is an airy concept.
Fanciful and impractical.
One that should take a back seat to the payoff.
Call me foolhardy, but I will never succumb to numbers.
I don’t live for an outcome.
I embrace the journey and follow my inner voice.
Conviction, then calculation.
Heart, then head.
So I danced to my own tune.
And followed that “passion project.”
All the way to the opposite side of what “they” expect.
And that screenplay is now a novel.
Did I do the right thing?
Of course!
Because the right thing is my thing.
And time will tell if you think so too.

Go for a ride!

Robert Pirsig died recently in South Berwick, Maine.
A short drive from my home.
He wrote two notable philosophical novels.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.
And Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.
I’ve read both books several times.
Struggling to see the world through Pirsig’s IQ of 170 eyes.
Try as I may, I never fully grasped his theory of reality.
But that may have been his ultimate point.
Or perhaps his ultimate frustration.
Why?
Because, there’s nothing to grasp.
Reality is paradoxical and dynamic.
Everything is relative and shifting.
Like love, it defies rational analysis.
The harder you try to pin it down.
The more you choke the life out of it.
But that doesn’t stop human beings from trying.
Check out this Wikipedia page on “happiness.”
It’s the result of nearly 6,000 edits by over 3,000 users.
And it doesn’t really tell you anything new or useful.
Today, our intellectual obsession is with the brain.
Neurons, synapses, the reptilian brain, the amygdala.
Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
It reminds me of my summer days working at my dad’s service station.
I’d watch him deftly take a car engine apart and put it back together.
Naming each part and its function along the way.
Camshaft, valves, spark plugs, piston rings.
The cracks in his hands tattooed with grease.
And he loved it.
But it didn’t contribute a damn thing to our family road trips.
(My brother will vouch for the truth of that statement).
And it’s the same with all of us armchair philosophers.
We listen to another podcast and read another book.
We attend another conference and watch another TED talk.
And, like my dad, we enjoy the intellectual stimulation.
We love to take it apart and figure it out.
But it really doesn’t do much to enhance our journeys.
We imagine otherwise.
We believe it will lead to insights.
And then we’ll be able to take action and really live.
It’s a seductive illusion.
To our minds, it actually feels like… living.
It’s like playing air guitar with our favorite music blaring.
We get an emotional fix and then move on.
To another book, another podcast, another talking head.
To more thinking.
A risk-free, endless debate with ourselves.
A search for reasons, examples, and validation.
To break out of our routines and come alive.
To get on stage, plug into an amp, and play our hearts out!
I’ve spent four decades wrestling with this particular lesson.
My office is overflowing with notes and books.
And, despite the mental clutter, the answer has finally become clear.
Thinking is not living.
Yes, it feels strangely similar.
And that’s the problem.
That feeling is what has us hooked.
On thinking.
Stop fixating on your vehicle.
On the mechanics, on your thoughts.
It’s time to lower the lift.
Leave the safe and comforting garage of your mind.
And go for a ride!
Lower the windows and experience the beauty and mystery of life.
While the air is crisp and the sun is shining.
It doesn’t last forever.