Written by Jelena Lazarević.
Jelena is the Senior Communications Advisor on our CivicAction Team. She is always looking for ways to contribute her strong digital media and graphic design skills to a variety of causes. When she’s not tweeting away, you’ll find her traveling, behind the camera, or indulging in good food. Find out more about her here.
We’ve all had that feeling. That flare in your heart when an issue hits close to home. An itch when you notice something and you know it has to change. Even that drop in your stomach when you fearfully realize you’re the one that needs to do something…but you have no idea where to start.
Those are all feelings of passion and we’ve all felt them. Including me, which is why – within seconds – I signed up to attend an Emerging Leaders Network’s event focused on exactly that: The Passion Process. Moderated by 2018 DiverseCity fellow Daniel Tal, the panellists included, Cleo Ellis, Jamil Jivani, Taha N. Muharuma, and Ananya Ohri – all people who’ve all had those same feelings and have found ways to turn them into movements that inspire hearts and minds. While all of the speakers have had vastly different experiences, for me there were three key themes that wove their experiences and the evening together.
Passion discovers you in different ways.
In a world where many of us face pressure from different places, it can be difficult to define your passion. What makes finding your passion even more difficult? The fact that there is no how to booklet. Sometimes it’s something you’ve always known, and other times it presents itself unexpectedly. Taha N. Muharuma is a photographer with an eye for beauty and the creator of #Streetsoul. For him photography started as a therapy. He kept hopping on the subway and travelling to different places just to capture what he thought was beautiful. It was only when Taha sat back and reflected on the fact that he kept going back to photography that he realized his therapy had grown into a passion.
The passion evolved on its own. Now, the more I look back on my work, the more my passion is becoming sculpted and perfected over time. – Taha N. Muharuma
On the other side of the spectrum, Ananya Ohri developed her passion in a more intentional way. As someone who actively reflected on her passions and direction in life, she always knew she had a love of film and telling the stories of those around her. Despite not knowing how she’d engage purposefully in film, she followed her passion through school knowing it would fuel her journey. Today, Ananya is a young mom shaping narratives as the Executive Director at Regent Park Film Festival and as Founder of Home Made Visible
When I started working, I began to appreciate that doing things turns into a discovery of things. I was able to put into practice what I had thought about for so long. – Ananya Ohri
The process is not easy, but it’s worth it.
With the prevalence of social media where many of us share our best moments and don’t often talk about our worst, it’s easy to forget how difficult pursuing a passion can be. Cleo Ellis, co-Founder of Luxe Life Sound, who had a very non-linear career path, emphasized this exact experience. For Cleo, the most challenging part of pursuing her passion was planting seeds of success and waiting (sometimes for years) for them to bloom. She also made the point that defining the next steps of her work, and having a plan in place for how she would succeed is how she keeps herself motivated when things become difficult.
“Doing that scary thing is what lights a fire under me. But when I focus on the process of getting there, the successful end goal is just a consequence of good planning.” – Cleo Ellis
Jamil Jivani, is a lawyer turned community organizer who recently authored Why Young Men. He also founded the Citizenship Empowerment Project. Recently, he’s reflected a lot on the decisions he’s made. This has led him to the realization that the spiritual health he needs in order to contribute to the world positively has come from making the decision to follow his passions. While finding your passion takes a lot of time and reflection, it’s all worth it.
“If I hadn’t pursued my passions, I wouldn’t have things that make me happy to get up in the morning when it’s tough to get up.” – Jamil Jivani
Be intentional about always moving forward.
Whether you’re working through a logical step by step process, or simply following your passion by motivation, being intentional is everything. If there is intent and thought behind your actions, then you’ll eventually find your place. Cleo emphasized that the road of pursuing your passions isn’t always littered with success. Sometimes you fail, but you have to reframe failure as an opportunity for growth.
“In order to succeed at some point or another you have to suffer, but don’t be afraid of that. Fail fast so you can improve just as quickly.” – Cleo Ellis
But however strong your intentions are, it’s important to pause, take a breath, and take care of yourself. Daniel Tal, Executive Director of Manifesto and Founder of DudeBox, emphasized how important it is to do so and to fuel your fire.
“A friend of mine said to stay stoked. Keep your passion alive. It’s so simple but it’s really worked in my life and in what I do.” – Daniel Tal
Other examples of taking care of yourself ranged from understanding your pace and doing your work in ways that speak to you, to surrounding yourself with diverse perspectives and positive mentors.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that even with the trepidation and fear of doing something you’re passionate about, we’re all facing the same thing: Finding motivation every day to follow our passions and make them into something more.