A plan to do work you love and why we forgot what matters.

Someday my eight-month-old will grow up and have to pay bills. I have a plan to make that suck less. I’m going to need your help though.

I want us to make a world where the work we do is taken for granted as something that is fulfilling. Where work is something we enjoy, that makes us better people, and what we create in the world is an expression of who we are, uniquely, as individuals.

You can’t be truly happy if you save the best of yourself for backrooms in private. There is an important feeling of meaning and significance that comes from creating something out of what matters to you, doing work you love, and putting it to work helping other people in public.

That feeling of meaning is easy to discount.

We have been taught to discount it all our lives.

“It’s nice, Little Suzie, that you want to make a life-like sculpture of a tree in art class, but you can’t, because today we are all going to learn how to dye paper-machete lumps the same shade of blue.”

“It’s nice that you want to be an artist. Now go get a job frying potatoes all day, so that you can earn a few bucks, by a car to drive to work, and I can call the relatives to tell them that you are responsible.”

“You can do anything you want. Now you should go to school, get a job, go to college, get married, buy a house, have kids, retire, and die. That’s what we’re all doing, and you want us to be able to invite you for potato salad right?”

You are probably scared that everyone will disown you if you do something weird, or dangerous, that matters to you. And by dangerous, I mean socially dangerous, because skydiving and slashers are nothing compared to the threat of being worthless to everyone you care about for the rest of your life.

Seth Godin would tell you to be brave and face down the screaming lizard in your amygdala, who is convinced the other monkeys will throw you in the volcano.

I won’t.

I mean, be brave and all, you’ll need it. Except bravery isn’t my problem, and I’m betting it’s not yours either. The problem isn’t having courage, it’s not knowing where to look.

The best part of you, the awesome truth that you alone see and can bring to the world, that it needs, desperately, is something you’ve been trained to forget.

Forgetfullness is the real secret of the wallflower and conformity. The wallflower doesn’t know why she is awesome. The conformist has had to forget all the ways he is weird because hiding them is too painful when it is completely conscious.

It’s like going under anesthesia for surgery. When you are trying to cut off the parts of yourself that don’t fit in the box, most of us prefer to be numb.

It’s like a perception filter from Doctor Who. You see what you see, you know it’s there on some level, but you just don’t see it. It never occurs to you to look in that corner. All inconsistencies are forgotten. You get so used to believing that there are five doors on this floor, you never notice that there is a sixth with an alien hiding in it.

It’s the same with the unique, creative awesomeness that you were born with. You’ve forgotten it. It hurt too much to remember it, but believe that you would never be able to use it.

So this is what I want.

I want us to find that unique creative awesomness again. I want us to make a worldview that values and protects it. I want us to let it shine, in public. I want us to help people with it. I want that to be the definition of work.

And, if you want, I’ll do everything I can to help you with it, seriously. This is a promise. Not to the masses. To you. If you want my help, tell me, and I’ll do my damndest to give it. And for your part of the deal, pay it forward. Help someone else do what matters to them in public.

So what do you think? Are you in?

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