All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players
– William Shakespeare
For a lot of years, I took this quote to heart. I based my life on it. From it, I extrapolated that life is about figuring out what my individual part is, and trying to play it as best I can. Inevitably, I also took this generic advice to heart: “Follow your passion.” So, I went through life looking for that one passion that’s meant for me.
Trouble was, I didn’t know what passion was supposed to feel like. I liked some things, but were they passions? Was this whole passion thing really good advice?
Apparently not. Or, so argued some certain material I came across. I started reading blog posts and books that preached against the existence one singular, perfect passion for every person. Instead, if you just do something long enough, you’ll start to become passionate about it. This was most clearly stated in Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”
So, doubling down on my understanding of the quote, I decided to choose any old role I think I liked, and then play the hell out of it. I’d tell myself I was this or that, and then exhibit the behaviors of that role, almost to an obsessive degree. It was my hope that one day, doing that thing long enough would cause me to fall in love with it, the passion would ignite, and I would finally feel happy because I picked a role and was playing it.
Then I heard there was more to that Shakespeare quote.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
(It links to an Arrested Development compilation if you’re so inclined.)
Two lines I based my life on. Instantly unraveled.
Why? Because I finally heard the next two lines.
There’s not just one role. I’m allowed to explore and like different things and my career or my passion is not going to be singular for the rest of my life.
I know. I sound dumb for basing my life on two lines of a quote.
And truthfully, it’s not like this exploration and hard practice were fruitless for me.
I got better at a bunch of skills that I now use regularly. I got to really go deep into worlds that I might’ve otherwise just sampled and left. I committed to things before I was sure of them. That’s been invaluable in helping me grow past my comfort zone.
Of course, it’s also bred failure after failure, sometimes following paths I would’ve preferred to avoid.
There’s good and bad, as there is in everything.
And as in everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Finding your one passion and engineering it through practice can have common ground.
I have passions, but they’re not all specifically tied to one profession or skill. I’ve fallen in love with hobbies I spent time with, but I don’t want to do any one thing for the rest of my life.
I guess it’s true: one man, in his time, plays many parts.
That’s what I intend to do.
Also, I intend to read things to the end before deciding on large, subconscious life philosophies upon which to base my life.
(And I hope this underwhelming ending void of advice has taught you that same lesson.)