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Underground cave art by Ra Paulette, a visionary cave sculptor from New Mexico

How to carve out your life’s passion by John C. Maxwell

Sculptor Ra Paulette has an unusual passion. He digs caves by hand and then turns his newly created spaces into works of art. Using only a pick ax, a scraper, and a wheelbarrow, Paulette has been digging caves for nearly 30 years. His multi room structures are remarkable; they are sculptures and art galleries in one. Filled with paintings, pools, skylights, furniture and waterfalls, Paulette’s caves are redefining the way art can be experienced.

The Academy Award-nominated documentary, Cavedigger, follows Paulette as he carves into the earth, one shovelful at a time. In the film, Paulette explains, “When I’m working on a project, I’m totally obsessed. I’m thinking about it all day long. All night long, I’m dreaming… digging dreams. Most people who are engaged in physical labor aren’t having the fun that I’m having.”

I can’t say that I’d ever want to spend time digging in a cave, but I certainly admire Paulette. He has passion. He loves what he does, and he does it with exuberance.

When you think about or talk about your work, are you like Paulette? Does it consume you? Do you wake up excited about it? Do you go to sleep thinking about it? If not, your life may be missing an ingredient.

Paulette is 74 now and still digging caves. Recently I turned 68, and like Paulette, I am still on fire. While other people my age may be slowing down, I’m revving up. I wake up early, excited to meet the challenges of my day. I’m like a kid. Let me tell you something: You never have to drag a passionate person out of bed!

Following your passion changes your life and the lives of those around you. It makes life exciting. It inspires your team. It transforms the grind of work into an invigorating challenge.

I may be in a position to retire, but I have no inclination to do so. There’s still too much I want to do. Don’t go another day, week, month or year without finding and harnessing your passion.

To fire up your passion…

Listen to yourself. Too many people simply go through the motions every day. The demands of life cause them to make convenient choices rather than heartfelt ones. But to tap into your passion, you have to know what you want. Look for clues. What excites you? What makes you dream? What makes your heart sing?

You’d think something as big as a life passion would be easy to identify, but often it’s not. Take some time to reflect on these questions:

  1. If you inherited so much money that you would never have to work again, what would you do with your time?
  2. What would you never give up because you love it so much?
  3. What hobbies have you pursued over the years and why? These may be clues that will tell you something about yourself.
  4. What are you naturally good at—so good that other people compliment you?
  5. When others consult you for advice, what do they ask you about?
  6. What are you curious about?
  7. What do you do better than anything else?

Give it time. It took me time to home in on the things that were at the core of my being. The same will be true for you. You don’t just find your passion; you have to pursue it. Paulette says that people are uncomfortable with things for which there is no blueprint. That is so true! But if you want something different from what you currently have, you need to move into uncharted territory.

Pay the price. Life is full of trade-offs. Understand that sacrifice and passion go hand in hand. There is a price to following your passion. I don’t know what your journey will charge you, but I know that there will be a cost. Prepare to pay it, and I promise that the expense will be worth it.

Become the best. Passion is vital to keep you going, but it’s not enough to earn a paycheck. People pay for excellence. You can have all the passion in the world, but if you don’t have the skill, you won’t be able to make your passion your profession. Look for ways to expand and fine-tune your skills.

Define success for yourself. Paulette doesn’t make a lot of money, but he considers himself a success. Why? Because he does what he loves, and he does it with excellence. Hold yourself to the standard you set. What does a passionate, fulfilled life look like?

If you’re a skeptic, you may be grumbling that all this “passion talk” is little more than inspirational fluff. Not true. When you are passionate about something, you are all-in. You spend countless hours thinking about the thing that drives you, allowing you to formulate new ideas, solve problems and strategize ways to build upon past efforts. Passionate people are persistent—and they are innovators.

Life’s too short to be bored and unfulfilled. You were not created to be mediocre. Find your passion and use it to light up your life. As Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found in playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one that you are capable of living.”

It’s very important that highly sensitive people have a strong sense of purpose and being. Finding your passion is the key to a happy and purposeful life. I hope you enjoyed the article above. I thought it offered some great ideas. Do you have any tips on finding your passion? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

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