Thursday, December 13, 2007


"Follow Your Bliss"
--Joseph Campbell

Let's be honest.

Most of us love quotes like the one above. We've all read great words about "following our bliss" or "following our genius" (Thoreau).... and we've nodded our heads. We love the words of Emerson, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, and other free spirits. We love the IDEA that following our bliss will bring happiness, prosperity, freedom, fun, etc...

But let's be honest. At a deeper level, we don't really believe it can happen to us. At a deeper level, we have been programmed much more strongly by our mainstream culture. That culture tells us "You must work hard", "Follow the rules", "Success, Happiness, & Bliss require hard work", "Be practical".

Be honest. No matter how much you profess to be an idealist, or a romantic, or an artist, or a free-spirit... you have these cultural messages deep inside and they have a strong effect on you. They have a strong effect on all of us. And so, when we read Thoreau or J. Campbell, there is an unconscious reaction that thinks, "this really isn't possible... its a great and beautiful idea... but its not possible practically".

That unconscious programming is THE barrier... THE thing which keeps us enslaved. We are enslaved to jobs, to "hard work", to "being practical" not through force, but through mind control. I know that sounds sinister, and in fact, the effects are indeed sinister and heart-breaking.

For years, I fought with these beliefs. My chosen route was to first prove to myself that Thoreau was right- that I could live extremely simply... and that by doing so life would not be a hardship... but would in fact be easier.

That's why I lived in my car, and then a van. And through direct experience I learned that Thoreau's words were not only beautiful... but EXTREMELY practical.

That set the stage for all that has followed. The old programming lost much of its power. I began to BELIEVE. I thought, "damn, if this is true, maybe its also true that prosperity, freedom, and happiness will come NOT from hard work... but by following my bliss".

So I took off to Thailand, one of my favorite places in the world. I started teaching English.. something I liked doing in the past. But this time, I decided I'd do it only my way.. that Id only teach in a way that was fun and thrilling to me (and my students)... consequences be damned.

Which led to two results: 1) I developed a very unique, energetic, and enthusiastic teaching sytle. 2) I was fired from my job.

I came back to SF, and got another job... at a place that afforded me more freedom. And I started recording my lessons and selling them. For YEARS I had thought of making my own micro-business.. but I didnt. Why not? Because of the old programming. Because of thoughts like, "Im bad at business", "Ill have to work hard to succeed, and I don't want to be a slave to my own business", "Having a business means I only care about money".... etc.

But it was different this time because I was doing something blissful-- recording fun, loud, enthusiastic, and somewhat strange English lessons. I finally asked myself, "why should my boss get most of the money for MY work, my energy, and my creativity?"

From there, in fits and starts, it grew.... and I quit my job. The amazing thing-- its MUCH easier than working. SO much easier than working a job. My micro-business feels like a "past-time" (to use Thoreau's words). It feels like a fun hobby, not a "serious business".

So whats the point of all this babbling? The point is, I finally realize that Thoreau, Campbell, Watts, and others were NOT dreamy romantics. Their words are sober and practical.

Following your bliss does produce prosperity, freedom, etc. The only caveat is that you must do it with all your faith and enthusiasm. You must work on all those cultural programs and dismantle them.

Ive found the best way to dismantle them is through direct empirical experimentation with my life. Direct experience. Try simplicity and see what happens. Try following your bliss, and see what happens. At first, do it as a temporary experiment. Then experiment again. Eventually, make it your lifestyle!

When you do this, you will indeed find that life proceeds effortlessly. What was once difficult becomes easy. Everything begins to flow.


Ryan said...

Nice blog! I'm adding you to the list on mine.

alyceclover said...

Ah, but I believed in following my bliss and the world was my oyster. Can not say that doing so brought prosperity, freedom and fun. It seems the 9 to 5 secure world enabled me to relax and have fun. Happiness seems to come naturally at odd moments in time.