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The Conclusion Comes Last

How do you know if a shoe fits? Try it on.

How do you know if the blue shirt is a better fit for you than the red shirt? Try them on.

Even if you already know your size, the best way to know if something is a good fit is by trying it on.

Ditto for your career and your curiosities.

If you’re wondering “Is this sport, subject, or style good for me?”, the best way to find out isn’t by guessing or navel-gazing.

You find it out by trying it out.

Instead of pressuring yourself to make a religion out of some specific passion you think you need to have, give yourself permission to playfully explore the ideas and interests that intrigue you.

Discovering what you love is like doing science:

1. Start with a hunch (ie. “this seems interesting”).

2. Formulate a hypothesis (ie. “I think I’d really like this”).

3. Conduct an experiment (ie. “I’ll sign up for one lesson to see if I’m good at it” or “I’ll take an online course to see how it goes” or “I’ll do an internship to see how it feels from the inside-out” or “I’ll invest a small amount of money that I can afford to lose”).

4. Form a working conclusion (ie. “I think I would like to do this for the next couple of years” or “I’m ready to invest more money into this”).

5. Be willing to revise your conclusion in light of new evidence and future experience (ie. “my passions are not religious beliefs that I need to be loyal to. They’re evolving interests that I’m free to upgrade along the way”).

Notice something here: The conclusion comes last.

Instead of announcing to the world “this is what I’m born to do” after having a single rapturous experience or after making a single interesting observation, you take a “wait and see” approach.

The “wait” in “wait and see” isn’t about waiting on taking action. It’s about waiting on the decision to commit the rest of your life to the things that interest you.

Discovering and doing what you love is analogous to dating: Before getting on bended knee to propose to a beautiful stranger, it’s usually more effective to flirt with the person first and see where that goes. You start small with something small like “Sooooo, what brings you to this event?” If that goes well, you work your way towards something like “Would you like to grab coffee or lunch?” And if that goes well, you go for a second date and so on. A passionate and committed relationship with someone you’re interested in is the by-product of a series of small actions that don’t require a quantum leap.

If you meet someone you’re interested in, take your time and see what it’s like to make small talk with this person. See what it’s like to have a phone conversation with this person. See what’s it like to watch a movie with this person. See what it’s like to have a disagreement with this person. See what it’s like to share a problem with this person. See what it’s like be around this person when they’re having a bad day.

There’s no need to make an immediate jump from “this person has captured my attention” to “I’m ready to spend the rest of my life with this person.”

In the same manner, get to know your interests before you get on a mountaintop and declare “this is the whole meaning of my existence” or “this is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life.”

You don’t need to put your entire life on the line for the first beautiful thing that captivates your attention.

You can afford to relax a little.

Before you commit to “following your passion,”  it might help if you slow down and flirt with your curiosity.

At least that’s the way I see it.

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