Remember when you were a kid and you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up? Whether it was a writer, a painter, a teacher or a firefighter, you knew what you were good at and what you liked to do and you simply connected the dots to a career.
Did you fulfill those dreams? Are you even close? So many people are working just below their potential in that nice safe place far from their dreams. They make a living that pays the bills but leaves them with no passion, no zeal and no spark.
Danielle LaPorte understands. Today, she's an author, speaker and all around "fire starter" who inspires people to make a living off of what they truly want to do. Her latest book is aptly named The Fire Starter Sessions. However, years ago, her life was a different story. LaPorte was once among the many burning the candle at both ends as a culturally savvy D.C. think tank executive. She had the desire to break free, and when her career took some unexpected twists, she knew it was time to get honest about making a life out of what she was good at. And that's exactly what she did.
Hmmm... so how did the rest of us get so far off track?
"We get talked out of our genuine emotions, our feelings and our states of beings from the time we're born," LaPorte tells Beliefnet. "'Oh, you don't feel that way.' And then it turns into, 'You should feel this way.' You start to doubt how you feel. It's the most tragic thing that you second-guess those feelings." She adds with a laugh, "Then you get put into school and then it's all downhill."
LaPorte admits that she had a good upbringing, but no one ever piqued her interest to go beyond the books to what was going on inside of her. She says, "Nobody ever asked me how I wanted to feel. Nobody ever asked me what my vision of awesome was. It's very clear from kindergarten on that there's a right answer and a wrong answer. And if you're going to play the 'right answer' game, you're going to be in that mediocre -to-good place. Not soul fire. Not supernova."
It's from that soul-fire, supernova place that LaPorte believes everyone should be existing with a sense of ease. When your natural talents and second-nature inclinations are the driving force behind your career, you don't have to strive, over-achieve and exhaust yourself.
"Burnout is not a badge of honor," she says. "When things are easy for you, when you're living and working from that place of your true strength and natural talent, you're happier. It's super basic. You're in a better mood. When you're in that place, you're more energized. You get to be of more service to other people."
Getting real about what you want and what you're good at is an act of both finding freedom yet also setting boundaries. LaPorte admits that it takes some work. "This is the irony. Making the choices that are based off of what’s easier for you is not always easy. It means you have to be really clear about what you're going to say yes and no to. It means you're going to hurt some people's feelings. You’re going to go through a bit of an identity crisis. It requires courage. Most of the time, it's so rewarding."
Photo Credit: Sherri Koop
According to LaPorte, paying attention to feelings carries a heavy weight in a fire starter's life. She says, "Everything you do, from the food you eat to the people you hang out with, is about the desire to generate a feeling. 'This is going to make me happy. This is going to make me sad.' Either way, it's all about feelings. So why don't we get clear on how we want to feel and then do things that will make us feel that way. That's how to be godly in your own existence. Once you're in that mode, you realize how you feel is a choice. When I'm not feeling great, just considering what I could do to feel better already makes me feel better, because I feel empowered. I feel in charge."
Getting clear on your feelings is only half the journey, LaPorte shares. We all know what it is to be stuck in a rut even after your desires are obvious. It's that comfortable place where you don't know how to get going and life's demands have scheduled out anything that's just for you. LaPorte has some tough advice for those who are stalling.
"They don't want it bad enough," she says. "No excuses. You want out of that good, mediocre place? No excuses. Helplessness is such a drag. You can put people in two categories: people who move towards things and people who move away from things out of fear. There's something to that reaction to a dream: 'I don't know how to start' vs. 'I'm going to figure it out.' I would put my money behind the 'I'll figure it out' people every time even if they didn't have a dime to their name or no former experience. The people who say, 'I'll figure out'... they will."
While they certainly have the less traditional road, LaPorte knows that creative people especially are born to make their dreams a reality. "It's part of having passion. You are going to make it happen. Nobody else is going to paint your painting for you," she explains. "You really are in that place of 'It's up to me.' It's that divine choiceless-ness. 'I gotta figure it out, so I will.'
On the other side of the dreamers are the ones who aren't quite sure what they want to do with their lives. There's no discernable talent nor direction. What advice does LaPorte have for them?
"Do anything. Just start," she says. "Any decision is better than no decision. Even if you do something and you tank, you will be further ahead. You'll know more about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, you'll know more people. Even failure can lead to something magical. Express yourself in the idea that's in front of you. For some people, that's your retail job. Maybe it's the open mic night. But don't keep quiet. You'll die, you'll whither."
Lastly, LaPorte believes being a fire starter is about spiritual growth. At the end of the day, it's choosing a life beyond routine, safety and the opinions of others.It's higher, but it's reachable. And it starts with knowing you were meant for more than you're doing right now. LaPorte knows it's listening to that inner voice that sounds something like this: "'I want to be awake. I gotta be awake. I have to live a shiny life, because the alternative sucks.'"
Also, get more fire-starting goodies on her web site www.daniellelaporte.com.