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I’m gonna raise, raise hell
There’s a story no one tells
You gotta raise, raise hell
Go on and ring that bell
— Brandi Carlile
You were born to be a badass.
It is your right as a man.
It is your right as a woman.
You were born to raise your own brand of hell, to be who you are and say what you need to say.
You were born to pursue greatness, to unlock the code of your soul and discover your life’s work.
In his new book MASTERY, Robert Greene talks about intensity of attention and how it allowed our ancestors to survive and thrive on the savannahs.
“The longer and harder they looked, the more they could distinguish between an opportunity and a danger.”
Our visual system is built for depth of focus. By looking long and hard enough, by refusing all distractions, our ancestors could detach themselves from their immediate surroundings, notice patterns, generalize, and think ahead.
They could access reality in a way that animals can’t.
They could understand it, come to know it – and in this way, master it.
They became better hunters. They built better tools. The body might decay, but the mind could continue to learn and adapt and pass on that knowledge to others.
Discovering your life’s work is about the depth of focus, the process of mastery that can only happen over time: through apprenticeship and experimentation, trial and error. Your life’s work is you bringing all your skill and concentration to bear in the world: you, connecting and having impact.
But the first step, as Greene points out, is inward: a turning away from the voices that urge conformity, toward the truth of who you are at core.
And by truth, I mean your own genetic uniqueness.
You have talents for some things and not for others; you are pulled toward certain activities and repelled by others.
Greene refers to this as an “inner force” that “seeks to guide you toward…what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live.”
Napoleon called it his “star” that he followed to make the right move.
Socrates called it a daemon, as did Goethe: a kind of spirit that dwells within and compels you toward your destiny.
You can think of it as your own personal unique value proposition, but instead of a statement on paper or catchy tagline on your blog it’s a living, leading thing that speaks from your bones. It may not know exactly what you should be doing – since that depends on information yet to reveal itself, skills yet to be acquired – but it knows the direction to head in, step by baby step.
In childhood this force was more freely expressed. It ran deep and primal. As you grow up, it gets lost in the clamor of voices and expectations coming at you from the outside world: those voices you learn to internalize as your own, about what you can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do.
So clear away those damn voices.
Search the past for signs of that inner voice or force or daimon or muse – however you want to think about it – expressing itself.
Those times you felt most absorbed and alive. Those activities you gravitated to as a child.
If you were very lucky, there was an adult in your life who recognized what made your eyes light up and lose all sense of time. That adult saw those hints of talent as the early signs of a life’s work, and encouraged you to pursue them.
More likely, though, you will have to close your eyes and time-travel back, to visit the child that you were as the adult you are now. And to identify — on your own — those first manifestations of a calling.
The word ‘vocation’ descends from the Latin meaning to call or be called. In those early years of Christianity, people were ‘called’ – by God, no less — to a life in the church: this was their vocation. Now the word has been secularized, to mean any type of work to which a person seems naturally suited.
“It is time, however, that we return to the original meaning of the word, for it comes much closer to the idea of a Life’s Task and mastery.
“The voice in this case that is calling you is not necessarily coming from God, but from deep within. It emanates from your individuality. It tells you which activities suit your character. And at a certain point, it calls you to a particular form of work or career. Your work then is something connected deeply to who you are, not a separate compartment in your life.”
Finding your life’s work is your big creative quest. It isn’t selfish or antisocial. It is, as Greene observes, “connected to something much larger than our individual lives. Our evolution as a species has depended on the creation of a tremendous diversity of skills and ways of thinking.”
Without that diversity, we die.
After all, what good is a mediocre career as a lawyer if what you were really meant to do was find a cure for cancer? Or write the novel that would inspire someone else to find a cure for cancer?
You were born to be a badass.
The world requires it. Needs it.