Many of the US commencement address videos, such as the famous Steve Jobs speech at Stanford, offer me a strong dose of inspiration. Many of these movies (hundreds can be found online) express the same essential message: find your passion and pursue your dreams. David Brooks, an NYTimes columnist, has written a powerful critique on this preachment in a recent article. His mantra: it’s not about finding yourself – it’s about losing yourself.
Speaking from my personal experience, it’s pretty hard at age 22 to define clearly who you are, what your calling is and what your future life is going to look like. More importantly, even if you manage to take a long summer day to define your passions and your calling, it’s very uncertain that these will remain the same over the next months, not to speak about the rest of your life. Maybe we should embrace that we don’t know exactly who we are, and rather summon ourselves to causes we can lose ourselves in. Happiness does not come from finding yourself, it comes from losing yourself – in a company you believe in, a cause worth fighting for or a commitment to solve an “unsolvable” problem.
As Bill Taylor puts it boldly in his HBR article: “The trouble with always looking for yourself … is that you spend too much time looking in the mirror rather than at the world”. And, as Pixar University’s former dean Randy Nelson says it: “It’s not trick for talented people to be interesting, but it’s a gift to be interested”.
Here’s to losing ourselves in the endeavours that form the journey of life!