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How To Live Your Passion: It’s All About Brushing Your Teeth

I remember the moment with icy clarity.  I was sitting in a Women in Science luncheon at a Very Fancy Hotel during a Very Important Science Conference.  A panel of professional scientists was discussing work-life balance, and one woman cracked a joke that ended my career in research psychology:

She said, “I think about data when I’m brushing my teeth.”

And I thought:  I NEVER think about data when I’m brushing my teeth.

And I know right now that I never will.

It’s not that thinking about data while brushing teeth is a prerequisite to becoming a great scientist.  It’s that I’d be competing for jobs and funding against people who think about science every spare minute of every day.

You’ll always be one step behind if you only think about your profession when you’re getting paid to think about it.

While in college, I discovered I had a preternatural skill for acing biology exams that I hadn’t actually studied for.  But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should choose it for a career path.  The ranks of any profession are filled with a whole lot of mediocre, average people who are good at what they do. 

The upper echelons of any profession, however, are full of people who think about what they do while brushing their teeth.

“Passion” is not trite, prosaic, self-helpy fluff invented by Oprah.  It is a tangible, monetizable resource.  All those minutes and hours you spend thinking about your passion will help you create new ideas, solve problems, inch you towards greater heights.  Passion translates into practice.  Practice translates into excellence and expertise.  Excellence and expertise boost your bottom line and further your career.

Maybe you think “there’s no way I can make money at what I’m passionate about doing.”  I promise you that someone else shares your passion, and they are already making money at it.  (I dare you to Google it.)  And if by some cosmic glitch they’re not – then cha-ching baby, you’ve hit upon a niche where you can be first in the category – entrepreneurial gold.

What is the next step?  I bet you already know.  I bet it’s been a pebble in your shoe for awhile now.  You’ve considered it, maybe even researched it a little during your lunch hour or while the baby napped.  You just haven’t done it yet.

Your passion is there to help you, not to haunt you. 

You know those thoughts about living your dream swirling in your head?  Take the first step toward making it real.  Right this minute.  Then devote that teeth-brushing time to thinking about the second step.  Then the third.  The fourth.  Turn those thoughts into a gold mine of your own making by directing them toward action, toward planning the next step.  And don’t forget to execute.  You know what you need to do.

Spit out the toothpaste and START.




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  1. Mary Marantz on January 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    LOVE!!! This is awesome stuff! “The ranks of any profession are filled with a whole lot of mediocre, average people who are good at what they do. ” PREACH!!


    • Jenika on January 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks Mary! 🙂 :: high fives ::

      • Jenika on January 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm

        By the way – I want to be clear that there’s nothing wrong with being mediocre or average. (Clearly – or so many people wouldn’t settle for it). Average is downright respectable. It’s just not where your satisfaction is likely to lie – and that’s why we should get away from it. That is where passion comes in.

  2. Elis Alves on January 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Love this! I was just thinking how many people are out there who are also photographers and I’ve been struggling to make ends meet since I got into photography full time last year. So it’s been an encouragement to read that I really am in the right path. And I’m the only one I have to worry about! :c) I’m so sharing this! Thank you!

    • Jenika on January 8, 2012 at 12:58 am

      Thank you Elis! 🙂 It is a struggle, but that’s what makes us better at it, right? All the best!

  3. Briana Owen on January 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    This is so fantastic!! I’d never thought about my teeth brushing times, and how that indicates how passionate I am about photography. Thanks for putting something inexplicable and put it into words. You are incredible!

  4. Kaylie on February 15, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I love your posts!!! They’re so wonderful and uplifting!!!

  5. Jenny on October 20, 2012 at 2:01 am

    I came to this post from your anniversary post. I love it.

    I admit I have felt haunted by my passion for taking photos and have had many excuses for not pursuing it as a business but NO MORE. Let me go spit out my toothpaste…

  6. kinjal on May 11, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Reading this brought a smile on my face. I read the post of yours about hobby and passion before this and trust me the words went deep in my mind that I could not stop reading the rest of them. And this one is helping me feel better. I have learnt it by talking to myself and people passionate about what they are doing that passion needs everything that you can give to it. It is from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed and even after that ( in your dreams) that you consciously and unconsciously think of it every minute. It is this blue print of the project that you are designing in your mind. You live it every moment. And it does not really matter what you get at the end of it. Becuase that is uncertain today. Yes we dream and hope and believe of the positive outcome. But the strength and energy lies in the process of pursuing it.
    Feeling inspired.

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