Living on purpose.

What if success meant living a life of purpose?

What if your high school and college educations were designed to help you do one thing: to discover what you are truly good at and what you love to do? That instead of emphasizing test scores and grades and cutthroat placements in prestigious universities and high starting salaries, the system acknowledged that we are all born with different skills and abilities, needs and wants. And that we all need a mission to guide us.

What if we said you don’t have to be good at math or science if you have no natural aptitude, that you might be better at building something with your hands than constructing a paragraph? That we will help you discover if you are more visually oriented, or more intuitive about people, or better at concrete thinking or abstractions or that you were born to be a great chef or a gardener or a cab driver or a banker. What if that was the whole purpose of your education — to help you lead a life that perfectly fits who you are?

What would a planet full of people working with passion and conviction look like?

What if it was the norm to pause every decade or so and assess whether that purpose still fits you, whether you need some variation or specialization, new skills or new experiences? What if was expected that every major decision you made was measured against the yard stick of your purpose and your mission, not your salary or your retirement package? That each person was expected to be true to their nature and their passion. That each of us did what we did to genuinely be of service to the greater good. Not because it was tax-deductible but because it felt right and part of who we are.

Would things unravel? Would certain jobs never be filled? Or might we discover that some people were genuinely born to enthusiastically empty septic tanks or write parking tickets or run hedge funds, to do things that now people seem to do only for money? Would we still dread Mondays? Or would we work with passion and conviction, doing more and better things than we could conceive of today.

What if everyone in our society did what they did because they loved it, were born to it, were passionate about it would do it just as a hobby? What if we all lived authentically according to our talents and drives? What would a planet full of people working with passion and conviction look like?

What would it take for that to happen? An act of Congress? An act of God? Or a commitment made by each of us as we lay in bed and pondered the road ahead. A commitment to who you truly are.

Could you make one?

27 thoughts on “Living on purpose.”

  1. We all hope we find jobs we can enjoy and also make enough money to live on.
    But at 73 I do believe we live in different periods throughout our lives. Hopefully each preparing us for the next
    There is no reason your WORK has to interfer with your personal growth or enjoyment.
    One of my joys now is your blog daily.


  2. I’m living the life I was meant to live and doing what I love to make a living. I feel blessed that I found my way there. And I know it takes a ton of motivation and passionate work to do it.


  3. You have just written everything that I stand for in education..that we need education which enriches us so that we love what we’re learning and discover who we did that in sketchbook skool..and I wish that it catches on in schools and colleges too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are singing a very sweet song here and, together with your fellow tribe members–Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Lynda Barry, etc.–you make passion, purpose and meaning sound to be within reach. I was in advertising for a decade. Loved the early years, struggled through the middle years and used the final years to pay for and pave the way to my my true passion, psychology and art making. I hear you emphasizing the importance of purpose and meaning through one’s work and the only thing I’d add, with an eye on folks who for many good and even laudable reasons, need to stay put for a bit in a job that isn’t necessarily their passion, that your idea of creating a mission statement for life and then abiding by it might still be attainable even in the midst of a so-so job. You seem to be living the very life that you’re promoting here, Danny, and I’m thrilled for you for that.


  5. Eloquently argued and I very much agree. I am actually embracing this type of evolution right now – or at least am in the process of doing so. I was passionate about being a teacher and I loved my job but four kids, a couple of other careers and a change of counry later, I am no longer sure that a career in education is the best fit for me any more. I feel like I know what I want to do but fear of whether I can make a proper go of it is holding me back right now. I am getting there though.


  6. Oh if only …. sadly I think for many it’s just so hard to subsist and earn enough to survive, and for the rest aspirational greed is the motivating force … the desire to live in amazing houses in the world’s most amazing locations, driving a fast expensive car, wearing a fancy watch! Me? I didn’t follow my art-heart after school and went into a related field, interior design, because theoretically (according to parents!) I could make more money doing that than fine art, but it led to stress and unhappiness…now my art-heart comes first as much as possible and life is slower and much richer for it.


  7. […] read an interesting blog post by Danny Gregory – I wonder if the world would be a better place if we all followed our instinct and hearts, rather […]


  8. What a wonderful post. I began in medicine and have grown to love seeing patients more every decade. But the rest of my career life stinks–the payers who don’t want to pay me, the government who wants to regulate the crap out of me, the employers who want to know every secret of their employees medical history, the payers who want to dictate how I care for my patients, the electronic medical records that were built on billing codes, not to improve my abilities in caring for my patients, but to get every last dime from the system, and finally a system that pressures dying patients and their families to try new therapies way past the time that would allow them a dignified and proper death. You have given me a new passion and it has helped me fight back against the healthcare monkey on my back. My patients and I thank you for that.


  9. What a great manifesto! it is up to each of us to find our passion and figure out how to make a living as well. If we are lucky they will coincide like they did in my life. I am retired now and free to follow whatever I want to do. I volunteer in lots of different ways, sometimes using my career training and sometimes not. It is a good life!
    Aloha, Kate


  10. With the right payoff to support me financially while I made my way, yeah! And I do live in hope… 🙂 but until that day arrives i have a mortgage to pay so however much I hate the corporate thing I have to keep on doing it… I do wonder though, if given the opportunity to do the thing you love all day, would the novelty wear off…? I would sure love to put it to the test!!!


  11. Amen! We each write the story of our life whether or not we are aware of it. I was blessed with 43 years of teaching children….didn’t get rich, but everyday I knew I was doing something that mattered and something I chose to do because I was passionate about it. Then I retired and chose to make art everyday, something I am also passionate about….still not rich, but my life is abundant! Thanks Danny for your always enriching posts!


  12. Hmm, something I am passionate about… Well, I have enjoyed doing numerous things in my life. My personal feeling is that, if I did not have to worry about money, many of the things I already do in life would be far more enjoyable than they currently are. Perhaps that is because most of what I love doing does not pay well at all (art, education, dogs).


  13. I’m doing it! 🙂 I used to follow my head – do the “right” thing and it wasn’t working, one day I had a huge epiphanie and decided instead to follow my heart! follow my deepest iinstincts.. and I am ten times happier or more than I used to be I know that once I get on to the path that I was meant to be on, at some point things will improve and life will return to me what I need.. including crossing huge oceans and vast continents.. I now make art, that’s all of what and who I am, I want it to benefit the greater good or the world in some way if that makes sense, though I haven’t yet found it.. .but everyday I am working on it! One thing I know is that I’m in the wrong place, the wrong country so I have faith that I will get to where I need to be! Thanks for the article!.


  14. Great post…shared it on fb and twitter…just think how much easier teachers jobs would be!! BYTW the guy that cleaned my septic tank at 8 am had to love his job…the smell well what can I say OMG it was horrendous…but they really seemed to enjoy it!!


  15. PS I should add…had I followed my heart and not taken a “job” I definitely would have been a much happier person. It’s the one piece of advice I give to all teenagers and twenty somethings searching for THE job of their lives!!


  16. Dear Danny, I do wonder who Is going to do the really dirty work in your lovely model (the mind boggles at how many jobs there are like that).

    I think a few things would have to happen to get closer to the goal you propose. We all have to give up having a lot of “stuff” because making it, shipping it, fighting the politics over it, disposing of it when it is no longer wanted (note, it would be better already if we replaced wanted with needed) is creating a lot of those jobs.

    For the same reason, I would guess we’d have to be prepared to be less comfortable; Keep our houses cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.

    Maybe move back to a barter economy, so that people can trade apples and oranges without having to turn it into money first. Live in smaller communities where it is assumed there will be more support for the ill, the less able mentally, those hurting from personal sorrows such as you have described in your life.

    And we’d still have to take turns digging out the Latrine; so a co-op model. Maybe five days a week, you do what you truly love, and two days a week, you do something for the community.

    And so on. So, I’m not saying don’t do it, and I’m not saying can’t do it, but we’d all have to wanna do it. All the way. No fast food, no cheap clothing from poorer economies, etc., etc., etc.

    Thanks again for another list that gets the brain muscle of its tusch!


  17. Mm. Yes. Seems I lie in a bed not too far from yours and ponder the exact same questions. Wonderful post. X


  18. I am just searching for a new job. There are a lot of possabilities – but none seems to really fit for me. My thoughts are going round if I should take one of them and try to make it fit or to let it go…

    Your post ensures me to wait for the job I really want. The one I love. The one that is for me. Thank you so much!


  19. What if we live authentically through bringing our whole heart, our whole Self to what we do now? What if we could fall in love with where we are today simply because we bring all of who we are to wherever we are…as part of our journey to becoming more and more of who we want to be?
    What if bringing my whole Self into today contributes to transforming tomorrow?


  20. Interesting topic for debate or societal change. As an artist, I’ve always felt forced by the educational system to “improve” on skills which didn’t come naturally to me. I love the idea of people just pursuing what works for them. But then? Who takes out the garbage, collects taxes, drives the ambulance? I don’t know. I only hope that there are those who gravitate toward working with healing, numbers, and the trades like I lean toward art.
    Speaking of which, there’s a guy from tv (Mike Rowe) who’s started a movement to revive the study of trades in America. I heard him speak on a TED talk and apparently he has a new show, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”, which speaks (in part) to this issue. Here’s a link:


  21. This is so true for me. Life is short (I worked in an elderly people’s home and learnt so much from them). It’s all about choices isn’t it? The choice to do or have one thing, might mean we feel we then have to do/have the other thing to ‘manage’ these choices. I realise there are still choices within choices though. No doubt there may be a trade off, but it def depends on what each of our priorities are. I am so grateful and happy I took the courage to be the artist I wish to be, to live my passion and do what I felt I was born to be here and do. It’s not easy, but I truly love it. This post is a great reminder I’m on the right journey (for me!). thank you. (I think wordpress might be taking my link elsewhere so just in case!) :0


  22. That’s very dreamy for those with all the right tools and opportunities. I’m an artist who can not seem to make a go of it. I’ve done other jobs in my life and did what I had to do. This topic is on my mind everyday of my life and I’m just stuck😔


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