We recently learned of a Canadian holiday called Family Day, celebrated in many provinces on the third Monday in February. We second the notion that recognizing the importance of family is, well, important, and are pleased to pay homage this week to clans large and small, given and chosen, with Family Week on Idealists in Action.
The value of parental wisdom is too often underestimated. We got four Idealist staffers to ask their ‘rents for advice on about starting, maintaining, and getting the most out of a passion project.
Don’t be shy.
From Kurt Olson: computer programmer, cub scout leader, skier, maple syrup artisan, fisherman, amateur evolutionary anthropologist, gumbo aficionado, and (what he’s talking about here) folk musician. Also, dad of Idealist Communications Intern Rebecca Olson.
I started learning to play the accordion when I was 40 years old. I often think about how much better I would have been if I had started earlier. My advice to people who want to start any kind of passion project is to start today! (Although no matter when you start, it’s never too late.)
Another piece of advice is don’t be shy. If you’re lucky enough to meet someone who shares a common interest with you, you should make the effort to get to know them. Someone might say, ‘Hey, you should stop by sometime.’ You should always follow up with them.
I’ve also learned that music really is all about people: making friends jamming, playing, teaching, learning, forming a “band.” It’s all about the community you create when you play and share your music.
Find strength in empathy.
From Mary Ellen Mooney Hurley: vegetable goddess, empathizer extraordinaire, looks good in a hat, and possibly mother to the world—but definitely mother of Idealist Software Engineer Derek Hurley.
I grew up in an upper middle class family that never had to worry about making the choice between eating and paying bills, and I married into a similar lifestyle. But when that ended abruptly, I found myself wondering how I would meet all my financial obligations and still be able to feed myself healthy, nutritious food.
I went back to college to obtain my BS in rural sustainable sociology to better understand the obstacles those in need face daily. When I moved to the island of Kauai to finish my studies, I got involved with a local garden that supplies the main food pantry with produce. I have since taken over the operation, helping to feed over 300 families weekly, for free, with nutritious green vegetables.
My advice is to get out and get involved in local support groups dealing with the underprivileged. See what they face daily and look inside yourself—you’ll find the passion it takes to give unconditionally to others.
Stay open to possibilities.
From S. Amelia O’Leary: registered nurse, crocheter of comforts, total hottie, and mom of Idealist Community Affairs Manager Megan O’Leary.
My passion project began when I learned to crochet at 20 years old. 30 years later, as a labor and delivery nurse, I was shocked to learn that there was little or no support for families that came into the hospital expecting to deliver healthy babies, but instead experienced neonatal loss.
I wondered what could I do to help in these times, and began crocheting baby blankets that parents could use as keepsakes to remember their lost child. I never knew that what started as a hobby would become a part of my career and provide me with a deeply moving way to connect with others.
My advice for those considering starting a personal project is to keep your eyes and hearts open to the possibilities of where and how your passion could be of service to others.
Focus on the goal.
From Steve Davidson: former aeronautical engineer, psychologist, and investment consultant; current Ironman, productivity guru, world traveler, and hot tub enthusiast. Also, dad of Idealist Community Manager Kim Davidson.
One man’s opinion: You only do a hobby if you enjoy it. You do a passion whether you enjoy it or not.
For me, this has not just been about becoming sufficiently fit to complete an Ironman. I found that all the training and preparation has enhanced my overall well-being. How I feel. How I relate to others. How I accomplish other tasks. My outlook. Everything.
One of the big challenges of triathlon is one that’s true of life in general: you never know what you are going to get on a given day: in this case, it might be wind, rain, heat, etc. But with preparing for the Ironman as with any other big project, I can offer this advice: begin with the end in mind. Have a clear, compelling goal.
Want to ask your passion-project-having parents for their advice and share it with us in the comments? We know you do!