Are you a hummingbird or a jackhammer?

hummingbird

Have you ever met someone who’s always known what they wanted to do?

They were 5 years old and sure they’d be a writer or a nurse or an engineer, went and did exactly that, and are still doing it to this day?

Probably.

And while those people didn’t set out to make the rest of us feel bad … it sort of happens inadvertently, doesn’t it?

Liz Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic) calls these people “jackhammers.” As in, they drill down with mega-focus on one thing that they’re really passionate about and they hammer away at it forever. She’s a self-admitted jackhammer, herself, when it comes to being a writer.

She gave a talk recently (definitely worth a listen) about how she mistakenly assumed that everyone was like this. Not only did she realize that she was dead wrong, but she had no idea how badly non-jackhammers often feel about themselves.

There are a whole lot of us who think there must be something wrong if we don’t have an all-consuming passion that we’re mega-focused on for our entire lives.

We feel like there’s something they (the jackhammers) understand that we haven’t figured out yet. And we can spend years (if not decades) feeling frustrated and hopeless about our search for an all-consuming passion … but never finding it.

But as it turns out, jackhammers are actually really rare. Liz concluded, and I totally agree, that maybe 5% of the population fits the jackhammer bill. The rest of us? We’re something else entirely … and it’s nothing to feel dejected about. In fact, it’s arguably even more fascinating.

WE’RE ALL A BUNCH OF HUMMINGBIRDS

Before you get annoyed at the frilliness and girly-ness of being called a “hummingbird,” just chill out for a second and let me explain.

Hummingbirds move around a lot. They flit from place to place. They don’t settle into anything for too long. Wherever they find themselves at the time, they’re absorbed in that fully … until they move to the next thing.

But it’s hard to accept a life like this, at first.

Most of us are attracted to the idea of being a jackhammer because it feels refreshingly simple.

Take my client Sophie, for example.

All she’s wanted is to just figure out the one thing she’s passionate about so she can focus on that forever and stop having to think and worry about what she’s going to do next.

And I’ll admit … doing one thing, with mega-intensity forever, would remove most of the thought and angst we feel about figuring out “what’s next.”

But Sophie isn’t a jackhammer. She’s a hummingbird. She feels the inclination to evolve often, and doesn’t actually want to commit to one thing forever.

So I asked her:

“What if it was OK to just do something you’re interested in for now instead of forever?”

That made her pause. Because she’d felt, up until now, that unless she committed to something forever, she was doing this whole “passion” thing wrong.

She admitted that she was definitely attracted to the idea of “for now” instead of “forever” … but it was scary. She had a lot of concerns:

  • What if people think you’re a jumbled hot mess with no sense of direction?
  • What if a hummingbird’s résumé doesn’t look as logical as a jackhammer’s and no one wants to hire you?
  • What if you flit around so much that you can’t even call what you’re doing a career at all!??

Here’s how I answered that.

BEING A HUMMINGBIRD MAKES YOU INFINTELY FASCINATING

My grandma was a hummingbird.

This lady was not your typical grandma, either. She took belly dancing classes in middle age. When she was in her 50s, she went back to school and got her Master’s in Psychology. She could repair car engines. She traveled around the world solo … when she was in her 70s.

She was a badass woman. And endlessly interesting because of all the things she’d done and seen in her life.

I made a new hummingbird friend recently, too.

This woman is in her mid-30s, but looks a decade younger (hummingbirds age well, too, it would seem). She’s one of those people you could hang out with every day and never stop learning something new about her. She’s moved to a new city every other year since she graduated college. She has a degree in physics, but she’s also studied philosophy at the PhD level.

She’s taught college. She’s worked in straight-laced corporate. She does competitive archery. And she also owns her own web development firm, with ten team members under her … and doesn’t even have a degree in web development.

Oh, and another of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, is a total hummingbird.

Diana is the author of the Outlander series. But she didn’t even start writing those books until she was in her 40s. Before that, she got degrees in ecology and biology and zoology. She taught university, wrote computer programs for avian researchers, edited a software magazine, and wrote Disney comic strips. And then she wrote a #1 New York Times bestselling book series that then got turned into a Golden Globe nominated TV series … all because she was curious about whether she could write a novel (it turns out the answer was yes).

HAVE I CONVINCED YOU YET?

Hummingbirds are really cool people.

They don’t just understand one thing … they understand almost everything. They dedicate their lives to just following what they’re curious about at the time and trusting that it will take them somewhere interesting and worthwhile.

They may not have a “logical” résumé or career trajectory, but they don’t really care because they’re too busy doing what interests them. And honestly … no one else cares, either. Most people are too intrigued by hummingbirds to judge them for not being jackhammers.

Whether or not I’ve convinced you, I was able to convince Sophie.

Sophie is well on her way to becoming a very well-rounded hummingbird. Right now she’s getting a higher degree in philanthropy, but she’s thinking about simultaneously becoming a financial advisor.

Why? Because she’s really curious. She thinks it could be fascinating to help people through financial planning. She’s done the research, and her interest is piqued.

She’s made peace with the old idea that she has to do “one thing” forever. She’s actually excited about just pursuing what intrigues her, for now.

And if she finds out she’s wrong about her next step? I’ll let her explain:

“If I’m wrong, then I’m okay with that. I’ll search and find what is right. I’m strangely okay with that feeling. I was terrified of being wrong, but after our talks, I just don’t see it as that big of a deal anymore. I want a LIVED life, not a planned life.”

AND IF YOU ARE A JACKHAMMER … THAT’S OK, TOO

There’s nothing wrong with being a jackhammer. If that’s genuinely who you are (like Liz Gilbert, who’s made a great life being a jackhammer), then keep doing you.

We can all be alluring and fascinating and inspiring, in our own way.

But don’t fear being a hummingbird.

twitter-bird Release the pressure to commit to one thing forever … just commit to what piques your curiosity NOW.

If you can follow your curiosity over and over again, you’ll always feel passionate and inspired, regardless of what you’re doing. And you’ll probably be the most interesting person in the room, every time.

Are you a hummingbird or a jackhammer? Let me know what you think, in the comments!

Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

 


 

THE PPVE IS BACK NEXT WEEK, TUESDAY THE 19TH

There’s no better time of year than right now to get clear on what your passion is and how to actually do it. 

2016 could be a very different year than you expected, in the best way.

We hope you’ll join us for our first round of the Passion Plan Virtual Experience this year, which opens for enrollment next Tuesday, January 19th. (Grab a $50 discount code to use during enrollment, on our VIP page.)

There’s nothing quite like the sheer relief of not having to think about it or figure it out on your own. Weight, lifted.

18 Comments // ADD COMMENT

18 comments

  • Lola

    I NEEDED this today. Thank you.

  • Bria

    Great article! I would consider myself a hummingbird. Although, I remain interested in music and writing…there are still so many options under those two umbrella topics!

    and yes, sometimes it makes me feel directionless and scattered, so this article really helped me look at my interests in a new light.

    Thank you.

    -Bria

    • Rachel East

      You’re right, Bria, there are sooo many different things you could do with your interests in music and writing. I think feeling scattered is par for the course if you’re a hummingbird! But maybe once we accept it, instead of feel like there’s something wrong with it, we’ll feel less “scattered” and more “multi-passionate,” you know?

  • Linda

    Definitely a hummingbird! Thank you for this as I am constantly trying to find my passion. Now I can relax and just be passionate about what I’m currently doing. I really enjoyed this post.

    • Rachel East

      Thank you for sharing how you feel, Linda! I think having permission to just be who we are — and not spend all of our energy trying to be something that we’re not — is such a relief.

  • Stefanie

    I’m so glad you posted about this video! I saw it a few weeks ago and it completely changed my perspective about myself and my future. I almost emailed it to you, but you’ve got it covered 🙂 I love your blog and so does everyone I share it with!

    • Rachel East

      Great minds think alike! 😉 Though I would have been happy to get your email! Thanks for sharing with your friends, and feel free to email us any good stuff you find in the future.

  • Julie

    Definitely a hummingbird. I am curious and have an unending fascination with everything. Thanks for the post!

    • Rachel East

      You’re welcome, Julie! I definitely recommend you listen to Liz Gilbert’s whole talk about it, since it resonated. I’m sure you’ll get something good out of it!

  • Lily

    I’m a total hummingbird. 100%.

    I seem to always look back on things that I’ve done and regretted never pushing myself further and continuing to do it, or switching to something else quickly because of needing money and stepping away from “my true passions” – but they evolve so much. I finally have a large enough apartment where I can make it my “anything” room and I have no idea what to make it. My product making room? My yoga room? My fashion design or drawing and art room? I have supplies for all of these things in there, sitting in boxes, because I’m terrified to choose. This directly reflects my career and fun choices. I’ll do one thing then run away in case I make the wrong choice. It’s stupid.

    Help! I’m not quite accepting of my hummingbird status yet.

    • Lily

      And to clarify, I have a room that is all mine, in my new apartment, for whatever I want, in addition to my bedroom. It’s a big deal. I feel cool about that at least!

    • Rachel East

      Hey Lily! It *is* a big deal that you’ve got a room to do whatever you want with. 🙂 It’s actually sort of a physical symbol of everything you could do, which is probably why it feels like a lot of pressure to decide. Obviously this is something I could spend weeks coaching you on, so I’ll try to cut right to what (I think) the point is: Why does there have to be a “wrong” choice?

      What does “wrong” mean, anyway? And how will you know if something is “right” or not before you do it? What if you just chose something for now, and stuck with it long enough to know one way or another whether you liked it? No pressure if you do, or if you don’t.

      I think when we’re afraid of being “wrong,” we’re afraid of wasting our time. But is pursuing any form of creativity, even for a little while, a waste of time?

      If you’re struggling with this whole “I don’t know what to do!” thing, you might get a lot out of the PPVE, which will be back next week. I can see you getting a lot of clarity out of what we talk about in there! Just a thought!

      • Lily

        Thanks Rachel. It is totally symbolizing all that I could do with my time, and making it harder to decide. I’m the kind of person that purchases and gathers every type of “proper equipment” before embarking on a project. Knitting a hat? Buy all possible needles, yarn, books. Making one room spray? Buy bottles for 3 projects, ten essential oils, various ingredients. I seem to insist on getting all the emergency and “what if” project items before I start anything. So I feel like once I invest in it, I have to move forward with it, and stick to it.
        I’m not saying I insist this is right, but it’s what I tend to do.
        I am aware that having a desk of some sort in there (no furniture) could help with at least all of my ideas except perhaps yoga. Maybe I’ll start with that.
        I would like to take your PPVE course…it would probably really help me.

        I have been trying to grasp the “no choice is the wrong choice” concept for a while now. It’s mostly confusing to me. I just want to move forward and feel gratitude for that progression rather than wish i was doing something else when I finally choose something.

        I want to do it all. Or try.Or rotate. Ah!

  • Beth

    Thank you for sharing Liz’s talk. I recently finish Big Magic, and the part where she talks about following your curiosity was one of my favorite parts of the book. I am a hummingbird. I am multi-passionate. I am a side hustler. I’m all those things. And hearing Liz’s talk and reading your post makes me feel somewhat “normal.”

    I took your quiz well over a year ago and got side hustler. It felt so right, but I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to do with that profile. There was a part of me that wished I’d gotten one of the other profiles so that I could follow that and move forward. There is no direct path when you’re a side hustler. I wasn’t sure how being a side hustler was suppose to guide me. Learning more about following my curiosity is helping to put all this together.

    So, thank you.

    Beth

  • Rachel

    This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you 🙂
    I so wish I was at the UCLA conference.

    -Rachel

  • annie

    This just made me cry…

    I am a hummingbird (after reading this). But could it be I started out as a jackhammer? When I was a kid or teen I always wanted to be a CEO – not my own company, but the CEO of a great company and I wanted people to strive i their job, and the company to strive and just have an impact on the community or the world – making it better for everyone (and enjoying a great life myself, too)

    I never wanted my “career” to be like what it is. I feel like I have no career, have worked – on and off – in three fields basically on different levels – up and down and up.

    Now I am about to be unemployed again … and the search goes on again to find someone who takes my experiences for what they are and feels like they add up to what I can bring to the company and not substract from it.
    I am already hating it.

    At the same time I am thinking about building up my own company – basic feeling to that: SCARED!

    So, well, not gonna bore you anymore… I have no clue – but I think this read really helped me in a way I can not fully grasp yet. It is just a little feeling down there.

    best wishes from germany
    Annie

  • Diane

    I have always known I was a Humming Bird there’s one on my hip. Humming bird means Joy. Thank you for putting it in words. In this find your passion world, I have had the thought about trying to narrow it down, but not after reading this. I’m a one of the cool Grandma’s I’m told. You are so funny too.
    With much admiration
    Diane