On Discovering Passion & Purpose

Singer-songwriter Dawen, music composer George Shaw, 8asians.com blogger Joz Wang, and music producer Wat Deeudomchan are interviewed by TaiwaneseAmerican.org’s Ho Chie Tsai

Many of you who follow our site know me as the creator behind TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and some of you know that I often speak at Asian American collegiate conferences across the country about discovering personal passion, taking action and finding purpose with your talents, and making a difference for the communities that you care about.

I am on a mission to guide young people in discovering their own passions and ultimately to realize their fullest potential. It’s a fulfilling role I play, and I love what I do. All of it.

As we approach the end of 2010, I must say it has been an amazing year for me as I traveled to over a dozen campuses and conferences nationwide – from the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA) conferences at MIT, UT Austin, and UCSD to the Midwest Asian American Student Union (MAASU) conference at OSU, from youth summer camps such at the Taiwanese American Next Generation (TANG) in Delaware to the Taiwanese American Foundation (TAF) in Indiana, and from various Taiwanese American students clubs such as Taiwanese American Organization (TAO) at UC Irvine to Taiwanese Cultural Society (TCS) at Stanford. I have enjoyed all my stops and appreciated the opportunity to interact with many new friends along the way.

As I reflect upon the past year and the message I’ve shared with high school and college students that I’ve met, I believe that many more in our community would benefit in thinking about these topics, too. So, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly share my thoughts about passion and purpose with the hope that it might inspire you to reflect on where you are in your life and where you hope to go in the future.

On Recognizing Passion

Passion is probably one of the easier concepts to grasp, but sometimes the most difficult to admit that you have. For some of you, it’s the thing that indirectly creates stress in your life because it distracts you from other obligations in life: school or work, especially if you don’t feel passionate about what you’re studying or working on.

To feel passionate about something is to have such an interest in it that sometimes nothing else matters as much. It’s often the thing that occupies your thoughts and makes you feel content simultaneously. It’s the thing that catches your attention when you hear someone talk about it or read something about it. And if you’re really in tune with yourself, you’ll know you’re passionate about something when it takes your attention away from everything else and sparks imagination or dreams even for a mere moment.

We all know what passion is when we see and feel it. It’s easy to recognize passion when you see an inspiring guest on the Oprah show talking about their project to change their part of the world, or to feel it when a rising musical star sings their heart out on TV. But when it comes down to us as individuals, for some reason, many Asian Americans I’ve met seem to push their own passions aside. For many, they might label it their hobby or side interest, and they hardly consider it as possibly their life work or path. There are probably many reasons for this, including conforming to parental and societal pressures and expectations. I won’t get into this too much here, but suffice it to say that many Asian Americans even at a young age are often presented with suggestions to pursue limited career choices: “Be a doctor, engineer, or lawyer…” In reality, so many of you feel passionate about something else, but have never considered it as a legitimate career for yourself.

Ask yourself this: What is it that you feel passionate about? (Think nouns or subjects, generally) What makes your heart beat a little faster or makes you raise your eyebrows when you hear it being discussed? Are you pursuing that thing? Where do you place it in your life right now? And notice this – I never said anything about necessarily being great at it or being an expert in it right now.

Passion is the source for motivation and inspiration. It’s something you love so much that you continue to build on it all throughout your life. It’s what you aspire to be awesome at. For some, the successes come sooner than others, but I promise the happiness and fulfillment of pursuing what you feel passionate about comes right away.

Whether your passion is in the arts, music, technology, or sciences, you all at some point have to figure out if you’re on a path that allows you to live it everyday. And if not, why? There is no reason why your passion can’t be your life’s work. Think about that for a moment.

On Finding Purpose

I like to talk about the idea of Purpose in this way: If you understand what you feel passionate about, then the next step is doing something purposeful with those passions. It allows you to take an idea into action, and therefore move towards accomplishment.

This is sometimes a confusing concept.

I spoke to a friend recently who was trying to sort this whole idea of passion and purpose for herself. When I asked her what she felt passionate about, she struggled with her thoughts and finally said, “I feel passionate about event planning and organizing for Taiwanese American young professionals so that they will care more about Taiwan’s history and international status.”

At first glance, it sounds like a completely reasonable statement. But, as I helped her dissect her ideas and thoughts more, I suggested to her that it appeared to me her passion was multi-faceted and slightly broader. If I were to take her words, I would simply state, “My passion encompasses the issues surrounding Taiwanese history and its international status. My other passion includes community-building for Taiwanese American professionals.” Her passion is not necessarily “event planning or organizing” (though to someone else, this may be his or her real passion). How do I know? Because if I asked her to organize an event for some other project unrelated to all things Taiwanese, she would probably hesitate and say no. So for her, the action of planning events and organizing is one of her actionable skills. It’s what she’s good at, whether she likes it or not. And knowing her, even though she complains occasionally at the great amount of work she is often willingly tasked with, she finds immense satisfaction in contributing those skills to what she’s passionate about.

So, I ask people to think of this: What are the skills and talents that you have? What are the things that you’re good at doing? If you don’t know, oftentimes, your friends or family will know because these are the things they often come to you for your help with.

Are you good at planning events? Are you the one who adds creative flair to a project? Are you the one who fixes the computer or figures out the new tech gadget for someone else? Are you the one that writes up the article or plans the next step for the organization? Think about that for a moment maybe you’ll realize the real and valuable skills that you have. (Think verbs when you think about actionable skills)

Now, going back to my friend’s example: She’s talented and driven when it comes to planning and organizing events. Another person’s headache is what comes easy for her. When it comes down to executing the nitty-gritty details required of event planning, it’s clear that these are the concrete skills that she excels at. She may not like it all the time, but it’s one of the things she’s good at doing. And all throughout our lives, we keep building on and broadening our skills and talents.

So this is where we find purpose or figure out how to apply purposeful actions to our own personal lives. Combine this with what your passions are, and suddenly you can drive yourself onto a whole new fulfilling path. Start with the concepts, put it into words, then move forward from there.

Closing Thoughts

As for me? I’m passionate about working with young people. I’m passionate about the idea of achieving one’s fullest potential. And I find that I’m pretty good at teaching and guiding others through various stages of their life. Oftentimes, you’ll find me doing this within the Asian American community.

Combine my personal passion and purpose in life, and now I have a basic personal mission statement that helps keep me on track: “I am on a mission to guide young people in discovering their own passions and ultimately to realize their fullest potential.” That’s where I started this article, and that’s where I’ll end for now.

Stay tuned for more thoughts from me in the future. Hopefully, we’ll make this a continuing conversation between me and you as we grow the community together.

3 Responses to “On Discovering Passion & Purpose”

  1. Love that you wrote this out for the TaiwaneseAmerican.org & web audience. You’re an invaluable asset to the community because of the way you’ve been able to find and act on your passion and purpose. It’s a great thing to be sharing with others. You should write more of these posts in the future!

  2. Ho Chie, I so resonate with what you said about how Asian Americans snuff out our passion and calling. I also blog about Asian Americans with the same hope that I can ignite a little “passion” among Asian Americans so they can be more than what they are now. Amazingly we also have another common ground – my husband is a pediatrician, but a full-time one! Thank you for what you do for the Asian American community.

    Coach Theresa Froehlich

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