Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

Maybe Passion Is Mundane

I sort of grew up on the making money online dream. I started my first blog (which ended after the company hosting it is blocked in China) when I was around 16 or 17, I dreamed of living off an online business ever since then.

Just like everybody else (you?), I am familiar with all the stories of how finding one’s passion or dream job leads to millions of dollar and a happy life. We all know this guy who traveled around the world while working only 4 hours a week, and that guy who went to live with pick up gurus and started banging every pretty girl in town.

All the heroes in these stories are filled with excitement, happiness, and energy after they discovered whatever that story is trying to sell. I didn’t really buy it, but still I somehow assume I should be doing something exciting to make a living. I would usually get excited about a project, only to drop it months or week or even days later. Nowadays it’s mostly days.

I didn’t know what’s wrong with me, I thought maybe my passion and energy was simply gone forever.

Then I read a story on MarkManson.net.

The story is about a man who tried to start an online business selling whatever but never got anything done. Then whenever he was offered a design job he jumped on it and even stayed up to 3:00 am to finish it.

Yet he thought he didn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

When I was reading it, I was like, “what? Ain’t this the story of my life?” I have tried many things to make money online. I tried freelance translation, hiring translators to do translations for me, freelance writing, Tarot business, writing eBooks, all of them I gave up after a short amount of time. But I could program for hours, and sometimes I do program for hours just for fun, though I consider it only as a backup plan: “If everything fails, I’ll just go find a programming job.”

And I also think I don’t know what I should do with my life, what I should do to make money. Even though I know that I enjoy writing for 1-2 hours a day, and I could program or read stories for hours straight and never get bored.

Then I think, maybe I should be programming, it is my passion exactly because I won’t ever get excited to do it. It’s already a normal part of my life that I could do every day. And if we’re to find something that we want to do for a decade or more, maybe we should do those things that we can enjoy even if it’s not shiningly new.

The Mundane and The Exciting

As a man obsessed with self-improvement, I’ve been constantly thinking about what I should do with my life, what activities are worthy my time. After reading a post on Live Your Legend, I have a theory that I’m satisfied with for now:

There are two kinds of activities important for a man that tries to do something with his life. The mundane and the exciting. The mundane is something that you do daily and feels mundane. The exciting is something that feels exciting, and the excitement lasts a relatively short amount of time, but by pursuing it you usually make long term improvement to your life.

Examples of the mundane:

Eat healthy for years, work out regularly, write every day, connect with friends, in love with someone for years, read books

Examples of the exciting:

Change your eating habits, start a new business, travel around the world, learn to write in a new language, go to a bar for the first time, approach girls for the first time, have a girlfriend for the first time

You could see that the exciting is often the beginning of something that eventually becomes mundane. You are excited with your first few workout, but after some months it’s just a habit. You still enjoy it, but with less excitement and mental focus. You are also excited when you get a girlfriend, but eventually you’ll get used to it and it would feel mundane.

The self-help industry naturally talks all about the exciting. Change your life, form new habits, get out of a financial crisis, these things are exciting, and we constantly hear stories about how someone goes from rags to riches, no girl to harem, or basically a loser to a winner. But we rarely hear stories of what happens after that, about the mundane life of being a winner, being a rich man. Because that’s mundane, that’s not exciting.

Yet the mundane makes a large part of our life, it’s even a large part of these rags to riches stories. Learning to read Japanese in 3 months is exciting, but spending more than 5 hours on it every day is just a not-very-boring drill. Reading an English book for the first time (When I was around 13) is exciting, but slowly learning vocabularies and nuances of this language in the decade after that is mundane.

Nobody would talk about it as a story. A story needs drama and change. I could tell you a story of how I only began to actually learn programming after I stopped trying to do it for money. It would be a good story. But what about the story of the 4 years that I read one book after another on programming, taking notes and trying hard to grasp difficult concepts, yet didn’t write a single line of code? (I started learning programming at 13)

Like everybody else I didn’t realize the importance of these mundane things. Even though I’ve been reading, working out, and writing regularly, my mind has been focused on what changes I should make to my life and what projects could make me feel excited again.

At the end of the day in the end, maybe it’s just that we need different things in different times. Sometimes we need changes, sometimes we need to fix our lives cause it’s so broken. Other times we need to focus on the mundane.