Follow Your Bliss But Not That One

Food for Thought

I woke up to this tiramisu from Gaia that my wife bought for me last night. The owner/chef Gaia is a bit like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld; you never know how she reacts to your request. She was afraid that Gaia might be outraged by the idea of taking her food to go. Quite the contrary, she gave it to her for free after she explained that it was for my birthday.

I turned 52 today. Birthday is a good time to reflect on our life but it gets more complex as we age. It’s like branding; if you are branding a new company, you could make up almost anything but if you are rebranding an old company, you have to first take into consideration its entire history.

For much of my life, I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of “follow your bliss.” Depending on how you define “bliss,” it could be great or terrible advice. If you define bliss in terms of your personal brand, self-image, or what you want to be, following it can feel like a rat race. Just as you achieve one, the target moves farther away while gaining only momentary satisfaction.

The bliss you should follow is a lot less glamorous. It’s your drive; the thing you cannot stop yourself from doing. It can, and often does, clashes with your ego. For instance, I become obsessed when I’m coding the so-called “Cascading Style Sheet” for websites. This is a task of translating your visual design into code. Yesterday, I spent 12 hours straight doing this. Only after I finished it, did I realize I didn’t take a break once. But, if someone asked me what my bliss is, I wouldn’t say it’s CSS; it would be too uncool.

But the advantage of following your drive is that it’s satisfiable. It doesn’t care about the future or the past. It’s concerned only with now. You get the satisfaction as you do it. You are not chasing a mirage.

If you are lucky, like Gaia, your bliss might be socially coveted. The challenge of following your bliss is standing up for it in the face of constant pressure to enhance your personal brand. When you chase a coveted self-image, you must define the meaning of life because there is no satisfaction in the chase itself. When you follow your bliss, you don’t need to ask the question as it becomes self-evident.