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“Follow your heart” is squishy advice.
It’s a Goop headline. It’s a bumper sticker. It’s something you imagine Adam Neumann plastering on custom WeWork shot glasses so he can wax poetic about “elevating global consciousness” in between belts of Jose Cuervo.
“Follow your heart” gets a bad rap, okay?
I think that’s because it is sometimes co-opted by people to mean, “Do whatever you want.” It feels woo-woo and amorphous. It’s associated with a certain kind of unreliable and irrational behavior.
But I don’t think this bad rap is well-deserved. I think “follow your heart” is actually a very good answer — and actually, the only answer — to a certain set of questions that life throws at us.
The problem is that it’s very hard to make it actionable. How do you knowwhat your heart wants?
Let me explain.
. . .
These days I have my dream job.
What I do merges two big sides of me. On the one hand, I have a bit of the sensitive, emotional writerly type inside of me. On the other hand, I have a bit of the ambitious business nerd and programmer inside of me as well.
My current job satisfies both. It’s surprisingly great.
So, the question is, how did I get here? Of course, there was a ton of privilege involved. But I think there were a couple of other things worth talking about as well.
It may seem obvious now that starting a newsletter business was the right thing for me, but it was very non-obvious before I started doing it. In other words, it may seem like I sat down and reasoned through a bunch of different ideas, then settled on one that best aligned with all of my interests, and then started it.
In fact, it wasn’t like this at all. Instead, it was a process that I felt my way through. I didn’t have the answers at the beginning.
As cliche, and weird, and trite, and almost icky as it sounds to say, I followed my heart to get here — zigging and zagging through different ideas until one of them turned out to be the right one for me.
Along the way I also learned that my heart isn’t perfect. That it makes mistakes too. My heart is noisy. It attaches to new things. It swerves towards prestige; it steers me away from guilt. I often have to filter through these feelings in order to allow it to steer me properly.
So I’ve come to a bit of an understanding with my heart. I’ll pretty much do what it says — but I filter it through a framework first. Just to make sure it’s not leading me astray.
Rather than “follow your heart” I’ve come up with a better formulation:
Follow your heart — with caveats.