Follow your bliss(ters)
Joseph Campbell got frustrated in his later years.
The famous mythologist, writer, and lecturer, is best known for his phrase, “Follow your bliss.”
He later realized that many students understood the phrase to be encouraging hedonism — do whatever feels good in the moment, no matter the long-term consequences.
At one point he grumbled, “I should have said, ‘Follow your blisters.'”
The path of true bliss isn’t a quaint, rose-lined yellow brick road leading to a magical kingdom.
It’s a faint trail winding through thorns, thistles, and briars and up a steep and rocky mountainside. It’s only when we reach the top of the mountain that the spectacular vista of achievement is revealed.
Bliss is earned, and “following” it means a lot of hard, thankless work. It means being faithful in times of doubt, being courageous in the face of fear, sacrificing what we want now for what we want most.
Masters and hobbyists can be differentiated by their blisters — or the lack thereof.
To follow your blisters is to put bliss in its proper context — as a byproduct of committing to a purpose.
Bliss may provide the initial spark of interest, but blisters light the fire of deep and lasting satisfaction.
“Passion does not trigger commitment. Commitment triggers passion. Feelings follow actions. So make a choice. Commit irrevocably. Take action. Passion will explode like a flame, giving you energy and lighting your way.”
Not sure where your bliss lies? Earn some blisters and it will be revealed.
The pursuit of mere pleasure is not a pursuit at all, but rather an escape. We run after cheap thrills in order to avoid hard work.
Thus, we never achieve true fulfillment.
Pleasure-seeking is a close relative of security-driven risk avoidance. We accept meager pay to avoid fear and uncertainty.
Thus, our full potential lies dormant.
Don’t talk about what you love — show what you’re willing to endure to achieve the thing you love.
You may feel bliss in writing. But are you willing to write 1,000 words every day for ten years before ever getting published, as Ray Bradbury did?
You may feel bliss playing basketball, but are you willing to shoot 500 free throws every day, as Larry Bird did?
You may feel bliss in fighting for freedom, but are you willing to study the classic for hours every day for years to learn the principles of freedom, as Thomas Jefferson did?
You may feel bliss in public speaking. But are you willing to speak to ten kids in the library, a few people in Sunday School classes, and at any free gig you can muster for years until you’re recognized and appreciated as a public speaker?
Don’t talk about the bliss you feel in your heart — show evidence of the feeling by your blisters.
One of my mentors, Steve D’Annunzio, teaches the principle of hard-easy, easy-hard. As he explains it,
“‘Hard-easy’ refers to those things in life that initially appear to be difficult, yet in the long run they make life much easier and more enjoyable. On the other hand, ‘easy-hard’ refers to things that seem easy at first yet lead to far more difficulties down the road.”
Pursuing pleasure is easy-hard. It may feel good in the moment but the long-term consequence is the awful shame of what might have been.
Following your blisters is hard-easy. Doing the work now leads to satisfaction, fulfillment, and bliss down the road.
If you’re not earning blisters from following your bliss, you’re probably on the wrong path.
Blisters may hurt, but nothing feels better than looking back and seeing what you’ve built after a lot of hard work.