The Odds Game of Following Your Bliss

The Odds Game of Following Your Bliss

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

― Joseph Campbell

As I sit here in a coffee shop in rainy Vancouver, alternately staring out the window and pecking out a few lines of writing as they come to me, I can honestly say that I am in a moment of my life when I am following my bliss.

Nearly every day, I’m excited to get going, to start putting together new ideas for blog posts, books, visual art projects, and tons more. When it comes to developing specific ideas, I’m always working with the best energy ― whatever feels right at the moment ― and doing this has led to a ton of creative output I can genuinely say I’m proud of.

There’s a big question that hangs over all of it, though: is this pure self-indulgence?

Would my energy and talents be better directed, say, towards drawing attention to specific social issues or doing on-the-ground volunteering for a cause? Shouldn’t I be writing letters to my elected representatives instead of blog posts on bliss?

These are tricky questions. There’s almost a mystical element to Campbell’s notion of a “track that has been there all the while,” which will cause some to recoil. There’s the idea that the world will arrange itself to your greater benefit if you just follow the guide of your own inner happiness, but isn’t that just a convenient way of sugar-coating being totally selfish?

Perhaps, but perhaps there’s nothing mystical or selfish in Campbell’s idea, after all. It still roughly works with a chaotic view of reality, and here’s how: doing what feels interesting and “right” makes you more productive. Being more productive means putting more work into the world, and that means that you improve the odds that something you do will matter.

Something will make an impact or a difference.

Something will get somebody’s attention, and there’s nothing magical about it.

The fact is that I simply open more doors by following my bliss, and so does anyone. It’s a scattershot approach to creativity and even to solving the world’s big problems. You could call it decapitated collaboration. It’s leveraging chaos to your advantage.

Maybe 99% of your work will go unnoticed, and the only benefit will be microscopic refinements of your technical ability. However, the more you create and put out there, the more likely something you do will connect exquisitely well with anther person’s goal or project.

So don’t sweat it if you find yourself in the same one-person boat as me, pondering your work’s context. Your work (and mine) may seem purely self-indulgent at the time, but by following your bliss, you will not only stack the odds of making a good connection, you will have energy to keep following your bliss when the connection is made.

That’s how causes start. That’s how people organize themselves. That’s how big, meaningful things get done.

CC0 photo courtesy of Unsplash. The first Friday of each month is #makeday. Make something awesome!

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  • Annie @ Unsplash

    March 4, 2016

    When it comes to writing blog posts I’m a big fan of the ‘don’t fight it, feel it’ ethos. Doing what you love it always the best way!
    Thanks for joining in with Make Day 🙂

    • Ryan Melsom

      March 4, 2016

      “Don’t fight it, feel it” — Well put. There are times when challenging is enjoyable — when the fight feels right — and then there are those other times when you bash your head against something for hours for zero return. Learning how to spot the latter is such an important skill when it comes to writing or pretty much any other creative/intellectual pursuit. Thanks for reading!

  • Iris

    March 6, 2016

    I have two thoughts about your post. I generally agree with this and believe in my career that I followed my bliss and have been hugely rewarded in multiple ways. And, I also believe that we need to reflect on what the environment tells about what we do and produce. We need a reality check from time to time to ensure that we are not self-deluded and also do we don’t end up years later and realize how far off track we are. Like an errant golf ball, close to us in time and space, we may only be a few degrees off track but later and further away those degrees have taken us far off track

    Also, I think we can follow our bliss and also lobby out MPs!

    Thanks for always making me think!


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