Passion and Purpose
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love suggests there are two types of people in the world: we all either fall into the jackhammer or the hummingbird category. When I first heard about her theory, it intrigued me.
So what is this theory? To understand that, we first have to understand the two categories.
Jackhammers are consumed by their passion. They don’t look up; they don’t deviate; they are fixed on that passion day in and day out. Just as an actual jackhammer is focused on the rock it’s meant to break, human jackhammers know what they want and don’t allow anything to get in their way. Commitment to their passion is ever-present.
Hummingbirds, on the other hand, do things a bit differently. Actual hummingbirds flutter quickly from tree to flower to bush to feeder. They don’t spend a great deal of time anywhere, and such is the case for human hummingbirds as well. They are the people who move from job to job and often industry to industry learning a bit of this and a bit of that. According to Gilbert, hummingbirds bring a diversity of experience that jackhammers can’t necessarily bring. The downside, though, is that some hummingbirds feel conflicted about not having found their passion.
Seeing Jackhammers and Hummingbirds Around Me
It’s interesting to think of people in my life that fall into these categories. I have siblings who have worked for the same organization in their chosen field for 32, 34, 36, and even 40 years. At the other end of the spectrum, I have friends who start new jobs so often, I can’t keep up with their current professional adventures. It seems as soon as I’m up to speed on what they’re doing and how they like it, they fly over to the next “feeder.”
Recognizing It in Myself
For a good part of my career, I tried to be a jackhammer. I was surrounded by people who were dedicated to the company they worked for, the department they were part of, and the boss they reported to. I wanted to feel empowered by dedication like that, too. But empowerment was never the emotion I experienced.
My solution was to pack up my jackhammer and bring it with me to the next “feeder.” My teaching supplies stayed boxed up in my basement when I decided to leave the field of education and “fly” to corporate America. I did my best to jackhammer my way to my passion while learning to be an effective leader by day and a successful court reporter by night (night school, that is).
I made the changes I thought I’d needed to be the jackhammer I wanted to be. Getting lost in my work because of my fascination with it and talent for it was what I craved. Getting lost in another industry and realizing court reporting wasn’t my passion, either, was what I got.
At this time, I didn’t know about Elizabeth Gilbert’s theory. All I knew was that there were a lot of people around me who were completely immersed in—and in love with—the work they were doing. I felt left out like the kid who gets picked last for the playground kickball game (also a distant memory of mine). Through the lens I was using, it appeared everyone had it figured out but me.
I stepped back from the corporate America life I’d thought I was meant to live a decade ago and went on to the next feeder. By this time my wings were getting tired of carrying that heavy jackhammer everywhere I went, and I’d all but given up on the dream of finding my passion.
Helping Others to Find Balance
As with many things in life, my letting go is what led me to where I always wanted to be. I now have the privilege of utilizing the teacher skills I honed so long ago with the leadership skills I developed in my management roles. It took a long while, but I’ve found that passion I’d always wanted to find.
I help others be the leaders in their own lives. For the jackhammers who hire me, we work on looking up every once in a while to notice there’s a wonderful world out there—a world full of family, friends, hobbies, important causes, and great beauty.
One element of that beauty is the group of hummingbirds I also help. With them, I share from experience that the flitting about from flower to tree to bush to feeder isn’t for naught. It is from those encounters that we’re able to expand who we are, how we help the world, and why we adore doing so.
Hold on to Your Dream
I firmly believe we need both jackhammers and hummingbirds in the world. Find your passion, yes, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it must be found today. Fly about and learn all you can. There are a whole lot of feeders out there for us all to enjoy as we experience this journey called life!
Ready for your own journey to fulfillment and passion for life? I can help with that. Let’s talk!