Guest Blog by Megan Gebhart
Passion Co. Class of June '14
When I first met Jessica Semaan, CEO and Founder of The Passion Co., through mutual friends she told me about the Find Your Passion Program, I didn’t give it much thought. I had already found my passion and I didn’t need a class.
I continued to run into Jessica over the next few weeks, and each time she would direct her warm and ceaseless energy toward the idea of passion; inevitably asking me how my project was coming along.
And each time my answer was the same, “It’s moving forward, but not as quickly as I want it to be.”
The sad reality was that answer was the same answer I’d been giving myself over and over every time I examined the progress I’d made toward my most ambitious goal: publishing my first book.
It all started over four years ago on my 22nd birthday, the summer before my senior year of college. A few months earlier I had stumbled upon a quote by Twyla Tharp:
After I’d heard it, I could stop thinking about it. It reminded me of the many people I had met in the previous five years that had such a transformational effect on my life. Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I thought,
"What will my life be like in five years if I could devote an entire year to meeting new people?"
I decided there was only one way to find out—I would spend a year drinking coffee with strangers. This was the start of 52 Cups of Coffee, a year-long experiment in caffeine and conversation where, every week for a year, I would have coffee with someone I didn't know and write about their story and what I learned from it in the process at 52cups.com.
Like most projects, it started small, but as time went on it slowly started to grow.
As it turns out, people were compelled by the very simple yet powerful idea of connection—and were eager to help me in my endeavor by reaching out to me with suggestions for people I should talk to, or offering to make introductions to esteemed people they knew.
By the time the project ended in 2011, my small project had turned into a global adventure involving coffee conversations in 29 cities across seven different countries. During the project I was fortunate to meet with respected people like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and 12-time best selling author Seth Godin. Along in addition to incredible stories from everyday people like a dairy farmer, a second grader, and an 86-year-old grandma that grew up in Poland in World War II. Each week brought something new and fascinating that helped me learn and grow during my transition from college into the real world.
Although the project had ended, my passion for sharing stories remained and I couldn’t shake the strong desire I had to take the stories from the experience and compile them into a book.
Unfortunately, I also couldn’t shake the strong fear of taking something I deeply loved and putting it out into the world where it was no longer in my control. For this reason I did what a lot of people do and that is: I procrastinated. I created a lot of excuses for why it wasn’t time to work on the book and distracted myself with other things.
But the distractions never freed me from the burden of knowing that I was ignoring a dream loomed over my head. And so about six months ago, I decided it was finally time to make it happen: I was going to publish the book! I decided to shake off the fear and make it happen, but like I mentioned before, while the project was moving forward, it wasn’t moving as quickly as I wanted it to be. In fact, it was barely crawling.
A few days after coming to this realization, I ran into Jessica again. Sensing that the project wasn’t going as expected, she said with great enthusiasm and persuasion, "You have to do the Passion Project."
Hoping it would be the cure to speed up the project, I agreed, and in the process gained the two things I needed most: a deadline and accountability.
At the second meeting for the Find You Passion Program I told a group of people that on July 23rd—the day of the Shine event where participants presented their projects—I would be holding the book in my hands. Not wanting to let the group down, I worked harder than I had in weeks to hit the deadline—and I am very proud to say that on July 23rd, I did in fact hold the book in my hands.
It was an incredibly special moment for me: I was able to celebrate the completion of the book and kick off my new life as an author.
This is why I love the Passion Project and why the experience was so meaningful: The reason I was finally able to achieve my dream was because through the Passion Program, I was able to connect with a group of strangers that were willing to be curious, and courageous, and a little bit vulnerable in pursuit of something that they were excited about and loved. And what's even better is that the group was willing to support each other’s pursuits along the way.
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