March 7, 2011

Listening, learning and loving it

If there is one thing I am thankful to Apple for in their quest for magical-device world domination, it is podcasts. No, they didn't invent them any more than they invented music, but their device and store have made listening to them about as easy as possible.

I have been listening to podcasts for a couple of years now. During marathon training months, I burn through podcast episodes, and now with a one-hour commute, I was running out of podcasts and subscribed to more. Then work slowed down and the podcasts began to pile up. Somehow, this thing I enjoyed so much became this looming obligation or chore to get through. Something had to give, and it was the podcasts. I whittled down the list to only ones I really look forward to hearing. I still listen to about 20 of them regularly, but many are short and only post once a week or so.

One of the ones I am enjoying the most is a recent find. It is called Writing Excuses. Three published authors get together about once a week to discuss a variety of topics. The topics are interesting and helpful, and they don't take themselves too seriously. The tagline is "Writing Excuses: Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart" if that gives you some idea. The latest year is on iTunes, but I have been downloading the earlier seasons from their website.

The episode I listened to today was season 2, episode 19 "Do Creative Writing Classes Help?". Toward the end, one of the authors was speaking about his college experience. He only took a few credits during his last quarter, and regrets not doing what his friend did. The friend took 18 credits his last quarter, even though he needed only four to graduate. He filled up the other hours with a machine shop class, a pottery class, and others that had nothing to do with his major.

When asked why, he said that he had an opportunity to take classes worth thousands of dollars in the private world, for much less on campus. The authors went on to recommend pursuing many interests in order to bring a wealth of experience to your writing. But the story made me think of something different.

I did the same sort of thing during my last quarter in college. I was pursuing a business degree and focusing in on accounting. By taking the accounting route, my courses were pretty much determined for the last two years. During my last quarter, I had to take about 18 credits in order to graduate. Three of the classes had to be in accounting, but I finally had some leeway to chose two elective classes. I ended up taking an American Indian Studies writing class and a poetry class. They were great, and boy did I look forward to them after the 400 level accounting classes.

And then I thought about the discussion a friend had last year on gifts vs talents, the pursuit of bliss and what might be holding us back. You can follow the link to the discussion, but he made the distinction between talents and gifts by saying something like, "talents are something you are good at, where having a 'gift' means you are both good at it and it brings you fulfillment".

I am good at math, have an interest in business, and am skilled in the organizational structure reflected in accounting. But I think during that last quarter of college I knew that I would find bliss elsewhere. I don't know that I have a gift at writing, but I'm excited to learn more, and I do find fulfillment in it. I would love to get paid for my bliss, but I need to pursue it no matter what.

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