Wisdom//

11 Stories of Self-Discovery That Will Inspire You to Find Your Passion

They unlocked their potential when they least expected it.

Courtesy of Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art / Shutterstock

Whether we make our passion our life’s work or pursue multiple interests in life, sometimes unexpected passions surprise us out of the blue and give us a new sense of purpose. We asked members of the Thrive community to share their stories of discovery and how they came to realize their hidden potential when working, traveling, or trying something new. We hope their anecdotes will inspire you to seek out new passions, too. 

A love for listening became a love for creating 

“I loved music all of my life, but it took until my late 20s to realize I had a passion for creating it, too. Being so caught up with my career and starting companies, I never took the time to explore that creative side. One day I was watching some YouTube videos on music production and the next thing I know, I am in this complete whirlwind in the studio. It wasn’t just the music though — it was a passion for creating in general from music to writing and more. Watching other people do it is what drove me to start. Sometimes, you have to say ‘Hey, I can do this too!’”

—James Philip, serial entrepreneur, Chicago, IL

Time off from work led to creative freedom

“I discovered my unexpected passion for writing during a long spell of unemployment. It was the easiest way to express my frustrations at the time, and to record lessons I had learned for future use. At one point, it occurred to me that I could literally do this for a living with so much ease, especially considering how many pages I could write within a short time. I was encouraged to take a professional diploma course in writing. Today, creative content writing is part of my job description and I love what I do!” 

—Theresa R. Fianko, marketing communications, Dubai, UAE 

Reconnecting with the past opened a door to the future

“When I graduated from the University of California with a degree in English, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. So, I put on a backpack and started hitchhiking across the United States. A year later I ended up in Israel, where I discovered the heritage I had always had but never knew. By reconnecting with my past, I charted my course into the future.”

—Rabbi Yonason Goldson, ethics keynote speaker, St. Louis, MO 

A routine task became a source of enjoyment 

“I never thought I would spend a significant amount of my time writing. Since graduating college, I worked for a hedge fund, dabbled in the entertainment industry, got my MBA, worked in banking, and then went all in as an entrepreneur, starting and building three different business. A few years ago, I started writing articles in national business outlets; I thought having my name and my company names more widely disseminated would help drive traffic to my businesses. To my great surprise, I quickly discovered how deeply I enjoyed writing, from the creative process to the ability to share my thoughts in my way that can positively impact others. Needless to say, I am now down the rabbit hole.”

—Adam Mendler, entrepreneur, Los Angeles, CA 

A book paved the way to a new career  

“Teaching limited my freedom to travel the world. So, during my pregnancy, I took the opportunity to research different kinds of businesses but nothing sparked my interest. When I returned to teaching, real estate was in the back of my mind but I wondered, ‘Where do I start?’ Serendipitously, Rich Dad, Poor Dad was located on my husband’s bookshelf and it prompted me to check out every real estate book in the library. The following year, I closed on my first property and realized that I was happy to utilize my creative, financial, organizational, and people skills in real estate. Even though I left traditional teaching, I now coach others to invest in real estate and most excitingly, I have visited 47 countries and counting!”

—April Choi, real estate investor and coach, Decatur, GA 

Hitting rock bottom inspired a new love

“Decades ago, my life was in shambles. I hit my bottom and crawled into a support group, looking for understanding and peace. I’d tell my story in a group, and people would say, ‘Wow. You should write a book.’ So I decided to write a book. It was a long journey, but my memoir, To the Moon and Back, was published last September, and along the way I discovered that I love to write. I love to write, edit, revise, rewrite. I love it all, and I had no idea. (I also love spreading messages of hope and love with my story!)” 

—Lisa Kohn, author and executive coach, Wayne, PA

A friend sparked a new curiosity about food 

“A friend of mine, who is a food blogger, invited me to come along with her to a new Italian restaurant she was reviewing. I was trying to be open to new experiences so I said yes. I enjoyed it so much that I now go out to eat with her every week to review different restaurants. I’ve even started writing blog posts for her food page and collaborating with her on food-related projects. I’ve always loved food, but experiencing foods from so many different cultures has been a new thrill for me. It is also giving me a new way to enjoy the city and meet new people.” 

—Crystal Nicholls, dancer, London, UK

A creative outlet turned into a successful career

“I discovered my passion for motivational speaking when I was pursuing a singing career. One day, I had a big break onto television by meeting a producer/TV host who came up to me after I finished singing on stage; he congratulated me, gave me his business card, and invited me to be a guest on his TV show. Before I knew it I was on TV on a one-hour slot. The lengthy interview seemed to gear me toward success and motivation. I was booked to give motivational talks all over the country and abroad. I’ve never stopped. I’ve already spoken at eight events this year in Bulgaria, Amsterdam, and across London.” 

—Queen Chioma Nworgu, international motivational speaker, TV presenter, and PR and media coach, London, UK

A life-long goal served as career guidance

“My unexpected career stemmed from my childhood. When I was a little girl, I had a close bond with my grandmother, who was not well. All I wanted to do was to take her pain away. I remember saying to my mum, ‘When I grow up I want to become a doctor and make my grandmother better.’ Later on in life, I volunteered for two organizations: The Multiple Sclerosis Society and St. Vincent De Paul, a program coordinated for people with mental illness. I loved the rewarding and satisfying feeling of giving and helping others. My childhood experience led me to pursue my current career as a mindset and holistic coach. Even today, I carry my grandmother’s photo in my wallet.” 

—Christine Lee, mindset and holistic coach, Sydney, Australia 

An accidental opportunity became an occasion to learn

“I’ve always been very much into music. I’ve performed indie folk covers for Irish bands and have always cherished traditional Celtic music. I accidentally dropped in at a concert, where there was a Celtic harpist and a violin player. It was a very small concert, almost as if they were just performing for friends. I was inspired and thought that I should ask the musicians to collaborate; they liked the idea and we exchanged contacts. I asked the Celtic harpist, who was a bit of a celebrity in this realm, to teach me to play the magical instrument. I already knew how to play the classical guitar and I wanted to challenge my skills, so I thought, ‘Why not? This is a unique life opportunity!’ This experiment quickly turned into a great passion. Now, over a year after that concert, I perform some Celtic harp pieces. I’ve bought my own harp and find pure happiness in this instrument; it clears my soul and my mind, and has brought magic to my home. I still don’t know whether I discovered the harp or the harp discovered me. I learned that you should never stop exploring and experimenting, and if you feel that you need to try something that initially sounds strange, useless, or crazy, you must go for it — it might be your destiny calling!” 

—Anastasia Zyrianova, tech public relations, Moscow, Russia

An unanticipated career shift lead to a dream job

“I was a young aspiring lawyer, when my then boss told me out of the blue he couldn’t afford to keep me on anymore. It was a not so subtle way of telling me I had no place at the law firm, as it had bought the law firm I originally interned at and was forced to keep me on as part of its staff. Dejected, I went and applied for any job I could at the time, which happened to be at a well-known legal publishing company. I accepted the job as legal editor intending to stay on only for a couple of years until I got a better job, but I came to love the publishing world and ended up staying in that job for nine years. I have never looked back.”

—Madylene Planer, knowledge solutions consultant, Sydney, Australia

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