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Elizabeth Gilbert: The Curiosity-Driven Life

2019-04-24 | 🔗

New York Times best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert is known for following her passion, but says she no longer advises others to do the same. Instead, Elizabeth makes the case to follow your curiosity. Elizabeth says she believes the word "passion" can trigger feelings of stress and pressure, and doesn't even know if she believes in following it anymore. “At some point in your life, you were told, ‘Chase your passion,’” she says. “Not everyone knows how to answer that command.”

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm Oprah Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the pod cast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present. Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now. Elizabeth Gilbert came on tour with us and she is the delight that you imagine her debate and when I enter viewed over superstar Sunday, she told me her own spiritual practice is literally to bring the light into every encounter that she has and that's what she's here to do for us today, she's here with her session, she calls the
flight of the humming bird. The curiosity driven life, Lisbeth Gown
we d is sweethearts, my loves were here and so much grace. Thank you. Thank you. So much so. Listen, I'm here today to do something that I have to be honest with you that I never in a million years thought I would ever do. I am here today to speak out against passion. You heard me right against passion, and I know it sounds very strange and weird, but I want you to stay with me on this, because I really believe that what I have to say here today may bring a measure of comfort specifically to some of you in particular, and I'm hoping it really will. But I have to back up for a minute and just say too, to come clean that I'm the least likely person in the world ever to have become a committed, anti passion spokeswoman. The fact is that I have led my entire life guided by passion, particularly in regard to my work as a writer witches, a vocation that I have been shaken
my entire life, with a love that you could call obsessive. I can barely even remember a time before I knew that I was going to be a writer than I had to be a writer that I needed to be a writer. I was going to be a ride or no matter what it took. I was probably like five or six of the book loving child, and I remember I pieced it together at last that books do not just magically appear out of the ether, but people make them they create them from their imaginations and that kind of a person who does that is called a writer, and once I had that piece of information that was it my destiny from that point, for it was sealed. I made my decision and I have never veered from that passions and I have to be very honest with you, because it would be disingenuous of me to claim anything else. Passion has worked for me. Passion was the thing that kept me right the lean early years before anybody else except me cared about what I was doing for a long time.
Made. A living is a diner waitress and a bar tender and passion was the thing that made me come home from those long shifts smelling like other people's french fries. You know with really sore feet a really long day of work, and then I would take up my shoes and sit down and go to my real work and the real work was writing And I did that day after day year after year, even when I was getting nothing out of it, except for rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter, but I didn't care minimum love it, nobody loves being rejected, but passion. My passion for writing was so big that it made me stay in the game, even through all the obstacles and then finally, I got lucky enough to become a published rider and then in two thousand six are really lucky. I wrote this book called a prey, love your mobile phone and down, and it became really successful. Much to my surprise, and as soon as that happened as soon as I became successful, this started to happen right people start to put on my
one of my hand, and they would send me up on a stage and they would ask me to stand there and speak about how I had gotten here and what I had learned and so, of course, the minute I had the opportunity to speak in public about the thing I cared about a believed in the most. What did I talk about passion? What else would it have been there as no other subjects. As far as I was concerned, passion to me was the everything it was the beginning and the end the alpha and omega the one true path and the only way forward and so in audiences, across the where they were just stand there and stage, and I would say some variation of this night after night. I would say you know what you all have to do. Every single one of you. You have to identify your passion. You have to identify that tower of flame within you. That will be your guiding purposeful light and you have to find that thing
that makes you feel like your head is on fire. That makes you feel like there's a soul revolution going on deep inside your ribcage. That makes you feel like you would sacrifice and risk everything for that thing than nothing else matters that thing that you know you were born to do and then you have to get every molecule of your being and you ve got a funnel it directly and powerfully into that thing that one thing and no other you gonna focus on that forever and that way, and only that way will you succeed, I'd be up there on stage and I'd be quoting Vince, Lombardy and I'd be quoting when in and I'd, be quoting Eleanor, Roosevelt and I'd, be quoting Jonathan, Livingston frequency Gall and I'd be telling people that if you can dream it, you can be it and you have to jump so the network catch you. And what would you do if you knew you could not fail? And you guys you know all the bumper sticker you
probably have among your car right. We all know these slogans, but I I did it with an enormous sincerity, because I really believe it, and I believed that I was doing a public service by telling people that they had to live their lives exactly the same way. That I had always lived mine. I preached that, because that was my fundamental truth. That was my certainty and then something happened, and this is the good part, because we wait long enough in life. Trust me something eventually will happen that will undue your certainty, which is where the interesting things begin right. That is certain that that will happen by doing so. What happened to me was it said that not long ago I was in Austria, I was on a speaking to her. I was giving a speech, but of an audience is doing my thing. It was doing my passion, dog and pony show in my passion, like ten revived old thing, that I do and I thought it went really well and that the audience had been responsive and I felt satisfied- and I went back to my hotel
from that nine, like this, you ve helped those people and I crawled into bed nor drips room service and just to pass the time I started scrolling through Facebook page and that's when I saw the somebody had written a letter of a really long, an exceptionally long letter on my wall of my facebook page. It was from a woman in austrian woman who had been in the audience that night and, as I say, it was a long letter. So I'm just gonna paraphrase it here and tell you in essence what she had to say to me. But basically was this. She said. Hale is just came from your speech and I dont even really know I'm doing this, but I just feel the need to let you know that I am sitting.
All alone in my bedroom right now in the dark, with the door locked behind me and because of what you set up there tonight on stage. I have never felt worse about myself and I feel at this moment wait what like that caught my attention, I sort of leaned into the letter. What is this and she went on to say because you list Gilbert just spent the last two hours up there on that stage, saying exactly the same thing to me that people like you have been saying to people like me,
forever, you gotta, follow your passion, follow your passion folly or passion, and it all sounds well and good. But I just have to tell you, because I dont know who else to tell and I've gotta get this out. I don't have one, I don't have one for the last time. I don't have one, and I think if I had one I would know, because it sounds from the way you describe it like it's pretty freakin obvious. In fact I would probably be first one to know. If I had one- and I don't have one and I'm telling you it is not for lack of searching, I have not been lazy in my life. I have been tearing myself apart for years trying to find that thing that you people keep talking about that one tower of flame. That's gonna be the guiding principle that I can organise my entire life around and I'm telling you it is not there. I don't
anything in my life that makes me feel like my head is on fire like there's a soul revolution going on inside my ribcage, I dont have one thing that I feel like it would be safe to risk everything on and jump off the cliff for I don't have it. The thing about me is that I'm kind of interested in a lot of stuff at the same time, and then I get into it, and then I realized I'm not really that interested in it and then I get interested in something else and my interest change by the season and I almost feel like I can't always keep up with all the just that I have, and I never really know what to commit to, and by this point of my life, the age that I'm at. I am starting to feel so deeply embarrassed about this because I feel like I should have this sorted out by now. I should know by now what my purpose is, what my passion is, and I don't know what it is and I feel like a failure and I'm starting to feel like a freak like there's something really essential. That's missing
My dna and no offense to you list Gilbert cause you're, probably a really nice person, and I'm sure you didn't mean to do it. But I came to hear you tonight seeking guidance and you just made me feel like the biggest loser in the world, not your problem, probably anyway good night thanks well! Well, so I went back and I read it again and I read it again and I sat there for the longest time just staring at the wall, and then I thought an actual set it aloud. I said, oh, my god I much, but I didn't use the word. Journeys are much worse word that I'm not gonna use chirk. How many people have I done this to how many times have I got out public railing to value passion, failure passionately, passion, not ready.
I think that perhaps I was leaving some people behind making them feel excluded. Making them feel, God forbid, like failures like losers, because they don't have that certainty. That thing that I've always had- and this was one of these really personal moments for me- because that's what it feels like when the bottom starts to fall out of your certainty and I'm sure you ve had these moments in your own life, where all the sudden, you are forced, to look at the thing you believe more than anything and ask yourself: when was the last time I actually took a step back from this to see if what my central truth is is even true, if it's even true- and I thought I gotta have a reckoning here- so I sat there and I just started king about the lives of the people, who I love and admire the most in the world. The people who I revere with All- my heart, the people who I know most intimately, my family, my friends, my loved ones. The colleagues who I look up to- and I asked myself knowing
them as well as I do knowing their biographies is intimately as I do. How many of those people could honestly say that they knew when they were in kinda? in exactly what they were going to be doing with their life, that they chose that path that they stuck to it, that they their entire life around that one single passion that they never veered from it. Never looked. The left never looked to the righteous barreled right through and today they are still doing nothing. How many of those people and the answer when I was very honest with myself about it, was basically none of them. Like, statistically like zero percent of them, which hadn't stopped any of those people from living gorgeous rich complicated lives, full of what our friend Bernay Brown calls wholeheartedness? These are the people I admired the most in the world and their lives were not this single direct, clear, purposeful wake up in the morning from the time your child than you know exactly what you're gonna be straight line. In fact, when I
it's not about their lives. Looked more like like a journey through a carnival funhouse, you know like with a lot of trap, doors and hidden staircases and things that you thought were walls and then they with open and there was a maze behind it and they would sort of drop into a basement and, like all of this kind of going striking this failing at that getting fired from here quitting this trying this realising it was the wrong thing. You know just this kind of bouncing through until they eventually worked their way through to the often spectacular places where they were now standing as I knew them. I thought, for instance, but my very best friend in the world, the person, I trust with all my heart, my friend Riah Elias, the wisest and kindness person. I've ever met close up, and I thought about her life's churning ready for it here goes born in Syria. Family moves to Michigan when she's a child difficult times.
Testing to America by the time she's in her late teens and twentys she's, a punk rock musician in Detroit Underground music seem and then she becomes a hairdresser, and then she becomes like a fashion. Stylist on photo shoots all over the world. Then she stopped doing not. She becomes a filmmaker and then she stopped doing that and she writes a book and becomes a published author
and now she is in New York City with great success in satisfaction, selling, high and real estate, and all of this right, illogical progression right and in all of this, through the course of a very convoluted and often devastatingly painful journey. That included, among other stops a long period of heroin addiction, a period of homelessness and more visits than she can physically name or count on her fingers to prisons, rehab centres and mental hospitals before she finally found her way through that funhouse to where she is now, and what has my best friend raise Journey made her into early put it this way. I'm someone who people come to for advice, and sometimes people even pay too, like standards tribute
inspiration, but when I'm lost and broken and I've taken a phased plan in the middle of my life and I ve blown it and I ve failed and I dont know what to do and I'm stuck and I'm lost, and I'm scared. The very first phone call I make is to my friend because I know, first of all, that she will listen to me with completely non judgmental compassion, because if there is one thing that raise journey has taught her her chequered difficult journey is that you do not judge anybody for where they are standing at that moment on their path. No matter what
We all say that, but she lives that, because of all the places that she has stood in her own path. So I know I can bring her anything and she'll be like all baby right, and I also know that what she will then do as she will gather up all the accumulated wisdom and grace and experience that she has from every one of those lives that she has lived in all those places. She has been in everything she has seen and learned, and she stands like on a mountain of that perspective and looks out over the landscape of my problem with eyes that nobody else would have, and she hand crafts for me and answer to my difficult problem that literally no one else in the world could have come up with, because literally nobody else in the world has been done, felt and seen all that she has been done felt and seeing that's. What Ray has checkered convoluted, weird random journey made her in
and she is golden in my heart called him, and then I thought about my husband, my wonderful freaky, fantastic husband. The love of my life, born in Brazil to a very poor family, felt he had no options. There manner to scrape together enough money by selling scrap metal and bones when he was a teenager to slaughterhouses and glue manufacturing places gets enough money to buy a one way ticket to Europe for reasons he could not have even been able to articulate at the time goes to Europe with no possible direction. Bounces around Europe for four years drifts over to the Middle EAST. For reasons he's can't even really identify, goes from there to Australia where he lived for seventeen years and then after seventeen years
failure he went to South EAST Asia for eight years. I met him there and now, of course, he's married to mean we live in New Jersey because all the great adventures lit and a new Jersey so. I know his life has looked at anything, but this single direct straight driven line of purpose that I've been preaching to people forever. They got to do right if anything, his life looks like a pinball through pinball machine more than it looks like anything else, and I thought, as I sat there in that hotel room contemplating all this. I thought about this very painful story that he had told me about a really hard thing that it happened in his wife once we're friend of his had come out of me know. Sometimes people come at you with just. Some huge missile of judgment she'd come at him, so fierce and got him right where she lived where it where he lived, and she said you know your we're gonna leave a legacy when you die right because to have a legacy of to focus on one thing and- and you just Haven'T- had a kind of focus in your life because you ve just been moving around and doing all this different stuff. In the reason you don't have, that focus is
you don't have a central passion and that's why you're never gonna leave legacy. In fact, yours so info, you don't even have a hobby that you ve committed to and heard him as it would have heard anybody to hear those nice friend my way. Sweetheart it hurt him, but he, instead of just reacting, he took an omen thought about it. You thought about it for a few days and he came back to her a few days later. He said he. I can't stop thinking about what you said and, first of all, on my really worried about a legacy. That's not something! I've ever really been concerned with my life but wired. That way- and you are correct to say that I don't have a hobby care about a hobby, but you are wrong to say that I don't have a passion. I do have a passion. My passion is for life itself in all of its magnificent directions: life itself,
and what a life he's lived, which is exactly why I fell in love with him and why not one day of our marriage has been boring to me because of that and then kept processing this thought about all the people who I know and love, who are still very much on the search who are still really unsure about what their purposes, who aren't totally certain that they have one central burning passion who are still moving from this too that trying a try be trying see some of these people who I know and love who were in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond, and there still trying to figure out what they're gonna be when they grow up. Does that sound like anybody in here? You know, you know that feeling night and I know that some of them are really at ease with the shape of their journey. But I know- and I should have seen all this long ago- that many of them are not and they carry that anxiety about the fact that in a coup true that fetish sizes, passion and fetishism certainty. They are uncertain
there are not totally sure that they have this great burning purpose and they're, not totally sure what their legacy is. Gonna be, and it makes them feel stressed, and it makes them ill. I should have seen this already like that woman in Australia, who said she felt a loser and like a failure by this age or should I had this figured out? I know this because they ve come to me and they told me these things. I realise that night what I ought to have realised a long time ago that every time somebody like me says to somebody like that, hey it's really easy to solve your life. Man. All you to do is just fell. Your passion, it probably twists like a knife in their gods don't do it anymore, I don't say that anymore. I don't preach. There is only one path and it is the pie, don't preach that anymore, because I don't even know if I believe that anymore and these days, when I meet
somebody who's on the searchers feeling lost his feeling. Confused was feeling purposeless whose, like I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here. I actually say to them the exact opposite thing of what I would have said a few years ago and the very first thing I says: listen do yourself a great service. Do yourself a great kindness and just for now just take the word passion off the table. Just relieve yourself of that, because there is so much pressure Just take it off just forget about just for now: let it go and where that was instead of that anxiety in that urgency, in that panic about chasing a passion that you're not even feeling do something. That's a lot easier. A lot simpler, just follow your curiosity, because curiosity is such a.
Hind, her more welcoming, more humane instinct than passion, and it's so much more accessible right like passion. Is this really intimidating grand concept? It really is the burning tower flame in the desert, and it can be hard to see that, like on a random Tuesday, when you're, feeling, blue and and passion the other day about passion, is that it's like its demanding its greedy. It insists that to take everything out of you. Those are the terms of passion, passion says three all in the pot risk at all. You want to make an impact. You gotta make the huge change. You gotta get divorced shave, your head change, your name moved to Nepal, open up an orphanage right, and maybe
everyone needs to do that this week. Ok, you know, maybe it's ok and passion. The other thing I should say about it. It would be very honest. It can sometimes be a dangerous impulse and for evidence of that, we're gonna do just little thought. Experiment here want you all to just pause for a moment and each and every one of you look back at your own history and, let's remember the most passionate love story of your life. Remember you have that work out, for you And what kind of condition were you in when it was over and passion had taken what it always demands, which is everything out of you write? What kind of state were you in when passion was done?
in its way with you and the reason I'm saying all this is because, in contrast to the demands, the urgency, the greed, the mania that can be associated with passion, curiosity doesn't do that to you. Curiosity will never stop your life. Bear. Curiosity will never make outrageous demands upon. Your curiosity will never take. Curiosity only does one thing and that is to give and what it gives. You are clues on the incredible scavenger hunt of your life every single day and curiosity is accessible every single day because so mild and the stakes are so low like even on the worst days. There's like something you can find that you're a tiny little bit interested, no matter how small it is, no matter how nothing. It seems, no matter how it's not gonna change the world,
matter how you're not gonna mortgage your house to go. Do it like there's something in your life, always on every day that you're a little bit curious about that is the trail of bread crumbs. The scavenger hunt, the channel that God feeds the little clues for on the incredible scavenger hunt of yours, specific and precious life, and the only thing that curiosity will ever ask of you is that you turn your had a quarter of an inch. You bother to turn your had a quarter of an inch and just look a little closer at one of those clues, and it might be nothing you might follow it for a few inches and be like. Oh no, that wasn't a thing and that's fine, because you didn't like burn your whole life
I'll do it. You just looked like it my now. I guess I'm not into that and you let it go right and it and it might be nothing and then the next time there's another coup, and that might be you know, and you might just go for a really long time doing that you know, and it might lead you nowhere or this might happen, and I've seen it happen, because this is the flight of the natural born hummingbird see the world is divided into two kinds of people. There are the jackhammers and there, the hummingbirds, jackhammers or people. Like me, you know you put a passion in her hands or just like took a quicker could get away.
Look up and we don't fear- and we don't you just like what it were focused on that till the end of time and its efficient. You get a lot of time, but we tend to be obsessive in fundamentalist and sometimes a little difficult and loud hummingbirds spend their lives doing it very differently. They move from tree to tree from flower to flower from field to field trying this trying that in two things happen, they create incredibly rich complex lives for themselves and they also end up cross pollinating the world. That is the service that,
You do if you are a humming bird person, because you bring an idea from here to overhear, where you learn something else and you leave it in, and then you take it here to the next thing. You do so that your perspective ends up keeping the entire culture aerated mixed up and open to the new and fresh, and if that is how you are constructed by your divine maker than that is how we need you to be. You just keep doing that. That is what the path is, that you're supposed to lead and I'll give you the track. Here's the magical thing, if you do that, if you're willing to Jerusalem release yourself from the pressure and the anxiety, surrounded by passion and you just humbly and faithfully continue to follow the trail of the humming
bird path going here going here going here going here, and you just trust it one of these days. You just might look up and realize. Oh my word, I am exactly where I meant to be I'm with the people I'm supposed to be with I'm doing the work I'm supposed to be doing in the city. I'm supposed to be living with my family looks the way it is. In other words, you can let go of passion and follow your curiosity. Your carrier city just might lead you to your passion. Was that is that. Is there took altered. I've. Seen it happen and when it happens, it does feel like there's a divine hand in there, The whole thing was an random that somebody was heading it, and it reminds me of that lovely quote by the beautiful fourteenth century- persian poet, huh fees- and he said this is where you are right. Now, God circled on a map for you,
Wherever your eyes and heart and mind can turn against the sky, the beloved bowed their the beloved bowed their knowing you are coming holding that place for you, and it's possible that all of us never were in the wrong place, that every place has been bowed to that there is holiness and sacredness and all the places we are, the last place the dark place, the broken placed the betrayed place that an eternity ago the beloved, bowed circled that held that place for you, knowing you were coming that there is no place you can be. That is not sacred unholy and here's the deal, though
just because God circled on a map long ago, this place where we are all standing right now in our lives does not mean that that is where the beloved intends for us to remain, and maybe what is being asked of all of us now, however, we are constructed, is that we all have the humility and the discipline in the faith to lift our eyes. Turner had a quarter of an inch and look for the next clue and the next clue and the next clue, and that we trust the breadcrumbs that we trust our curiosity, that we trust our interests. We trust the map and trust the map maker. More than anything else, I begged this view. Whatever you do, my sweet, beautiful humming
friends, never let a passion bully like me, push you around again. You are perfect. I love you are thank. You saw my I'm over Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the planned cast. You can follow super soul on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. If you haven't yet go to apple, pod can subscribe rate and review. This plugins join me next week for another super, so conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-10.