Real life gal-pals Robin Thede, host of The Rundown with Robin Thede, and Ashley Blaine Featherson, Dear White People star, took to the Summit21 stage in Atlanta last month to talk about passion vs. purpose.
To kick off the "fireside chat," Thede and Featherson offered the audience a defining difference between two key words:
"Passion is something you feel in your soul, in your heart. It’s something you cannot live without. Whether you follow it as a career or not, passion is something that burns inside of you," Thede began. "You cannot live without this thing; whether it’s what your do for a living, whether it’s your hobbies, whether it’s your family, whether it’s your man, whether it’s not your man. Whatever it is, the passion that you feel is something that feels like warm and fiery, right?"
Thede said she believes people often confuse the fire of their passions with their life purposes, but Featherson offered a different understanding of passion vs. purpose. For her, she knew that acting was something she always wanted to do and was an innate desire since she was young. However, her passions surround moments such as enjoying a great glass of wine or hanging out with her friends.
"I figured out very early on that my passion was different from my purpose. I believe that my purpose is why I was sent here. It’s why God put me on this earth. It’s something that I have to do. It’s the mission that I have to fulfill. I’m purposed to ignite a fire in people through my work, to be a mother, to be a wife, to change the world. That’s what I’m purposed to do because the difference is what my purpose is, we don’t have a choice in that. A passion we have a choice in."
In differentiating between the two, Featherson said the sooner we can draw the line, the sooner we are able to lead the lives we were sent here to live. She also explained that she believes that although your purpose is not the only thing you can do, because as people we are multifaceted and house many talents, your purpose is the definitive thing that you were sent here to do before your time on earth is complete.
Thede asked Featherson how she came to the conclusion of what her purpose was and the actress told her it was when she was at an extreme low-point in her life in Los Angeles and was not met with a yearning to leave.
"I realized I can’t — I have to do this, this is why I’m here. I’m not an actor because it’s super fun and I love the glitz and glamour… It’s such a hard industry and business to be in, but I think that’s what it was. I sat down and really I made a list of things that I really like to do, things that make me happy and the things that I feel like are going to make me ignite change and change the world. And not only change the world but change me, make me more impactful.”
"And I think that is the key," Thede followed up to Featherson’s anecdote. "I think when you’re finding your purpose, you need to find that thing that is selfless and that thing that is going to change not only yourself but others as well. And I think that, that’s when you know you’re on the right path to purpose."
As we go through our lives, people often think they know what our purpose is and may suggest paths for you to take that align with that thought, but Thede pointed out that only you can identify your purpose. One way both women shared they were able to find that "ah-ha" moment was through prayer. Thede recounted a train ride she was on almost 15 years ago, during which she was talking to God internally. During this talk, she remembered asking God if she was going to be an overnight celebrity, and she was met with a question asking whether she wanted a quick success or wanted to work for a fulfilling career that would take off in 10 years. At the time, she was indifferent about the two choices but, as she weighed the options, a man on the train turned around and on his shirt in bold print was the number 10; for her, that was a sign of confirmation and almost 10 years to that day she began as writer for a show on Fox which propelled her career forward, putting her on track to be the Robin Thede she is today.
The road to one’s purpose is not paved in sunshine and rainbows; it takes hard work. This is why, Featherson said, many people often overlook their purpose. In addition to the time it may take to achieve or recognize, it also usually does not play out the way you imagine.
"If you’re going after your dream or something you’re purposed to do, you might not pay that bill on time. You might not be able to see every friend as frequently as you did before. You might not be able to be at every family function in the same engaged way as you were before; but there will be a time when it will all come back around. But you have to let go of the shame because so many of us do not go after that dream because we don’t want to have the shame of not being able to live at, what we view as, our highest level. But you can’t live at your highest frequency or level if you are not doing what you was sent here to do.”
Obstacles present themselves while you seek or engage in your purpose, but Featherson reminded the audience that when you walk in your purpose you will not fail. She said the reason failure is impossible is that you cannot fail at why you are here.
Thede also brought up the notion of having "reckless confidence" when working towards your purpose. It is this level of thought that pushes you to go beyond your comfort zone to succeed and, in some cases, survive. Procrastination was a major hindrance throughout Thede’s progression but, when things got tough, the need to survive and make it put the fire under her that she desperately needed.
When it came time for questions in the chat, one audience member asked the ladies if they could speak on being at the transitional point of walking in your purpose but needing to let go of some things to truly get there. Her question not only revved up the crowd but also caused Thede and Featherson to take a few deep breaths. In her approach, Thede addressed sharing your dreams with other people.
"Here’s what people do. I won’t even say what they say, I’ll tell you why they do it. You express your dream to them and the(y) express their fears to you. You express your dream to them and they express their fears to you. The moment that happens, bye. Bye. Now, I’m not saying bye like cut people off and mom, I’ve never going to talk to you again. I’m saying you need to surround yourself, like this community that she’s (Featherson) talk(ed) about, and the communities that make you feel — when someone says this is my dream, when you say this is my dream, they say 'how can I help you get there?' And it may be easier said than done and it may be one person and that one person may be your reflection in the mirror, but what will happen is every time you speak that dream out loud, you will attract people to you who support that dream."
Thede also shared when cutting people off or stepping back from those who do not support your dream and/or purpose, the worst feeling is the feeling you have right before making that separation.
"You can love them but they will keep you from your purpose and that does not do the world any good because you have a purpose to help other people. And that’s selfish of you to let those people tell you what you can and cannot do."
Featherson added to Thede’s answer to the audience member by saying she came to understand the things she needed to let go of by becoming acutely aware of her energy, how people made her feel and listening to her woman’s intuition.
"The people who you feel their energy is incongruent with yours and not in alignment with what you’re trying to do, they have to go. They have to go because ain’t nothing and no one can hold you back from what you have to do and again, remove the shame from it. There’s no shame in choosing yourself. They try to tell us that too. Choose yourself, girl. Bye, they have to go or it has to go."
Whew! Sis, we don’t know about you but that girl talk has us seriously thinking about our passions and purposes. What are yours?
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