“You must cultivate activities that you love. You must discover work that you do, not for its utility, but for itself, whether it succeeds or not, whether you are praised for it or not, whether you are loved and rewarded for it or not, whether people know about it or and are grateful to you for it or not. How many activities can you count in your life that you engage in simply because they delight you and grip your soul? Find them out, cultivate them, for they are your passport to freedom and to love.”

-Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello 

You might wonder why this topic is being addressed here on The Freedom Model blog; a blog devoted to the topic of debunking addiction and recovery myths. I mean really, “what grips your soul”?  

The trouble with the quote above is this: if read quickly, it can seem like unwanted advice and frankly, a bit like fluffy greeting card fodder. And of course, Freedom Model students won’t put up with silly or meaningless content! Generally speaking, as an audience, you’ve already lived the slogan therapies and thoughtless recovery world nonsense. Any prescriptive “you should”, recommendations, clichés or platitudes will be summarily dismissed – and should be; many of you were hurt by the misinformed “addiction-help therapies and models”. So when I read the following quote, I at first saw it as just another feel good piece, custom made for self-help memes. But then I took the time to read it again. Then I read it again, and again. Each time, it sounded less corny, until I read it one last time, and it hit me, and I smiled. 

It reminded me of how I started The Freedom Model more than 34 years ago, broke, homeless, with no formal schooling, and with everyone around me saying it was a lost cause, “a joke”, and that I’d lost my mind for even trying. But I didn’t care. The desire to build a better addiction-help model gripped my soul. For ten long years I didn’t make a dime. I lived where I worked; and never took even a single day off. I worked when I had the flu. I worked while on crutches. I worked in good health too. I worked when corrupt politicians and local law enforcement harassed me trying to run me and the business out of town, I worked through investigations by the corrupt state trying to do the same. But I stayed and persevered. I fought in court – and won. My work gripped my soul. I gave up on real, intimate relationships for a long time, and put my personal life on hold for more than a decade. I didn’t have kids or buy houses like my friends did, I waited until I was successful for such things. It gripped my soul. I got my first paycheck at 30 years old, 11 long years after we started the business. I soon got married and had kids. 

We were poor, living in a small apartment owned by the business so I could be there 24/7. It gripped my soul. My family adapted and learned to love what I loved. It consumed all of us. Because I loved it, they found some happiness in it too, even when things were tough, and that was often. Then the growth years – and they were hard too! Success comes with its own challenges, but it gripped my soul, so none of that mattered. The years and decades passed by, and now here we are – my soul still gripped by the millions across the globe in need of the Freedom Model!

De Mello said about these kinds of stirring activities, “Find them out, cultivate them, for they are your passport to freedom and to love.” I agree; I tell people all the time, “I feel like the luckiest person in the world – I’ve never gotten out of bed and hated what I do for a living.” And while the financial and image benefits of my chosen career will probably never be in equal proportion to the effort I’ve given, I truly have a rich life – I’ve done exactly what I’ve wanted, when I wanted, and in a manner that is mine to behold, and I’ve never looked back or regretted any of it. And in the final analysis, that is the embodiment of The Freedom Model ethos isn’t it!

My only greater hope is that everyone I meet gets to have their soul taken by an equal measure of passion as the one that took me. In the final analysis the use of our time is the most valuable asset we have to bring to the world – let it be for something you genuinely care about and love. Because that is after all, what it means to be truly free!

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