Warren Brown uncovered a hidden passion that led to CakeLove. . .
How did I find my Passion?
How many ways can one find their passion? There are probably as many answers as there are ways to describe the flavors of your favorite food. I love orange foods. Butternut squash, carrots, yams, and oranges. I like their hearty nourishment, electric color, resilient texture, and piquant zest. Orange foods take the cake – to me. But it’s probably different for you. And that’s what finding a passion is all about: You.
Do you want to fast forward to the answer? Try not to. The best parts of life are in the roads traveled to get to your destination. That’s where you struggle and that’s where you laugh. Be in the moment and enjoy it. Taste life. Taste what interests you. Listen to yourself and the world around you. It’s a slow and tedious process where being patient helps a lot. Take your time to be sure of what you want. Then work like hell to get it.
Who has priority?
Perhaps you have to be somewhat, well, narcissistic to really indulge your passions. Being passionate is about recognizing what makes you happy, focusing on and learning about it, and, ultimately, doing it in the name of your own satisfaction and pleasure. It’s not self-centered to lead your life in a direction that satisfies you. It’s necessary to feel at peace.
Prioritizing your passion means that you carve out room in your life to explore and understand it. Once you understand yourself and what you care about, you’ll be in closer touch with your life and the others around you. For a while others may see you as aloof, but once you arrive at being in touch with your heart and soul, others will find inspiration in you to do the same.
How did it work for me? I explored my interests, developed them, listened to feedback and kept going. Now my career is my former side interest and I love my job. Sure there is pressure, and the hours are very long, but it’s manageable. I’m expected to create new recipes, share new tastes and flavors, and interact with people – I love that! Once I gave priority to what makes me happy, my life very naturally evolved into CakeLove.
The devil is in the details…
Law school was a grueling period of endless projects and paperwork. I felt like I was losing connection with myself. Early on in the program I was compelled to ask myself what makes me happy? Asking myself this was key. It helped me take control and salvaged my graduate school experience by setting aside time to do good things for my soul. Looking back, school wasn’t the enemy; it trained me to focus. And even though it felt like a creative straightjacket at the time, I funneled loads of extra energy into very satisfying creative moments. Together, they got me to my passion.
If not now, then when?
Something forced me to face and examine the question, if not now, then when will I make my move? I felt like a bobbing: not going under, but also not going anywhere. My mind and body wanted to express itself but, in adjusting to life in DC, I just did not see a venue from which to perform. After a year of grad school I realized I would have to create my own world of satisfaction.
Where did I start?
In an effort to find satisfaction, I listened to myself. I asked myself questions and listened to my responses. At that time my questions were all over the place, really scatterbrained. I tried to let everything that even hinted at being a response find its voice. Over time this voice manifested itself in different ways: cooking, drawing/writing, gardening, yoga, etc. I tried as many new things as I could.
I had a blast dabbling in different areas, all the while meeting new people and growing. Those are some of my best memories. I liked watching colors develop in the sunrise as I watered my rooftop herb garden of chocolate mint, pineapple sage, and sunflowers. I relished the opportunity to open myself up to my closest friends by singing self-penned poems at neighborhood art parties. I felt closer to myself after being introduced to yoga – I never realized the tension held in my eyebrows. Giving voice to my soul for the sake of venting its contents became reason enough to live. In experiencing what came out, I began to be much happier with myself.
“Clear and Convincing”
One of the most difficult hurdles faced in understanding how to vent my soul came during a summer internship in law school. I abruptly left the internship after only four weeks of work. I’ve always had mixed feelings about leaving: I didn’t want to fail to complete a job but I wasn’t happy and saw no hope. While figuring out whether to leave the position, I turned to drawing as therapy. One of my drawings was a self-portrait – a young man with an ashen gray face, blue lips, reddened eyes, and wilting hair. Bleak and miserable for sure, drawing this image was clear and convincing evidence that something was terribly wrong. The next day, I left the internship.
Of course friends and family were shocked that I quit, but many people congratulated me. How odd, I thought. I wasn’t so sure why I should be congratulated for leaving a position, abruptly at that, and moving onto nothing except soulful self-indulgence. They saw me taking a step towards something that would make me happy. But I wasn’t sure I could see what made me happy, I only saw what didn’t make me happy. It turns out, of course, that half of knowing what you want is knowing what you don’t want.
Perhaps part of that experience demonstrated to me that it is possible to leave something without an absolutely fixed idea of what the future will hold – as long as you are following a passion toward a productive end. It was a difficult lesson, but perhaps one of the best yet. I relied on this experience four years later when I planned my exit from practicing law to develop my cake business.
Confident that my world would not collapse if I took matters into my own hands, I made some resolutions. I believe in making resolutions – practical ones that have merit help me. I allow myself all of the time that I need to identify and understand what a resolution should be. I work to maintain and revise former resolutions so that I’m consistent and not constantly reinventing myself. And, yes, they tend to arise in January of each year.
In 1999 I was struck with tremendous clarity in developing a set of resolutions. Direct yourself to greatness; Answer your calls; Answer to yourself. This became my mantra, a meditating chant, a testament to end each day with, or juice to push myself further. This was also the same year that I resolved to start baking. I wanted to expand my knowledge and skills in the kitchen. Measuring my triumphs and tragedies in the kitchen was easy. Coming to grips with the “big three” was a bit more of a challenge.
The Big Three
- Direct yourself to greatness. Sounds a bit haughty, maybe? It’s not meant to. It’s about obeying priorities. I envision my idea of success and, just as if my body is a puppet, my mind is the puppeteer that commands my body to act and make the vision happen.
- Answer your calls. Literally taken from an effort to stop evading phone calls in a period of my life when I felt morose and anti-social, this precept is really a commitment to venting my soul. Lending an ear to my inner voice, my id, the kid in me, my instincts. It’s a commitment to not abandoning the hope and expectation that I have value and I’ll see it when I direct myself to greatness.
- Answer to yourself. To thy self be true.
And then there was cake…
At some point during graduate school I became passive. I began waiting for events to happen rather than making them happen. Eventually I realized that I could continue asking myself what I want out of life for the rest of my life, but not experience the main event: feeling alive. Once I refused to ignore the fact that big chunks of my life would slip right by if I didn’t seize control and move, I began to discover my passion.
I took a leap and threw cake parties. This is how CakeLove started. I hosted cake open houses to launch and publicize my business in its very early days. I knew I had a knack for baking, I enjoyed hosting parties, and I wanted to survey a crowd for support of my venture.
It was not easy to put myself out for review by the public, both for a critique of the quality of my baking and for an assessment of the viability of my plans. Many people told me I was crazy to leave law to bake cakes. And most did not understand what kind of cakes I planned to market. But, my legal training helped me identify a ripe market niche as well as develop solid recipes. I felt like I was on a mission to bring together everything I had ever learned. It was very difficult, but I also loved it.
How tough is it?
Plain and simple, passion is a commitment without condition. It requires intensity for caring about something without regard to difficulty. It’s a lot like love. Passion has meant finding myself happy baking cakes at 1:30 am at the end of an 18-hour day or occasionally smiling while scrubbing cake pans because it means business is still growing. It is a choice to take a chance where the work is left to you.
Everything about passion can be hard at times. But the benefits and rewards for indulging it simply cannot be measured.
It should be noted that I have enjoyed reconnecting with many who I have worked with in the past. Both the good and the ugly experiences I’ve had have helped me grow and for that I am thankful. The thrilling experience of founding CakeLove has allowed me to get back in touch with so many friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, colleagues, and associates – none of which I would have ever imagined was possible. I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has helped me achieve my potential, even those who may not fully realize how inspirational or instrumental they have been.
Read current tales of CakeLove passion on Warren’s Blog