“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi
I have been working on Tiny Buddha for over two years, and yet I’ve rarely written about my experiences running it.
I haven’t told you anything about my own challenges, opportunities, and lessons in maintaining the site, and it occurred to me today that that might be valuable information.
You probably have a Tiny Buddha in your own life—something you created that you’re absolutely in love with. Or maybe you haven’t found it yet, but you want to build something that drives you like nothing else.
Tiny Buddha has been that for me, and I’d like to share with you a few of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. The past got you to where you are, so every step was valuable.
At times I’ve looked back and wondered if perhaps I made mistakes in this journey. For instance, I did everything anonymously until earlier this year.
Tiny Buddha was originally just a daily quote on Twitter. I was hesitant to put my name there because it’s never been about me. It’s about ideas that relate to all of our lives, regardless of our age, background, geography, or even religious affiliation.
It seemed to make sense to go into this site the same way. I didn’t want my perspective to be the foundation, with guest contributors lending occasional support. I wanted the community to be the foundation, with my voice a part of the collective.
In deciding early on to put the focus on the community, I forgot that you can’t build a community unless you’re willing to be part of it.
When I think about the types of interactions I am having with people about Tiny Buddha today, I sometimes wonder how amazing it could have been to have facilitated that sooner. Then I remember: today wouldn’t be happening without yesterday, and I can only enjoy today fully if let go of ideas about the past.
I needed to be where I was in each place before I could get to the next step.
We’re always looking for the fast-track in life—for the bigger better thing as soon as possible. The learning takes place in the small things, in their own time as they need to unravel.
2. Criticism means whatever you make it.
Since there was no context for the posts on the site—no sense of who was running it or why—people didn’t take to it right away.
Another issue was that they had grown accustomed to seeing just one daily quote in their Twitter feed. When links started popping up on the stream, quite a few strongly worded emails came in.
“You’re ruining Tiny Buddha,” one read.
Another reader chimed in with: “You better stop or I won’t follow anymore—and my girlfriend agrees you’re destroying a good thing.”
I received several of these emails in the first month, and I have to admit I took them to heart. I wondered what I could have done to build a better site. I wondered if those people were a small sampling of popular opinion. I wondered if they were a sign I should leave Tiny Buddha to the Twitterverse.
Then I realized something: I was creating an awful lot of drama in my head for someone writing about wisdom. So what if I received a few emails from people resistant to change? I had something good to do, and there were other people out there who enjoyed it.
It isn’t the criticism we receive that brings us down; it’s what we decide that criticism means. It rarely means we’re failures or we should change directions. Sometimes it means there’s more to learn. Sometimes it means you need a thicker skin. Most of the time, it’s both.
3. Happiness is when the experience means as much, if not more than, the outcome.
Research shows that setting goals can lead to happiness. It gives you a sense of empowerment and pride, and hopefully you feel fulfilled in the process of striving. That hasn’t always been the case for me.
Before starting Tiny Buddha, all my goals were about escaping my present to find some magic future where I’d be happy. It wasn’t about the experience of the journey; it was about something down the line that I felt like I needed. My goals were more about fixing my life than enhancing it. It’s a little different now.
What I do here is simple and yet it matters to me deeply.
I love editing and publishing the contributions writers submit. I love how much they enjoy the experience of posting, and how different voices resonate with different readers. I love reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned and recycling them into posts. Every part of running the site and social networking pages gives me a deep sense of purpose and gratitude.
I still have dreams, but I don’t feel like my life is lacking. Even though I’m not making a lot of money right now, I don’t feel that my happiness depends on getting somewhere else.
When you’re less attached to future outcomes, you’re not only less devastated by deviations from your plan, you’re also more open to possibilities. Best of all, you’re more open to joy in the present.
4. Passion is the best motivation.
Before I started Tiny Buddha, I didn’t follow through with much in life.
I have always been a resourceful person—part of the gypsy, run-from-reality existence that defined my younger years. I can pretty easily find places to live, ways to get by, and jobs to keep me afloat.
In the past three years alone I have lived in seven apartments and have held a total of eight jobs. Like I wrote before in 25 Little Changes to Make the Day More Exciting, I sometimes have a hard time sticking with things after the original novelty wears off.
Yet I have written something for this website every week day for the past year. Without fail, I have opened my laptop every evening to write about the next day’s daily quote. I’ve spent countless hours writing blog posts and collecting and editing submissions from other writers.
With everything else I’ve done, I’ve always wondered when I might move on, but with Tiny Buddha, it’s become like breathing. I think there’s something to be said for doing something that feels like home. When you love what you’re doing, it’s easy to sustain momentum.
People always tell you to follow your bliss, but that can be a confusing proposition. There’s a lot to love in life, and we have an overwhelming number of choices to make personally and professionally. The best you can do is jump in with both feet and watch how it feels in your mind and body. You might not always know when it’s wrong, but it’s pretty hard to ignore when it’s right.
I know that happiness is an inside job, not dependent on external things. I also know we all have boundless positive energy looking for a way to be channeled. Everyone needs something that gives them an outlet for creativity, curiosity, purpose, and fun.
But sometimes we put a world of pressure on those outlets. We analyze every step we take, obsess about other people’s opinions, and get caught up pushing from one stage to the next, wondering where it’s all leading—or if it’s leading anywhere at all.
All we’re guaranteed is the experience of today, living in that place we’ve created. I say let’s live there out loud. Let’s love it, talk about it, and share it with so much enthusiasm, it’s infectious to everyone around us.
Infect me—what’s your passion project? And what have you learned through the journey?