Howard Thurman, the civil rights activist once famously said "don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that, because the world needs more of us who have come alive."
Profound words that have since been irrevocably diluted by Instagram inspo posts (670K hits and counting) but the wise fella was onto something there.
It’s pretty much the central hypothesis of the Flow Genome Project: finding Flow, coming alive and making a positive dent from there.
But there’s a deeper cut that’s worth exploring.
Because if it was as simple as coming alive to save the world, the self actualizing "Me Generation" would’ve fixed everything already.
If you really want to lock into your Special Purpose™ it’s actually a four step process:
1) find what makes you come alive (your talent)
2) and go and do that, like Thurman said (aka: pursue a flow-fueled path to mastery)
3) notice where you feel the wound of the world most acutely (your trauma)
4) take a stand at the intersection of your trauma and your talent (that’s your Special Purpose™)
(for a classic example of finding your Special Purpose, nothing beats Steve Martin’s revelation in The Jerk)
But you won't find it at a workshop.
It won’t come to you on your vision board.
Mantras and affirmations are insufficient to conjure this peculiar thing.
Your Special Purpose lives at one place and one place only––the intersection of the timeless (where you feel flow and the Deep Now) and the timebound (where life’s a bitch and then we die).
And when you find it, you’re on the verge of taking your stand––of becoming, in other words, a Homegrown Human.
"They’ve gone by different names over the ages––anthropos, bodhisattva, Adam Kadmon. East and West. But today, it doesn’t even need to be fancy. HomeGrown Humans are all around us. Teachers, farmers, and firefighters. Doctors, nurses, and parents. Soldiers, singers, and carpenters. Leading us to the Omega Point where we can unlock the intelligence and creativity in our bones. HomeGrown humans, being human, doing human, grieving human. Down among the people, with helping hands." – Recapture the Rapture
In a case of life imitating art, we’re going to be showcasing a bumper crop of HomeGrown Humans at Flow Camp this summer, like in the book, but IRL.
And to that list of professions, we’d add: ice climbers, global sustainability consultants, aikido masters, folk musicians, digital designers, existential risk analysts, and fly fishing guides.
And what’s pretty badass and potent, is that every single one of our artists-in-residence and guest faculty have been living lives of special purpose.
Starting with what made them come alive (whether the meditation of a perfectly cast fly, or the pulse of traditional folk songs, or the comforting thwack of an ice axe on a frozen waterfall) and then bravely facing the human or natural suffering that they could feel most intensely (sex trafficking, cartel violence, ecosystem devastation, disembodied hustle and celebrity) and merging the two to make positive change in a world that needs some.
Whether you can join us there or not (and click here if you want to learn more), wanted to take a moment to shine the light on some of these amazing guest faculty. It will do your heart good to know they’re out there. It might even inspire you to do something bold and hopeful yourselves…
Flow Camp Guest Faculty
Camille Fiducia had a rough and tumble life growing up in rural Utah and on the streets, only to find solace and comfort on rocks and ice. That launched her into a super glam adventure lifestyle filled with photo shoots and epic times, but something inside her wanted to share that empowerment and peace with other girls and women who’d suffered. Now she leads ice climbing trips in war zones like Afghanistan and partners with top outdoor companies to teach wilderness leadership to survivors of domestic abuse and trafficking in her back door backcountry. Talent + Trauma = Purpose.
Steve Brown after being adopted and battling ADD as a restless Colorado kid, found his refuge on trout streams in the mountains. That passion kept him grounded, and led him to an MFA in nature writing––but his passion for flyfishing took him further afield––to wild waters in Alaska and the Caribbean. Off the coast of Honduras, in an area ravaged by hurricanes and the drug trade, he forged a second family, and transformed the little key of Guanaja with his world-class guiding lodge (that has hosted US presidents and dignitaries as guests). Even that wasn’t enough for Steve, who saw the impact on the mangrove hatcheries, and on his home rivers back in the Rockies––so he founded Fish for Change––an international organization dedicated to the people and the ecosystems he loves so much. Full stack integration of passion and purpose.
Leah and Chloe (founding sisters of the folk band Rising Appalachia) had a hybrid childhood split between folk music festivals in the mountains and high school in urban Atlanta. Their unique re-interpretations of hip hop and traditional music found a huge audience, but they put the brakes on blindly chasing fame––instead they founded the Slow Music movement, traveling by trains, sailboats and buses, choosing intimate venues, and taking a stand for planting and growing a life, and making music to match it. They’ll be leading us in voice, some "gospel karaoke" and even a little bit of that Old Time Religion, if we’re lucky.
(and their wildly talented drummer Biko will be helping everyone re-member their heartbeats and get us banging in some funky polyrhythms along the way. No better Group Flow Entrainment Device than #jiggybeats #freeyourassandyourmindwillfollow)
Daniel Schmachtenberger grew up in a meditation community, and went so deeply into trying to solve the wound of the world, that his studies led him everywhere from animal rights, to nuclear proliferation to game theory and civilization (re)-design. Now he’s founded Consilience, a crazy ambitious project to fix the information ecology of the world, and routinely advises everyone from governors and governments to tech titans and world leaders. He’ll be coming by to break bread and share reflections on how to keep our heads up and our hearts open in novel times.
Clay Stranger grew up surfing the Pacific Ocean, and trekking the wildlands of the world with his South African conservationist father (who also taught our son to track birds). From an MBA in sustainability Clay has risen to managing partner at Rocky Mountain Institute, one of the premier global institutions solving energy and climate issues. His years in the thick of shaping CCP policies in China, and blockchain enabled electric transport in India, while keeping his own stoke alive surfing and skiing the wild places he’s devoted his career to protecting, are a model to be followed.
That’s only a handful. We’ll share more as camp gets closer (including Tom Crum, the rocky mountain jedi who forged a young Tony Robbins and SEAL Team 6, as well as his own daughter, a Yale PhD in Mind-Body performance who now teaches at Stanford and mentors Olympic superstar swimmer Katie Ledecky).
We’re about six weeks away from our midsummer gathering, and things are coming together in a really beautiful way.
We’re partnering with some dear friends and Aspen locals at their rustic retreat center, and we’ve changed up our usual guest teacher spots a bit, to focus a little less on academic big ideas, and a little more on humble, beautiful deeds by humble beautiful humans––including all of you who have already received your acceptance letters.
(we’ve juggled camp lodging to create a handful of spots which will be gone in another couple weeks––if you’re itching for a reboot and a hell yes––that’s what we’re building).
We reckon that the time for diagnosing the problems of the world to eleven decimal places has come to an end, and the time to reconnect, revitalize and get started is truly beginning.