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What Creates Passion and Passionate People, and What Defeats it In Us? Interview with Gregg Levoy

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Rob: Okay, so how is this book related to the Callings book?

GL: Yeah, I would say that Callings is about finding a passion and largely in the vocational arena. I think Vital Signs is more about living passionately so it's really looking at what I now think of as a skill, a mindset, a stance toward life through which our vitality can increase. But I really think of it this way, it's a skillset and something that people can learn. But I think that's probably the difference between the two books.

Rob: Okay, so I have a little different take as a consumer of the book. Now, I've had a history in the world of positive psychology back from before it was positive psychology in the early eighties. Early enough so I own the website And I came up with some ideas that I presented at national conferences on positive psychology in the US and Canada. Basically the idea is that positive experiences are basic building blocks of our capacity for happiness, to face adversity, to face challenges, to love, and that positive experiences then are something we can have skills for having. And I kind of have thought of Callings as a book - again, going back to a Hero's Journey, it's about a call to adventure; how do you identify calls?

GL: Right.

Rob: And to me, Callings is about seeing opportunities that you may not see and I think a big part of the book is noticing and recognizing what's there in front of you that you may not know is there in front of you.

GL: Right, absolutely.

Rob: And so for me, in building what I have put together in my ideas about positive psychology and anatomy of positive experience, one of the key elements is recognizing opportunities for positive experiences. And that's kind of what Callings does.

GL: Okay.

Rob: Then what the new book does is it talks about how do you do them? How do you get into them? How do you make the most of them? And so, I mean does that make sense?

GL: Yes, absolutely.

Rob: So to me what you've done here is write a book on how to have amazing, incredible experiences and open yourself up to them and stop inhibiting yourself from having them.

GL: Oh boy, yeah, absolutely. The whole subject of inhibition was fascinating to me in this and these are all the forces that hold us back and the culture and the times that we live in are full of them.

Rob: Absolutely and this is where I had part of this epiphany because in writing about - I'm writing a book on bottom up and I've been doing these interviews for five or six - more than five years. And what you talk about with inhibition is, I tied it together with top down and bottom up. Inhibition is a top down function and one of the things I've struggled with in understanding bottom up and top down is neuropsychology. In neuropsychology and neurophysiology the brain has top down functions and it has bottom up functions.

GL: Okay.

Rob: The top down functions include inhibition; it includes filtering so that you've got this explosive stream of information coming into you that you can't handle all of. So the top down functions of the brain basically limit what you see and what you get so that you can make sense of it. The bottom up aspect of the brain is the raw input and I think also, this came to light having read your book; your id, your drives, your needs.

GL: Right.

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