The ethos of Steve Tam’s existence is intentionality. Before our interview, he reached out to see if we could have a check-in call for him to clarify what he wanted to share during our time together. I was so impressed by the questions that he asked and the sincerity of his inquiry. After we spoke, he told me that he was going to go on a long walk that night to ponder the topic of intuition in hopes of reporting back something worth sharing.
Steve not disappoint and he left a residue of sweetness to our conversation. I believe that he is one of those rare souls that is truly committed to asking himself over and over again, “What makes me happy and how can I live my bliss?”
Steve and his wife recently relocated to Brooklyn from Toronto. Chatting about the things that feel currently exhilarating in his life, we discuss the unique nature of meeting people in a new city. When you move and are surrounded by little that is familiar, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself in a way that is challenging but healthy. Parts of yourself that had become dormant in the comfort of an old life are pushed to reawaken. For Steve, he is no longer waiting for other people to make the first move at connection. Instead, he is intentionally meeting new people and being transparent about how he feels and what he wants.
Not only do I find this inspiring, I am convinced that the vulnerability that comes with newness brings us closer to our deepest truths. Steve has uncovered these truths through his exploration of happiness, love, and passion.
When Steve was younger, his barometer for happiness wasn’t measured internally. Like so many of us, he experienced tension and conflict between what he was told would make him happy and what he felt inside. Not being able to connect with his own inner knowing, he was easily swayed by the puzzle pieces that are sold to us by society: a race toward accomplishment, monetary gain, and moving up the corporate ladder.
After graduating from university, Steve moved to the ski town of Whistler, avoiding the task of trying to figure out what he should do professionally in the world. What was supposed to be one year turned into three, but what he found in that time of making little money and living in an unheated cabin as a ski instructor, was how to be happy with less. After years of assuming that happiness was at the other end of aspiration, the experiment of living simply taught him about his ground zero. He describes it as the “place where you can find fulfillment that is not extravagant or resource intense.”
In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, author Tony Hsieh notes,
“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness… happiness [is] when you’re actually truly okay with losing everything that you have.”
Steve mentions that if he hadn’t spent that time in Whistler, he wouldn’t be where he is today. After years of living in the woods and learning to connect with his own truths, love captured Steve’s heart and pulled him back into the “real world.” For Steve, meeting his now wife in Whistler many years ago brought him even closer to his instinct and intuition. As so many people lose parts of themselves in relationship, Steve believes that true love takes shape with “someone that guides you toward being a better version of yourself. If your partner is not always challenging you to grow and develop into this excellent version of yourself, and they are as well, then the relationship isn’t as mutually beneficial as it could or should be.”
To me, the point of being in relationship is spiritual. In relationship we are given an opportunity to explore our old patterns and wounds so that we can come into greater alignment with our highest truth. Steve reaffirms my belief that the love shared between two people is in part a reorientation to fall more deeply in love with oneself. And when we love ourselves, we don’t hesitate to trust our intuition or inner guidance.
Toward the end of our conversation we move into the topic of passion and purpose and what we are supposed to do with our one wild and precious life. Steve shares with me the idea of a “zone of genius,” a place where someone is in the state of dominance and flow with whatever they are doing. Some people are able to access this place in their professional lives, while others find it in extracurricular activities. As we unpack and explore the romanticism that is often projected on being an entrepreneur, Steve shares an expression that has stuck with him, “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”
This expression reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes by Howard Thurman,
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
In the final minutes of our interview, Steve offers the suggestion of surrounding ourselves with people that are leading the life we want to live. That in doing so, we are able to close the delta between the person that we project to be in the world and the person we really are—a person made up of happiness, love, and passion.