Tag Archives: career

Start Before You Are Ready

DSC_0544“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Hello friend,

Start before you are ready. I first heard those words about a year ago from some self-help guru. I loved the idea! It sounded so brave and bold. Don’t wait until you get all of your ducks in a row. Just throw caution to the wind and go for your dream! I figured that if I was ever given the chance, there was no doubt I would do it. Of course I would! Or would I?

As much as I like to think of myself as totally laid-back and easy, I have some serious perfectionist tendencies. For things I take an interest in, I want to do them exactly right. I like to score 100% on everything. In school, if I had a test with 100 regular questions plus five bonus questions, I was not satisfied simply with getting an “A” or even a 100%. I needed that 105. I had many classes in which I could easily have skipped assignments or tests at the end of the semester because I was so far into—or above–the “A” zone, but my mind could not allow it. Looking back, it caused a lot more stress and took me away from a lot more fun than I care to admit. Such is the curse of the perfectionist mind.

I also have an obsession with competence. Perhaps my least favorite feeling in the world is an awareness of my own incompetence. I hate not knowing the answer! I am extremely uncomfortable and stressed when I start a new job and don’t know the solution to every possible issue a customer might have. If I ask a supervisor or experienced co-worker for specific answers or protocol, I cannot stand to hear, “Oh, you’ll figure it out as you go.” I want the answers. The EXACT answers!

One of the unfortunate side effects of these mind traits on my personality is that, in general conversation, I have a hard time just saying, “I don’t know.” I can get defensive and be like, “Why would I know that?” or make excuses—or even attacks on the inquisitor. It really is an unattractive quality. So is its cousin quality: NEEDING TO BE RIGHT. In any disagreement, I rarely admit that I am wrong. I am not much of a compromiser, either. I like to think that this is because the knowledge and opinions that I hold are based on my thorough study of the issue, and thus, my COMPETENCE.

So, imagine the fireworks show going on inside me when faced with the prospect of making some major, life-changing moves into multiple new careers at the same time. Could a competence-obsessed perfectionist really survive such a deep dive into the new and unknown? Could my ego withstand such uncertainty? Well, we are about to find out!

I made official plunges into two new career paths IN THE LAST WEEK!!! Early in the week, I signed on to become a consultant with a premium skin care company. Then, at the end of the week, I filed my papers with the government to form my Life Coaching company. BOOM! Talk about a jolt to the system and an electrifying infusion of new energy (i.e., chaos) into my life.

And while it is all kinds of exciting to embark on these fabulous opportunities for service and fulfillment, it is also more than a little unsettling (ahem, terrifying). I have had more than one occasion in the last few days to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing to yourself? Why TWO THINGS at once? Why not just get comfortable—and competent—in one thing before considering another? What makes you think you are READY for this, when you are not even trained in one field and have no marketing or accounting skills in the other?”

I have to admit, that Voice of Doubt has some good points. It is a lot to take on, and my perfectionist mind will be scrambling to obtain a level of competence that I can be at peace with. And if you look at it objectively from the outside, you might conclude that, indeed, I am not ready. I don’t know much about skin care, and I don’t know if I have enough connections to really make it work in selling it. Heck, I don’t even know if I have the time to sell it. I have been putting many things on hold until my kids get older, figuring—hoping and praying, really—that more time may magically appear then. As for my Life Coaching business, at least I feel competent as a coach. The business part, however, has me quite nervous. I don’t have my website up and running. I don’t have business cards. I don’t know the first thing about accounting or owning my own business. I only know how to coach. So yeah, Voice of Doubt, you may be onto something. In a lot of ways, I am not ready.

But I hear another voice, too, trying to get a word in around the persistent chatter of that Voice of Doubt. This voice says, “Start before you are ready! If you wait until you feel comfortable and competent with every last skill and detail, you will be waiting forever, stuck in the same unsatisfying rut rather than alive in the hot pursuit of your dreams. Your best life is out there, just waiting for you to take a little risk. To reach the sweetest fruit, you have to go out on a limb. Go for it! (P.S. Besides, you ARE ready.)” That voice comes from a much deeper, more grounded place. It makes me nod my head and whisper things like “Yeah” and “I got this.” It feels different, too. It feels real and true to me—it resonates. It brings me a magical combination of peace and excitement that makes me feel certain that I am on the right path. That was the feeling I had in signing my papers this week to start my business, and the feeling I had while talking with my sister about the skin care company. I have come to know that this magical feeling is none other than my soul confirming that I am in my Truth. When my brain and my ego conspire to keep me down and convince me that I am not ready, I listen for that small, still voice inside me that knows better.

So, sure, in some sense—the perfectionist’s, the critic’s, and the ego’s sense—I will never be ready. So be it. I can see now that “Start before you are ready” is a motto for people who are stuck at the mercy of the perfectionist, the critic, and the ego (the combined Voice of Doubt). It is a valuable sentiment. In this moment of clarity, though, I also see that if you can tune your ears to that still, small voice—call it your soul, your intuition, your sixth sense, you name it—you will know with complete certainty that you are ready. I’m ready. I’m starting NOW!

How about you? What is it time for you to be starting? Open up your journal and listen for that still, small voice inside you. What does it whisper when you think about unpursued dreams and risks not taken? What move—big or small—is long overdue in your life? Is it career-related? Regarding relationships, do you need to take a risk by reaching out to someone to see if they belong in your circle, or do you need to cut a cord that someone else is strangling you with? Do you need to move on from something or someone, or perhaps just have a difficult conversation so you can move forward together? Do you think you would be satisfied with only a small shift, or is your soul aching for something major? How much do you try to tap into your intuition when making decisions? How does it speak to you—physical symptoms, emotions, obsessive thoughts, “gut” feelings? Do you trust it? What is the one thing that you make a million “I’m not ready” excuses about, that, deep down in your heart, you know you really must do? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you going to start before you are “ready”? 

You ARE ready,

William

What Choice Do I Have?

DSC_0893“We are the choices we make.” —Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

Hello friend,

When I was a kid, I heard the same thing you did: “You can be anything you want to be.” But, as my youth passed and young adulthood emerged, it seemed that everything was preordained, that I was powerless to Destiny. I would go to college, just like they always said. I would become a doctor, just like they always said. And that’s pretty much how the rest of my life would go. How much of a choice is that, really, when everybody said I was going to do it since elementary school? At 21, I felt like I was stuck in a trap that had been set before I had even hit puberty. My life was on rails going only one way.

And then, I jumped off the track. The straight-A, destined-for-doctorhood guy quit school altogether. It felt like the first time I had ever made a real choice in my life. It scared the heck out of me! It shocked everyone—including me, frankly—and I don’t pretend that I wasn’t a big disappointment to those I loved the most, especially my parents. And yet, as outcast and alone as I felt after making that fateful decision, it was also strangely liberating. There was a freedom in finally ignoring the “shoulds” of all of them—whoever “they” are—and taking the reins of my own life. Yes, in the midst of all of that fear and anxiety about how I could succeed while going against the grain in this world, I felt powerful. I had given myself the greatest gift I had ever known: CHOICE.

That gift emboldened me, and after that I spent a good number of years marching to the beat of my own drummer, choosing a path rich in experience and enrichment. I was floating, really, quite blissful in my empowered state. Years later, I fell in love and found myself feeling enormously conflicted about what to do with that. I feared that making the big commitment to a life partnership would once again trap me into being a giant expectation and that I would spend the rest of my life “shoulding” all over myself. Eventually, I made my peace with the idea, and I instead found some freedom within the form that is Love. It was a good choice.

However, the next phase of adulthood showed me the other way people get out-of-choice in life and get lost. I became sucked into working way too many hours and exhausting myself. My other passions went completely out the door, and the years passed by in a mindless fog. I was well on my way to being one of those guys who was going to blink and be 65, wondering where my life went (if I hadn’t already had a heart attack). I was on autopilot. I was living by default, not by design.

I am so thankful to my daughter for bringing me back to life. Her birth was my re-birth; she woke me up. I got my priorities straight. Work became secondary, mostly just a means to take care of my family. My time and energy suddenly felt very valuable. I wanted to give it all to her. And for the most part, I did. I cut down my work hours drastically, and all other outside interests as well. I was family only. Everything else went to the back burner.

And so, the pendulum swung back the other way. Any foray into marriage or parenthood brings its own set of shoulds, and one’s dreams for himself can become tempered by the dreams of others, or for others. Sometimes you willingly give away your choices. The big decisions to enter these relationships become obligations that both fulfill you and bind you at the same time. I would not go back and choose anything different on the family front, but it certainly has changed the arc of my pursuit of my dreams.

I was really at peace with that trade—some might say “sacrifice”—at least until a couple of years ago. Turning 40 very much changed my perspective and got me back into the mindset of my dreams and my purpose. It literally “re-minded” me. And now I continue to make the choice to put my kids and family first—they are, after all, deeply entrenched with my purpose here on Earth—but I don’t do it mindlessly. I don’t just drift into it without thought. It is also not because of someone else’s “should”. I choose it because I want it. But I am simultaneously aware of what I am giving up in order to prioritize these people so highly.

My other dreams—to be a writer, speaker, and coach—are not allotted much time in my day. That is difficult for me to swallow, I admit. But it is still a choice. And that is also why I choose to drive so hard when I am not doing family stuff. I have chosen to give up most leisure activities and social engagements in order to use what little “spare time” there is to press on with my mission, to follow my Bliss. So, I write my journal every day to know myself better so that I can be more grateful and thus more happy. And I write this letter to you every week, because it means a great deal to me to help you know yourself better and feel more grateful and happy, too. And I take my coaching classes and do my homework to prepare myself even more to help people.

I do all of that so that one day, instead of trying to squeeze my dreams into a couple of hours of spare time to the exclusion of other things that might help me lead a more balanced life, I will actually have a profession of these passions that I can do during the normal work day, leaving the “spare time” for such bucket list items as teaching myself the guitar or creating movies of my kids’ lives. Or, maybe I would just let myself dive into leisure, such as my beloved books or movies. Leisure. Yes, I like the sound of that. That would be a nice reward for some good choices made and executed. Some day.

That is my vision. That is what has driven my recent choices, including the big-picture moves—job changes and a return to school—and the daily choices to fill my schedule and go hard at my passions. I am trying to ignore the shoulds of other people’s plans and expectations for me, trying to listen to the drum that is beating inside of me (in the back of my mind, I always hear my old pal Thoreau saying, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”). I hope I am choosing wisely. I am heartened by the fact that if I fail today, I can wake up tomorrow and choose again. Life is beautifully generous that way. The challenge for me is to accept the offer. Every. Single. Time. That is the best choice I can make.

How about you? Are you living your life by choice? Open up your journal and think about why you do what you do. How much do the expectations of others and obligations—“the shoulds”—play a role in your life? Is it only in certain areas—your career or where you live, for instance—or does it go across the board? How different do you think your life would look without those shoulds? A lot or a little? Do you see marriage and parenthood more as chains that bind people and limit their future choices, or rather as choices they make to express their love and their passions more freely? How much is on each side of that spectrum? To what extent is your life just a mindless routine that you go through the motions of without really making choices anymore? This numbing is, I think, at least partially what Thoreau is referring to when he says, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Does that resonate with you? Are you living by default, or by design? If you woke up tomorrow and decided to design your life from now on, what would be the first choices you would make to be more authentic and purposeful? Are you ready to commit to that? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: What choice do YOU have? 

Your life is now,

William

What’s Your Elevator Speech?

DSC_0600“Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value. The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth.” –Criss Jami 

Hello friend,

Teacher. Waiter. Tennis coach. Maid. Actor. Retail manager. Personal trainer. Construction worker. Courier. Painter. Secretary. What does this seemingly random list of professions have in common? These have all been, at one time or another, my answer to the age-old question that defines social gatherings in our society: “What do you do?”

Now look at that list again. If you and I had just met, made it past the names, and arrived at the inevitable “What do you do?” question, which of my answers would have interested you enough to start a real discussion or made you consider either employing or referring me in the future? Let me answer for you: “Very few!” Maybe the actor made you at least curious enough to ask, “Have I seen you in anything?” Maybe if you were really into tennis or fitness or desperately needed your house painted, you might have asked a follow-up question about my services. Otherwise, my answer was probably a conversation dead-end and an encounter you quickly forgot. The next time you needed a courier, a maid, or a secretary, you did a Google search—or Yellow Pages back in the day I was doing some of those jobs—and found someone, because our conversation certainly didn’t hold me in your mind.

But what if, when you asked, “What do you do?” I had said, “Have you ever invited a special someone over to your place for the first time—or agreed to host a party for your job–and desperately wanted to hide the fact that you haven’t dusted since, well, EVER, and that you aren’t even sure you know how to use the vacuum cleaner? Well, I work with people like you to take care of all their cleaning needs so that they can be free to focus on the more enjoyable things in life, like getting dolled-up for that date or making hors d’oeuvres for that party. That way, they can be at their best when it matters most.” How would that grab you? You just might ask to get my business card, because you either A) are that messy person who wants to impress, or B) know someone who is. In either case, I have your attention and will probably come to your mind the next time you need a maid. Behold, the power of the Elevator Speech!

An Elevator Speech gets its name from the idea that if you got on an elevator several flights up and someone asked you the classic “What do you do?” you could, in the thirty seconds or less it would take for you to arrive at the lobby, interest them enough with your answer that the person would ask for your business card. It is a marketing spiel, of course, but its purpose is not to sell something immediately but rather to begin a relationship.

The relationship you are trying to open is not necessarily with everyone but with your target audience. When I was the maid, if I had given you that speech in a crowded elevator and you were compulsively neat, it would have had no effect on you. But, that handful of slobs sharing the elevator with you should have been completely captivated by my speech to the point that they pulled me aside as we got off in order to get my card. If your Elevator Speech is truly tailored to your desired audience, that audience should automatically gravitate toward you when you give it, eager to learn more.

So, what makes a good Elevator Speech? I think it starts with authenticity (as just about anything good does, right?). It has to come from your heart and not feel canned. It should sound conversational. Metaphors and examples are great, as humans tend to think best in vivid images and stories. Clearly conveying the benefits you can provide for your audience is crucial; that is, not just telling people what you do, but, more importantly, how it makes their lives better. If people think you are authentic and they can clearly visualize how your product or service can benefit them, they are going to want to find out more about you. If you get that far, you have a good Elevator Speech.

Being new to this whole concept and to marketing in general, I asked my wife if she has some version of an Elevator Speech ready for when someone asks her what she does. She runs a multicultural center at a college, so I thought that such a spiel might be the farthest thing from her mind. Much to my amazement and delight, she immediately (and so casually) replied, “I create opportunities for people to have authentic dialogue with each other about difficult issues in order to learn more about their own and others’ perspectives.  Ultimately, the goal of my work is to facilitate dialogue and create spaces that allow people to build effective relationships across difference and develop a mutual understanding of each others’ experiences.” WHOA!!! This woman is good! She is very, very good. (Writer’s Note: It is really cool to still be impressed by your spouse after a million years together.)

So, what about me? I have only been learning about this stuff in the past week as part of my Life Coach training program. By nature, I have approximately ZERO INTEREST in sales or marketing. None. I guess I have always taken the mindset of, “If I deliver a good product, word will get out, and people will come.” That has been my version of marketing. It is no wonder I am not a salesman! However, my teacher has been hitting me over the head with the idea that, no matter how great of a Life Coach I am, if I am not willing to put myself out there and talk to people about the benefits of working with me, I am going to be a broke Life Coach. So, it is time to start talking!

This is what I have come up with so far:

“Do you know those people who are really driven to reach their full potential? Well, they often become frustrated—even stressed-out—about how to best use their time and their talents. I work with those people to CLARIFY WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO THEM, and to eliminate the distractions that drain their energy. What’s so great about that is that they can then direct all of their efforts into FOLLOWING THEIR PASSIONS and LIVING THEIR PURPOSE.” 

What do you think? Did that peak your interest at all? Maybe make you want my business card to learn more about what I could do for you? If it did, awesome! If not, either the speech needs a lot of work—which is definitely true—or you are not part of my target audience. I actually kind of like it, though, at least as a start. Well, maybe it is not so much the speech that I like but, rather, I like that I get to do those things it talks about. It is good to appreciate your job, to feel as though you are adding value to the world. I am right there with this new gig. Now I just need to tell people about it!

How about you? What do you say when someone asks what you do? Take out your journal and write about your work. Do you usually respond with a couple of words, such as “I’m a nurse,” “I’m in sales,” or “I work at a grocery store”? How often do people ask you for your business card or for more information based on what you tell them? Do you like your job? Do you think if you liked it more, you would be more eager to use an Elevator Speech to describe it? Does it even interest you to find out what people do for a living? I tend to be a bit repulsed by the question—similar to talking about the weather—because I think most people ask it simply as a reflex. I would rather know what someone’s hobbies or passions are. But maybe if people gave more Elevator Speeches, I would like the “What do you do?” question. Have you ever used an Elevator Speech? Did it work? Did it surprise the person who asked you? I think I would be shocked to hear one, just as I was when my wife dropped hers on me. If you could come up with one now, how would it go? Leave me a reply and let me know: What’s your Elevator Speech?

Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing,

William

So Long, Farewell

DSC_0819“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh 

Hello friend,

Whenever I think of goodbyes, I think of my parents. My Mom is all-in when it comes time to part ways. I think so fondly of the mornings at her house—the home of my childhood–after a long holiday stay, when I am packing the car with a million pieces of luggage. She makes sure to get up early to make a big breakfast. She finds a way to engage in a good conversation one last time, gently reminding me that I still feel so very much at home there. She comes by with lots of motherly love and rubs on the back. She tells me how glad she is that we came. She hugs. She kisses. There are lots of “I love you’s,” and even more heartfelt tears. She puts it all out there. It feels good to have a goodbye morning with her. I always drive away full of love and gratitude—and yes, a few heartfelt tears of my own. My Mom is the world champion of goodbyes.

And then there is my Dad. The man who occupies the same house on those sweet, sentimental goodbye mornings is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the dog needed to go out for an extra-long walk, or that darn post office box was in desperate need of a checking, or maybe something was left at the office. In any case, he will not be sharing in the farewell breakfast, the “I love you’s,” or the teary-eyed hugs. My Dad is the world champion of avoiding sentimental moments, especially goodbyes.

As the child of this wonderful good-cop/bad-cop duo, you might suspect that I am some kooky hybrid of the two. I suppose that is true. When it comes to that kind of goodbye with those nearest and dearest to me, I love the lingering, sentimental goodbye like my mother. I am hopelessly nostalgic, so I like to soak in those last moments of a visit like they are a warm bath, thoroughly enjoying both the moment and the grateful afterglow of the wonderful time we have shared (which makes leaving so difficult). I love the peaceful gratitude that comes from spending time with the right people. When it comes to anyone else, though, I would rather take my old man’s route and avoid it altogether. Just get me out of there!

I have been full of goodbyes lately. A few days ago, I left a job and career of many years, in the process bidding farewell to many people who hold all sorts of different places in (and out of) my heart. In the week leading up to the final departure, as I saw folks for possibly the final time, I noticed my heart and mind run through the full extremes of responses, both in the goodbye itself and even in the mere anticipation of the goodbye.

On the one hand, I really appreciated the opportunity to say farewell to some of the players, mostly because I wanted to thank them for all of the their time and effort and commitment over the years. We had been through a lot together, and a player-coach relationship can go pretty deep. I definitely felt that in my inclination to touch base with my long-time players. The more I had invested in them—and vice versa—the more I wanted to connect with them one last time and thank them for the ride. It is a great gift to get the chance to coach someone who is invested in their own improvement, and I wanted to linger in that gratitude a bit in my final moments with those special people.

Otherwise, though, I mostly wanted to avoid people all week. If I wasn’t close with someone personally, didn’t care for them, or never made that great connection that comes when someone really lets you join in their fight for their own advancement and self-confidence, I absolutely did not want a farewell. I was actually even a bit repulsed by the idea. It was the complete opposite of my reaction with the other players.

I seem to fall on the “Give me the genuine and heartfelt, or let’s not waste our time” when it comes to goodbyes. But as I write that, I see that that is exactly how I am at my core and why I mostly keep to myself. If I am going to interact, I prefer it to be deep and meaningful. I don’t suffer the shallow stuff very well. So, I don’t avoid most goodbyes the way my old man does—to hide from the emotions that might come up—but rather because they won’t bring any emotions up. That is why I had no inclination to say goodbye to coworkers; I was not close to any of them. If no one knew I was leaving, I could have easily walked out the door just like any other day and never looked back. I suppose that sounds cold or simply weird, but that is a pretty normal feeling for me. I have had enough big transitions—moves or job changes—to know my patterns. I tend toward the deep and lasting OR a complete severing of ties (mostly the latter). I am not sure if that is a good or a bad trait, but it is certainly me.

Next week I will say goodbye to one of the best friends I have ever had. He is moving far away, and who ever knows what happens then? For the most part, I just want to have one of my Mom’s goodbye mornings with him and linger in the gratitude and fond memories. In some ways, though, I want to be my Dad and make his goodbye a little easier for him—it is already tough enough to move away from a life you have built, no doubt—by disappearing until he gets out of town and avoiding all the sentimental stuff. But this is a guy who tends to go dark, so what if this is the end? What if I don’t get the chance again to tell him that he’s the best and that I love him and that I thank him so, so much for all that he has been to me and my family?

This is when I know how much I am my mother’s son. The Truth in my soul demands a proper farewell, no matter how many tears must be shed or hugs must be hugged. It would be false to my Truth to go out to walk the dog for this one. I will stay. After all that we have been through, I must say my goodbye.

How about you? How do you do with goodbyes? Open up your journal and your heart, and share your Truth. Do you have a typical pattern for your big goodbyes? Are you the world champion of them, or are you the one who avoids them like the plague? Does your response change wildly, like mine, depending on the bond you have made? How have you handled your biggest goodbyes (e.g., moving away, leaving a job, even the death of a loved one)? I love the Dr. Seuss quote that goes “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Do you tend to be the one smiling or crying, or both? It can be a complicated matter, so dig deep on this one. Maybe allow the feelings to come out that you didn’t when you said (or avoided) some important goodbyes. It is a good release. In any case, tell your Truth. That is always the most important thing. Tell your Truth. Leave me a reply and let me know, How do you do goodbye? 

The real you is amazing,

William

Are You Wasting Your Life?

IMG_1196“Don’t die with your music still inside you.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer

Hello friend,

Did you ever read or hear something that completely stopped you in your tracks? I mean, totally stunned you, and in that instant gave you a smack-in-the-face reality check that made the state of your life crystal clear? I did.

I mentioned to you in my last post, “Falling Off The Tightrope”, that probably my greatest fear in this world is wasting my life, that I am not making the most of my time here. I also talked about how I am desperately trying—and failing—to do everything I possibly can to be productive and fulfill my dreams……after 8:30 P.M., when my kids fall asleep. I have enormous ambitions for those late-night hours: write these blog posts to you, write my own journal entries, work on “The Journal Project” to eventually produce the story of my life, study all of the many things I still want to learn, and on and on and on. That is my window of time available, and I am squeezing hard to fit it all in. It is a tall order, and no wonder that I have had such trouble finding the right balance.

That imbalance—specifically, the desire to accomplish more of the things that I love and feel called to do—creates a lot of tension in me. Turmoil. Stress. Anxiety. Quite simply, I want to do better than I am doing now. MUCH better. Even as I have recently become more clear about what is my soul’s calling and what lights me up, at the same time it becomes increasingly apparent how I am failing to make that positive contribution to the world in the scope that I feel capable of. I feel like I am running a losing race against my potential. That hurts my heart much more deeply than I can find words to explain. So, I keep rushing around trying to pack more and more in so I can make a greater contribution to the world before I die.

With all of this as background noise, I was, not so many months ago, going about my busy way. To ripen me even more for a wake-up call, I had just that morning had a situation at work that had gotten my blood pressure up and soured me a bit. I escaped for a quick workout in hopes of improving my mood, and when I hopped on the elliptical machine and turned on my e-reader, I found a “Quote of the Day” message in my inbox. Here is what it said:

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.” –Eric Hoffer

I was absolutely shell-shocked. Stunned. You could have just as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat. I stood there dazed for a few moments before I could do anything else, and finally I started reading it over and over to slowly dissect and absorb it. It was a total “A-ha!” moment for me. Suddenly my life situation was crystal clear to me. I wouldn’t be trying to squeeze in a book or a kayak ride or a nature walk or learning the guitar or even just watching an occasional movie if I were writing full-time. Those things get edged out because I have to write and do The Journal Project in the few “free” moments I get, always feeling rushed and compromised.

I like my job. I like teaching people and helping them to gain more confidence in themselves. I really like being a small part of one of the highlights of someone’s week; that never gets old. However, thanks to the clarity that has come from a lot of soul-searching, my career has become my version of “wasting my life” by not being what my true purpose is. And because it occupies the time that it does, I am trying to hurry to do the rest and never succeeding at that. Thus it feels, as Hoffer says, as though I have no time for anything else because I am not spending the bulk of my time and energy on my calling. What a glorious feeling it would be to live my purpose—to literally work on my calling—from nine to five instead of 8:30 P.M. to oblivion. I could actually use the evening hours for hobbies and rest, and not even be stressed or guilt-ridden by that. That is a happy thought.

And so, it seems that the gauntlet has been thrown down. What am I going to DO about this moment of clarity, this reality check? It is, after all, much easier to understand my situation than it is to change it. The time for thinking has passed; the time for doing is upon me. Starting Journal of You was a direct result of that “A-ha!” moment. It was my first step out of my comfort zone, and it was my announcement to the Universe that I am in the ring at last, ready to give my gift. I can see now that this was the first of many necessary steps. This one has kept me in the post-8:30 P.M. hours, though. I must take some bolder steps in the direction of nine-to-five. These are the steps that will take more courage, more audacity.

I am definitely scared of the risks required to make the next big move, but I am getting to that tipping point of being MORE scared of the regret I will feel if I don’t. Now is the time to engage my soul and my dreams with this world. It is time to give my gift. Along with the Wayne Dyer quote at the top, the other thought that keeps pecking away at my mind is, “This is NOT a dress rehearsal!” If not now, when? It is my time to act with courage, to embrace the uncertainty, to be radically myself. I can do it. I will do it. Onward and upward! Let me never again have to wonder if I am wasting my life.

How about you? How comfortable are you with the way you are spending your time on Earth? Open up your journal, and take a long look in the mirror. What is your potential? Seriously, how great can you be? How much can you contribute to the world? Don’t limit the meaning of “contribute;” it can be anything you decide (how many smiles you put on people’s faces, how well you raise your children, how honestly you share yourself with others, how professionally you do your job, and a zillion other seemingly invisible things are magnificent contributions). Does the difference between your contributions and your perceived potential bother you like it does me? How rushed do you feel? If you do feel rushed, is it because there is simply too much to do, or are you not spending your time the right way? How does your job and career path mesh with your dreams and your purpose? Is it integrally intertwined, totally unrelated, or somewhere in between? Is your work fulfilling? What one thing could you do today to more closely align your schedule with your calling? How can you live better? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you wasting your life?

Go boldly in the direction of your dreams,

William

Is Your Job Working You?

IMG_1015Hello friend,

Picture yourself on your deathbed. Your mind spins like a broken record, replaying your life over and over in hopes of coming to some peace. Peace with what you have done and left undone. Peace with your accomplishments and your failures, your great loves and great loves lost. But mostly, you are trying to make peace with how you passed your time here on Earth, how you spent your dash. Regret enters the conversation. “I wish I had done that.” “I am so sorry that I did the other thing.” Woulda shoulda coulda. These are tough thoughts, heavy loads to bear as you cross over to the other side. So, here is my question: At the end of the road, are you going to say, “I wish I spent more time at work”?

Naahhh! Me neither. Not many people, I am guessing, would fess up to that regret. It is not that I discount that as a possibility, especially for those who are truly following their Bliss–their calling–and have turned it into a career. I love writing these posts to you. If I was earning a living wage for it, I could definitely see spending a little “too much” time delivering one to you on a daily basis. Mostly, though, I think that, like most of you, wishing I had worked more hours won’t be among my biggest deathbed regrets.

But how about the reverse? Have I spent too many hours at work? Have I missed out on the things that I would tell you are important: my kids, my wife, my family of origin, taking care of my health, pursuing my passions, learning? Has my schedule reflected my priorities?

As with many other areas of my life, I have taken a unique, winding path in my relationship with my work schedule. After spending most of my 20’s trying to work as little as possible so that I could spend my hours on self-improvement, my early 30’s found me living the life of a workaholic. I was on both the teaching and the management sides of tennis, and that meant a grueling schedule of more than 40 hours per week pounding my body on a tennis court and then another 20-30 hours in the office stressing over budgets, staffing, programming and the like. I was burning the candle at both ends, to be sure, only seeing the light of day on the weekends (some weekends). Every night found me completely exhausted.

In my work on The Journal Project, I have been able to revisit those years via my daily journal entries. Let me tell you, those are the most boring, repetitive entries of my entire adult life! They are like a broken record that goes something like this: “I am so tired. My body hurts so badly. This is no way to live. I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody. I am happy and grateful. Life is beautiful.” Yes, thank goodness that my spiritual and psychological foundation—my base of deep happiness and gratitude—had been laid prior to those years, because I never would have made it through without that foundation. It is true that I believed in my cause—I loved being in tennis and was heavily invested in making my club a wonderful place to work and play—and that certainly helped me to sustain my energies while there. But it was all there. I didn’t have much energy left to offer anything outside the building. All of those other things I would have said were high priorities—wife, family, passions, health—were left to pick at the crumbs of energy I had left when I limped in the house under cover of night. Between the stress and the physical beating and the endless hours, my work certainly exacted a heavy toll on me in exchange for a paycheck. In effect, it consumed me. (Here might be a good place to add that my wife is a saint.)  I knew what was happening, too, but I just couldn’t seem to do anything about it.

But then, something magical happened. My daughter was born. The sweetest, most beautiful angel ever in the world was alive and coming to stay in my house, where I could scarcely find time to be. That seemed just plain wrong to me. My priorities suddenly came sharply into focus. But more than that, the need to match my schedule to my priorities became urgent. So I did. I quit the management side of my job and cut my teaching schedule down to four days, with no nights or weekends. The paycheck and status took a huge hit, but finally my schedule was in alignment with my priorities.

Those quality days with my daughter—and eventually my son, too—were worth more to me than any paycheck ever was. If you could ever climb inside my heart on a “Three Amigos Day”—one of our weekdays with just the kids and I—or “Family Fun Day” (all of us together on a weekend), you would understand completely the meaning of the word “priceless”. We have been carrying on like this for 5 ½ years now, with me spending less time at work and more time with the ones I love and having the energy to be fully present when I am with them. So, there I was at the bus stop this morning to give my daughter a hug good-bye before school, and there I was at the end of the day to see her jump off the bus and run smiling toward me for another giant hug—an untradeable moment—and a trip on our bikes to the park. And tomorrow, on that weekday away from my job I have clung to all these years, I get to go along on the kindergarten fieldtrip to the museum and the zoo. These days of my being my kid’s best friend don’t last forever, right? I think I’ll soak them up while they are still here.

As you can see, my relationship with my working hours has been one of extremes. I have known dipping my feet in the water, wading comfortably at waist-deep, and full-fledged drowning in my work. I have known myself to be happy in the midst of all three, but actual satisfaction came only when I was finally able to make my schedule reflect my priorities. Who can say how my path will meander in the coming years as circumstances change, but I hope that when I am in full life-review mode while lying on my deathbed, I will have no regrets when it comes to the time I spent at work.

How about you? How are you doing with your work schedule? Open up your journal and tell yourself about it. Are you spending too much time at your job? Are you missing out on important aspects of your life because of your work schedule? Do you ever wish you worked more? Is your job your true calling or just something you do? When it is all over, are you going to regret the way you spent your time? And most importantly, how closely do you think your schedule reflects your priorities? If it does not, what small step can you take today to change that? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is your job working you?

Live a self-approved life,

William