Tag Archives: purpose

Job Search: Go For Your Dreams or Whatever Works For Now?

“That’s when I first learned that it wasn’t enough to just do your job, you had to have an interest in it, even a passion for it.” –Charles Bukowski

Hello friend,

I distinctly remember a conversation I had a few years ago with my cousin about his job. We were catching up after years apart, and I asked him to tell me about his work. He described it in very neutral terms, not at all glowing about it but not hating it either. It wasn’t anything he had gone to school for or aspired to, and it didn’t light him up inside. It was just a job. A solid one, though, that paid well enough and had benefits and flexibility and all of that good stuff for a guy with a young family. To sum it up he said, “It’s nothing I’m passionate about, but I don’t think anybody really gets to do their dream job.” I nodded and let the conversation drift to other topics, but as it did, I was quietly dejected and indignant at the same time.

I was sad both because I hated to see this guy I like and admire settle for something that he didn’t love, and because I hated to even entertain the idea that he might be right. I was indignant both because I was sure that he had to be wrong and because I was determined to never fall into a mindset that would let me settle for “whatever keeps the bills paid.”

For all of the emotions that short conversation stirred in my heart–and that I stayed quiet about–I have never been able to forget it. If you have read my book or have been reading these letters for a while, you probably know that I am very much about helping people to find their passion and their purpose and then to pursue those things relentlessly for all of the days of their lives. I think it is of the utmost importance that we immerse ourselves in the activities and the people that fill and expand our hearts and minds. That includes our jobs, where we spend such a large portion of our lives.

That is why that conversation got stuck in my heart. I hated that this deep, talented man was settling for less, but I hated even more that he might be right in asserting that hardly anyone is working in jobs that they love and feel called to do. I was determined that I would not only continue to nudge people to uncover and live their purpose but also that my own career path would align more and more closely with my own purpose as the years passed.

As I look at my present situation, I wonder, “How in the world could I have missed the mark this badly???”

I am in the midst of a job search. Actually, I have been in the midst of a search for a long time now. It started off more casually, as my wife still had a nice job with health insurance and such. But after she left all of that security behind in order to start her own business–and since her company hasn’t quite reached Fortune 500 status in its first several months–there is a sense of urgency about the search that increases by the week.

The thing that I have noticed lately, though–and that I am becoming increasingly alarmed about the more I allow it into my consciousness–is that as the urgency is growing, my standards seem to be shrinking proportionally.

When I started my search, I was idealistic and had at least a shred of confidence. I knew that my resumé was not the most attractive for the kind of job I wanted–basically I wanted to do things that were unlike my previous work experience–but I also believed in my abilities and figured I had enough crossover skills and adaptability that I could learn to do almost anything (e.g. a type of computer software) quickly. I could definitely land a job that, even if it wasn’t my dream job, at least let me use some of the skills that I enjoy using and make me feel like my talents are not being wasted. I just needed an interview and I would convince them I was their man!

Fast forward to the present to find me wallowing in the self-doubt that comes from being ignored by just about every company who seems to have an opening for a position that appeals to me. When I send the resumés out and hear nothing back, that silence eats at my confidence and makes me question my abilities and my career outlook. More and more lately, as I have been scouring the job sites, I have been horrified to notice my eyes wandering to positions I would not ever have considered before. I hear my brain justifying how “It wouldn’t be SO bad,” or “Maybe my back could get used to standing for that long,” and other such dispiriting arguments.

Clearly I am not the same person as the one who was offended by the thought of doing work that didn’t stir my soul but merely paid the bills and was convenient for my family!

But which guy was right: the Idealistic Me who believed I had to be passionate about my job, or the World-beaten Me who is ready to settle for anything that keeps things flowing at home, no matter how uninspiring? Or are they both right somehow, depending on life circumstances? Does my job have to be a perfect indicator of whether I am living authentically and following my passion, or can it just be a job?

When I coached tennis for many years, I loved that I got to share my love of the game with people, that I got to motivate and share life lessons, and that I got to share in the best part of my clients’ days. It was a good job for me. However, I came to realize that, while I loved it, it felt like a shadow career to me (see “Are You In A Shadow Career?”). That is, it looked like what I really wanted to do in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t it. I wanted to write books and give speeches and be a Life Coach. That was my ideal.

When I left coaching and took a job managing a store, I knew it had even fewer elements of my dream job. I, of course, found the parts that made it meaningful to me, but I knew it was not my passion. I did it because it worked well for my family’s needs at the time and allowed me to still give energy to my other passions. It was a compromise I entered into with a clear head, and I knew it was not permanent.

When I started my current job several months ago, it was basically the same deal. It was not related to my passion, but I hoped it would work out for my uncertain family situation (and again, that was a compromise I was willing to make).

Well, as I explained above, the family needs something different now. And now I see myself defining what “the right job for now” is and how vastly different that looks compared to “the right job for me” in my idealistic mind. It is amazing how necessity can twist a person’s standards! Because when I notice how I am thinking about this now, and then I compare that to how I would be thinking about it if my wife had the same salary and benefits as she did last year, the difference is shocking.

I find it interesting to follow the history of my mind on this topic. Regarding which jobs to go after, my level of idealism has taken a steep decline over the years, and I also have a much more complicated view of what “settling” means. As is almost always the case, the deeper I look into it and the more life experience I gain, the more I recognize the answers to be in the many shades of grey rather than so black-and-white. I now think life circumstances have a huge impact on this “Ideal vs. Right For Right Now” continuum. (And yes, I am also open to the idea that I may be conning myself by justifying my failure to live up to my career dreams by claiming that I just did what worked best for my family.)

Another thing that has shifted my perspective was a book by Elizabeth Gilbert (of “Eat Pray Love” fame) called “Big Magic.” I read it last Summer. It’s about continuing to do soul-stirring things throughout your life. In it, she talks about how she had three novels published by major publishers and was still having to work her day job full-time. After years of feeling like I somehow deserved to be making a living with my writing as long as I was working hard at it, Gilbert knocked me back into my place. She made it clear that creative types are not owed work in their art and shouldn’t feel entitled to a consistent income, but rather they should assume that they are just going to continue to have to make the time for their passion projects outside of their “regular job” hours. That was a tough pill for me to swallow, let me tell you. But, especially since it came when I was looking frustratingly hard for work and feeling a little bitter about the whole concept, I did swallow it. I have been more accepting of the idea of getting a “regular job” ever since (even if I still hate it).

In the end, I guess I don’t know what role my next job will play in my life. At the moment, it looks as though it will be this big thing that I will basically just tolerate for years and years. Ugh!! I hate that I even thought that sentence, much less wrote it down as truth. I can’t stand the idea of settling, especially when it is something that takes up so much of my limited time on this Earth. But maybe, as I have discovered over the last few years, settling for a job is not as bad in practice as it is in theory. Maybe, especially if I compartmentalize it well in my mind, it will make the rest of my life easier.

This would be an easier sell if I were not so naturally dreamy and idealistic. (Oh, and there’s also that thing about me never actually wanting a job. I suppose that plays a role in all of this.) I can tell that I will be vacillating on this subject for a long time to come. Welcome to Life: it’s kind of messy here! I will keep working through it, journaling and pondering and journaling some more. That may be the only job I am truly cut out to do!

How about you? Do you have 1) your ideal job, 2) the right job for right now, or 3) something entirely different? Open up your journal and flesh out the role your job plays in your life and how well that sits with you. Describe the things you do for a paycheck. Now think about the things in Life that move your soul, that lift you up, that excite your mind, that get you out of bed in the morning. Do any of the things on that “Bliss List” match up with the things on your Job List? On a scale of 1 to 10, how closely do the lists match up? Has it always been this way, or has your job history moved you at different times closer to and further from your purpose? Has your level of job satisfaction shifted accordingly? How about your level of overall Life Satisfaction? To what extent do you associate your job with your identity (i.e., you answer the “What are you?” inquiry with your occupation)? Are you happier when you do work that is meaningful to you? How important is a fulfilling job, anyway? Is “whatever pays the bills” sometimes the ideal job, even if it doesn’t at all resemble the job you dream about getting one day? Do you have to take a job that looks like your dream job–or at least feels like it will lead to your dream job–in order to be authentically living your purpose and passion? Do you have a clear idea of what “settling” looks like to you? Where are you now in relation to that? How does that answer sit with you? In five years from now–and ten, twenty, and at retirement–do you believe that you will be doing something closer to your dream job than you are today? For the creative and entrepreneurial among us, should we be content with doing a “regular job” to keep the bills paid and then squeezing in our art or our side hustle at night and on lunch breaks, or should that thought torture us until we are so determined to “succeed” in our passion that that we somehow make it into gainful employment? Is there anything wrong with working purely for the money if it lets the rest of your life (family, hobbies, stress levels, vacations) run smoothly? Overall, how tolerant are you of work that does not move you in any way that is not financial? Leave me a reply and let me know: What is the role of your job in your life?

Light your world,

William

 P.S. If this letter resonated with you today, please share it with your social media community. Let us live our authentic Truths together!

Life On My Terms: Learning to Say NO & Loving It

IMG_1667“Time does not stand still. Make it your aim to create time for your dreams, your loved ones and your Creator. Design your life for what warms your heart and get good at saying no to everything else.” –Mastin Kipp

Hello friend,

I remember the days when I wasn’t so clear about what I wanted to do with my life. Things seemed to be going along pretty well. I enjoyed my relationship with my wife. Kids hadn’t entered the picture yet. I worked way too much, but there was free time on the weekends. If something interesting—or not—was on the television, I would plop down on the sofa and watch. Sometimes for hours, if I was tired or nothing was pressing on my mind. If I was invited to a party or event, I usually went, even though I am, by nature, extremely unsocial. If a suggestion to do something or go somewhere came up, my typical attitude was, “Sure. What else do I have to do?” I was easy; I rolled with it. I was happy. Happy, but not particularly driven. Not particularly clear.

My, how times have changed!

A portrait of my life right now looks a little different. Okay, a LOT different! The wife is still here; that’s a good thing. The kids are definitely here! Also good. I am not working way too much—at least not in the way I used to think of working—which is fabulous. Somehow, though, I have forgotten what plopping down on the sofa feels like. And television? The only thing I know about that anymore is that it shows cartoons. The invitations that come these days are for kids’ birthday parties.

Needless to say, on the outside, my world today looks like an alien planet compared to those bygone casual days! The strange thing is, these changes are just a drop in the bucket compared to what is happening on the inside.

The one constant, fortunately, is that I am still very happy. I am glad that even before all of these changes occurred, I had reached the point with my mind where my happiness is not dependent on circumstances. Things and people come and go, but my happiness remains. That’s a comforting realization.

But, as I said, that is the one constant, the one holdover from those days when I had no plans and my ambition was stuck in neutral. When I step out of my mind right now and think about how it works today compared to then, the differences are shocking. Today, I am being driven hard by my dreams and aspirations every day of the year. There is a reason that the sofa no longer remembers my body and I no longer know the names of any grown-up television shows or movie stars.

You might think it is the kids that did this to me. It isn’t. It is my purpose that did it. My passions. I finally woke up to them, and they have been driving me ever since. There is not a day that goes by that, when my head hits the pillow at night, I don’t wish that I had done more soul-stirring activities or had more time for advancing my mission. Never. Then I wake up the next morning with the itch to be more, to do better, to get closer to the fulfillment of my dreams.

I beg the Universe for more time. Time to write. Time to learn. Time to coach. Time to snuggle with my kids. Time to connect with positive people. Time to connect with The Divine. Time to be of service. These are the causes I want to advance, the ones I am trying to fill every free moment of every day with.

That is why the complementary themes that are driving a deep course through my mind as this new year gets into full swing are Efficiency and Clarity. I am trying to be absolutely crystal-clear every single day about the things that matter most to me so that I can put all of my time and energy into those people and causes. That is what I am about right now. It doesn’t allow for lapses of focus or for days spent in front of the television. It certainly doesn’t understand the possibility of me giving the “Sure. What else do I have to do?” response. I ALWAYS have something to do. Usually more things than I can handle. But always something. It has been a long time since I felt bored, and honestly, I am absolutely certain I will never feel bored another moment in my life. How could I? After all, every moment is an opportunity to better myself and the world around me, another chance to DO SOMETHING to fulfill my dreams and passions. How could I pass on that chance?

That is why my entrance into this year comes with a more serious conviction to spend my time wisely, to not waste any of it. And I mean any! Basically, I want to live entirely on my own terms. I want to cut out all things that don’t speak to me or feel “good for my soul.” I just want to trim off all of the excess—all of the distractions and the energy-drainers and time-consumers—and dial into my essentials. I want to do things that lift my spirit and speak to my soul. I want to spend time with people who I love and who inspire me. I want to feel connected: to myself, my maker, and my loves.

Anyone and anything that threatens to disconnect me from those essentials needs to go. Now! Of course, the more I become laser-focused and excited about this mission and visualize me living the dream, the more I realize how much and how often I am going to have to say, “NO!” to make it happen. I will have to be pretty tyrannical about it. Ruthless. That party I didn’t want to go to? “No, thanks!” Getting drawn into conversation with someone who spreads negativity or just talks about other people? “Pass.” TV? “NO!” I will have to get comfortable declining both invitations and my own inclinations, things I have always done but that simply don’t serve me or speak to my heart. That part will be difficult, no doubt. However, I think that with my priorities much more clear to me now, saying “No” should come easier. After all, if the things I am saying “Yes” to—i.e. only my top passions and pursuits—are enough to fill up my calendar (and they are), then it should be easier to say “No” to the rest. And that is what I will do. Eyes on the prize!

How about you? Is your life matching what you believe your priorities to be? Open up your journal and think about how you spend your time and energy. What activities fill up your typical day? Include both your “work time” and your “free time.” How much of that time do you feel is focused and efficient? How many of your activities and hours are tied to your goals, dreams, or things you deem “good for the soul”? How much of your time is casual, unambitious, not driven toward anything specific? How much of your time is spent doing things you would rather not be doing? How much is spent doing things you regret later? Okay, now reset your mind. Write about all the ways you would spend your time if your passions, your purpose, and nurturing your soul were your only priorities. What makes your heart sing? With that goal foremost in your mind, write out your ideal schedule (Remember, it’s ideal. Get greedy. Think BIG!). How would your week look? How many hours would each of these fulfilling activities get? (Side note: How exciting is it to visualize a life like this?!?) Okay, with this new, ideal life clearly in your mind, write down all of the things you would have to say “NO” to in order to maintain that life. This could include career opportunities that don’t speak to you, invitations to social events that you used to accept but that never enriched you, conversations about other people that you used to engage in but made you feel smaller, mindless hours in front of the television, or people that dragged you down. How long is your list? What percentage of your current life would you get rid of in order to make room for your more fulfilling, ideal life? Is there anything you are ready to start saying “NO” to today? If not today, what are you waiting for? Leave me a reply and let me know, When are you going to start living life on YOUR terms? 

Maximize every moment,

William

P.S. If this letter got you thinking, please share it. Our souls could all use a little stirring!

Sleepwalking Through Life, or Sucking the Marrow Out of It: What Will You Regret?

DSC_0148“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.–Henry David Thoreau

Hello friend,

Isn’t it amazing how differently we see the other ages of our life when we get some years away from them? I think it is safe to say that we all look back at our high school years—the continuous flow of earth-shaking drama weaving its way through every day and every interaction—and think of how silly and insignificant it all was in the grand scheme of things. Most of us—myself definitely included—look at our old girlfriends and boyfriends and laugh at how wrong we were for each other, even though it seemed so right at the time. The years of separation provide fascinating insights (and hopefully some good laughs to go with the invaluable lessons).

I find myself now at a unique junction in the story of my life. The different chapters from past and future are converging in my mind. It is a perfect storm. For one, in The Journal Project, I am studying my daily journals from 1997, which was a truly revolutionary and magical time in my mind and, thus, my life. My foundation of deep and lasting happiness was being built in those days, and reading back through them is again making a deep impact on my current perspective.   The bar was set high.

The second thing brewing is that I am at a crossroads with the different jobs that make up the “career” portion of my little world. Even though it has been a year since I left my original career as a tennis coach, the job I transitioned to has been something of a holding pattern, meant not to fulfill my biggest career aspirations but instead to fulfill my parenting aspiration to give my kids the most of my time and energy. It has worked wonderfully for that, and I am so glad I made the move when I did. However, it is coming to the end of its run, forcing me to take a long look at what I have done and what I could do in the future. I am in one of those moments that will shape the long course of my existence. I want to do it right. I don’t want any regrets.

Needless to say, I have a lot swirling around in my mind these days. I think back to a time almost fourteen years ago when I had to make—and make quickly—a career move. I had just quit graduate school–deciding that it wasn’t the life for me–and needed to figure out what was next. I needed not just a job but something that might be a career. In brainstorming the options, I allowed myself a momentary fantasy of working as a writer, sharing my message with the world and making the kind of difference I hoped I was capable of. Fear and uncertainty squashed that fantasy in a hurry. I knew nothing about how to get into it, and I didn’t believe enough in my talent to bet my future on it. Instead, I turned to my first love and something I had always enjoyed (even though I had never considered it as a possible career): teaching tennis.

I loved it. I had always felt completely in my element when teaching others, and getting to be involved in the best part of someone’s day while sharing my love of the game was immensely gratifying. It was work I could see myself doing for a long time. And I did.

About eleven years down the road, though, my mind began to change. My love for tennis and teaching didn’t diminish, and I was still deeply happy in my life (which, by then, included a wife and two kids). But something that had been dormant was awakening inside me. A giant was stirring. Questions began arising: What is your Bliss? Are you giving your Gift? Are you doing the work you feel called to do? What would you do if money was not an issue? What would you do if you weren’t scared? What is your soul telling you? Soon these questions were all that I could hear? The sleeping giant had awoken. I had to face him.

I started by admitting that even though I enjoyed and appreciated my work as a coach, it wasn’t my true calling. It was a shadow career, something that fills many of the requirements of a calling but is not it. I also had to come to grips with the fact that happiness was not enough for me. I figured happiness was an achievement of the mind and that I was blessed with the ability to be happy in any circumstance. I wanted not just happiness; I wanted fulfillment, too.

I vowed then to listen to my heart. If something made my heart sing, I would follow it. I began The Journal Project with no idea where it would lead me. I just knew I loved it and that it resonated deep down in that place where the giant had been sleeping. And as I read through the daily entries from all of the years of my adulthood, I saw all of these signs that told me—sometimes in the plainest English—that writing and sharing my message was my dream job. I wanted to help people to grow and be their best, happiest selves. I was doing a version of that in my coaching career, but not as fully and directly as I envisioned it when the writing aspect was added to it.

The ship has been slow to turn. It turns out that rediscovering my Bliss did not necessarily make it much easier to follow. I still had two little kids and a job to put food on the table. Time was short, and though I worked hard at it, progress was slow. In trying to keep with my plan of changing lives in a bigger way, I started Life Coach training, which was right up my alley. Then I added the skin care business, hoping this would eventually lead me to more time and financial freedom to pursue my writing. All of this was happening while I transitioned out of tennis and into my current job around my kids’ schedule.   Hence, the slow-turning ship.

And now I arrive at this perfect storm of circumstances: lots of reflection about my past combining with my current job nearing its end. There are large decisions to be made, and uncertainty about the future is rampant. My biggest takeaway from all of this journal-reading is that when I had that moment fourteen years ago to make a career move and chose the more certain route—totally bowing to the fear and self-doubt around my writing prospects—I went into what I can now see was a long period of sleepwalking. Happy sleepwalking, but still sleepwalking. Only when I started questioning myself and the giant awoke did I start to listen to my soul and return to my passion. With The Journal Project and Journal of You, I am getting to the juicy, fulfilling stuff. I hear my friend Thoreau clearly: “It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.

So, can I really do it? Could I achieve the magic double of making a real paycheck AND fulfilling my deepest passions simultaneously? If I let go of my other business ventures and gave all of the available time and energy to the writing, I am quite sure of the fulfillment part. The uncertainty is in the paycheck part. Do I dare bet on myself if my family’s financial stability is the cost? If I don’t bet on myself by doggedly pursuing my purpose, can I live with the alternative? And, perhaps equally important, if I cannot afford to go all-in on the dream, can I keep enough of it alive that I don’t spend the next dozen years sleepwalking? I don’t think I could bear the regret if I re-awoke to this same feeling at age 55. I must get to the marrow!

How about you? How awake are you as you pass through your life? Open up your journal and explore your relationship with your Bliss. What is your Bliss? What lights up your heart and makes your soul sing? What role does your Bliss play in your everyday life? Are you doing it all day in your job or just squeezing it into your spare time as a hobby? It is in there somewhere, right? Whatever your current level of engagement with your dreams and your purpose, how can you make it greater? What kinds of things can you do to make sure it is included in your regular schedule? Is it enough for you to follow your Bliss as a hobby—e.g. writing a blog or volunteering with children on the weekends—or do you feel it is essential that you incorporate that calling into your primary pursuit or career? How big of a leap would it take to turn your passion into your profession? Which is bigger: the psychological risk, or the financial risk? Is simply “being happy” enough for you as a goal for life? And finally, how aware of your dreams and your calling are you on a daily basis? As you can tell, this occupies a lot of space in my thoughts—at least it has for the past few years since I woke up—but I don’t know how it is for everyone else. So leave me a reply and let me know: How conscious are you of your passion and purpose, and how well are you living it?

 This life is your big chance,

William

P.S. If this speaks to you, perhaps it would speak to your loved ones. Share freely.

Which Dreams Are The Real Ones?

IMG_2405“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello friend,

At 42 years of age, I can now say that I have been following my dreams for half of my life. Oh sure, when I was little, I wanted to play wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and be the lead singer for Loverboy. And then I wanted to play on the pro tennis tour. But really, I always knew I was going to be a doctor. Not because I dreamed about it, but because that is what I was told and what I believed. “You are smart. You should be a doctor.” Doctors were the only “rich people” we knew about as kids. They had money and status, so it was the best thing to become if you had the brains for it. I did, so that was what I was going to be when I grew up. It wasn’t a dream; it was a fact. It was my destiny. I never questioned it. Never thought twice about it.

Until I did. Yes, one day in my twenty-first year, as I was working my way through Pre-Med classes, I began to awaken to the idea that other options existed. It was a slow awakening, with each new day finding me feeling more like a stranger in my own skin. It struck me that I was living someone else’s life. I had taken on faith what everyone had told me all along, and I reflected it right back to them, to the point that I really believed it was my dream to be a doctor. Maybe you could say it was society’s dream. Maybe it was my parents’ dream. Maybe it was the dream of the compliant, uncontroversial son and citizen that I had always been. What I woke up to realize was that it wasn’t my dream at all. It was just my plan.

My twenty-first birthday was my last one spent as a full-time planner. After that, I started dreaming. On my twenty-second birthday, I was performing a monologue in an acting class in New York City, after which my Oscar-nominated teacher announced to the class that I was going to be a big star. I finally had a dream, and I was definitely living it! It wasn’t approved by anyone I knew—not my parents, not the culture that I came from, not my old, safe self—but it was completely me. I had taught myself to dream and convinced myself of the absolute necessity of following my dream if I was ever to feel alive and at peace with myself. Following my dreams was my way of being true to myself for the first time. And as frightening as it was, and as much as I felt alone and outcast, I had also never felt more free.

I never stopped dreaming of being an actor (or a big star). I just started dreaming of other things. Eventually, it felt more authentic to me to leave that life. I dreamed of seeing the world, of learning every skill or subject that caught my fancy, of becoming a professor, and of reconnecting with Tennis, my first love. It was a lot of dreaming, a lot of trying to stay true to what stirred my soul.

And then I had my first child. Suddenly, I had no more dreams for myself, but only for her. What I was doing mattered only insomuch as it made things better for her. That only increased when my son was born. My most passionate pursuit was spending every possible moment with them. If I had to be away from them, it was only so I could provide for them. A personal agenda—and dreams, as I knew them—seemed to no longer exist. I disappeared into my kids, and happily so.

A few years later, though, a part of me began to reawaken. Maybe it was the imminence of my 40th birthday, or maybe it was just time to reclaim myself, but suddenly I felt a bit of a panic about making something out of my life. I wanted to feel that stir of excitement in my soul again. I wanted to feel passionate about more than just my children. I wanted to dream. I began to learn more about living my purpose and following my Bliss. I was hooked!

As I searched my soul, the thing that kept coming to me was The Journal Project, something of an autobiography told through my daily journal entries. It spoke to me on many different levels. I was undaunted by the fact that it would take several years to complete. Something inside me knew that I needed to share my unique voice. It was my new dream. I plugged away at it in my very limited “spare time” for over a year, making slow but certain progress and feeling alive inside from feeding the beast.

It wasn’t long, though, before I became impatient to get my voice out there. I could see myself working on my project with great passion and purpose for years, but I wanted to help people immediately. A new dream was born, and it was named “Journal of You.” As instantly gratifying as Journal of You became, its unfortunate side effect was diminished time for The Journal Project, which was definitely still a big dream. I felt as though I was betraying it, and I began to feel torn. I eventually rationalized my dissonance away by determining to make a book out of these posts that would serve as a companion piece to The Journal Project. All of my writing would become part of the bigger dream. I liked that.

Meanwhile, all of this pursuit of my dreams was having a ripple effect across my life. I decided that my “day job” must become more fulfilling and fit into my life purpose and my dreams. To that end, I began my Life Coaching courses, determined to change lives more directly and deeply. It was wonderful and right up my alley, but the unfortunate side effect reappeared: I had to put The Journal Project on hold altogether to fit my course work in along with the blog posts and the rest of life. Bummer!

Then, as if I wasn’t busy and torn enough, I added my skin care consulting business to the mix. Admittedly, I have never harbored a skin care dream—though it actually fulfills me to help other people feel better about themselves–but rather the dream of one day being my own boss. This is where the hard line between a dream and a plan becomes a little murky. I definitely dream of one day becoming self-employed. It suits my personality perfectly. But self-employment is a concept. To get there, I need a plan. It has been clear to me from the start that this is where my skin care consulting fits in. It is the means to the end that is my dream of being self-employed.

Until this week, I didn’t realize that my Life Coaching business might also fit into the same category. I love coaching people. It excites me to partner with people in the pursuit of their dreams and to help them create their version of a more fulfilling life. Sounds kind of like a dream job, right? I thought so.

Then this week, I had a rare window of time after my kids went to sleep, and I spotted my notebooks and journal from The Journal Project gathering dust in the corner of my desk. It had been ages since I had last worked on it, those notebooks losing their spot in favor of homework assignments and other tasks. My soul and curiosity were stirred. I opened them up and read a few pages. Excitement brewed. I popped open my computer and started to type. I was transported back in time to the days when writing—specifically The Journal Project–was my dream du jour. Intoxicated by the work, I pounded away at the keys at a feverish pace. When bedtime came, my adrenaline was still pumping. It was a real treat. The next night, when I had a few minutes to spare, I ran down to my desk and sneaked a few more passages in, my heart beating like I was getting away with something. It lit me up inside. It was clearly the calling of my soul. My whole system was reinvigorated by it. In that moment, it was obvious to me what was, amongst all of these other pursuits, my real dream.

A couple of years ago, when my mind was coming back to life and reminding me of the need to pursue my passions, I subscribed to a blog by Mastin Kipp called “The Daily Love.” One day, as part of a promotion, he issued a video in which he was the subject of an interview. At the end, the interviewer asked him, “If you could leave your readers just one thing, what would it be?” He turned from the interviewer and looked directly into the camera and said something to the effect of, “SCREW PLAN B! Go all-in on Plan A! Life is too short to do anything but follow your Bliss. Live your dream!” Every hair on my body stood on end. He was speaking directly to me, and it resonated deeply. That memory returned to me this week after working on my Journal Project. Coincidence? I think not!

So, I suppose I have to admit that my skin care business—and yes, even my Life Coaching business—are in the Plan B category. They are just that: plans. They are ways to make enough money (while being self-employed) so I can spend more time writing. Writing is Plan A, also known as “my dream.” I understand that everything is not going to be given to me just because I am passionate about it. I also understand that I will have to earn the time by being more successful at my Plan Bs. Finally, I understand that I haven’t worked hard enough or long enough at my dream to make any demands upon the gods. My head understands all of that. My heart and soul, on the other hand, just don’t get it. It pains me deeply that I am not allowed to work full-time at Plan A. It is my calling, after all. Don’t The Fates understand? Can Destiny not see the injustice in denying me this? Apparently not. This is why artists have patrons. Because they cannot stomach denying themselves their passions and having to work at the tasks that everyone else does. Ah well. I understand that I must earn my way to my full-time dream job by slogging away at the Plan Bs for a while. My consolation is that I love my Plan Bs. Sure, they don’t stir the passions of my soul as much as writing does, but they are still meaningful and fulfilling in their own ways. Onward I go, dreaming every step of the way.

How about you? How have your dreams panned out? Open up your journal and uncover the depth of the dreams from the many phases of your life? What did you dream about when you were a little kid? Were you just pretending, or did you really believe you would become those things? At what age did you let them go? Was it gradually or instantly? How about your dreams from college or early adulthood? Were you making plans or dreams still at that age? If you were dreaming, how long did the dreams last? Do you still have the same dreams? How many have come true? If you know those dreams are still there but you squashed them in favor of more practical things, do you recall the moment when you decided to settle for less, or was it a slow and imperceptible slide? When was the last time you had a new dream? How did it make you feel? How passionately did you pursue it? How do you feel when you write about your old dreams and things you have settled for? It brings up a lot of shame and disappointment in me, which I am trying to use as motivation to stay focused and more true to myself going forward. How far off is your current career from your dream job? Is your job more of a plan or a dream? How acceptable is it to you to work your plan for a while to set yourself up for your dream? What percentage of people actually get to the dream part? Are you going to be one of them? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which dreams are you following?

Dare to be amazing,

William

If I Won The Lottery…..

DSC_0141“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, would answer you: I am here to live out loud.” –Emile Zola

Hello friend,

I have started to think that I am a hypocrite. Almost every week in this letter to you, I urge you to uncover your purpose—what makes your heart sing—and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I ask you to align your actions with your dreams, to take steps along the path of your Truth. I beseech you to not settle for less than what you believe you arrived here on Earth to do. I challenge you to be wholly authentic and to disregard the mega-dose of fear that is inherent in the activities of being so boldly you.

After all, finding your Truth requires a lot of experimentation, a lot of trial-and-error. You have to try on different versions of You and see how well they fit. People can be creative in a number of different ways. There are many ways to educate, many ways to heal, and many ways to serve. In your quest for authenticity, you have to jump head-first into a pond you have never swum in before, knowing that you may either fail miserably at the jump or simply decide that it was the wrong pond for you after all. When you have been brave enough to admit that, you then have to be even more courageous to jump right into the next pond that you think could be the one for you. It is like the hopeless romantic, willing to lay her heart on the line for the prospect of true love, even after the last prospect just ripped that same heart out and stomped on it.

Inherent in any life change, in any risk—whether that is a new career, learning a new skill, sharing your feelings, or cutting someone out of your life—is the very real likelihood of failure. What I have come to realize more and more as I study successful people is that the characteristic that they seem to have most in common is their extreme willingness to fail. In many cases, they have literally failed their way to success. In their quest to find their one true thing, they have put themselves out there, repeatedly taking a chance on themselves. And “failing” often. Yet that is what I ask of you in these posts. Lay your heart on the line. Try out a new you. Make bold moves in the spirit of your Truth. The level of courage it takes to be truly authentic in this conformist world is nothing short of heroic.

I have tried, in sharing my experiences with you, to be a real-life example of someone trying to know himself better in the service of living an authentic life. I believe that through journaling, I can better know who I really am. I can know what my purpose is, and that can only help me in following my Bliss. Most days, I like to think that I am doing a good job of listening to that inner voice. I hope that I am staying true to my dreams and taking chances where I can. I want to think that I can walk it, not just talk it. I don’t want to be an empty voice. I want to be someone worth admiring.

So why, over these last couple of weeks, have I started to believe that I am a hypocrite? I have, after all, been working diligently at getting my new businesses started so that I can pursue my dreams and serve people more effectively and more in line with my purpose. I have, at least on the surface, been staying true to my message.

In all of my busy-ness of late, I had the occasion a couple of weeks ago to stop and ask myself if it was all worth it (see “The Storm Before the Calm? Does BUSY Ever End?”). In ruminating on that topic, I had one of those “Calgon, take me away!!!” moments, and I began fantasizing about winning the lottery. I pictured myself with all of those millions at my disposal, and I wondered how it would change the way I pass the day. Sure, it is always fun to think about what you would buy with all that money—perhaps a post for a different day—but what I was interested in was which of my current pursuits would I still be doing if I had all the money I wanted and no need to work. Would I still be writing these letters to you every week? Would I keep my regular job? How about the two new businesses in skin care consulting and life coaching? If I won the lottery, which of these would stick?

In my lottery-winning mind, I quickly dismissed my regular job. Next went the skin care. I gave the Life Coaching longer consideration, because it is important enough to me to be of help to people in living their best lives. I would find a way to keep doing it in some form—even very part-time–as I rolled around in my bed full of dollar bills. As obvious as it was to dismiss my day job, it was equally obvious that, no matter what happened or how many millions I won, I would never quit writing. Never. The book ideas that I have—especially The Journal Project—would absolutely press on. I would bask in the newfound time that winning the lottery would offer me, and I would use that time to write. I would keep writing Journal of You to you every week, and I would spend the rest of the free time (that was once work time) writing my other stuff. Of course I would!

This is where I first caught a glimpse of my hypocrisy, and it has been eating at me ever since. Here is the crux of it: if writing is so important to me that I would pursue it even if I didn’t need any money from it, then why is it the one thing I have never tried to pursue as a profession? I have never looked in the classifieds. Never researched the job market or read one of those “Jobs In Writing” kind of books. Never sent out a query letter to a magazine, publishing company, or agent. Never pitched anyone with a sample of my work. NEVER! I am getting more and more annoyed with myself as I write this paragraph. For one, how could I never have even looked into this? And two, what kind of a fraud am I to prod people to be true to themselves and their dreams, to live authentically, and to be brave enough to fail, all the while I have not even fully chased my own most important dream? That is shameful!

The power of FEAR is amazing to me. In reading through all of my old journal entries from the last twenty years, I was shocked to find how frequently I mentioned the desire to write. I don’t think I was ever fully conscious, for most of that time, that I wanted to be a writer. I had things I wanted to write about, but I was seemingly always in the midst of doing other things and planning other career moves. In my times of uncertainty—when one life path seemed to be fizzling out–it never crossed my mind to go into writing. I guess I thought it would be too difficult of a career or that I didn’t have the experience or training. At bottom, though, I can see that it was FEAR that was keeping the thought from becoming conscious.

I will accept that excuse for most of my years, right up until the last few. Since then, I have definitely been conscious of the dream. The desire to do The Journal Project was the first step. Actually reading through twenty years of journal entries was a huge reminder, as scattered throughout the years of entries were hints at my dream. The next thing that kicked in was the realization that I wanted to share my thoughts with you immediately, rather than wait years for a book to be written and published. That realization spawned Journal of You and these words you are now reading. It has been a tremendous hobby and very fulfilling for me, a wonderful reminder of what puts wind in my sails.

So why haven’t I pursued it as a real, paying career yet? Why have I distracted myself with other avenues that also are meaningful to me but don’t quite light my fire the way writing does? The only conclusion I can see is FEAR and INSECURITY. I haven’t dared to put it out there to be judged. I haven’t believed in myself enough to risk it. Sure, I publish this for you every week and hope that I can make a difference in your life, but you get to take it or leave it in silence and anonymity. If I actually submit something for acceptance or rejection by a publisher or agent, I face an entirely different degree of vulnerability. I could be told that my work is poorly written, not marketable, or, worse, that it cannot be helpful to anyone. Am I prepared for that? My actions would say that I am not. I find that completely shameful. And worse: HYPOCRITICAL. I am not walking my talk, and that realization leaves me feeling disgusted with myself. I need to do better. I need to take a chance on myself and my dreams. After all, if I am sure that I would do it even if I won the big jackpot tomorrow, it must be my thing. It is time to cash in my winning ticket.

How about you? What would you DO if money was not an issue? Open up your journal and consider your current life. What things would you keep doing if you had the money to choose? Are you passionate enough about your job that you would keep doing it even if you didn’t need the money? Most people I know would walk away from their job on the spot the moment their number was called. Is that you? What about your hobbies? Is there something that you do now that you would keep doing? Would you make any of your hobbies into full-time pursuits if money were not an issue? If so, does that make you think that you ought to be looking into that right now? How much of a risk would it be for you to pursue your passion? Is it a risk more about finances or about your ego? How much do you fear failure? Usually when I have these discussions in my head, the question that clarifies the issue is this one: Do the temporary discomforts of taking a risk and failing at something that speaks to your soul outweigh spending the rest of your life with the knowledge that you never took a chance on your dreams? That is the one that I can’t sit with. That one makes my decision for me. What about you? Is there something brewing in you—or something that you are already doing—that must be pursued in order for you to live out your days in peace? Leave me a reply and let me know: What would you do if you won the lottery?

Dream big and start chasing,

William

This is NOT a Dress Rehearsal!!!

DSC_1094“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” –William G.T. Shedd

Hello friend,

At my Grandpa Mel’s funeral a few years ago, my siblings and I each took a turn at the microphone to talk about the wonderful memories we had of a wonderful man. There were tales of picking berries in his garden or building ships out of wood in his workshop. When my brother got up to speak, though, he told us about an occasion that was not from our idyllic childhood, but, rather, something that had just happened a month before. My brother had volunteered to drive Grandpa Mel into town from the lake cabin where we were all gathered for the weekend. Grandpa was in an assisted living facility at the time, and his mind was beginning to lose its grip on this world. Still, he had lucid moments, and the two of these admirable men shared one in the car that Summer day. They had gone to visit Grandma Jeanne’s grave at the cemetery where Grandpa Mel would soon join her. In a thoughtful moment, my brother asked him what, as he looked back on his long life, he would have done differently if he could do it all again. Grandpa said, “I wish I had taken more risks. I wish I would have branched out on my own in business sooner. I just wish I would have taken more chances.”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been weeping through the entire evening, but now there was a whole new depth and message to the occasion. It wasn’t just about grieving and appreciating my Grandpa; there was a lesson, too. Don’t squander your days following the herd and playing it safe. Find what makes your heart sing and go after it! Take a risk and follow your dream. Take a chance on yourself!

Of course I had heard this lesson before. It is abound in books and movies. There is that emotional scene where the parent or grandparent teaches the lesson to the protagonist—either directly with their words or by dying and thereby making it clear that life is too short not to go after what you love—who is then spurred to glorious action. We’ve all seen it before. But this was different. This was no book. This was no movie, no fairy tale. This was Grandpa Mel. The guy who taught me how to hammer a nail as soon as I could walk and let me build a house with him before I was out of elementary school. The guy who took me golfing and played catch with me in the yard. My Grandpa.

He had always seemed like the perfectly contented family man. He managed a lumber yard until he retired, and then went on to take charge of building homes for Habitat for Humanity, building his local church, and leading his grandkids in the building of the lake house that continues to be the hub of our family gatherings. He loved these projects, and he was in his element leading the crews. He found something in retirement—after tending to the needs of my Mom and my uncle and then securing a comfortable nest-egg for he and my Grandma to retire with—that he had not dared to search for while in the workforce. He found his passion. He never talked about it. Never complained about his lot. Never was bitter toward his family that ensuring a comfortable life for them had kept him from opening up his own business. He was a good father, a good husband, a good man. It was a good life.

Still, there it was. At the end of his days—in his ninth decade on Earth—he was clear about one thing: “I just wish I had taken more chances.”

I have so many fond memories of my Grandpa, and I know that he has rubbed off on me in ways both clear and subtle. From his life, the lesson I learned was the supreme importance of family. I am so glad that he modeled that every day; it never needed to be spoken about. But it was the lesson I learned in his death that was more poignant than anything I ever learned in books or movies. Don’t wait until you are retired to do what you love. Take a risk in order to live your dreams. 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Helen Keller, The Open Door

Over the last few years since his death, I have distilled this lesson learned at my Grandpa’s funeral into a phrase that really resonates with me: This is NOT a dress rehearsal!!! You don’t get a “do-over” for all of this stuff. You don’t get to have that moment with the potential love of your life again, that chance to say what is in your heart. You don’t get a chance to raise your kids again: to go to their games and push them on the swings and kiss them goodnight. And you don’t get the chance at the end to find your passion and your purpose, and to live accordingly. This is not a dress rehearsal. This IS the show! You have to do it now!!!

I feel like that concept has been chasing me pretty hard the last couple of years. Perhaps “chasing” doesn’t adequately describe it; maybe “stalking” is better. “Haunting” is accurate. It permeates my every day: This is NOT a dress rehearsal!!! I have watched my mindset and my entire way of life change since this thought took hold of me. I had been of the attitude that, with my kids so young and me so busy, there was no way I could find the time or energy to pursue my other passions. I was sliding by, skating. I was certainly happy, but there was also something missing. That is when, a few years ago, the haunting started. My first move was to get going on The Journal Project, which was an enormous undertaking. As I worked into the wee hours of each night after the kids went to bed, I realized how important it was to me to get my voice out there. I didn’t want to wait years to get my book published. So, “Journal of You” was born. It has been a true labor of love to write to you every week. But even that was not enough to quell the inner chorus chanting “This is not a dress rehearsal!” So, I went back to school for Life Coaching to pursue another passion. And on and on it has gone: writing, school, coaching, consulting–constantly trying to tap into ways that I can be of service in the spirit of my Life Purpose.

I hear my Grandpa’s message trailing me every day, guiding me and motivating me to stay on the task of living a life filled with passion and fulfillment. I know that requires me to take some risks, to get out of my comfort zone, to stop sliding through life. It pushes me to my own greatness, though. It moves me to measure myself by the standard I want my future 90-year-old self to be proud of, to have no regrets about. I am pretty sure that no matter how bold and authentic that I choose to be from here on out, I will probably wish, at the end of my days, that I had done better. That is just how I am. Still, even though I am today nowhere near to having set up the lifestyle and schedule of my dreams, I take heart in the fact that I am working toward it every day. It is on the front burner. I am trying to become the very best version of me that I can be. I hear the voice of Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” reminding me: “Carpe diem. Make your lives extraordinary.” And I feel Grandpa Mel, too, his spirit reminding me that today is my day to claim myself and my dreams, once and for all. No day but today.

How about you? Have you taken enough risk to live the life of your dreams? Open up your journal and be honest with yourself. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you feel about the way you have lived your life? Do you have regrets about how safely you have played it? How closely have you followed the herd rather than your own inner voice? How willing have you been to step out on that limb and have that uncomfortable conversation? How often have you struck out on your own against the expectations of the people around you, simply because you were hearing a different drummer? How many times have you risked “failure” in the service of your dreams or of happiness? What are your excuses? Financial security? Family obligations? Fear of failure or rejection? I like the quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Do you think that by playing it safe now and not taking risks to pursue your passions, that you are actually risking a lot of regret and unhappiness later in life? Which risk is greater to you: the risk to follow your bliss now or the risk of regret later? Leave me a reply and let me know: What force is driving your life? 

Make your life extraordinarily yours,

William

Re-Writing Your Story

IMG_1212Hello friend,

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”  —Henry David Thoreau

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the name “Nobel”? If you are like me, it is the Nobel Peace Prize, won by such notables as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. Flashback to the 1880s: if I had asked the people of the world the same question, the answer would have been entirely different. TRUE STORY: Alfred Nobel had the unique experience of reading his own obituary in the newspaper, and it changed the rest of his life and his legacy. It sounds like a great premise for a movie, right? Farfetched, but intriguing. And in this case, true. Nobel, who was a scientist from Sweden, had earned a vast fortune for inventing, among other explosives, dynamite, earning the nickname “The Merchant of Death” for his efforts. He was traveling in France in 1888 when his brother, Ludvig, died. When the French newspapers heard that Nobel died, they assumed it was Alfred and headlined his obituary with “The Merchant of Death is Dead”. It went on to say “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”   When he read his own obituary, Nobel experienced a wake-up call regarding the path he had chosen and the legacy he would rather leave to the world upon his actual death. Apparently, the message was received. In short order, he devoted the bulk of his fortune to the creation of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Literature. The rest is history. I bet when I asked you what comes to your mind when I say “Nobel”, you did not say “dynamite”.

I have lately been pondering the idea of my own obituary, or at least of my eulogy and the things people who know me would say if I died tomorrow. These eulogy thoughts have stemmed from my recent obsession with identifying my core values and life purpose. After naming my core values—personal growth, self-knowledge, spirituality, family, service, purpose, teaching, and authenticity—I tried to nail down my Life Purpose Statement: “I am a catalyst of Growth, Self-Awareness, and Authenticity.” With those in place, it seemed the natural next step to put them to the test by asking if I was really living in line with my core values and life purpose. Part of that asking involved a sort of inventory of my life. I went through the main areas on the “Wheel of Life”–Career, Family & Friends, Finances, Romance/Intimacy, Health & Self-Care, Social & Fun, Personal & Spiritual Development, and Physical Environment—and wondered how well I was incorporating my core values and life purpose in each.

The answers were revealing and helpful, of course, but nowhere near as helpful as when I began to question the potential content of my eulogy. I wanted to compare what I think people would say if I died tomorrow with what I would want them to say. I also considered what people who knew me best would say versus those who only knew me a little. I wasn’t really concerned about whether I was going to be found to be well-liked or not, but rather about whether or not I made a positive impact. These are some of the things I thought and hoped people would say:

  • “He was an awesome Dad.”
  • “He was always trying to be better, to keep growing.”
  • “He reminded me of my magnificence.”
  • “He was the happiest person I ever met.”
  • “He was intensely curious, always wanting to learn more about everything.”
  • “He wanted people to be their best, and to be happy.”
  • “He challenged you when he thought you were sliding or settling.”
  • “He was honest, but he delivered his honesty with love.”
  • “He was always positive, always optimistic.”
  • “He dared me to disregard opinions and be exactly my Truth.”
  • “He wasn’t afraid to try new things or make mistakes.”
  • “He inspired me to play a bigger game in life and kept me on it.”
  • “He shared his love relentlessly.”
  • “He knew exactly who he was and owned that completely.”
  • “He desperately wanted to make the world a better place to live.”
  • “His family meant everything to him.”
  • “Even as he tried to improve everything, he was so grateful for his life.”

As I write these things, it strikes me that maybe this isn’t what other people would say about me. Maybe it is only what I would say about me. I realize that I probably don’t do a good enough job of communicating who I really am to most people. Even though I want to get out and change the world and change lives one by one, I am an introvert, and sometimes I shy away from sharing my passion for life and for helping people. I tend to lock myself down, to hide my light. Because of this, I know a lot of people who know me would probably say that they had no idea that I had all of these thoughts in me and no idea of who I wanted to be to the world.

For all of my talk of authenticity in my purpose, I surely do my share of hiding myself. I am not faking anything or saying that I am things that I am not. I am just not showing up all the way for most people. It is like the old “Lies of Commission vs. Lies of Omission” issue. I have definitely been clear in my head and heart about who I am and what I am passionate about. In private, I have acted it out. I have made the big decisions and life moves in complete personal integrity, fully aware of my motives, strengths, and weaknesses. I go through my day full of passion for my dreams and projects, such as writing these letters to you every week. But in public, I have generally clammed up. I have not, in my everyday interactions, named and claimed the messages that I am driven to share with the world. In that way, I have fallen out of integrity and authenticity. I have been acting in some situations unlike the person that I know I am inside.

I can see from this that if I am to leave the legacy that speaks truthfully to who I am at my core, I must put myself out there more. I must learn to manage my introversion and recognize that if I truly do think my message is important for the people of the world to receive, it is worth me being a little uncomfortable in order to deliver it. I need to make myself less of the “Oh, I didn’t know that about him” and more of the “Yes, I knew that from the first time I met him” kind of guy. Basically, I need to stop hiding my light. I need to not just know who I am, but also to show who I am. Putting myself and my purpose out into the Universe will draw the right people and circumstances to me, and our lives will change because of it. In that way, I can leave a different legacy and be the author my own obituary and eulogy. I can re-write my story. A better story.

How about you? What is the legacy you want to leave? Get out your journal and think about the impression you have left on your little corner of the world. Whose lives have you impacted most? How much of that impact is positive? What would those people say about you? How different is that than what you would like them to say? Is there something you could do in your remaining time on the planet that could bridge that gap, that could cause them to put new words to your eulogy? How would you change your ways to change your obituary? Would it help you to read your obituary or hear your eulogy now, in the way it helped Alfred Nobel? Consider the things you regret most from your life, or the people you may have impacted negatively. How many of these are wrongs that cannot be made right? If there is still an opportunity to make something right–or even just better–are you willing to do what it takes? In the end, does it really matter to you what other people are going to say or feel about you, or does it only matter how you feel you did? Or perhaps how your God judges you? Which matters most? If you could write a eulogy or obituary about your own life and legacy as it stands now, what would it say? What if I guaranteed you twenty more years here to make a new one with the way you live those years—how would that change it? Leave me a reply and let me know, How would you re-write your story? 

Live the way you want to be remembered,

William

Why Are You Here?

DSC_0963“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

I watched the movie “Selma” yesterday. It was about the Civil Rights Movement and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quest for the fair and equal treatment of Black Americans, in this case as it pertained to voting rights. It has really stayed with me, this film, creeping into my consciousness as I move through my day. I was captivated by so many different aspects of the film and the history behind it. One angle that really grabbed me in a unique and powerful way, though, was Dr. King’s resolve and willingness to go back into the fray—being beaten and jailed and leading others into situations that ended in their deaths—over and over despite serious doubts and guilt over so much spilled blood. And then there was his family. He carried the dual burdens of being taken from his wife and kids for long periods of time and also, by virtue of his leading role in the movement and the explosive mix of ignorance and violence that defined the opposition to it, the knowledge that he and/or his wife and children could be murdered at any time. I could not help but keep asking myself, “With so many reasons to NOT keep working for the cause—really big, life-or-death reasons—what kept him going back in?” 

The answer I keep coming back to is that, deep down inside, he knew what his life purpose was. He knew that he was alive for a reason, and that to turn his back on that purpose would be to disrespect his Maker. He had a calling. A reason for being. A purpose.

I latched onto this aspect of “Selma” so strongly because I have been lately in the process of defining my own life purpose. I am going through the process as part of my Life Coach Training Program. It is no small task, either, let me tell you. Along the way, I have had to address what my needs are and what I value most in this world. I have tried a number of different exercises designed to help rank my values. I am not talking about chosen values—standards that I have adopted and held myself to—but rather about core values, which are things that I feel I was born with, things that have been with me all my life. The exercises—indeed, the entire process—have been very revealing.

Boiled down into one-word answers, these are some of my core values: spirituality, self-knowledge, teaching, purpose, growth, family, service, connectedness, health, and authenticity. These things get right to the heart of who I am and what makes me tick. They provide wonderful clues to my life purpose, but they are just the beginning when it comes to trying to define it succinctly.

The next phase of my homework was to make a long list of examples of times in my life when I knew was living “on purpose”. That is, times when I felt completely in the flow, energized, and as though things were effortless. I quickly jotted down more than twenty times in my life when I felt that way, ranging from when I was a teenager all the way up to the last year. My list included many times when I was writing, including writing my very first blog to you. I was on fire with passion for what I was doing, and the work and the cause filled my sails. It was effortless. I also noted many times when I was teaching, from private tennis lessons to Philosophy 101 classes. It included times when I have spoken publicly, including when I performed my sister’s wedding. That felt right to me. I also felt right and true in the simplest moments with my family, as well as hiking alone in the mountains or swimming in the ocean, feeling totally connected to the Divine.

I then took time to write a bit about each of these examples: what I was feeling and what about them struck such a deep chord in me. Next, I combed through all of my descriptions for recurring themes and words that resonated with me. It turned out to be not so different from the list of core values I had already made. Words that kept surfacing were: Connected (with the Divine, with others), Inspire, Dreams, Growing (personally and spiritually), Motivate, Teaching, Sharing (my love, traditions, my message), Challenging (myself and others, moving beyond the comfort zone), Family, Creativity, Self-Improvement, and Improve the World.

With clarity regarding both my core values and the recurring themes of the most “on purpose” moments of my life, I was feeling ready to write my purpose statement. After some tinkering with language, this was my first draft:

The purpose of my life is to help people—myself included—to live their best, most authentic lives by teaching and inspiring them to know themselves better; to be grateful for all that they are and have; to challenge themselves to grow spiritually and experientially; and to honor and pursue their dreams.

I was kind of liking it, actually. It named the things I want to do with my life, and that hit me in a good spot. It rang true.

However, I felt the pressure to make it short and sweet, so I started chopping. To a writer, cutting out words is like killing your babies, so it was no picnic for me, I promise you. My condensed draft looked like this:

The purpose of my life is to teach and inspire people—including myself—to know themselves better, to connect to the Divine, and to follow their Bliss.

While I wasn’t so sure I liked it better than the long version, at least it was concise. I figured I would put them to the test with my teacher when I got to class tonight. I was feeling pretty confident.

As it turned out, the joke was on me. I got to class tonight, and he started explaining life purpose statements and the differences between purpose, mission, and vision. You see, mission statements talk about the ways we are going to fulfill our purpose. They are action statements. Purpose statements, on the other hand, identify our calling or reason for being. Curses!!! While I had thought I had two pretty solid versions of my purpose statement, what I really had were a long and a short mission statement. Back to the drawing board!

To get to my purpose rather than my mission, I need to focus on Who I Am more than what I am going to do to express who I am. At my core, who am I? Why was I born? Why am I here? What is in my soul’s code? With only a few minutes of reflection—and what will probably be the first of many drafts—I suppose I would answer this way:

I am a catalyst for self-knowledge and authenticity. 

Yeah, I suppose that about sums me up. I want people to know themselves deeply and to own themselves completely, including the honoring of their dreams and their own unique path in life. In a way, I think my purpose is to help everyone live their purpose. Or, is that my mission? Whatever! In any case, I think I am starting to understand why I am here. And that’s the whole point, right?

How about you? Why are you here? Open up your journal, and get ready for some deep diving. What are your core values? Can you name your top ten? If you had to get it down to three—and really, you don’t—what would they be? Are you living from those values now, or are you off-course? Think about the times in your life when you have felt most “on purpose”. Write them all down, and then elaborate. What were you doing? What are the common themes running through those experiences? Do those themes mesh with some or all of the core values you listed? Now, write out your Life Purpose Statement. Be as concise as possible; really try to boil it down to your essence. And don’t play small! Your purpose is magnificent, so name it and claim it. How difficult is it to crystallize your calling? Have you always known what it was, or is it only now becoming clear to you? I think writing a mission statement is really helpful, too. I accidentally wrote mine first, which gave me some good clues as to how to write my purpose statement, but I think it probably works best to know who you are first before stating the way you are going to fulfill that purpose. In any case, do the work. Dig. Ask yourself some tough questions. And take the “shoulds” out of it. What do you really value? Who are you really? Not who do you wish you were, or who do you think you should be to make others happy or proud. WHO ARE YOU? There is no greater question and no more important answer. Leave me a reply and let me know: Why are you here?

Your truth shall set you free,

William

If Money Was Not An Issue…

DSC_1066“Making money isn’t hard in itself… What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to.” –Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind 

Hello friend,

My life coaching classes have really gotten me thinking lately. Stirred up might be more accurate. You see, one of a coach’s best tools is a powerful question. A powerful question can make you see things in a totally new way, a way that might suddenly provide wonderful clarity on a topic that you have long been struggling with. Often, a coach’s questions cause you to look more deeply into your heart and mind to figure out what really makes you tick and what you really want to do with this wonderful gift called Life. What I have recently discovered is that the question that best grabs me by the collar and throws me up against the wall in its demand to be addressed is, “If money was not an issue, what career would you pursue?”

Of course, it is easy for my mind to run wild upon hearing this question. I mean, “If money was not an issue…” can easily translate into fantasies of living on the beach in Aruba. Who needs a career if money is not an issue, right? So, I must clarify the question. “If you were to make AS MUCH AS YOU DO NOW DOING ANYTHING….” or “If you made ENOUGH TO BE COMFORTABLE-BUT-NOT-WEALTHY DOING ANYTHING…” seem to put it in better perspective for me. The other way that helps me—the husband and parent part of me–get to my most pure answer is, “If you had no wife or children that you felt compelled to provide time, energy, and money for, what career would you pursue?” That one really helps me crystallize the issue, because I wasn’t much bothered by being broke as a single person, but I don’t want that for my wife and kids.

In any case, all of these versions of this question, at their core, simply ask, “WHAT IS YOUR BLISS?” What is your dream? What career thought absolutely lights you up inside? What is your calling? What job will most help you give your unique gift to the world? This topic—following your dreams–is probably my most favorite one in the entire universe. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, completely compelled by it. I feel so passionate about it for myself and for others. I could certainly write a post to you every week on this topic. I know it is why I have been drawn to life coaching as well. I just really want to see people living in the light of their own Truth by listening to their soul’s calling and following their Bliss. That is the key to living authentically, and I am nothing if not a fan of authentic living.

For me, then, the trouble with this supremely important question—What does your Bliss look like? (and no excuses allowed)–is that it is a trap. It compels me to live out my answer or else feel like a fraud, an untruthful version of me. I just find it so necessary to follow whatever my answer to this question is, because that seems to be the only way to live truthfully to my calling and purpose. After all, I know what my values are. To maintain my integrity, I must be able to answer to the man in the mirror. Living my Truth is the only way I can look that guy in the eye for any sustained period. Thus, I feel even more emboldened to follow my Bliss and live out my dreams. I start plotting my future as a writer, speaker, and coach as though it is the most natural and obvious thing to do–starting immediately, of course!

But then guilt or humility or the voice of Society smacks me back with a “Who are YOU to get do whatever you dream?” and a “Be realistic!” I start to wonder if I am just being a selfish, spoiled guy—which I am, of course—expecting everyone else to make allowances for me to live my dreams. I wonder if my sense of entitlement—the “How could I NOT get to chase my calling? How DARE you stand in my way?” feeling—is justified. Because, really, who else is following their Bliss? Is there really anyone else out there who has not been forced to settle for less in order to keep the lights on or the spouse satisfied? Why should I be so lucky?

But then the relentlessness of my Truth comes roaring back. Along with it comes my dogged determination to not settle for less in my life, to never give up on my endless quest to learn more, grow more, BE MORE, and in that, to be completely and truly ME. This feeling—and indeed, even the logic behind it—wins me over every time I ask myself this most powerful of questions.

I understand that it may seem selfish. Believe me, I have felt the guilt from that jab from my conscience. But I really do think—in theory—that people should be following their Bliss, going after what lights them up inside. It just so happens that it is a lot more convenient to do that when either A) no one else is counting on you for food and shelter, or B) your partner is not simultaneously taking the same kind of risks. I truly want my wife to be happy and fulfilled and following her Bliss. But I secretly hope that her current, stable, insurance-granting job makes her feel that way so that I can continue on my uncertain, not-yet-profitable pursuit of my own dreams. Oh, the ways my mind has to twist things in order to live as though money is not an issue!

How about you? How well are you doing at chasing your dreams? Open up your journal and answer the question for yourself. What do you most want to do with the rest of your work life? Are you doing it now? Are you even in the ballpark? If not, what are the main factors keeping you from following your Bliss? I know that, for me, Time and Money are my biggest, most overused excuses (Time being my favorite crutch), but get creative and specific with your challenges. What is really holding you back? Once you have identified your calling, how patient are you in needing to see results? How do you manage expectations? I really battle myself about this. While in my most generous moments, I appreciate that I write to you every week and that I am taking classes for coaching and thus am working toward my goals, most of the time I am kicking myself for not being “successful” yet and wondering why I can’t just drop my other work to devote all of my time to what I am most passionate about. How entitled to your calling and the pursuit of it do you feel? Which of your current responsibilities or commitments would it be reasonable to let go of to give yourself more time to pursue your dreams? Do you dare announce your dreams to the people around you? Most of us are too afraid to tell others what we really want to be, because revealing that leaves us open to judgment, both about our dreams themselves and about not living them. How much do you share? Are your loved ones supportive of your pursuit? In H. Jackson Brown Jr.’s book P.S. I Love You, he says, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I bet that something—some long-buried dream–jumps into your mind when you read that. Don’t ignore it. Honor it. Consider it.   Then leave me a reply and let me know: If money was not an issue, what would you be doing? 

You are worthy of a big dream,

William

Waiting For My Rocketship

DSC_0141“Too many people are waiting for Jesus to come along and cut your grass. And Jesus isn’t going to come along and cut your grass.” —Bill Cosby

Hello friend,

When I was a starving actor living in Los Angeles in my early 20s, I clung to the hope of that rare story of the star who is discovered while waiting tables or walking down the street. It is such a romantic tale, and it sucked me in completely. I was sure that would happen to me, too. That possibility served as an opiate, making me too passive when it came to pursuing my dream and really banging down people’s doors to make it happen.

It is true that dumb luck sometimes plays a major role in breaking in or “making it” in Hollywood—there are countless beautiful people out there, many of whom are talented—but I think falling for that idea of the random discovery is a bad idea. Not only does it placate you in the moment, but also, if you are like me and learning it in early adulthood, you can end up carrying that model with you for the rest of your life, even well after you re-enter “civilian life”. You can come to believe that if you are talented enough and just hanging around, success is bound to fall into your lap sooner or later. Your rocketship will come to pick you up, zooming you directly to stardom.

But then there is a lot of hanging around with an empty lap and a “Where the heck is that rocketship, anyway?” look on your face.

I think that I have spent a good portion of my life wearing that expression. I was probably not much different than most kids, dreaming about becoming a professional athlete, Nobel Prize winner, movie star, or the like. When I actually decided to become a movie star, I think that I probably believed that moving out to Hollywood and taking acting classes was all that it was going to take from my end. The rest would take care of itself when that producer or casting director walked into the restaurant where I was waiting tables and signed me to a deal on the spot, whisking me away from the drudgery of restaurant servitude and paycheck-to-paycheck living, to a life of creative freedom, affluence, and influence. At the very least, I hoped some wealthy patron of the arts would notice me in a play and agree to fund me while I work on my craft, freeing me from the “joe job” that was not at all my passion. “Every artist needs a patron,” I always said, and I assumed the Universe would see the wisdom in that idea and promptly reveal my deep-pocketed patron. I should have packed a lunch, because I waited a long time for a rescue that never came.

In the many years that have passed since those hopeful days in L.A., I have waited for other rocketships as well. One of my most frequent targets has been the lottery. That’s right, I have always suspected that it is my destiny to win the Powerball or MegaMillions or whatever other giant prize is out there. Not that I ever actually play the lottery! Well, I did play once. I had just finished reading The Secret, so I figured that I finally knew the trick (or rather, the secret). I focused my mind, divined the numbers, and bought the ticket. I was genuinely shocked when I didn’t win. I haven’t played since, but that does not diminish my expectations that I will one day win the lottery. (I didn’t say any of this was logical, did I?)

My latest rocketship is in the form of the powerful person who is going to read one of these blog posts—SOON, please—and realize that mine is a voice that needs to be heard the world over. This person will see to it that I have enough time and money to spend on my passion and will ensure that my work gets published and marketed globally. (I LOVE this rocketship!)

But still, it’s a rocketship. I feel better about this one than the others, though, because I am at least putting myself out there regularly, sharing these posts with you every week. You see, it is not lost on me that I haven’t won the lottery yet with my current method. I can also see now that I shouldn’t have waited until near the end of my time in Hollywood to start auditioning for things and start doing real acting, because that end period became the most rewarding of all (and the most likely of all to generate that producer or casting director meeting I had wished for). And I shouldn’t have hesitated when I was in my mid-20s and passionate about writing a book that I thought would save the world, thinking I was “too young” and “need to learn just a little bit more” before I could start writing such an ambitious project. When I look back at those journal entries from that time, I really was ready. My mind was ready to burst. But I didn’t write it. I waited for a rocketship instead.

So, after all of these years of writing in my journal and coming to see the tremendous impact it had on my mind and spirit, I decided to start “The Journal Project” to create the story of my life—or rather, the story of my mind’s evolution, one day at a time—in order that the people of the world might see the value in journaling and thus make it a habit for themselves and enjoy all of the countless benefits I have received from it. It seemed like I finally had returned to a project of real value and something I was passionate about, something that spoke to the ways I wanted to serve the world. I found my purpose.

When the first phase of the project—reading and taking notes on twenty years’ worth of entries—took me what felt like forever to complete, I realized that it could be many years before I could get this important message out to anyone. I was anxious to connect with you and couldn’t wait that long. But more than that, I knew that I needed to show the Universe that I meant it this time.   I was tired of feeling like a guy who has a lot of good intentions and good ideas but never actually does anything.

Yoga classes, meditation, studying philosophy and political theory, even journaling—all of these things are wonderful and can make you feel really good: clear and smart and energetic. But in the end, if they don’t lead to some really good doing, they become merely intellectual and spiritual masturbation. I don’t want to be that guy.

So, I wanted to announce my intention to the Universe by putting something out there, by doing something for people that could make a difference in the short term while I still kept my eyes on the long-range prizes that would be the outcome of The Journal Project and its offspring. Thus was born Journal of You and these very words you are reading now. Each of these posts is my current version of buying a lottery ticket every week, not just because I am hoping to find that one powerful reader who becomes my rocketship—I definitely am still guilty of that—but because, as my wife always reminds me whenever I joke about winning the lottery, “You have to play to win.”

I am playing every week now–buying the ticket–throwing my hat in the ring in the form of this writing and hoping to help you change your life for the better by seeing more clearly who you are and thus owning your life and your dreams. And if it helps you enough to want to share it with your friends, maybe one of your friends—or your friends’ friends, or your friends’ friends’ friends—is the one who can help me be as big as I dream to be. They will know where to find me this time. I’ll be right here, waiting for my rocketship–surrounded by journals and pens and notebooks–pecking away at my keyboard, sending love notes to the world.

How about you? What are you waiting to have dropped into your lap so that you can live your dreams? Open up your journal and ask yourself who you want to be. What is your Bliss? What is your dream life? How do you FEEL when you imagine yourself living that dream life? What kinds of things would your best self need to DO to create that feeling? How far away does that seem from your current world? Is there something in your life today that you can do to create that feeling, to get you moving in the right direction? Have you quietly known this for a long time and just not had the courage or energy to do it? How well do you listen to your intuition when it comes to understanding your purpose, and what small steps you can take to begin living it? Are you like me and often know what it is but still wait for someone to come along and make it easier and less scary for you to do it? Do you fantasize more about the lottery and the patron than you do about living your purpose? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you waiting for your rocketship?

Be your own captain today,

William