Tag Archives: intuition

The Head vs. The Gut: Who Do You Trust?

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” –J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Hello friend,

My wife officially announced this week that she is quitting her job in one month. This is the job that has kept us fed, sheltered, and health-insured for the last 15 years. Does she have another job lined up? She does not.

Meanwhile, I have yet to find that perfect opportunity I have been looking for to make my return to gainful, “real world” employment.

We have two kids, a mortgage, car payments, utilities, and all of the other bills and obligations that make up life in modern America.

Reason dictates that I should be freaking out right now. My stress level should be through the roof. I should have insomnia, high blood pressure, and panic attacks. I should be wetting myself in sheer terror at the great unknown before us. I should be fretting nonstop about the future. I should be pleading with my wife to stay in her safe, solid, insurance-covering job until we both have new ones lined up. I should be reminding her about all of those bills and painting vivid images of worst case scenarios: us homeless, penniless, and forever saddled with “pre-existing conditions”. I should be getting her to freak out with me. I really ought to be blowing my top.

I’m just not.

I wish I could say that the reason that I am not panicking is because I am the flaky, flighty artist type, never in touch with the reality of things like payment deadlines and lapsed coverage. I wish I could tell you I am not freaking because we have done so well at investing over the years that we really don’t need to work; we just do it for social reasons. I wish I could say that I am so elevated spiritually at this point that money does not matter to me.

Any of those reasons might provide me with a logical explanation of why I feel not only unstressed about our family’s financial future but also downright excited and utterly optimistic. Those explanations would give me a rational way to unpack this unbridled confidence I feel bubbling up from some unknown source deep inside of me, causing me to feel an almost uncontrollable eagerness to learn what is coming up next for us.

But those are not the explanations. Sure, I definitely have some flaky artist in me, but I can be as practical and responsible as my parents taught me to be when financial obligations are involved. And, sad to say, we were not one of the early investors in Apple or Microsoft, so that nest-egg explanation doesn’t suit the situation, either. Finally, as spiritually evolved as I like to think I am on my best days, there is no world that I have yet found in which money is not important.

No, if the answer to my serenity and confidence in the face of this potential catastrophe were a logical, rational thing, I would be there already, secure in my understanding.

But there is nothing logical about this.

A rational guy would be outwardly supportive of his wife when she tells him she is quitting her bread-winning job without securing a new one, but inside he would be having a coronary. A logical guy might say, “Well, I’ve been waiting for the perfect job description to fall into my lap for a long time without success, so I am just going to be practical and find whatever will put food on the table.” A rational guy would sense the urgency of the situation and figure out a solution immediately to avoid risking a financial disaster for his family.

Try as I might to summon my most rational, practical self, my system is not letting it in. The panic, the terror, the desperation: I am trying to conjure them, but they are just not coming. They should be here, though. It just makes sense. What gives???

It’s my gut. Call it what you will—instinct, intuition, sixth sense, the still small voice, a feeling—but mine is telling me that everything is going to work out fine. And not just fine, but amazingly well. My intuition tells me that we are on the verge of something even better than we have ever had. Something that keeps those bill collectors off our backs while filling our lives with meaning and inspiration. Yes, despite all evidence to the contrary, my gut assures me that good things are on the way.

So……..is that cool, then? Is that really an acceptable answer? Just trust my intuition and act accordingly. Really???

I know that sounds perfectly courageous and correct in the New Age-y, “Leap and the net will appear” kind of way that we are all supposed to arrive at when we become enlightened, but I have to admit that I have wondered more than once: What if my gut is fooling me?

Seriously, what if all this wonderfully calming news from my gut is really just Denial? What if the truth is that I am not tough enough to face the harsh reality of our situation, so my Subconscious or Unconscious mind has decided to disguise itself as my Intuition delivering this pacifying news?

And of course I am buying it! Because it feels good to believe that this is not the crisis a rational person would recognize it as. In fact, it’s the opposite of a crisis; it’s a fountain of good fortune for all involved. That is so much more pleasant to believe! Denial is slippery that way.

As much as I appreciate the sweetly narcotic effects of Denial, however, in the end, what I really want is the Truth.  

Is my intuition right: Are we really on the verge of our greatest thing yet? Or, is the rational bystander in my brain correct: Are we in dire straits and in need of desperate, immediate action?

Is there any way to know which is correct but to pick a course and commit to it, knowing only that the answer will be revealed later? If that is the case, I have to review the evidence. My intuition has been screaming at me every day lately after my brain has spelled out our impending doom in my journal. The instinct has been consistently firing back with feelings of hope, optimism, and belief, as well as an extra little tickle in my heart that gives me the impression that there will be something extra-special involved. I absolutely LOVE that feeling!

That’s it: I’m going with the gut. I trust it!

How about you? Are you more inclined to trust your brain or your intuition? Open up your journal and think back through your toughest decisions and most difficult periods. Which part of you did you trust to lead the way? Are you more inclined to trust your reason and careful analysis? If so, do you make Pros & Cons Lists? Do those lists ever make room for emotion or intuition? Do you think careful consideration and logic are the only way to determine the best course of action? Does it depend upon the type of situation (i.e. maybe the intellect is better for financial decisions but the intuition is better for relationships, or vice versa)? Does trusting your intuition over your rational view of your circumstances really just amount to a denial of reality? At what point is that unhealthy? How often does your head overrule your instinct? Is it possible to overthink it, though, and neglect what your gut is shouting out to you? How about the other way: ignoring reason and doing what your instinct nudges you to do? Is there any way to know ahead of time which part of yourself to trust, or do you have to wait and see how it plays out before you know if it was the right call? Which type of people do you gravitate toward, the analyzers or the intuiters (yes, it’s a new word)? If you had to give yourself a percentage rating (e.g. 70% Head/30% Gut), what would it be? How has that changed, if at all, through the course of your lifetime? Do you wish your rating were different? In which direction? Try to think of the most pressing issue in your life now or in the foreseeable future. Which part of yourself will you lean more upon? How well will you trust your decision? Leave me a reply and let me know: In the battle for your trust, do you go with the head or the gut?

Believe in your gifts,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you—whether intellectually or instinctually–please pass it on. Trust yourself!

Dear Past Me: a letter to my 18-year-old self

DSC_0140“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Hello friend,

I have been swimming in a pool of graduation-induced nostalgia lately. For one, I have both a niece and nephew graduating from high school in the next couple of weeks, and I am sympathetic to both the kids and their parents. Second, I just finished a book of collected college commencement speeches, so I have been thinking a lot about what I might say to young people who are making a huge transition into the world. To put a cherry on top, this week, while working on The Journal Project, I came across my entries for the week that my little sister graduated from high school. I was seven years out of school at the time, but her graduation stirred up a lot of emotions in me. Here is a little portion of a journal entry I wrote on May 28, 1998, recalling my own graduation week seven years prior:

“I remember how sentimental I was in my last days there. I wanted so fiercely for it not to end. I knew what a special thing we had going and what an incredible group of guys that were saying “so long.”   I can look back now and see that I wasn’t a fool in that regard. I don’t want to go back to eighteen again, because I live with the wisdom that brings me an amazing level of joy and peace. But I can still see those guys and feel exactly the way I felt about them then. I dearly loved them then, and I dearly love them now. I know that most people’s best friends are the ones they met in college. Mine are the ones I have known since high school and grade school.”  

I still feel that way, actually. I had an incredibly lucky childhood in just about every way imaginable, and as I approached my high school graduation, I knew that just about everything that made my life so free and love-filled was about to change. I was chosen to be the speaker at my graduation. It was kind of ironic that the guy who didn’t want that charmed life to end was the one chosen to tell everyone it was over and to offer some words of wisdom heading into their next lives. I don’t remember the words I said, but it was a lot of schmaltzy quotes read from a page and very little from my heart. I said the types of things they told me I was supposed to say, so I didn’t really think about making an impact.

Looking back now, I wish I had said something profound that day. Heck, I wish I had heard something profound that day. I needed at least as much guidance as everyone else did. I was an 18-year-old kid. What did I know? Instead of me giving out hurrahs and platitudes to my classmates, I wish someone who really cared about me and who had been down the road I was about to go down could have sat me down and given me some real advice.   I am not sure I would have listened—I was 18, remember—but maybe something would have sunk in and helped me in all the 25 years that have followed.

So today, I decided to write my 18-year-old self a letter—sort of a high school commencement speech to myself—and tell him all the things I wish he could carry with him on the journey through the circus that is early and middle adulthood. So, armed with 25 more years of experience, here goes….

Dear 18-year-old William,

When I wrote in your future niece and nephew’s graduation cards last week, I told them that my one piece of advice was “to understand who you are and what makes your heart sing. Then just be unapologetically you, forever and always.” Twenty-five years after I was in the shoes you are in now, that message pretty much sums up what I have learned. I suppose that sounds kind of vague and unhelpful to you right now, but it truly is the essence of what I wish I would have heard when I was sitting in your seat.  

But how do you do it? Well, that’s the tricky part.   There may not be an exact answer—you could start by getting a journal, I suppose–but these are some of the habits that have most helped me to know myself and live my Truth along this beautiful path called Life.  

First, be completely curious. Be open to all new ideas, and learn as much as you can about as many different people as you can. Find out who they are and what makes them tick. Learn about different professions, different hobbies, different lifestyles. The more you know about the way others live, the easier it is to choose wisely for yourself. (Oh, and don’t EVER stop being curious!) 

Trust your intuition. There is a still, small voice inside you, and if you listen closely and courageously to it, it will keep you on your path forever. This one is much more difficult than it sounds, though, because there are other voices trying to shout down the true voice. They are voices of fear and insecurity, of society, of family, of shame. It takes a discerning ear to focus on only the voice of your Truth. And it takes courage to own that.  

Be the one and only you, unapologetically. To deny the world your complete and authentic self—with all of its idiosyncrasies—is to give in to fears that you are not enough as you are. And you ARE enough! You are amazing, mostly in your uniqueness. So give us the gift that only you can give! 

Understand your value. You are a miraculous being, fully part of the Divine, and your presence in this lifetime is a gift to the rest of us. As much as you treasure and respect the people in your life, remember to value yourself at least as much.

Have an opinion about yourself. I know this overlaps with the last one—all of these really are different angles of the same point—but I cannot stress it enough. It is not only important to know your worth, but also to know what serves you and what doesn’t. When you have an opinion about yourself—a strong, positive one, of course—you act like it with the choices you make. You don’t allow the negative people and the drama queens into your inner circle. You don’t take jobs that don’t speak to your values. You don’t let people take advantage of you. You stand up to injustice. You use your time instead of wasting it. You give up being a victim. Basically, you become an active participant in your own life and assume responsibility for what is in it.  

Follow Your Bliss. If you are in the process of being curious, open, and trusting of that inner voice, you will undoubtedly come upon the things that simply light you up inside. These are the jobs, the hobbies, and the people that make your heart sing, the ones that “just feel right” in your gut. They are your dreams, your calling, your Bliss. And that warm, fulfilling feeling that overtakes you when you pursue it, that is your intuition telling you that you are on the right path. Follow it! 

Act like this is a one-shot deal. In other words, “This is not a dress rehearsal!” Even if you think there is some kind of afterlife or reincarnation or something else spectacular waiting for you after this dance, act like this lifetime is your only chance. Love wholly and completely. Dream big and go for it. Give everything your best effort and focus. Forgive. Agree to disagree. Move on. Say what you have to say. Take chances. Follow your fear. Just be sure that in the end, you have lived, not merely existed.  

Never settle. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the life everyone else says is enough for you. Don’t take a job that doesn’t mean anything to you. Don’t keep poisonous relationships just because it is inconvenient to cut ties. Don’t stop learning just because you have a degree. If your dreams are bigger than your current life, do what you must to go get them. Playing small only sucks the passion out of life. Play the bigger game for the stakes that YOU have determined are enough to fulfill you completely. That is living.  

Just make sure that whatever you do, you do it for yourself. Do it because it fascinates YOU, tugs on YOUR heartstrings, and stirs YOUR soul, not because it is what your parents or friends or society expects you to do. It is your life, not theirs. Pleasing them may seem to be the path of least resistance, but it will kill your spirit in the process, and that is not a good trade. Keep your integrity by living the life you were born to live, the one only your soul knows the way through.  

Above all, enjoy the ride! Be grateful for it. Life is a miraculous journey, every single step of it. You have a choice whether to see it that way. I highly encourage you to do so. It makes for a lot more Love and Joy in the process. I wish you all the Love, Joy, and Bliss you can handle. Carpe diem!

 Always, 

43-year-old William

P.S. Don’t lose touch with your best friends. These are the best guys you will ever know.  

P.S.S. About those girls that you are going to have the crushes on but will feel too scared to say so: get over yourself! Fortune favors the bold. Ask them out! 

How about you? What would you say to your 18-year-old self? Open up your journal and organize some thoughts. The easy part—especially compared to last week, when we wrote to our future selves—is that you know exactly who you are writing to. You know how you were at 18 and what types of things Life has thrown at you since. If you could sum up your message in a short sentence or two—like on my graduation cards—what would it be? Is that the kind of message your 18-year-old self would have taken to heart, or would it have gone in one ear and out the other? Now expound on that summary. Do you think your letter would have more general rules, like mine, or more specifics, like my P.S.es? What did you really need someone to tell you at the end of high school? If they had, how do you think your life would be different now? Do you wish it were? Is there one specific decision or time in your life since 18 that you wish you would have been warned about back then? Who was the person in your life back then—friend, relative, teacher–who was most likely to give you the kind of advice you would give yourself in this letter? What role, if any, does that person play in your life now? Is there someone that you can play that role for? Would you write them the same letter you wrote to yourself—is your advice universal—or something very different? Is there something that every 18-year-old would benefit from hearing? Leave me a reply and let me know: What would you say to your 18-year-old self?

Carpe diem,

William

P.S. If today’s letter got you feeling nostalgic or reminded you about all the lessons that Life has taught you, please pass it on. Wisdom is meant for sharing. Cheers!

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

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

Are You Destined For Greatness?

DSC_0616“You know,” he said after a while, “it’s kids’ stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I’d have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special.” –Augustus Waters, a dying teen in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars 

Hello friend,

I just this moment finished reading The Fault In Our Stars, the brilliant and heartbreaking novel by John Green. It is filled with beautiful, deeply insightful passages about our existence and our place in the universe. But, for some reason, the passage that I instantly went hunting back for upon finishing was the one I quoted above, with Augustus admitting to Hazel his “secret suspicion” that he was special, that he believed he was destined for greatness. Ever since I read that chapter in the book yesterday, I have not been able to get the idea out of my mind. The reason is as simple as it is awkward to admit to: I have the same secret suspicion about myself.

I do. I always have. Always. And, not surprisingly, I have not mentioned this to anyone in my lifetime. It seems too boastful, too self-aggrandizing, too potentially degrading to everyone else around me. But is it, really? I mean, it is really just admitting to a gut feeling I have always had—an intuition—not something I go around telling myself based on rational observation. I haven’t decided that I am better than anyone else, but rather I have “a secret suspicion,” as Augustus says, that something grand and noteworthy will become of my life, that I will be famous for something positive.   To put it simply, I feel destined for greatness.

When you carry something like that around with you your whole life—in complete silence about it, especially—it seems like you are the only one feeling it. While there is a certain power to it—you think at any moment you are going to stumble upon your big break and life will be forever changed—there is a loneliness, too. The famous people know each other—they rub elbows at the Oscar parties or the NATO Peace Summit or Nobel Prize ceremony—but where do those still awaiting their greatness meet? That is why it struck me so deeply when I read that line from Augustus. “Finally, a kindred spirit!” I thought. But then, “Wait a minute, he is about to die, so his suspicion was wrong. That means mine could be wrong, too. AND he is admitting it because he is dying, so maybe lots of people feel the same way and just don’t ever say it. Maybe everybody feels that way. Could it be?

This is difficult to wrap my mind around, having gone through life thinking I was the only one with this gut feeling that it was my fate to become a person of great influence (and that I was not supposed to advertise that ahead of time). But now enters this idea that most or all of us have this same intuition, this same tug from the Universe. That would be quite a trick played on us by the Divine (or the Devil?), a trick of psychological delusion to keep the masses pacified: each of us secretly thinking we alone are destined to stand out from the rest of the pack, nobody saying anything to anyone else for fear of seeming boastful or arrogant. It is the ultimate deception.

It is a bit deflating to me, I must admit, after a life of believing fame and influence were right around the corner. But, honestly, I have been lately wondering, “If this is really going to happen, Universe, then WHEN????” I am not getting any younger. Perhaps in the end I will pass on in quiet obscurity like almost everyone else, never making an impact beyond my beautiful-but-tiny sphere, my “secret suspicions” of the Great Fate finally revealing themselves to be mere delusions of grandeur. Of course, given the extreme expectations I have lived with all my life due to these intuitions, it would seem quite a disappointing way to go down. I will probably have a lot to make peace with.

So, are these gut feelings–that I am special and destined to do great things—a blessing or a curse? I suppose the answer to that depends somewhat on the course my journey takes from here. If it turns out that they are right—if I win a Nobel Prize or become President or cure cancer—then they will have served to buoy me in tough times and keep me on my course, always believing in the best possible outcome. In that case, yeah! If, however, I go quietly into the deep, dark night, then what? Then I would probably still argue that they were a blessing—buoying and keeping the course and the like—right up until the end, when the realization of eternal obscurity and unimportance hits home. Of course, then the mighty have a long way to fall and much to make peace with. Still, I would argue that that is a fair trade for a life lived with confidence and great expectations. I think I will press on upon my course toward greatness. The end will come eventually, with or without my certainty about it.

How about you? Do you have a secret suspicion that you are special, that you are destined for greatness? Get out your journal, and write about your expectations. How do you think your life will go? Will you be famous? Will you continue on the same trajectory that you are on now, or are you expecting a rollercoaster? How will you feel at the end of your days? How will you be remembered? Answer it both from your ego’s point-of-view and also straight from your gut. More than any post I have written to you so far, I would deeply appreciate a response from this one. I am truly baffled by this thought at the moment about how many of us have this secret suspicion that we are special, and I need some answers. I want to know: Are you destined for greatness?

Trust your heart,

William

Are You in a Shadow Career?

DSC_1071Hello friend,

An English Literature professor who always believed he would write novels.  An assistant to a cutting-edge entrepreneur who, deep down, believes that she would be a brilliant entrepreneur herself, if only she dared.  A construction worker whose true calling is to be an architect.  These people have one thing in common: shadow careers.

In the pandemonium of raising two little kids in recent years, one of my deepest passions—reading books—has mostly fallen off of my schedule.  However, two of the titles I that I have finished—The War of Art and Turning Pro—are from the same author, the brilliant Steven Pressfield.  These books are directly addressed to artists of all kinds but very much apply to anyone trying to diligently pursue their true calling.  Pressfield says that we pursue a shadow calling when we are frightened of owning our true calling.  “That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career,” he writes.  “Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same.  But a shadow career entails no real risk.”

This idea of the shadow career really struck a chord in my soul as I read.  Something was stirring.  I knew that I had some internal exploring to do.  It was time to shine a light on the work that I have chosen to call my career and see if it really represents my true calling, or if it is a mere metaphor for my “real career” that I don’t yet have.  Am I in a shadow career?

I teach Tennis for a living.  I have done it full-time for about 12 years.  Prior to that, I bounced around in other pursuits that very much interested me but that ultimately did not sustain.  In my last life crisis moment—when I dropped out of my Ph.D. program and needed to figure out what was next—I kept asking myself what it was that I have always loved to do that also offered actual jobs.  Tennis was my answer.  I had taught it for fun here and there prior to that, never considering it an actual career path.  But at that life moment, there it was.  Something I love that also earns a paycheck—that sounded like the perfect combination.

What I loved about teaching Tennis—indeed, what I still love about it—is that I get to coach.  I get a wonderful boost from helping people take steps towards excellence and personal growth.  I like delivering both the information and the inspiration.  I love the process of figuring out which button needs to be pushed at just the right moment to guide the student to a breakthrough and newfound confidence.  Even as a graduate student, my absolute favorite part of the gig was teaching a couple of discussion classes per week with college freshmen.  I loved leading them and opening their minds to new ideas.  It was a rush.  It is still a rush.  Another thing I love about coaching Tennis is that I regularly get to share in the best part of someone’s day (or week).  I don’t know that many professions that get to say that, so I don’t take it lightly.  I also greatly appreciate that I get to share the first great love of my life—Tennis–with others.  And I get to contribute to people’s fitness and overall wellness, which is enormously gratifying to me.  As I reread this paragraph, I am thinking this definitely sounds like my true calling.  Right?

Maybe not.  Maybe it is really just a great shadow career.  In the months surrounding my 40th birthday—I’m honestly not sure if it was the milestone birthday bringing it on or just the fascinating, inspirational stuff I was reading at the time—I started to really take stock of my life and wonder what I really wanted to do with the rest of it?  Was I really living my calling, or had I missed some signs along the way that were pointing me right to it?  I truly believe that our inner voice—our soul or intuition or the still, small voice, whatever you want to call it—is always communicating with us but that we are often either not paying attention to it or are hearing it but willfully choosing to listen to our logic or our senses instead.  So I started really listening to that inner voice, started looking for its signs.  I noticed when something gave me a big rush or made me feel at home or tingly.  I sensed how reading about or talking to some people totally entranced me, how I was envious of their careers or how they were shaping their world.  And I owned my longings rather than dismissing them.

It was also around this time that I began what I call “The Journal Project”, which was a thorough review of the nearly 50 journals I have filled in my adult life.  The combination of paying closer attention to the inner voice and doing an in-depth life review was totally enlightening when it came to this idea of my true calling.  What I found in both sources was a deep desire to be a writer/teacher/speaker/personal growth catalyst.  Every time I came across an entry in my journals about feeling called to write, I would get tingly all over my body and my hair would stand on end.  The still, small voice was speaking to me.  And it spoke so plainly and so frequently that after awhile, I could not ignore it.  I knew I needed to begin to move in the direction of my dreams.  My first book idea became very clear to me, as did the necessity of starting this blog as soon as possible.  I wanted my mission of helping people to know themselves better and to live more authentically and happily to have a vehicle immediately, even if I didn’t directly have a career in it for a while.

So, what does this say about my beloved Tennis career?  To me it says that it is a shadow career, a metaphor for my “real” career as a writer/speaker/life coach.  It certainly shadows it in many ways: I get to teach and inspire people, to share in their highs and lows while all the time seeking to build their confidence and push them toward growth and excellence.  It is a great job for me; it really is.  But, as it turns out, it just may not be the job for me.

So, how about YOU?  Are you in a shadow career?  Open up your journal and write about your career.  What drew you to it?  Do those same qualities keep you there still?  Are you just collecting a check, or is your work fulfilling as well?  How much is your career tied into your identity?  Most importantly, what do you really want to do?  Is your current career a shadow of that dream job, or perhaps not even in the ballpark?  Be honest: do you think you will pursue your dream?  Why or why not?  Are you playing small because it is comfortable and what you know?  What if you were meant to play a bigger game?

This topic obviously has a built-in challenge: if you admit you are not doing what you really want, you are forced to justify why not and why you aren’t—right now—about to make a move to change that.  Leave me a reply and tell me if you are in a shadow career.  I want to know: are you ready to step into your purpose?  What’s your next move???

Let your light shine,

William