Tag Archives: life coach

What Are You Willing To Struggle & Suffer For?

dsc_0435“You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” –J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Hello friend,

I was talking recently with an entrepreneurial friend of mine whose new business is failing. She was wrestling with different options for how she might save it, or whether just letting it go was the best choice. It is a horrible spot to be in, to have to consider giving up on something you believed in and very much wanted to succeed.

I am not very good at advice—I tend to think people are the experts on their own lives–so I don’t give it often. Instead, I usually just ask them questions. My hope is that my questions will help them think more clearly about their situation so they can come up with the answer on their own that feels right with both their brain and their gut. I think that when you make your own decision rather than just doing what someone told you to do, you are more likely to take responsibility for the result. There is no one else to blame.

So, when she asked me what I thought she should do, I had no sure-thing strategy or any story about the times when I have had to make a similar decision. The only thing I had was a question.

Is it something you are willing to struggle and suffer for?

In other words, is it so important that this dream succeeds that you are willing to make big sacrifices—your time, money, emotions, etc.—to see it succeed?

Let’s face it, we all want our stuff to succeed. You want your new business to flourish. You want your relationship to be healthy, happy, and lasting. You want to make more money. You want to go on vacation next year. You want work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You want to be fit and healthy. You want to be self-aware. Right?

But which of those things are you ready to truly sacrifice for? The proof is almost always in the pudding.

A couple of years ago, I wanted to begin the transition out of my career coaching tennis. I knew that if I had a gun to my head, my answer for what I really wanted to do was be a writer. However, my confidence for achieving tangible success (i.e. a regular paycheck) doing that was low, so I was open to other avenues. But those avenues had to work around my kids, because giving my time and energy to them was my true top priority. I started taking classes to become a Life Coach, which sounded like a career right up my alley: fulfilling and flexible. I took a job out of tennis that wasn’t fulfilling but kept money coming in while meshing perfectly with my kids’ schedule. And I kept writing.

While in pursuit of the coaching avenue, a business opportunity doing something I wasn’t interested in was basically handed to me. I made a deal with myself to give it the minimal amount of time and effort to see if it would “magically” produce clients and dollars, crossing my fingers and hoping to strike it rich, at least until it no longer made financial sense to keep the experiment going. And I kept writing.

So, basically I had a job and three things I wanted to work out (under the condition that they let me be with my kids most of the time). That’s not asking for much, right?

What happened? Well, it was pretty straightforward. With the business that I didn’t care about, as soon as it looked like I had to work and get uncomfortable to turn a profit, I pulled the plug. Because I knew my conditions for that one going in, I was at peace. The next one to fall was the Life Coaching training. That one was much more painful to let go of, because it really would be both fulfilling and convenient as a career for me. And I loved it. But it would be a lot of work. More classes, trying to scrounge up clients from scratch, marketing, etc. Struggling, scraping, sacrificing, and suffering. If it was the only horse in the race, I would have kept at it.

But there was the writing thing. That was the longest shot of all of them, the one with the most uncertainty, most likely to fail, most difficult to gain steady employment, and generally most tormenting of all (as creative ventures are prone to be). I would have jettisoned all thoughts of a writing career, except for one small detail: my heart was set on it.

I knew with what little time I have when I am not at my regular job or busy with the kids, I simply could not attempt to press on with the Life Coach training and the writing simultaneously. Push had finally come to shove, and, as I said, the proof is in the pudding. The writing is all that remains. It is the only career-related enterprise I seem willing to struggle and suffer for.

There are bigger tests to pass with it, though, as it won’t be long before I will have to challenge myself to replace my safe day job with some form of actually being paid to write. It remains to be seen how much I will be willing to sacrifice, how much I will compromise, and how stubbornly I will take a stand for “writing or starvation,” as it is much tougher to be principled when there are other mouths to feed.

Will I truly be willing to suffer for my writing, or will time bear out that I only really like the idea of being a writer but not the actual writer’s life and work? Inevitably, the proof will be in the pudding.

The only other area of my life that I have shown the willingness to make sacrifices to make it work is mentioned above: that demand to spend my children’s childhood with them rather than consumed by work. Before my daughter was born, I was in a position of some authority and made a comfortable amount of money. But I worked a ton. If I had kept that schedule, I would have hardly seen her or her future brother. So, I stepped down, taking a lower position and a much lower paycheck. But I staked a claim to my schedule. I have hardly compromised it in the eight years since.

And yes, I have wanted to make more money in those eight years. And I have wanted to go on vacation. But I haven’t been willing to do the necessary struggle and sacrifice for the money or the vacation, because that would mean compromising the time with the kids. The proof in the pudding, see?

So, I guess I have two stories for myself. I would say I am passing the test on the kids priority, not just saying I want the time but actually struggling to protect it. But I am willing to say that the jury is still out on the writing priority. I want to think that it is a done deal, that I will make all necessary sufferings and sacrifices for it and will go down swinging rather than compromise again, but that test has not been completed. I feel it coming to a head very soon and am gathering my strength and resolve for it.

But I also have the sneaking suspicion that these tests are never completely passed, that we have to step up to them and stake our claim over and over again as we continually define who we are in this life. I think sometimes we ignore them, though, and go sleepwalking through our little worlds for a while. But other times, the battle lines are crystal clear: you know the very value of your life is on the line, how hard it will be live it the way your heart knows you should, and that this is the moment of truth. I feel one of those crystalline moments approaching in my life. It is scary yet exhilarating, this opportunity to define myself by laying claim to what I value. I go willingly into the struggles. En garde! 

How about you? What in your life is so important that you are willing to suffer and struggle and sacrifice for? Open up your journal take a look at the pudding. What does the way you live your life say about the things you value most? First, it might be more helpful to begin with a rundown of the things you think you value or say you value. What are they? Now take a look at your history. What are the things, at different points in your life, that you have genuinely struggled for? As you look back now, how did those struggles shape you? Do you still value those things that you once struggled so hard for? What about now? Is there anything in your life right now that you are making the big sacrifices for, grinding so hard in the service of something you value so highly? What are the sacrifices and struggles and sufferings? How sure are you that it is worth it? Is it worth so much to you because of the struggle or in spite of the struggle? Okay, so now compare what you said you value with the things you are actually sacrificing for, if there are any? Do your mouth and your actions tell us different stories? Are you prepared to do something to correct that? Is there something in your life—a long-held dream, perhaps—that you want badly but have simply not had the courage to pursue because of all of the struggle and sacrifice involved? What small step can you take today in the direction of that desire? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you willing to struggle and suffer for?

Let your life be your message,

William

P.S. I hope you really climbed inside yourself on this topic, as I know that for me, that good, hard look in the mirror is so helpful, even if difficult. If it helped you, I hope you will share today’s letter with your world. Go and grow!

Plan A, Plan B, and the Truth: What Are You Really Doing With Your Life?

DSC_0548“Don’t have a Plan B, get rid of it, throw it away, toss it aside…Plan B is a dream killer, Go all in on Plan A and don’t look back.” –Mastin Kipp

Hello friend,

I am officially a student again! After nearly a year of uncertainty, busy-ness, and self-doubt about what lies ahead for me in the mysterious waters of Life, I finally plunged back in.

A few years ago, when I started my re-awakening to my dreams and my deeper purpose, I got into The Journal Project and was reconnected to my passion for connecting with people through words—theirs and mine—in order to help them know themselves better and live their happiest, best lives. Journal of You was spawned from that period, as was the realization—the remembrance, really, because I once knew this important truth about myself—that I am a writer.

You see, in my mid-twenties, I had come to admit to myself that my deepest, most closely protected dreams involved me being an agent of positive change. I believed I was meant to be a transformative teacher, using the tools of writing, speaking, and counseling to spread my messages of self-knowledge, gratitude, and Love to the world.

But then I forgot. I got busy with school, then transitioned headlong into a career that, while it involved teaching and being a positive influence, did not make full use of the qualities that meant the most to me. It didn’t tap all the way into the depths of my soul, didn’t mine my finest gifts, the ones my soul secretly longed to give. I lived this way—“sleepwalking” is how I think of it now—for many, many years. I was happy, but not fulfilled.

So, when I began to awaken a few years ago, my greatest dreams began to seem clear to me again. They were the same as they had been all those years before, so I knew they had a timeless, authentic quality. They were absolutely me. When you have a realization like that—as though God has personally delivered a message to you—how can you turn your back on it? Not twice!

With that awakening, I began a slow but certain return to my Plan A, at least in my mind. It was such a slow turn, of course, because my “real life” was going on all around me. All that time that I had been sleepwalking, I was also taking on responsibilities—you know, little things like a spouse, children, a mortgage—that dictated how much of my time and energy was to be spent. It wasn’t like the old days when I first became clear about my purpose, my Plan A. In those days, I was allowed to become a penniless hermit or wander around the globe with a backpack full of journals or hole up in my parents’ basement to study and write. It was easy to devote myself to my Plan A. It’s no wonder my soul was on fire then, and that I have never before or since felt so tapped into what I am supposed to be doing.

As I mentioned, when I awoke again a few years ago, my first baby steps back toward myself were The Journal Project and then Journal of You. Recognizing that neither of these was going to make me any money in the near future, I started thinking about how I could keep my purpose front and center, but make a living at the same time. I knew that no matter how many nights I could sneak downstairs for a little writing after the kids finally went to bed, I was never going to get very far if that was all the time and energy I could give it. It struck me that the only way I would eventually be satisfied—fulfilled—is if I was spending all day on my greatest passions.

That moment of clarity triggered a lot of pain in me, actually, because I was fully aware for the first time of just how much of my life I was wasting by not acting directly on what I knew to be my purpose. Truth be told, it still hurts me greatly and daily, as I have become extremely sensitive to anything and everything that wastes my time. I have become very protective of my moments, knowing how fleeting they are and how many I have already wasted doing things that don’t speak directly to who I am and what makes my heart sing.

With that motivation, I started my education to become a Life Coach. While it wasn’t writing, it was helping people to find their own clarity of purpose and use their time more wisely on things that speak to their soul (the irony is not lost on me that I am here to teach what I most need to learn). It was going to be my new, fulfilling day job while I worked hard on my writing, which would eventually supplement my Life Coaching income and then finally become my primary income source. I knew it would all take a while to happen—years, really—but I was into it. However, when my first round of classes ended after several months, I told myself I was too busy to register for more at the moment. I would come back to it in a few months, I told myself. With that, I totally put the Coaching on the back burner. There it stared at me with quiet disappointment every single day.

Well, a few months turned into several. I was writing more, which was great, but I still felt guilty about my Coaching education and business start-up, which I had left in the lurch. As Autumn deepened and Winter loomed, I knew I had to make some sort of move toward not just my Plan A, but toward a Plan A with an income source. When I forced myself to name the one thing I most wanted to do if all the money was equal, the answer was easy: writing. Life Coaching was fun for me and very, very meaningful, but writing was still better.

My problem was that once I started talking about the concept from the quote at the top—basically, think only of Plan A, throw out Plan B entirely—I translated that simplistically and figured I must throw all my efforts into finding writing jobs (that will pay me, of course!). As I started spending hours researching the market for writing, the thoughts of Life Coaching continued to enter my mind, though. In my greed, I want to do everything I am passionate about, not just one thing. Still, I was clinging to this single-minded approach, seeing the Coaching as the forbidden Plan B. Eventually, though, and with the great help of my journal, I remembered that old vision I had for myself, the one that still rings true: Writer-Speaker-Coach. The people who are role models to me—such as the quoted Mastin Kipp—are occupying all of those roles simultaneously. They aren’t compartmentalizing them, because that would exclude essential parts of themselves unnecessarily.

That “a-ha! moment” was such a relief, and it is exactly why I am back in Life Coaching classes again. I am not selling out to my Plan B; I am just opening my eyes to the broad beauty of my Plan A and giving the whole picture my attention, not just the brushstrokes in the center of the frame.

Of course, I still have the job and the family to squeeze it in around, and I know that doing the classes will mean I have less time to write. I hate that! But I also feel that much more committed to keeping my biggest dreams—my Plan A—front and center in the midst of this life of bills and obligations. It will be a struggle, but I cannot return to sleepwalking again. I am only my true self when I am wide awake to my dreams.

How about you? What is your Plan A? Open up your journal and take a deep dive into your heart. What are your biggest dreams? Does one jump out at you immediately? Do you have more than one really big passion? If so, do they complement each other and work together–like my writing and coaching–or are they completely distinct from each other? How hard is it for you to admit to yourself what you really want most from this life? I am guessing that for most people—myself included—the real circumstances of their lives probably don’t closely resemble the life they have been dreaming about. That has to be hard to admit, right? Or doesn’t it? My thinking is that if we are not living what we believe to be our purpose—especially if we aren’t even making an effort to pursue it—we are in some way admitting that we are giving up on ourselves, settling. That seems like a bitter pill to swallow. What do you think? Are you living your Plan A now? If not, are you in hot pursuit? I think you can count yourself as lucky if you can answer “Yes” to either of those questions. How clear is your Plan A to you right now? As I said, when I went from my mid-twenties and being clear about my biggest dream, to my long sleepwalking phase, I was simply not aware of how plainly I had dropped the ball on that dream. Has that ever happened to you? Might it be happening now? It is my theory that I blinded myself to the harsh realization that I had given up on my Plan A, my big dream, during that sleepwalking phase in order to protect my ego. It was self-preservation by denial. After all, as I said, once you feel you have received this clear message from your soul or your God about who you really are and what you are meant to do here, how can you turn your back on it and maintain a clear conscience? Denial might be all you have left. Where are you in that process? Do you think you know what you are here to do? Do you know what makes your heart sing? Have you ever known? Have you always known? How loyal to it have you been? Are you all-in, or have you allowed Plans B and C and D to distract you from your purpose? Leave me a reply and let me know: How committed are you to your Plan A? 

Do what you LOVE,

William

P.S. If you know someone who should hear this message, pass it along. Let’s support each other!

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.

The TIME of My Life

DSC_0756“You may delay, but time will not.” –Benjamin Franklin

Hello friend,

It is Birthday Week at my house! My son turned five a couple of days ago, and this week my daughter will turn seven. They are super-excited, of course. They have been talking about this week for months and months. “How old am I now, Daddy???” “You are four and one-fourth.” “How old am I NOW, Daddy???” “You are four and one-third.” On and on we go, all through the year. Because to them, a month is like a year, and a year is like FOREVER. They cannot wrap their beautiful little minds around having to wait a whole year for something. It sounds like torture! So, I started thinking the other day—you know, when my son was four and three hundred sixty-four three hundred sixty-fifths–how differently we view Time as we progress through it.

Kids have an amazing connection to the Now. If you never mentioned to them the idea of something occurring tomorrow or next year or when they are grown-up, they would never bother fretting about the future the way we adults do. They would just stay happily in the moment and flow with it. They stay totally connected with their current process, and then they shift gears immediately if someone suggests something more appealing. They don’t battle with Time like the adults around them. They live in the precious present. If you jar them with the prospect of doing something “later”—especially a whole year later—they cannot stand it.

We adults laugh at their anguish at the mere thought of holding out for a year, as we know how quickly Time marches on in our lives. We seem to blink and five years have passed. But think about it: relative to the total length of our lives, Time should be perceived differently. I have lived more than EIGHT TIMES as long as my son. One year is 20% of his life! Telling him he has to wait another year to go to the lake cabin with his cousins—his favorite event of the year—is the equivalent of telling me I have to wait 8 ½ years to go. That really is torture! I see now why they cannot fathom the idea of waiting until Christmas to get that forgotten item from the birthday list. That is FIVE MONTHS away after all, or 3 ½ years in my world. This new calculus for the perceived length of Time’s passage is totally enlightening to me. I am actually starting to feel pretty bad about not getting him that other birthday gift now!

I look at adults—myself included—and see how our time slips by. I don’t know if it is because of this calculus and the stretching of time as we age, or perhaps it is laziness and apathy, but whatever it is, we certainly have a tendency to watch it slide by. In some situations, the speed of Time passing is just what it is: it roars by even when we are savoring it to the fullest. In this vein, I think most specifically about raising kids. Every parent of older kids I have ever talked to tells me how unbelievably fast their children’s youth flew by. They say this whether they took it all in or not. I already feel that with my own kids. I like to think it is just a case of “Time flies when you are having fun.”

In other ways, though, I feel like we adults are guilty of letting our time slip by, of allowing the years to get away from us. I think particularly of people I know who are in jobs that are neither enjoyable nor fulfilling, and yet they have been doing the same job seemingly forever. Maybe the paycheck and security for the family seem more important than fulfillment. And hey, maybe those things are more important for a while. But then the kids are gone and nothing changes. They poke their head out one day and realize that they buried themselves years ago and have been going along unconsciously ever since. This seems more like, “Time flies when you numb yourself to the pain of boredom and emptiness.” I don’t want that for myself. I want to be engaged with my life.

I know Time is flying. I know it is. Still, I don’t want to be the guy who wakes up and says, “How in the world did I just turn 70??? I haven’t even done anything with my life yet! I didn’t follow my Bliss. I didn’t chase my dream. Now it seems too late.” I don’t ever want it to feel too late. I think I have started to do better with this in the last few years. I have to admit that the prospect of turning forty really scared me straight. It was around that time that I began gravitating more toward the idea of living my best, most authentic life, of making sure that my dreams were not being neglected. With this theme as my driving force, I began work on my personal labor of love: The Journal Project. Eventually, that led to the start of this little project in front of you called Journal of You. It also led to my Life Coach training and a much more focused schedule to maximize my efficiency and contribution to this world. Now every day is packed to the gills with things that are important to me, and I am becoming highly sensitive to activities that may be a waste of my time. I am determined that my time on this Earth will be meaningful and fulfilling, and I want to know, in the end, that I have been of service. I am on my way, one blessed day at a time.

How about you? What is your relationship with TIME? Open up your journal and take an honest look at the way your sands flow through the hourglass. How quickly is your life passing? Does it seem to pass more quickly each year, more slowly, or about the same? Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Are you following your Bliss? Are you on a path toward the life of your dreams? If you are on that path, how long have you been on it? If you are off the path, how long have you been off? Do you seem to jump on and off frequently? Can you find your way back soon? Does it feel too late for you to be who you really want to be? How well do you stay in the Now? Do you know anyone who is on that unconscious slide through their years, just seeming to be paying the bills until it is time to die? Are you one of those people? When you leave the present, is your mind more likely to visit the past or the future? What do you think that says about you? Is that a good thing? When the day is over, how often do you feel like you have wasted it? When you get to the end of your days of Earth, do you think you will feel like it all went by too fast? Do you think you will be content with the way you lived? Would you like to go back and be a kid again? At what age do you feel like you were living your best life? What about it made that so? Can you capture that feeling today? Are you willing to do what it takes? Leave me a reply and let me know: How will you make TODAY the best Time of your life?

Lead with Love,

William

Shy, Humble, or Totally Afraid?

IMG_1811“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –Ambrose Redmoon

Hello friend,

I am an introvert. I never realized this critical fact while I was a child, or even as a young adult. I had friends. I socialized. To be shy seemed like a thing for “nerds” and the otherwise socially impaired. It never occurred to me that I might be shy or introverted. Never. As with everything else up through those years, I saw myself as having the characteristics that everyone else expected me to have. Shy was not one of those characteristics.

As I got into my twenties, found my voice, and struck out on my own, I started spending time alone for the first time in my life. Whether it was camping out in the mountains or navigating the anonymity of big city living, I came to know what it was like to keep mostly my own company. Before I knew it, I had grown to like being alone. It wasn’t long before I preferred it, even. Finally, I started demanding it. I roadtripped solo up the coast, hiked the mountains of Montana, and wandered for months across Europe, hardly speaking to anyone along the way.

I felt myself growing and thriving more than I ever had in my more social years. I loved solitude. I craved it. I also recognized that it was in solitude that my battery was recharged. It was in solitude that I built up my reserve to “act normal” in social situations, something I had never been aware of or had to work at before. In this realization, I was claiming my natural introversion.

Most of the jobs I have worked in my life have involved being “on” in public and speaking with groups big and small. I have had to teach, inspire, console, and take entrée orders. I laugh now about this with the realization of my introverted nature. I guess I needed all the alone time outside of work to charge my battery for the stage of work!

The other part about my past jobs—or at least the way I played them—is that in all of their social-ness, I rarely had to really put myself out there. I didn’t talk about myself much, because, whether it was educating someone who came to be educated or serving someone who came to be served, the unspoken expectation was that I should make it about the student/customer/person paying my rent. I find that people who do best in service industries have a way of making the client feel as though you are friends even as the focus is almost exclusively the client’s wants and needs. The service provider has to be present and empathetic to the client’s concerns and their story, but the client doesn’t need to reciprocate. For me, this worked into my personality just fine. Some of it played into my introversion, but there was more to it than that. I liked to think of it as me just being humble, neither requiring the spotlight nor thinking my feelings and my story to be worthy of the client’s time and attention. I didn’t want to impose upon them.

This is also why I was never a good salesman of my services. For many, many years, it was my job—in theory—to sell tennis lessons. I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever tried to sell anyone a lesson in all of those years. I figured that the benefits would speak for themselves and that I didn’t need to impose my will on anyone else. I especially didn’t like the idea of putting someone in the awkward position of having to say, “No, I don’t want your services.” I know that for most people, it is difficult to say no to a direct offer, and I never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable. So, in my combination of self-professed shyness and humility, I never sold my services or my story. I never asked anyone to believe in me or how my product could benefit them.

Fast-forward to now and the two businesses I have just jumped into: Life Coaching and skin care consulting. From one perspective, both are right up my alley. They fit with my mission of helping people to gain more confidence and lead more fulfilling lives. I get to work with people individually and get to make a positive impact on them. I get to make a difference. Perfect! Oh wait, I forgot to mention the other perspective. Both involve extensive networking and self-promotion. I have to ask people to take some time and listen to me. I have to share with them how my services and products can be of great benefit to them. I have to put them on that spot that I have spent my whole life NOT putting people on: The Are-You-Interested-In-Me? Spot. Ugh!!!

So of course, I am in a bit of a panic. Network marketing and self-promotion seem completely antithetical to all that I am. I have spent years justifying myself by clinging to, “I’m an introvert” and “I’m humble.” But, as the reality of these two self-chosen businesses settles in, I am beginning to feel those two comfortable, sympathetic sentiments be bowled over by what may be my greater truth: I am scared.   Scared to put myself out there. Scared to not do it well enough. Scared of making people feel awkward. But mostly, I am scared of rejection and failure. What if no one wants my help? What if they tell me I am not worth their time and money? What if my calling is something that no one answers to? What if I have to reset my dreams again? What if I am not as great as I believe I am? What if I have been fooling myself? What if…..?

I have had a lot of these thoughts in recent days as I try to gather the courage to announce myself. It is why Redmoon’s quote at the top resonates with me. In my strongest moments, I can see clearly that the difference I can make in someone’s life is worth acting on. Despite my introversion. Despite my humility. And, most importantly, despite my fear. Helping someone live the life of their dreams through my Life Coaching practice, or helping someone like what they see in the mirror for the first time through my skin care products—these things are more important than my fear. I am going to do my best to remember that and to be courageous. Will it still be awkward for me? Absolutely! Will I still need to go home at the end of the day and be alone to recharge? Sure. And will I still be afraid of rejection and failure? Almost certainly. But I am going to choose to follow that fear, to face it and conquer it, buoyed by a courage borne of a belief in a greater good. I am ready!

How about you? How willing are you to tell your story and share your importance? Open up your journal and do a little self-psychoanalysis. Where do you land on the introversion-extroversion or shy-outgoing spectrum? Has your position changed as you have aged or stayed pretty steady? Do you like to talk about yourself? When something new happens in your world, how willing are you to share it? Are you comfortable sharing it face-to-face and over the phone, or do you only share things in the relative anonymity of Facebook or other social media? How humble are you? How much of a part does that humility play in your willingness to tell your story or advertise your value? Is humility in this case just a cover for insecurity and fear? How about that fear? When you think about sharing your new ventures with people, to what degree does fear take you over? Beyond just sharing, how fearful are you of selling your skills or products to others? Is it more or less scary to sell to strangers? How much does fear paralyze you? I think that for most people, the answer is “A ton!” So, don’t be afraid to admit it. It’s your journal, so honesty is the only rule. Finally, what is important enough to you to face your fear and find the courage to act, to put yourself out there, to take the risk of rejection and failure? What in your life is worth it? Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you courageous enough to share?

Do something that scares you today,

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

What’s Your Elevator Speech?

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

Hello friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I have come up with so far:

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

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

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

Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing,

William

What Step Can You Take Today?

DSC_0248If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

Hello friend,

Everyone has big rocks. Goals. Things you want to accomplish. Habits you want to begin. Things that are out there in the shadows of your mind, ready to be illuminated simply by looking at them and admitting their importance. These rocks are different for everyone. Lose weight. Learn how to paint. Finally remodel the bathroom. Start your own business. Write a daily journal (yes!). Reconnect with your life partner. Trace your ancestry. Travel to Rome. Daily meditation. Go back to school. Get in shape.

Two months ago, I started this “Journal of You” blog. For the year-and-a-half leading up to that, the focus of all of my non-children time—my biggest rock–was working on what I call TJP, or The Journal Project. I read through and took notes on every one of my daily journal entries from the nearly 50 volumes I have filled in all of my years of journaling (basically my entire adult life). For most of that year-and-a-half, the long-term goal of the project was to make some sort of a book out of the entries. I wanted my daily habit to become an example for others, an inspiration to get to know themselves through journaling. When I finally finished reading and taking notes, I realized that, at the pace I was moving and the time I had, it might take a few more years to actually produce that book.

The feeling began to gnaw at me that I couldn’t wait that long to get my voice–my message–out into the Universe. I was impatient to, if not be done with my rock, perhaps bust it up a little. I asked myself, “What can I do right now—what step can I take today—to advance my agenda, to move my rock?” The answer, of course, was to start “Journal of You”. I started writing to you twice a week in an attempt to coax you into starting your journal to discover yourself and ultimately become a happier, more grateful person. It was more of a giant leap for me than a small step, but that is kind of how I roll. Even though the blog has taken up a lot of time–that I didn’t have in the first place–I love doing it, and it has become part of my schedule. It means a lot to me, too, because it symbolizes to me that I have put myself out there, not just to you but to the Universe, so the gods know I am DOING something about my dreams, not just talking about them or writing about them in a journal.

But what now?  The blog has settled into my schedule. Even though some days I feel like it is all I can do to keep up writing and coming up with new ideas for the next one, I also feel like I need to go beyond that. I have other rocks, after all, and though in my most lucid moments I am aware that I cannot do everything at once, I don’t want to get lazy, don’t want to be irresponsible with my gifts and my dreams. I keep reminding myself, “This is not a dress rehearsal!”

So, what are my big rocks at the moment that need to be addressed? I definitely have to return to The Journal Project and start the next phase, which is typing everything up.   That could take years—literally years—to finish, but it must start sometime? I made it through the first (reading & note-taking) phase, which was a year-and-a-half, so I know I have it in me. I also have to get on my plan for life coach certification. That has always seemed like this giant, vague, amorphous shadow that is somewhere “out there”, that I have yet to come to know. It retains an air of mystery because of that, but, much more powerfully, it is frightening to me. For one, I know it is going to involve a large investment of both time and money for me. Those are things I do not part with easily. Second, jumping into the training means I am really going to do it. That means shaking up my whole world, potentially changing careers entirely and starting fresh. Sure, that is exciting, but it’s scary as hell, too. It is in my DNA to have a million more rocks to move, too—daily meditation, get back in shape, learn the guitar, paint my bedroom, and on and on—but The Journal Project and life coaching are the rocks that feel heaviest to me today.

Though these rocks are almost so big and scary that they resemble the monster in the closet that is more comfortable to ignore than to face, face them I must. I am compelled to do something to chip away at them. Anything! But what? What can I do today—even this week—to shine a light on the monster, to make the boulder a little smaller, to “endeavor to live the life which I have imagined”? Here is what I have decided. For The Journal Project, I am going to give myself both daily and weekly goals and minimum quotas, and I am going to schedule the time to achieve those goals. I am slowly learning the wisdom of scheduling my priorities, that if something is not on my schedule, it is not really a priority and will not get done. For the life-coaching monster, I am going to finally give it a face. I am going to get on the Internet and research the different options for training and certification. I am going to learn—in clear and certain terms—how long the training is going to take and how much it is going to cost. That will allow me to frame it more clearly when I try to come up with some sort of a 5-Year Plan. Right now, I just want to know what I am looking at. Understanding the time and money commitment will do that for me.

Those are my action items: make my goals and schedule the typing time, and do the Internet research to get clarity on the scope of the training. Whew!!! It feels like a relief already. The big rocks don’t seem so big and scary—so monstrous—anymore. I feel so much more free to “advance confidently in the direction of my dreams.” I didn’t need to clear the entire road ahead of me, just the next step. On I go!

So, how about you? Get out your journal, and let’s get specific. What are your rocks? Are they lifelong challenges, or have you discovered them more recently? Are they related to your dreams and following your Bliss, or are they more tasky things, like home projects? Are they one-time deals or more about habit-building? How much stress do they give you? Sometimes the mere idea of achieving a goal—or even working towards it—can relieve that stress dramatically. Once you identify your rocks, what can you do—TODAY—to move them? How can you make them more manageable? Give yourself an action item. Then, leave me a reply. I want to know: what step can you take today?

Walk like you mean it,

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