"Midlife Crisis is when you get to the top of the Ladder and realize it was leaning up against the wrong wall."
I remember sitting in front of Davenport College (now Davenport University) alternating between looking up at the sky and reading Clive Barker's Weave World. It was the beginning of an interesting path. A couple years later, still at Davenport College I remember my capstone class for my business degree was an outside sales internship. I HATED it! However I felt as if I'd invested so much of my own and my parents resources how could I turn back? Not to mention I wasn't sure what else to do for a career?! All of my other pursuits (music, security type work, martial arts & travel) I did were not providing a sustainable income, so I continued to follow a path that not only was uninspiring to me, it quite literally made me ill. During that sales internship, it was everything I could do to bring myself to do my required cold calls. The sales meetings weren't nearly as bad, but those darn cold calls were killing me.
Instead of using that internship as an experience to say to myself: "I may not know what I want to do, but I know what I DON'T want to do!" I "powered through" it... for the next 20 years!
I can remember as time went on, that I began doing less of what I loved and more of what I thought I should be doing. I thought that if I could do "this" to make money, than I would be able to do "that" which I loved to do. As it turned out as the years passed by, like so many others I ended up doing more of "this" and less of "that;" until years later, "that" almost disappeared entirely and "this" occupied more and more of my time and energy.
I know, I know, you gotta make a living, I understand. But there's a difference between having a job, making a living and creating a life. And it all boils down to Clarity.
When you are clear about your purpose the rest is simple... if you Keep Going!
The HOW is much easier than the WHAT and the what is easier than the WHY! What do you want your life to be? Do you want to earn a living, or make a life? (Not that they have to be mutually exclusive). Now between starving or earning a living, I choose earning a living, but between earning a living and creating a Life, I choose to create a Life! The people who have really inspired me didn't simply earn a living, they LOVED what they did, they were passionate about it. For them it was more than simply bringing home the bacon, what they did, how they spent their time and contributed was an expression of who they were. They created a life, rather than just bring home a paycheck.
So what do you want your life to be like? A tough question for an adult, let alone a teenager deciding their life's path. When it comes to your life's calling, I always thought that how you are going to get there is really a much easier question than WHAT you want to do. So many people don't know what direction to take. They are looking for inspiration.
One of the first things is: Don't put your stuff in the middle. Your things (house, car, vacation, furniture, boats, etc, etc) end up owning you if you're not careful. Put your LIFE in the middle and the stuff on the back burner. Your LIFE may include, your loved ones, your passion, your health, your beliefs, your service, your integrity. Start from there and you will probably have a much more meaningful life and career. Now when I say meaningful, I don't necessarily mean easy. But Keep Going! Trust me, if you follow your bliss (as Joseph Campbell said) the rest will follow. Doors will open that would not be open for anyone else. For some following your bliss will lead to money, for others it will not. Money and things are not the goal. Doing something that is meaningful to you is.
Taking the easy or quick way may not be as quick and easy as you think if you consider doing something that doesn't inspire you or is unhealthy for you for the next decade or four.
Security is also an illusion in today's world. Things change very quickly out there in the job market now-a-days. The people in demand are the ones who are top of their field. Those who are on top of their field are typically the ones who are passionate about what they do.
Also remember that change happens. It can be scary to change. Many people opt for the devil they know over the uncertainty of the unknown. I understand, it is easy to become lulled to sleep by predictability even if it is uninspiring or even unhealthy, especially if you have larger responsibilities like a family. However don't be afraid of change, embrace it. (Change is a lot easier if you live simply and your things don't own you!)
My own journey includes me getting "downsized" a couple years before I thought I'd be ready to leave my day job. Who knows, I may never have left the daily grind hadn't it been for me getting let go. Hard telling. It was a tough period that lead to better things. I almost buckled and went back to what I knew, but I held on and things have been working out splendidly!
I sometimes get asked by people if I feel all those years in Corporate America were wasted? My answer is absolutely not! If it wasn't for that part of my journey, I wouldn't be where I am today. That experience gave me the skills, perspective and CLARITY I needed to be successful on my own today. Without it I don't think I would be here now. If it could have happened earlier it would have. No regrets. I am grateful for being able to do what I am passionate about full time. Even if it is scary a lot of the time.
Clarity is not just useful in our career, it is useful in everything that we do. Once we are clear it is much easier to map out a plan to act on that clarity. Be tenacious, have some faith and keep going and you may surprise yourself on where you'll end up.
So how can we gain clarity or stay clear? Well, there are many ways, here are some ideas:
1) What is important to you?
2) What inspires you? If you aren't sure, then...
3) What doesn't inspire you? (Sometimes knowing what you don't like is a good start to being clear)
4) Does it reflect Most Good / Least Harm for everyone?
Remember: Breathe, Relax, Let Go, have Faith and Keep Going!
Suzy Welch's book 10-10-10 may be helpful. It describes a method of considering how your decision will effect you in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years.
Clarity is really more about simple and less about complicated. More about feel than just logic. More art than science. The heart brings clarity the mind helps you actualize it into being... Just remember to make sure your ladder is leaning up against the right wall. If you find that it isn't, climb back down, move it and start again. It's ok... Life is for living, so live it!
Remember Einstein's definition of insanity:
"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
If you don't like the view, get a different perspective.
All that said, what I am hoping for 2014 is to have more Clarity. I wish it for me and I wish it for all of you reading this as well.
Have a great 2014!
All the best,