Saturday, February 28, 2009
Don't Turn Your Back on Love
Anyone who knows me well enough to be invited into my house will tell you I have a lot of (I mean, too much, of) several things: towering stacks of aging New York Times that seem to share in my delusion that I really will get around to reading them all, magazines that have bought into the same lie (Coastal Livings get read, Harvard Business Reviews never see the outside of their poly-bags, I’m sorry to say), and books. (There are some who might say that I have too many cats, but I don’t let those people in.)
Some of the books are cynical (like Working, by Studs Terkel). Some are silly (like Your Cat’s Just Not That Into You, by Richard Smith and David Sipress). Some are cherished, like Airman's Odyssey by Antoine de Saint Exupery (you know, of Little Prince fame?).
But the one that brings today’s post to mind is Marsha Sinetar’s book, Do What You Live and the Money Will Follow. I’m so glad to see that just one week short of its 20th birthday, it’s still going strong. Especially these days.
My worry for “these days” is that people are going to be tempted to give up on pursuing their passions, turning a deaf ear to that still small voice, in favor of pursuing some kind of career alternative that is “smart.” Smart or quixotic, we have all been leveled by the same economic scythe. And there will be some of us who might be tempted to put aside our yearning, burning passions to go after retraining in some field that the business magazines have identified as the top careers of the next decade (give, take).
Well, given the state of the journalism career path these days, my question is this: If it’s so smart to go after those jobs, how come the business journalists themselves haven’t dropped their press creds like poisoned pen letters and gone chasing after those gigs themselves? Answer: When your calling is in your blood, there’s just no ignoring it.
You still have to find work that you can love. It has to do more than paying the bills. In fact, if you have found a life’s work that falls just short of paying all the bills, don’t change the job, reduce the bills. Here’s why:
You will like what you see in the mirror. We are not our jobs. And we certainly are not our income. But we are definitely made up of how we spend our working hours. Are you proud of what you do and who you do it for? I sure hope so. That kind of pride is cheap to acquire and excruciatingly expensive to lose. Either way, it’s precious.
You will like whom you work with and for. When you are doing what you love, people who choose to enter into a transaction with you already have something in common with you. There’s a parallel universe of mutual respect that you two immediately engage on. And that just gets any conversation off on the right foot – especially a business one.
You become a much more valuable (read: indispensable) employee. Passion-driven projects ignite your imagination. And when your imagination is sparked, so is your capacity for innovation. And when that happens, boy-howdy! Companies see you as the ticket to their market dominance (at least the smart ones do, and you only want to work for the companies that get it). Which isn’t to say that you won’t ever get laid off again. But if it happens to you under those circumstances, you will rightly recognize it as a loss of a job, not of your livelihood. Big difference.
You’ll love your life 10 years later. Yesterday I reconnected with a friend I had met through work a little over 10 years ago. We haven’t seen each other in a decade but we threw our arms around each other and hugged long and hard (the kind of hug that you get when you’re not thinking to yourself, “okay, was this long enough?”).
I met Evelyn about the same time I discovered my own life’s calling and passion – which is, oddly enough, to study joy in the American workplace. The minute I discovered the kind of work I would love forever, I discovered a new part of myself to love. And when that happened, I discovered a whole new way to reach out to the world and connect with people I will love for the rest of my life. It’s quite a satisfying sequence, let me tell you.
So good times/bad times will come and go. And the jury is out as to how long this particular spate of bad times will persist. So while we’re sitting this one out (to whatever extent we’re sitting it out), let’s learn about love and how we can express it through the work we do and the people we meet along the way.
Not a bad gig, if you ask me.
Special free offer (really, no catch): If you would like a free PDF copy of my first book, Find Your Calling, Love Your Life, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send it to you right away.