Athol Kay’s Sunday post discussed the hardships of getting his blogging/advising/ game up and running, and carries with it the great news that he’s bagging his daytime job and going full-bore into his mixed-marital-artist enterprise.
Go read it.
There’s so much empty feel-good crap out there, so much “live, laugh, love” (or eat-pray-love) sloganeering. So many Facebook quotes from The Man In The Arena (“it is not the critic who counts”) or Twain (“you’ll regret far more the things you didn’t do”).
This isn’t it. This is the real testimonial of a man who has found his passion, done the hard work of building it from a hobby, which you can stop and start at will, to a real enterprise where you are accountable to your image and your customers – the material and emotional privation, the pushing through writer’s block, the trolls (oh boy there have been some classics), the cross-your-fingers, here-comes-the-royalty-check moments. It’s a great tribute to his marriage and his skills as a husband that his wife has been so supportive of his work instead of carping that he should bag it and work more shifts to bring in some extra Benjamins…so his success is itself strong evidence that his advice is on the right track.
Believe me – plenty of young people will tell you they are adventurous and passionate, and then you find out their idea of coloring outside the lines is checking out a new dive bar or brunch place. And you check on them five years later and they are still cracking away at their soul-crushing corporate gig, playing on the margins trying to stay ahead of the next round of downsizing or hoping to push their raise to COLA+1% this year. They still bleat the slogans but they’ve defined it down considerably. And all that shit they talked up doing, the dreams that got them out of bed every morning, is just never going to happen.
(It’s really a form of hipsterism, enjoying the banal reliability of modern life with occasional sojoruns into the visceral world. Notice how much hipsters make of low-temperature slumming it with regard to their clothes, tastes, and even their gentrified neighborhoods?)
And I want to hit them over the head with a truth I found out about before I had even entered the working world, a truth that has enabled me to make some very good decisions on some high-risk options:
Satisfaction on the job is worth so much more than money or perks.
And if you hate your job, they could never pay you enough to displace that hatred.
A parallelism of this is: A good job you can leave at the office. A bad job follows you 24/7.
Being lost in your life’s purpose is a major cause of the heavy drinking, facile friendships and random hookup we see among educated young people from 20 to 30.
I’m not saying to take a unpaid position at something you’re interested in (well I would say that for a time-limited college internship or post-high school apprenticeship, when connections to the field and exposure to the nitty gritty is much more valuable than actually producing something on the job that could be exchanged for a salary). You gotta eat after all. But if you want to try your hand at what you really think is your life’s work, your best contribution to society, don’t wait for it to happen to you, for your 401k vesting or whatever else. “Later” is by definition “not now;” if you mark big things on your to-do list for “later,” they’ll always be shoved off as “not now.” Find the functional actions to get it started, the long poles in the tent, and do them.
But it doesn’t even have to be a job. Any real interest you have in life (brew your own beer, coach sports, build furniture, become a BBQ master) deserves your passion and dedication, at least for a time.
I’ve spoken before about how I launched my blog; I gathered topics I wanted to write about, got a blog site reserved, committed myself to writing 20 posts for the bullpen before I went live, wrote them, told all my online friends to keep their eyes peeled (thanks Athol), and hit Publish.
Athol speaks of the comfort and satisfaction of having made enough impact on his world that it will (modestly) benefit his wife and daughters if anything should happen to him. This is a huge step, because that’s the point that every leader and entrepreneur wants to get to, the point where some little piece of him is immortal, or at least will outlive him. (Cf. The Denial of Death for you Annie Hall fans.)
Additionally, Athol’s made comments to the effect that he was trained as a pastor/preacher, but abandoned that once he left the faith behind. I think I can safely say he’s living out that training, just with a slightly different bent in his sermons. His writing sparkles with gentle passion, with firm but low-key leadership. He lives the example of what he recommends for men, a hardworking, passionate, goofy, powerful but responsible and controlled man, the most irresistible balance of traits for the kind of women you’d want to marry.
Recently I posted on “deep rapport questions,” queries that create emotional connection, and one of my favorites is “is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?”
I have found that this question really categorizes people. Those who haven’t given up their dreams answer quickly and with resolve; others are muted and trail off. At times I’ve been on both sides.
Guys: first, if you ask the question, you have to have a better, bolder, more interesting answer than her – it’s one of your best opportunities to show her you’re not a cubicle dweller whose lot in life is a move to the suburbs and a long living twilight of Miller Lite, masturbatory debates about fantasy football, and a bunch of guys bitching about their wives.
Secondly, think hard about your own answer to both questions. Don’t lie to yourself about the first one. And on the second one, move yourself from “I just haven’t gotten around to doing it” to “I just booked the tickets/I’m doing it next week!”