Identity and Career

Rare is the man or woman who can walk with graceful indifference to their career. I once had a music teacher advise me to learn all the theory I could, and then forget it.

Be the best you can be in your craft and then let it go. Really.

Identity and career are two parts of life that should never meet. If they do, it can be lethal, and very difficult to separate. A career can take over and leave true identity on life support. I speak from experience. It takes a long time to regain, or replace, what you lose.

I’ve found these dangers in the mixing of identity and career:

  • Quiet resignation. This occurs when we get older or have been at something for a while. The lie we tell ourselves is “we’re in too deep, and it could be worse.”
  • The high. It feels good in the moment, so we desire the thrill. We enjoy being seduced by flattery and accomplishment. Nothing quite like being the one to watch.
  • The ghost of our father. This one is so subtle. We watched a man, or a woman, toss away life for not much in the end. That script then becomes our own.
  • The payback. Somewhere we got wounded and the chip appeared. This is the closet sociopath coming out to wreck the place.
  • The false obligation. We pull out all the noble reasons for staying. “I have a mortgage, I have my kid’s college education.” It’s as if we think we’ll be excused for our fear in the end.

The choice is mine, the choice is yours. We have to remember that career is a great dance when the identity is kept separate. The challenge is found in living in a culture that values the opposite.

What Shapes You

mary-poppins

Recently my wife and I discussed the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. I was reminded of how surprised I was by the story and the film itself. It really got me to thinking about what shapes you as a person, over a lifetime. If you are not familiar with the story behind P.L. Travers and her character Mary Poppins, you can read this article for more.

Much of who I am was shaped by my childhood.

During my childhood, I had a father who drank to excess, suffered the neglect that goes with substance abuse, saw things that today are still difficult to write about, and witnessed an event that left a permanent mark. I know many of you have your own stories as well.

What’s most important here, though, is how Ms. Travers was shaped and how it produced such great work. It’s ironic how her great pain produced such great work. I found myself, as I watched the film, feeling like I was watching my own movie.

Much of what I have created, has been born from my pain and wounds.

In my one-on-one work with people, I use a process designed to help them look over their lives to find the pain and the wounds. This can be difficult work. Many are the walking wounded, and they’ve taken the path of “medicating” or just looking to escape. My great mission is to help people deal with what often they would prefer to ignore. I understand this and carry empathy for the great struggle many are facing. American culture has not helped. Our ever-increasing desire for entertainment, medication, and status are fierce animals.

Much of what I do is motivated by mission.

PL Travers found an outlet for some of what hurt. Her work has made a lot of children and adults happy. In the end, that counts for much. I don’t know if she was truly whole before the race was over, but maybe that happens on the eternity side.

Do you know what shapes you?

 

Truth-Telling

In many ways, truth-telling has gotten me in trouble. In the end, as I look back, it ended up for the good of the person across from me. Truth-telling is not always easy. In many situations, it has the potential of hurting the hearer or creating separation.

In the age we live in we’ve made three major mistakes:

  1. We have made truth a matter of interpretation. In other words, the truth is in the eyes of the beholder
  2. We have allowed our emotions to overrun reason. It seems that reason has been permanently exiled
  3. We are motivated by our fears

I’m making a case for truth-telling because I know the benefits. If the people closest to me had shied away from it, I would be lost in my own delusions. Often we’re very good at deluding ourselves.

I want to be very clear that truth-telling is an art. It involves love, timing and a strong grasp of the situation underpinning the conversation. If the person delivering the truth is ill-equipped or oblivious to this, the truth will be a source of harm. As you can imagine, it’s vital to seek truth from those you trust.

The following are some truths I’ve had to communicate recently:

  • “You’re smart and have a good heart. The mistake you made was allowing him to take advantage of your kindness.”
  • “He won’t give up the drugs because he doesn’t want to. When he wants to be whole, he will make the decision to own his problems.”
  • “I appreciate the desire to make things better. However, having more meetings to discuss what has been discussed to the point of nausea is a waste of everyone’s time.”
  • “I’m so sorry. I know that had to hurt you deeply. What can I do to help you?”
  • “No one owes you anything. You have been given the responsibility for your life. If you don’t like where you’re at, then begin the process of making a change.”

I haven’t perfected the art of truth-telling. I’m better at it than I was ten years ago, and I have a long way to go. It’s clear to me what happens if I fail to attempt truth-telling; I will fail myself and those who count on me.

A Message to Men

The above is a recent photo of my daughter. She’s beautiful, smart and has an authentic spirit. Now that she is an adult, much has changed. I’ll spare you all the things you know and have heard. My post today is not really about her. This is a message to men. The ones who she might date, encounter or run from.

The behavior of men in the current frame is flowing like water from a fire hose. It’s sad and it’s real. I always knew it to be sad, but not real. The “real” came into focus over the last 2 years. Here’s why:

  • My wife has endured harassing behavior inside of more than one large employer
  • My daughter is heading into a world where immature men seem to be everywhere
  • I’ve spoken to more than a few intelligent women who confirm the first two bullets

My message to men is simple:

Think, stop and back off.

If you’re reading this and you’re a man, I’m trying to keep it simple. If you apply the principle of think, stop and back-off, you will contribute to turning this mess around. It is a mess, by the way.

I think the many men are faced with many contributors to creating bad behaviors.

The end of reason is real. Many of us would have to agree that our culture is one of emotion-driven actions, I feel this way, so I behave this way. Reason restrains and asks the tough questions. Without . reason you might feel that every woman wants to…they don’t.

The disappearance of fathers is real. If you didn’t have a father who took the time to explain that women are co-equals, you might take your cues from music or film. Those two are very flimsy foundations to build on.

The dumbing down of leadership is real. You know it’s true, leadership is now caricature and the playground for men who should not be allowed in. I think many men, if their capable of honesty, would agree that most managers don’t belong in the roles given. By the way, your organization shares in the responsibility here.

I have more concerns and ideas, but I think if all of us men would just think, stop and back-off, we might have a shot in a much needed turnaround. It’s kind of a starting over approach. I’m certain that my wife and daughter would value the change.

A Day In the Epic Life

A friend told me some years ago that the Epic life is lived in the good and bad. His counsel has stayed with me. If you’re not careful, you could fall in the trap of believing an epic life is found in great heroics, acclaim or fame. It can be that, but honest people know it’s all about the moments. The following is a glimpse of a day in the epic life-mine:

Friday, August 18, 2017

7:30 AM – A walk in my neighborhood. Music playlist titled Yoga. Observing the moodiness of the clouds above me. A conversation with God

7:45 AM – Yoga and prayer

8:05 AM – Checking email and posting on social media

8:30 AM – Listening to Insight for Living and reflecting on living and dying

9:00 AM – Breakfast and listening to the news (local and national)

9:15 AM – Gig stuff (not Epic Living related). Quite bored and not finding it very meaningful. I push through because I have to

10:00 AM – Reached out to friends to check-in

10:05 AM – Back to the gig stuff

11:30 AM – Somethings wrong. Feel like my blood glucose is high. I test. 400 is the number. WT…

12:30 PM – Test my blood again. Still high. Take dosage of insulin. Getting frustrated because I haven’t eaten since 9.

12:45 PM – Cancelled 2 appointments, with apologies

1:30 PM – Feeling drained and listless. Take a nap

2:00 PM – Test my blood again. Lower number, but still too high. Decide not to take another dose. I’ve been burned before by getting too aggressive

2:45 PM – Looking at a draft version of a press release

2:45 PM – Prepare for a conference call

4:00 PM – Call medical provider about billing issues with insurance. I don’t like insurance companies. I see them as a legal racket. Very frustrated by the lack of competence and the game playing

4:20 PM – Talk with my wife about new opportunities and her so-called manager/leader. Hate seeing her go through. I listen.

 

As I look back over the day, it was epic. One thing that leaps out is the importance of morning prep. You never know what’s coming your way.

 

Learning By Falling Down

“I learn by falling down.”

The above words came to me today from a ten-year old boy named Rocco. I was observing him riding his Hoverboard and couldn’t help but notice his skill. Moving from room to room, or grabbing a snack from the fridge, he just moved effortlessly. I asked him how he learned to maneuver so well, and that’s when gave me the secret.

Learning by falling down is pretty straight forward for a ten-year old. He hasn’t accumulated all the baggage and wounds many adults have. He pretty much wants to be good at his art and sees falling down as an effective tool for learning. Did he ever get embarrassed or want to quit? I would think so, but accomplishing the mission/goal meant more to him than calling it quits.

I’m led to the following:

  • What makes you nervous about falling down?
  • Have you stopped for a moment to examine how much baggage you’ve been lugging around?
  • Are you addressing the wounds? By the way, everyone has at least a few.
  • What would life look like if you fell down more often.

Rocco’s approach is sound to get some success. The key is trusting your gut and the system (i.e. doing this will result in…).

I think I’m going to find some more ten-year olds to hang around with.

The Space Between the Notes

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the space between the notes, in music and in life. Quite frankly, the blending of the two. As a musician, I was taught about the discipline of waiting and going forward. The discipline has served me well. Its been a cruel teacher when I’ve failed to take it seriously. It has been a two-sided friend.

I read a quote once credited to Bill Evans. He was asked in an interview why he seemed to linger after striking certain notes. His response was simply his desire to wait and see what the next note would bring. Jazz musicians have always been credited with strong improvisation skills. Obviously, or not , Bill Evans was a master at it. He believed that music was conversational.

Life is conversational.

In your race to grab a hold of something or someone, are you missing the space in between? Could it be that what you’re looking for is found there? The impact is always felt once a note is played. The best artists know true impact is felt in an echo or the lingering tone. It’s instinctive in so many respects, yet ignored in the same frame.

Is your life just a flurry of notes, full of hurry, clutter, fear, and doubt? Why won’t you slow down? Why won’t you let go?

I know many who fear what’s in between the notes. Between the notes we find the wounds. People often fear those same wounds will be exposed. Who will listen? Who will give empathy? The world has become shallow, and safe places to open up are becoming more rare. Social media has made it worse. I sometimes think about what it would be like to wave a magic wand and change it all, but of course I don’t possess that power. Life is tough and it can be daunting.

Take comfort, there is safety here.