Ideal Careers? Follow Your Bliss? Get beyond foolish first

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

When it comes to sorting out a life or a career in terms of which direction to go there are many sources to draw on.  Pick your insightful book or thought leader or writer. They have loads to say on the matter.

And while you may work to find the color of your parachute or follow the Artsit’s Way, or get paid for being you there is a virtual haiku of guidance that can be followed constructed by Joseph Campbell.

Follow your bliss

I couldn’t have constructed a better three word course for life than Joseph Campbell did.

But simple often isn’t easy.

And usually it is frightening. So frightening that it has been relegated to a dark corner of the mind and rendered unacceptable.

So sometimes before you can follow your bliss you need to sort out some other thing that is further down on the food chain.

Such was the case with K.

K sat down at explained to me that she is in her first year as a lawyer and she is discovering that she doesn’t really like it.

At all.

Despite the distaste for her new career that she feels the seductive trap of continuing – she has spent so much money already, she would be  able to have a decent living and that plenty of people don’t like their jobs.

My impression of K was that despite her pretty bouncy nature I could sense an inner girdle on her that strapped her in and that radiated tension out her shoulders and neck.

I asked K to continue with her thoughts on her career at this point. She explained that while she felt the seduction of continuing she also so the futility of it

The race for partner and a corner office, I already feel the pressure for them, for it. And you know what? It already feels hollow and meaningless and it has barely been a year. Some people really seem excited and motivated by it.

And then she proclaimed weakly

I deserve a job that I like.

Fair enough and not terribly uncommon. So I asked K the obvious question

So, what is your ideal job?

She did the proverbial hemming and hawing and “I don’t know”ing. Her nervousness was spilling out of her.

There is a a classic Zen story about how dealing with ineffable truth is like swallowing a red hot ball of iron – you can neither totally swallow it nor can you spit it out. In this way it felt like this ideal profession was jammed into K’s gullet – too hot to swallow and incorporate and yet so hot that it was lodged in place.

After a few minutes of talking about it in a general terms it was clear that she wasn’t coming out with anything but she stayed in her chair willing to continue on this subject. It dawned on me that we had elevated this job too high – as IDEAL. And in its loftiness it was truly unobtainable. So I reversed our perspective entirely and asked:

What is the most useless job that you can think of that would be counter to what your parents and you would expect of you?

Her corset of tension suddenly expanded and she replied quietly

It’s way too foolish.

AH HA! Now we we uncovering something.

The more foolish and disappointing the better. I want the very worst job. Bad, bad, bad. The worse it is the better the answer.

K was mortified and tense and replied

I can’t say it out loud.

So staying with the reversing I asked

Can you whisper it?

And she did – right into my ear…

A travel writer.

And she covered her face in embarrassment but suddenly her corset popped and her shoulders dropped and she leaned back in the chair. She had said it. It was out. A TRAVEL WRITER!

Her excuses came thick and fast after this disclosure – why it was such a bad idea and if she could even do it.

This is to be expected. This was seemingly her first glance at an aspect of herself that she hadn’t looked at before with any seriousness. No wonder that she wasn’t simpatico with it yet.

I told her that I could offer her a way to start to look at being a travel writer without making the leap all at once. I suggested to her an improvisational vacation.

She chould go to a bus station and ask the ticket person to choose a place for her to go for the weekend with her budget.  No picking sites to see ahead of time or planning hotels or research – just go and figure it all out when she got there and make it a point to explore her locations and talk to people and then write about it and start to share it. See what it is like to write about travel where there are no stakes.

Day long trips, two day long trips.

It may make her job look different or it may open up new doors but the most important thing was to let this inner travel writer speak and breathe. She had smothered it for too long.

K said that this was scary but it seemed very enticing and that one unplanned trip sounded fun. She said that she would do it. Regardless of the outcome the woman sitting in front of me felt so much more present and interesting with more depth than the one who sat down 15 minutes before.

K thanked me and walked south towards 14th street – hopefully to travel.

Having the itchy feeling of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs is standard. But to truly have an open door to following your bliss there is a requisite level of fearlessness that must be taken on. The fearlessness to disappoint or to be foolish are two of many that can be featured.

But so often the foolish thing…or our thought that we call foolish about a neutral thing might be a place to start. In order to call something foolish or scary we must put a lot of meaning and energy into it .

You might as well see what art you may have laid the ground for without you even knowing it.

What are your foolish and disappointing visions for yourself?

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×
22 comments
divyeshs
divyeshs

Great to read this first thing in the morning here in Sydney. Joseph Campbell, Cavafy, T S Eliot all wisdom masters talk about going back to "home", and "ideally", after a lot of meanderings, approval seeking ways of living my life, there is a strong inner volition to go "home" and activate this purposeful life. It is laden with fear, as old ways of being very very slowly come to the conscious, and then left wondering what to do with this, and how to go ahead into new way of being (and thinking) where the realm of work/calling comes alive, together in "harmony" with other roles in life. Fear, clinging, control all play their roles forcefully to deter discarding of old mind.

In all this, all narratives and help is needed, and Matt, your post, gives a push further along this ongoing journey. Thank you.

Jen Gresham
Jen Gresham

Wonderful story. I hope K follows through on your advice.

As one of those writers on career change, I will add that your method works well for those who know what they want. But there are plenty who don't consciously know what they want (I used to be one of them). When I decided to change careers, I literally felt the whole world of possibility before me, which was both exciting and frightening. I think having a process (like those in the books your describe, or the one I've put together myself) can help people figure out what they want while reducing anxiety.

mstillman
mstillman

Jen, thanks for stopping by. K didn't know what she wanted for her career either. She only know that she had a career that she hated and one that she thought was foolish. Those other books can be of great service but I think that even before that that there are buried insights already there based on our aversions et al.

Jen Gresham
Jen Gresham

Or maybe I should say we all have an idea of what we want, it's just at various depths of burial and denial. That's probably more accurate, since I really knew what I wanted too, I was just too afraid to consciously acknowledge it. The fact that K could pull hers up so easily (within a single conversation) is actually encouraging. On the other hand, it may be a red herring, and I also think those systems help with recovering from a "false bliss" if you will. Sometimes people think they know what they want, you encourage them to go follow it, and when it doesn't work out, they think the whole bliss idea is bunk. It isn't, but finding what your bliss is can be more complicated than it appears.

Either way you slice it, I really enjoyed this post of yours--as usual! :)

Jen Gresham
Jen Gresham

Wonderful story. I hope K follows through on your advice.

As one of those writers on career change, I will add that your method works well for those who know what they want. But there are plenty who don't consciously know what they want (I used to be one of them). When I decided to change careers, I literally felt the whole world of possibility before me, which was both exciting and frightening. I think having a process (like those in the books your describe, or the one I've put together myself) can help people figure out what they want while reducing anxiety.

mstillman
mstillman

Jen, thanks for stopping by. K didn't know what she wanted for her career either. She only know that she had a career that she hated and one that she thought was foolish. Those other books can be of great service but I think that even before that that there are buried insights already there based on our aversions et al.

Jen Gresham
Jen Gresham

Or maybe I should say we all have an idea of what we want, it's just at various depths of burial and denial. That's probably more accurate, since I really knew what I wanted too, I was just too afraid to consciously acknowledge it. The fact that K could pull hers up so easily (within a single conversation) is actually encouraging. On the other hand, it may be a red herring, and I also think those systems help with recovering from a "false bliss" if you will. Sometimes people think they know what they want, you encourage them to go follow it, and when it doesn't work out, they think the whole bliss idea is bunk. It isn't, but finding what your bliss is can be more complicated than it appears.

Either way you slice it, I really enjoyed this post of yours--as usual! :)

Dylan
Dylan

After 21 years in a relationship I have had to say enough is enough. It does feel disappointing - letting down my wife (also my best friend) and children. It feels foolish to be telling them all that I'm not happy. Or to hear that my 16 year old says 'I hope dad's happiness is worth it.'. It may be hard to let down your parents but your kids?
Still I feel a sense of growing freedom and quiet. I know this is where I need to be, despite the guilt and regret and doubt.
I appreciate what you say about lowering the bar too. It just takes a few honest but shameful words and the secret's out. Then it gets easier.
I'm writing this partly for a friend who needs to hear it and also what you have said above. Cheers.

mstillman
mstillman

Dylan, thanks for sharing this here. I am grateful that it was a space that was conducive to you for that.

You say "enough is enough". Can you clarify what it is that has had enough?

Dylan
Dylan

Thanks Matthew for this piece. Even if I am a little off topic ...

What's had enough ? I think it's a sense growing in me that I've got more to offer. And more to enjoy. I don't have any fantasies about what lies ahead except that I might not feel like I'm just in transit towards the end. If that makes sense ?

mstillman
mstillman

fair enough but there still might be options. following your bliss is great but we often end up fetishizing truths we hear, so truth itself ends up becoming the sticking point.

there might be further to look.

leave for a year and come back and see what is different. Like a rumspringa in the Amish tradition.

take your kids out of school and have them travel with your for a year around the world and give your wife a break from all of it.

who knows? I know the feeling that you just need to cut the connection. but there are so many ways to do it. it might just need a pattern break.

either way keep the door open for your self.

Dylan
Dylan

That may be true of course. It's advice I've given myself many times and followed many times. I suppose all I can say is that it doesn't feel like following my bliss.

I had a similar dilemma about leaving a spiritual organisation after many years. It was such a relief just to do it.

I suppose the truth is I might be doing the wrong thing, but I don't think I'll ever know unless I take a risk. I'll always wonder about it.

Dylan
Dylan

That may be true of course. It's advice I've given myself many times and followed many times. I suppose all I can say is that it doesn't feel like following my bliss.

I had a similar dilemma about leaving a spiritual organisation after many years. It was such a relief just to do it.

I suppose the truth is I might be doing the wrong thing, but I don't think I'll ever know unless I take a risk. I'll always wonder about it.

mstillman
mstillman

i understand. how does ending your marriage ensure that you will have more to offer? Will you suddenly be enjoying things more?

You may well be making the right call but there might be other ways to open up possibilities while staying where you are.

Maybe. Might be worth exploring.

Dylan
Dylan

Thanks Matthew for this piece. Even if I am a little off topic ...

What's had enough ? I think it's a sense growing in me that I've got more to offer. And more to enjoy. I don't have any fantasies about what lies ahead except that I might not feel like I'm just in transit towards the end. If that makes sense ?

Dylan
Dylan

After 21 years in a relationship I have had to say enough is enough. It does feel disappointing - letting down my wife (also my best friend) and children. It feels foolish to be telling them all that I'm not happy. Or to hear that my 16 year old says 'I hope dad's happiness is worth it.'. It may be hard to let down your parents but your kids?
Still I feel a sense of growing freedom and quiet. I know this is where I need to be, despite the guilt and regret and doubt.
I appreciate what you say about lowering the bar too. It just takes a few honest but shameful words and the secret's out. Then it gets easier.
I'm writing this partly for a friend who needs to hear it and also what you have said above. Cheers.

mstillman
mstillman

dont mind roosters or coyotes at all. have been dying to be in a yurt. may take you up on this.

but as for your dj aspirations. indeed. what is the littlest, simplest, stupidest thing you could do to point you in that direction?

a hat?
i dont know.
but you might.

Jody
Jody

I threw this on my twitter profile as a dare to myself: wannabe sacred dj. Funny thing is: I've gotten more intrigued DMs & follows from that than from any other part of myself that I put out there. So there, said it again. Thanks for the space. Feels good to lob it out there again.

mstillman
mstillman

sacred dj.
we need those.
proud of you for putting your image out there.
how will you lower the bar and start the process?

i love the promise of your website. i adore Ojai. ever take the feminine aspect in men for a ride?

Jody
Jody

Stopped in my tracks by "lower the bar and start the process." Damn, thank you for my new mantra & mojo! And just for that, you're welcome in Ojai anytime. The guest yurt is yours, if you don't mind roosters & coyotes.

Jody
Jody

Stopped in my tracks by "lower the bar and start the process." Damn, thank you for my new mantra & mojo! And just for that, you're welcome in Ojai anytime. The guest yurt is yours, if you don't mind roosters & coyotes.

Jody
Jody

I threw this on my twitter profile as a dare to myself: wannabe sacred dj. Funny thing is: I've gotten more intrigued DMs & follows from that than from any other part of myself that I put out there. So there, said it again. Thanks for the space. Feels good to lob it out there again.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×