At the airport this past Friday morning:
A young man (I am guessing between the ages of 17-25) dances/skips with perfectly pointed toes across the endless carpeted open space in the international arrivals terminal in Toronto. I see him from the top of the escalator two stories up. Upon a closer look, I can see he isn’t a professional. He and his mother happened to exit at the same time I did. I asked the woman if I could talk to her son. She paused.
“He’s autistic,” she said.
“I know,” I said and proceeded.
“I saw you dancing in there.”
“I’m not a dancer,” he said.
“Well, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your joy. It made me very happy to see you dance.”
He walked away. His mom cried.
She seemed shocked that someone even noticed her son, much less had something kind to say to him.
I posted this bit on Facebook, and the reactions and shares piled up. Many acknowledged me for my actions which, frankly, still embarrasses me. I didn’t mean to attract attention to myself. I wanted to share this scene for people to take in and bring their own meaning to it.
In the few days since, I thought it was worth repeating here as an invitation. That invitation is to look up from your devices and skip past instant assumptions. Focus your perspective to cut through the surface to find a connection or commonality you can appreciate with our fellow human beings. See their humanity.
You know what I saw when I watched the dancing young man? First, I saw beauty in his form. Then I marveled at the freedom he gave himself to enjoy the open, uncrowded, carpeted space. Then I projected myself into that observation. Whenever I am in an open, carpeted expanse, like an empty Las Vegas conference ballroom (not random, I’m in these ballrooms often for speeches), I want to do the very same thing he was doing! I want to jump and dance and fly through the space to the limits of my human ability. Before a certain age, I cartwheeled when I was alone in these spaces. So by looking up from my device and coming upon the bird’s eye view of this dancer, I saw beauty, felt joy in watching him, and connected it to my secret. I relished the moment.
I also had to say something to him about it. I knew he wouldn’t care, but I felt moved to talk to him. I felt I could relate to this mother who has it much harder than I do. I know she lives in a world most don’t understand. I wanted her to know her boy had an impact. His freedom to be himself mattered.
What will you notice today? What will you SEE?
If you read this because you’re on the Now What? (am I going to do) journey, being more in tune with what’s going on around you can help open your eyes to opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Sometimes hopping from career to career can be wise, fulfilling, and even beneficial, as you carry with you what you’ve gained in experience, knowledge, and contacts from past jobs. Our choices don’t have to be forever. How refreshing!
If you haven’t found your passion yet, don’t despair! Passions aren’t lying in wait for you to uncover them, nor is there just one “true” passion for each of us.
Our core interests aren’t whetted to one path or career. Rather, they can be cultivated – growing and developing over time as we explore new areas of interest and approach the world with an open, curious mind.
These days it’s very rare to find anyone who stays in a job for life the way our parents did.
If you find yourself in the situation looking for a change, here are some tips to help you get through:
“Fear of failure, of looking silly, of being rejected, of losing status — it’s the single biggest dream killer in the world of work,” but don’t let that stop you from making what could be your best move yet!
Mental illness, suicide and depression have been everywhere on broadcast and online media in the last week due to the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. The reality of changing careers by choice or by force can put many of us on a shaky limb with our mental wellbeing. Let’s address some of the reasons why and some factors that can help steady the course of big changes.
Money + Uncertainty + Identity Crisis = Troubled Times
In my experience, money is the first factor that shakes one’s stability in the career transition journey. Even people with ample savings or the ability to start retirement (although not their preference) get anxious about finances when facing a change in job or direction.
Add uncertainty which in and of itself can set people off. Then throw in the identity crisis which creeps in from even considering giving up a role that has defined for decades, and you have a fertile breeding ground for emotional disruption. Change, for most people, is no picnic. But, that doesn’t have to be a deterrent to making one.
Richard came to work with me recently after being let go from a high paying job. He had enough money to retire if he had to, but he wanted a few more years of earning a top income to feel more secure. The opportunities, however, were not showing up and the truth was, we discovered, he had no motivation to pursue them. He was feeling down.
The lack of motivation was due to really wanting to do something more fulfilling, but he didn’t see any way for his interests to equate to any salary remotely close to what he was making. The result? Complete paralysis.
Through the Now What?® Life Story process Richard began to see what he wanted to weave back into his life. However, his mood did not automatically improve. He still found more reasons to doubt a happy outcome than to believe in one, and he couldn’t see beyond his doubt. Music and songwriting was a long-gone passion that he wanted back in his life, but he knew he was not going to be a more than-middle-aged rock star so just as quickly as some excitement showed up, his spirits were quickly dampened.
Before one particular session, I had an intuitive inkling to mention to Richard an idea about an artistic space where music recording, lessons, and performances could all take place. As soon as I did, the light bulbs started going off! One thing led to another, and as I write this he is exploring a few opportunities to do something along these lines. Some already existed and others he would need to raise some funds for (which he can certainly do)! He also took on another creative project or two , and his spirits are lifting tremendously.
Richard and his wife decided to downsize their home to make their finances more comfortable. And, as sometimes happens, an opportunity to do some of his old work without a stressful full-time job showed up as well. Things are still in flux, but the darkness has dissipated. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
How do you do this yourself?
First, don’t go down the path of thinking that he has money and you don’t. I’ve seen results like this without financial freedom. Secondly, decide which “wolf to feed.”* Do you want to keep dwelling in dread or do you want to invest in possibilities – things that just may work out?
Like all my clients, once clear on some possible angles, Richard took small step after small step to talk to people, network, ask questions, and follow the leads where they took him. You can do this too.
Here are a few tips:
● Take extra good care of yourself—sleep, drink plenty of water, eat right, take walks, whatever is right for you, do it.
● Gather support—don’t go at it alone. Engage someone to hold you accountable, have cheerleaders, join a group of like-minded folks and make it happen together.
● Maintain rituals– the things in your life that work and comfort you and do more of them, whether it’s journaling, exercising, weekly dinner with particular people, etc.
● Take small steps—Small steps are more easily attainable, they get you moving forward, and when they bear fruit, they encourage you to take more.
To keep emotions and fears from eating you up, to navigate the lack of structure that comes from being out of work, and to stay mentally fit, try some of the above. If you’re suffering or feel afraid of your own feelings, please do get help. Here are some helpful resources for those in need.
National Institute of Mental Health 1-866-615-6464