Thursday, April 22, 2010


So I'll start off by saying it was way less scary than I thought it would be. It was delightfully informal. The first hour was mostly meet and greet. I met two of the hostess's lovely sisters, some of the moms from preschool and mommy group, and friends of friends of friends. I engaged in small talk - something I don't think I'm good at - and tried to keep track of names. Then the speaker took the floor and spoke about her experiences on the road to becoming a life coach for about 15 minutes.

She was cute, and definitely spunky, and certainly very invested in her experiences. She did assume a little more background knowledge in her audience about the sphere of personal improvement, but perhaps that's bias - I didn't really know the names of the people she referenced though it's possible I've seen one of the books she mentioned advertised on a bus shelter. She did not use a lot of hocus pocus words, nor did she speak like a drone or a robot - all good things. And, as I had expected, what she said was elemental; and she admitted as much while asserting that it's precisely the elemental things we find it so easy to overlook.

Then she opened the floor up for questions. I asked one. I even made it honest and truthful and not designed to trick her into admitting she was a massive fraud, or a thetan, or a seller of snake oil. She responded as best she could without giving away strategies best learned through purchasing her book. And she's a businesswoman above all else, so I don't blame her for that. After question time we returned to speaking to one another, only this time, we spoke about what we had just heard. I was gratified to hear more skepticism from the other women than I would have expected. The refrain I kept hearing was to the tune of, "that's all well and good in the abstract, but how do I improve my life starting now?"

The crux of the speaker's thesis, and her name is Marie Forleo if you are interested in learning more, was that we all need to live in the moment more. Now that's one of those catchphrases that twitches me almost immediately, but I attempted to translate it into something more palatable for my snobbish ears. What I came up with is that we all need to learn to be fully invested in our activities if we want them to succeed. That makes a lot of sense and I don't need to dig too deep to discover how rarely I'm fully invested in anything. I'm more of a dabbler, really, and my bank account and self-esteem show that. The how was the ingredient we didn't get for free.

But she said one thing that really resonated with me (see admission of dabbling above): she said that we are programmed to think that success comes, for the most part, in a single arena; that we have to commit wholly to one thing and one thing only and be a success in that; that attempting to be successful more than once and in more than one area is to set one's self up for failure. She called bullshit on that. She said that as long as you are able to be in the moment fully invested in each of the activities that drives you, you don't have to pigeonhole yourself. I can buy that.

But here's the rub: my personal problem, for all of you who are interested, is I'm completely devoid of that initial all-encompassing inspiration. There are a lot of things I could be interested in and could devote my time to, I just am so incredibly wishywashy, indecisive, and self-critical that instead I do nothing. The real development that took place on account of last night's event was the conversation, poorly timed, that devoted partner and I had this morning. And shocker of shockers he said something that is going to stick with me. He said there's a difference between a career and an avocation.

Well, shit, that's true. I started making and selling chocolates while I was unemployed and decided that instead of going to get a stable job, I would hack away at chocolates until it became a stable job. Thing is, it never became a stable job. Why didn't I go back and get another technology job and make chocolates at night and on the weekends? I can answer that question: because that would have been difficult and time consuming and not fun. Sitting around in my underwear and responding to intermittent orders was fun (if non-lucrative). I never made the chocolates my job, I just made the chocolates.

So here's my takeaway: for eff's sake stop quitting your jobs. You have ideas. They constantly percolate. Start following through. Stop thinking that all it takes is an idea and start attempting to make the ideas work. No one will pay me just for having neat ideas (although I always thought that's what working at a think tank was). In the meantime, start thinking about things I could do as a career - perhaps my ideas and my career will intersect, perhaps not, but I shouldn't think of it as a binary system: either I have a career or I have a thing I really like to do.

Oh, and to the one person who won the 258 million dollar jackpot in Missouri... I totally hate you.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Seriously pursuing your ideas can be hard and inconvenient and the process can be difficult for the people around you, too. And it just gets harder along the way, but after a certain point, dabbling just isn't going to do anything for you.

    We usually know exactly what we 'should' do to pursue an idea, but the idea of pushing that hard to do it is that it's fucking scary and it might not work out.

    I don't know that 'stop quitting your jobs' and 'heavily invest in your ideas' are mutually exclusive, but, yes, there needs to momentum before doing anything drastic.

    That said, the 'day-job' has its own momentum and figuring out the right time and circumstances can be difficult.