Letter from John: June 2014

I just told my coach that I was tired. In the same breath, I also remarked that I felt fairly calm and even about the number of balls, full plates and albatrosses in the air around me.

Philip then introduced me to the concept of "near enemy", a Buddhist phrase that describes a quality that can masquerade for the original, but is not the original. (The "Far enemy" lies opposite the original.) The near enemy of equanimity is indifference, and the far enemy is anxiety. In our coaching discussion, we explored the degree to which indifference or anxiety were part of my state of being in an extremely busy life. 

The answer: some, but not so much. I was tired, but in balance.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised -- indifference (in spades) and anxiety (in doses) have historically been present in my life during times of stress. With a new baby due in September, some serious illnesses affecting close family, a busy kid wrapping up kindergarten and an intense work schedule, it was refreshing to canvas the landscape, take a breath and say, "I think everything is happening as best it can, and I'm doing okay with it."

 In my work, I interact with a variety of people in organizations struggling to find balance and equilibrium. I was recently reading a great response from Mike Rowe, host of The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs show, to someone wondering how to find their ideal job (or, their workplace of equanimity). Rowe answers by describing a recent conversation with someone looking for the "right man", concluding:

Consider your own words. You don't want a career -- you want the "right" career. You need "excitement" and "adventure," but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of "change" and the "freedom to travel," but you need the certainty of "steady pay." You talk about being "easily bored" as though boredom is out of your control. It isn't. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting...

These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn't blame you -- especially after being compared to a 42 year old woman who can't find love. But since you asked...

Stop looking for the "right" career, and start looking for a job... don't waste another year looking for a career that doesn't exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that's consistent with those beliefs.

Many people today resent the suggestion that they're in charge of the way the feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you're with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.

Life is comprised of choices -- thousands of choices a day, large and small. Finding balance amidst the small whirlwinds that spin through our lives every day is no mean feat, and I imagine the same conversation with my coach two days later might have surfaced different perspectives. Our search for love, for the right job, for satisfaction contains one consistent variable -- ourselves.

But we already know that, don't we? Find ourselves, find our balance, find our bliss. Often in precisely that order.