A Thirty Year Anniversary?
Why Does This Feel Like the Dress Rehearsal?
“Pushed by the Pain or Pulled by the Vision.”
This is a phrase in which I am intimately familiar. The extremes were a driving force in launching Inspired Work, thirty years ago this weekend. Outside of our bonds with loved ones and spirituality, our purpose plays a definitive role in establishing meaning, fulfillment, economic freedom, and joy in our lives. Thank you to all of the brave souls who joined us and proved we can love our work and make great livings in the same life.
September 15, 1990. I found myself standing in front of thirty-six people, each drawn to the Loew’s Beach Hotel to define their ideal relationship towards work.
Pushed by the pain? I was!
- A seven-year relationship came to a traumatic end.
- My career unexpectedly blew up.
I likened the period to a term my fellow sailors use called “the bitter end.” This is when you drop anchor, and the water is too deep. That last piece of rope when it flies through your hands? That’s the bitter end.
I worked in the staffing industry for 13 years, 12 as an executive. I viewed this work as my day job. I got into it by selecting the friend who made the most amount of money and asking for an interview.
My real career? I was working towards becoming a commercially successful jazz pianist and composer.
Finally, my big and magnificent ship came in and docked.
A respected jazz producer had just launched a label with Warner Brothers. He asked if I would become their first artist. Some of my friends from the staffing company said you could see the skid marks as I zoomed out the door. I quickly came to love him. He was a visionary, had impeccable musical taste, and he was the kind of producer who inspired giving our best, whether it was behind an instrument, talking to another musician, arguing about a pad.
One beautiful and sunny afternoon, the phone rang. A woman was sobbing, and it was Lyman’s girlfriend. Early that morning, he walked down the stairs, looked at her with a smile, asked what she was doing with her day, and then, he dropped dead. Afterward, I sank to the floor and didn’t move for over an hour. My dogs came over and curled up next to me. When I finally opened my eyes, I was hit by an overwhelming sucker punch:
“I have always been waiting for happiness in the future.”
For the first time, I realized that I didn’t really know anything of value in how to build a life where happiness and joy are daily centerpieces.
It was like getting a cold shower after tragic circumstances. “Yes, you didn’t survive the Titanic. And, that warmth you’re feeling? It isn’t heaven.
I was usually involved in human development programs. At the time, Cherie Carter-Scott introduced me to the power of asking and answering questions. I find the Socratic process to be the tool that brings dignity to everyone who uses it. I also found that other programs tended to deal with work in a very obtuse way like pressuring us to “make a difference.”
I walked down to the beach every single day with a notepad and a pen. At first, the title was “my miserable life.” Later it changed, “How will I make the world better for all of us?” What I was working on was becoming part of a curriculum. Friends asked me to deliver a pilot in an academic setting. But, it was that first program at the beach that changed my life along with almost every person in that room.
It was the first time I encountered my purpose because it was more important than music. I was begin given the opportunity to help people free their souls and I have never looked back.
What have I learned?
All of us have a purpose that brings richness, meaning, and fulfillment to our lives. But, turning that into a living is every bit as important. Fuse the two together, and we not only find joy, but we have sustainable freedom.
We come into this world with career DNA. Until we develop the courage to find it, we get by. Some call it mediocrity. If you have any doubts about DNA take a look at your thumb.
Fearlessness is a myth. The only fearless people I’ve known have well-developed pathologies, or they are numbed out on something. When we accept that fear is best responded to by courage, we are ready to pursue the life we really want to have.
The road to success is based on finding the work that you love and developing the life skills that make any career or business successful, at least until the day it becomes obsolete.
Technology isn’t taking away work; it is giving us freedom from monotonous and mind-numbing tasks. The emerging work is meaningful, it matters, it is essential, and it will help us grow as never before. But it isn’t there if we don’t look.
We are launching a new company called workskunk. The purpose of this new business is to help end underemployment, which we believe is the greatest source of turmoil in America. Yes, it feels as if everything we have done to this point is a dress rehearsal for what’s coming.
Thank You’s Are In Order
My last boss once asked me what it is like to wake-up in the morning. I wondered what she was getting at. She responded, “I’ve followed you. Your work has given thousands of people brand new lives. What does that feel like?”
I said, “It feels like redemption.”
I will always do my best to stand up for all that you want to accomplish. I will always do my best to grow because that is the only way I can continue to be of service.
Thank you to the loving and brilliant people who’ve made this journey not only possible, you have turned my life into an experience that surprises all of us.
Paula, everyone learns from your empathy and commitment to be kind, no matter what.
Bob Maurer, you showed up and offered brilliance, credibility, and science. Not only have you changed the lives of our participants and clients, but you have also transformed my life.
‘If there was ever an award for being a solid citizen, it would have to go to Sherry Geyer.
Cherie Carter-Scott, you showed me how to find the truth.
To my late and great teacher Phil Cohen, not only were you the most inspiring music whisperer I ever met, you taught me how to unlearn, and that gift touches everyone that I touch. As a result, you continue to stay alive in my heart.
David Philp, your are my British pop icon and finest mentor. We are brothers from several mothers, and you are the most elegant source of wicked humor that I’ve ever known.
Mary Campbell, you will never quite know just how much you gave to my moving forward. I treasure your integrity and your extraordinary intelligence. You bring grace to those qualities that can only exist in a ballerina.
Paul Archambault, Most of my life was spent talking guys into trying on the glass slipper until there was you.
Thank you to those of you who showed up and allowed us to help you find the truth and bring your real gift into a world that needs everything we have.