I was waiting to board the plane back to LA after delivering a keynote speech in Portland. The driver dropped me off about 3 hours before departure. In the guest lounge, I was in-the-deep with writing and editing. Purifying the message happens to be one of my joyful experiences.
The man next to me was also quietly working and drinking coffee.
Suddenly, he turned towards me and said, “You are working so intensely on that document, would it be rude of me to ask what it is?”
“I own a business that helps people transform their relationship towards work. One of my colleagues from academia and I are working on a book to help families better prepare their children for the future of work.”
“What the premise?”
“Well, change is taking on such gigantic proportions, we need a whole new mindset in how we select work and we need important new life skills to succeed, no matter the profession.”
I could see he was sitting on top of something that was painful. He asked, “How do we select our work?”
“We used to focus all of our energy of meeting 2 basic standards in our work, predictability, and survival. Now that we have lost those standards, which we were already mediocre, there is an entirely new opportunity to raise the standards of what we choose to do with our lives. Change is uncomfortable. The only reliable fuel we have found that drives personal change and action is loving our work, doing the work that is meaningful. Otherwise, it is just a job.”
His face turned sheet white.
“I’ve been at war with my daughter for two years.”
“She leaves for college this year and wants to study marine biology.”
“What, on earth, is wrong with that?”
“I believe she can make more money with many other professions.”
“You actually think she will make more money if she doesn’t like the work? Look, no matter how much you try you will not be able to control your daughter. This stand-off that you are having is shielding both of you from meaningful collaboration at a very tender point in your lives.”
There was a period of intense silence. Then, he looked up and I witnessed the surrender as he opened his mouth. He declared, “I’m wrong, aren’t I?”
I responded, “Yes, you are.”
“What shall I do?”
“Go home and tell her you were wrong to imply ‘Don’t be you.’ Tell her that you love what she wants to do with her life because it will be honorable and good. Tell her she is going to become a wonderful marine biologist. Tell her it isn’t your place to tell her what to do with her life but as her father, you will do your very best to help her understand how to succeed.”
At that very moment, the hostess came over and told him his flight was almost done boarding. He turned at the door and looked at me as if he had seen a ghost. For a flash, his eyes welled up. His free hand covered his heart, face flushed, he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
On my plane, there was an older Lesbian couple in the seats ahead of me. They are celebrating retirement with a first class trip to Costa Rica.
The guy next to me resembled a Shaman.
It was a convivial group but I didn’t want to talk. I sat in the gratitude of doing the work that I love and looked out the window as lakes and rivers sped below us, and the sunset over the Pacific. Tears fell.
I was thinking of her.
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