Originally published June 5, 2014
Today I’m taking a page from my own book – yes, I’m still writing a bunch of books that I’m not writing – and looking at ways I can practice what I preach. Recent life events – increased career day appearances, office management consultation, business plan consultation – positioned me to say a lot of things to a lot of people about a lot of topics. And between their feedback and my reflection on how these many things fit into my life, it occurs to me that I spend a lot of time preaching… and not nearly as much effort to put these bits of so-called wisdom into play. Read on; you may be able to add to this list if you’ve ever fallen victim to one of my tirades (which I gratuitously call sharing, not lecturing).
1 Be who I am
I’ve fallen victim – in business, at work, around family – to trying to fit a label or squeeze into a box that someone else designed for me. In my professional life, it shows up in how I respond to critiques of my work or style. With family, it manifests itself in the way I choose to interact with various members. At a recent career day presentation, I asked a student about her career of choice, and she responded, “I am a singer.” The words “I am” stood out to me because this youngster, aged 7 or 8, views her future as something she’s shaping right now. It impressed me enough to remind me that I don’t owe anybody the satisfaction of fitting their perception of what “should be” or is “supposed to be” my life. I’ve committed myself to being exactly who I am all the time.
2 Do the things that appeal to me
Very much like my human counterparts, I like certain things. There are particular foods I enjoy eating, various activities I enjoy doing, and brands of entertainment that feed my emotional and intellectual needs. And there are things that I do because of who I am. As an artist, I take pride in creating, and I create in my own style with techniques I’ve developed over the years. As a writer, I write: journals, notebooks, articles, op-ed pieces, blog posts, rants, short stores, occasional poems, speeches. As an educator, I teach. I don’t always look for opportunities to impart knowledge or insight, and when such opportunities arise, I don’t balk at them either. As a mentor, I guide, coach, encourage, and sometimes lead people on their journeys to self-fulfillment. If ever I’m not doing one of those things, I’m not being who I am, and I have to refer to point #1 to re-calibrate.
3 Enjoy the people, places, and things in my life
When I want something – the big thing, the grand experience, the great achievement – and I focus really hard on getting it, I can easily lose sight of the prize by dwelling on all things I don’t have, the people not in my life, and the places I haven’t gone or cannot go. And that’s unhealthy on a lot of levels.
Yesterday, I was walking a young entrepreneur through some challenges he expressed in getting his business off the ground. He has an exciting business, a strong idea, and a sound plan for execution. He lacks confidence in his ability to accomplish his goals without financial capital that he believes will allow him to get started. Even as I urged him to start operating his business in ways that won’t require cash, it occurred to me that I sometimes fall into the same trap: I lose sight of what I have, of what I can do, of people I can enroll, as I move toward the big thing, the grand experience, the great achievement. And I don’t want to end up in that rut.
On Tuesday, a student asked me how my career choice has affected my life. I had to reflect in that moment, and it occurred to me that because of what I do (that appeals to me), my life is pretty awesome all the time. It’s not perfect. It’s pretty awesome all the time, though, and it’s because my passion allows me to see the world for what it is and to see beauty in everything all around me. As I was saying the words, renewed love for what I do sprang up inside me, and I wanted to go do only that thing that brings me such joy and inspires enthusiasm. I don’t always preach, but when I do… I want to practice a lot of more it to add credibility to the words I utter to others.