I wanted to change the world. I guess that’s the summary of why, when I stood in corner of my tiny, rented kitchen in May, I had the courage to say out loud that I wanted to quit my day job and finally explore the ideas and opportunities I felt had been on hold: Writing books. Speaking to groups of thousands and sharing my ideas for capturing and utilizing passion. Filling every day with countless original songs- finally unlocking the depths of my heart to share with anyone who would listen. Entrepreneurialism. A life where waiting for coffee that was bitterly dispensed from an office machine while I played out scenarios and ideas in my head wasn’t the creative highlight of my day.
Quit my job I did. And interestingly enough, when reviewing the above list, I’ve been doing a lot of those things, too. I’m outlining a book. I’ve blogged for some websites that I love. I get to speak to groups, just like I hoped and thought I could. I’m writing music literally everyday, with people who inspire me and help me to be better. I’m building my brand. And it’s awesome.
But it’s not changing the world. It hasn’t even changed my world...Just my circumstances.
I’d be willing to bet, at least one of you reading this blog waits for bitter coffee to be dispensed every day and dreams big dreams of the amazing things you’d do if you had the time....I want you to know, your big dreams don’t get you there- to wherever “there” even is. Your big dreams are soul-stirring, for sure. But they’re still work. If I’ve learned anything in the past 8 months, I’ve learned that even loving what you have to go to work for, does not negate the work that is required. Some days, the work- the tedious, challenging, stressful work- that comes along with any passion that plants itself in you, makes you resent the passion itself. It’s far easier to love something from afar than it is to sit in the trenches with it every day.... Like a love lost, or a wished-for item you didn’t buy from the store- when something (or someone) isn’t yours to hold, it's forever beautiful, because it stays either a memory or a day dream- it's never yours to hold. But working for your passion is like having a child. You never fall out of love with your dream or your work, but you start to see its flaws, and wonder if you’re just totally screwing everything up. You wonder if you’re good enough, or worthy of even having the opportunity that you do, when you’re convinced there are so many others who would do it better...
I’m digressing, but necessarily so. Because, we put so much weight into “what” we are- a once-corporate employee, a songwriter, a speaker, a writer, an entrepreneur (in my case)- that we forget to feel our way through things. We were called to our pursuits because we allowed our guts to guide us. At some point, the sitting still, wherever we were, became unacceptable and our calling to whatever it is we chose (or chose us) became too loud and obvious to avoid. And then, we jump in with both feet, and turn off our guts- because, hey- we’ve made it, right? We did what the Universe, or God, or whoever/whatever put us on earth to do, so now, we use logic and protocol to get us to stage 2...the very things that never served us, and did NOT get us here- to where we are who we actually want to be- are the things we start to depend on, out of habit.
We’re told for a long time that we have to flow the current, and so we do. We do things because we’re supposed to, not because we actually feel like we should. There have been a few times I’ve said “eff that”. And you know what happened every.single.time?
The best things ever. I mean, maybe NOT the BEST things ever, but the best possible things for those outcomes:
When I worked in the financial industry, I was given a list of business owners to cold call and told to start from the bottom. I entertained many a conversation with Joe Schmoe the hardware store owner/plumber/electrician/floral designer in middle-of-nowhere-America, to talk about a $4,000 company 401k I couldn’t help him with at all. I’m pretty sure both Mr. Schmoe and I were equally as aggravated and perplexed at the end of our several month cat and mouse pursuit. I literally would lay my head on the mahogony desk that always smelled like my 5th grade classroom and ask myself if making these calls was more than just soul-sucking...was it even moral? To call the bottom when I couldn’t even help them? So, one late night of cold calling, I skipped to the top and called the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company recently relocated to Nashville. After an equal amount of follow up that even small tots like Joe Schmoe required, I landed a meeting with this CEO-- someone who I, frankly, wasn’t qualified or ready to meet with. I brought some people who were with me, and it was fine (great, even), but my point is- even in a job that didn’t feel like “me”, being a bottom feeder was 50 shades of NOT me, and it felt crappy. I did what felt right, even in a situation that wasn’t right for me, and it paid off, even if in nothing else but dignity points.
A few weeks ago, two of my friends (who I primarily know through facebook) were dealing with a family crisis. I literally had met these friends once in person, but felt myself being called to them, for reasons I didn’t understand. I sat in the parking lot of Costco, arguing with myself about why I shouldn’t be there for them- “You barely even KNOW them”... “It would be weird”.... “I mean, it would probably make them uncomfortable for you to show up...”. I thought about them bringing flowers, and it was amazing to me how easy it was to talk myself out of it. And for what? To save some weird quasi version of pride (which makes no sense)? To not be vulnerable? I don’t know. But...I knew having even thought of flowers, I had to do it. If I hadn’t, I would’ve wondered what would have happened if I did. You know what happened? Nothing, that I can tell....Except maybe for a moment, I made someone feel loved and connected. And maybe something bigger is or was at play, but if not, my heart was made happy...and, my world was changed.
I’ve been a motivational coach since May, but mostly for adults. I recently partnered with a place where I’m working with young (9-15 year old) girls. I had one girl who, on the first day, did something well and I congratulated her by name. She looked at me with soft, but sharp eyes and said, “You know my name?” and smiled. Like she was used to being looked over, and not looked at. The next day, that girl was not in class. But after class, she came in with her mother and started talking to the director of the facility. Her mother told the director she wouldn’t bring her anymore because her daughter wasn’t responsible enough, ambitious enough, or enough, period. I watched as a seemingly tough girl with a brave face started allowing tears to well in her eyes, as her mother told the director, in front of the rest of the office (including me) her, in my opinion, very private and harsh, view of her 14 year old “lazy”, “not driven” daughter. The director and another woman tried to calm the mother. But I didn’t care at all about her. How could I? Who was she? I looked at this girl. The girl who was surprised I knew her name, and now, I knew why. The conversation was a flurry of political correctedness on the facility’s part, and aggravation on the mother’s part, but in a sea of sharp words and ugly stars, I saw a girl who hadn’t been seen. “Name,” I said (only...I said her name ;)) and she slowly brought her eyes to me- her cheeks tear stained with shame and humiliation. “Name...don’t lose your magic. You’re a special girl. You. Are. Special.” It’s what I had to say. I’m sure it pissed her mother off no end, and, to be honest with you, her mother was pretty scary. But I felt those words bubble up in me and I knew I had the chance- that I could say it and risked being yelled at, discounted, or threatened, or those words would die unsaid with the rest of my life’s should-haves and could-haves. The girl looked at me and I came around to hug her. She cried hot tears into my shoulder and I think it took everyone back. I was, without a doubt, out of line. I was supposed to be advocating curriculum. I shouldn’t have even been part of the conflict. I should have been gone, had I not stalled leaving. After she and I let one another go, I looked at her scary, hard, and obviously mad mother in the eyes and I said, “I was her teacher yesterday. And she was amazing.” And my world was changed. Not because anything dramatic happened. But because in that moment, I followed the feeling. I didn’t swallow what was right because it was inconvenient, or scary, or messy. I don’t know what will happen of that girl. I hope good things. It’s selfish to think one interaction like that may have changed her course in life....but just maybe....?
So, I set out to change the world. And I’m not there yet. But if-- no, WHEN-- I do change the world, it won’t be because I wrote the most epic musical composition ever heard. It won’t be because of my millions in the bank. It won’t be the businesses I started...those will all be nice. What will change the world are the tiny moments that I’ve listened to the calling in my heart; the moments that, if even temporarily have changed my world. Because those moments make me stronger, make me braver and make me more seeded than ever in the belief that the people who do extraordinary things in this world are not simply people that had an amazing idea, or great execution or made great investments...they’re the people who followed their feelings with abandon and believed, somehow, that even if they seemingly amounted to nothing, they were there for a reason and they were meant to be honored. So be busy and work your ass off for your dream. Make spreadsheets and send invoices and all that jazz. But don’t forget to honor what feels right- and wrong- and live your life accordingly. You might change the world. You might not. You might change someone else’s life. You might not. But you will absolutely change your own world and your own life...and that, ultimately, is what it’s all about.