Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
As a teenager, I was one of those kids who hadn’t a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. My twenties came and life just kind of happened. I had opportunities. I took advantage of them. I gave it my all. And life unfolded from there. By the time I was 23 I was in a mid-level retail management position overseeing about 20 employees. And I thought to myself that by the time I was in my thirties I wanted to be a senior level manager in my company with a big profit sharing portfolio on a trajectory toward retirement by my mid-forties.
After learning of the disproportionate number of those managers who ended up dead early of heart attacks or divorced, I opted for a move into another industry in my thirties. As life continued to unfold I looked ahead to my forties with a desire to be successfully self-employed and financially independent.
I entered my forties over three years ago and today I am neither successfully self-employed nor financially independent. And with another decade of life well underway I am once again looking ahead to the next milestone, the age of 50, and thinking about where I want to be, where I feel I need to be, when I arrive at that number which at the moment scares the hell out of me. Fifty? Me? No way.
I am learning something valuable in my forties that I didn’t grasp in the first few decades of life. And that is the necessity of finding balance and forward momentum in the midst that which is less desirable while longing for my preferred future. The Chinese call a similar tension in life the Yin Yang. It is the interconnectedness and interdependence between seemingly polar opposite forces. Light. Dark. Positive. Negative. Happy. Sad. Difficult. Easy. Complex. Simple.
Translated into the Zen of work, it looks something like this. You know what you were created to do, but circumstances seem to prevent you from doing it. You know what you are great at. But real life demands that you devote a lot of time and energy to other things that you aren’t so great at. You have your dreams. Yet reality always seems to get in the way causing your dreams to be deferred for perhaps another decade or two, or three, or five.
Sounds frustrating doesn’t it? It can be. After a couple of decades, I think most people simply give up. The ones who do surrender are the ones who misunderstand the nature of Yin Yang. It isn’t a battle in which negative overcomes positive, or positive overcomes negative. To the contrary, one is dependent upon and gives rise to the other in turn. Both are required. Both are unavoidable. And the person who finds fulfillment in life and work is the person who learns to cooperate with the negative to bring about the positive and in the midst of the positive is strengthened, prepared, and emboldened to endure the negative that will come in turn. The Yin Yang symbol demonstrates this interdependence. White on one side (representing light, positive, happy, easy and simple with black on the other representing dark, negative, sad, difficult, and complex. Yet there is the presence of a black circle in the midst of the white side and the presence of a white circle on the black side.
So here you are in the midst of living and working and dreaming about the future. You may have a very good job with a great company, surrounded by positive, talented people. But you still dream about someday finding that career “sweet spot” wherein it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between work and play. You have a vision for the thing you’d love to be doing. But you aren’t there. You don’t know how to get there. You keep waiting for all of the stars and planets to align perfectly so you wake up one morning and all you’ve dreamed about is right outside your door waiting for you to step onto the scene. But life doesn’t happen that way. Yin. Yang. Tick. Tock.
Look again at the taijitu symbol. In the forward portion of the dark side is a circle of light. And herein lies the secret of maintaining forward momentum toward your dream career. Hidden in plain sight within your present reality are daily moments of preparation for the future you dream about. Remember, the Yin Yang concept does not teach us that one force or one reality conquers the other. Dark doesn’t conquer light. Light doesn’t conquer dark. They interplay and give rise to one another. Your goal is not to find a means of escape from your present reality to enter the career of your dreams. Your goal is to undergo hands-on training for the career of your dreams in the midst of your present reality.
Even if the work you dream about doing bears little resemblance to what you do today, there are basic fundamentals that are common across the entire spectrum of our work. And mastering those fundamentals is a prerequisite to successfully entering your preferred future.
What will you need to know about people in your dream job? You can master it in your present job.
What will you need to know about business in your dream job? You can master it in your present job.
What will you need to know about marketing in your dream job? You can master it in your present job.
What will you need to know about finance in your dream job? You can master it in your present job.
What will you need to know about leadership in your dream job? You can master it in your present job even if leadership isn’t a formal part of your job description.
All of these things are common themes in work and business. Every day that you wake up to do the work that you have to do while waiting to do the work you’d love to do you are presented with and surrounded by moment after moment, opportunity after opportunity, to prepare for the work of your dreams. Recognizing those moments and seizing those opportunities will keep your heart and mind in balance with life today as you maintain forward momentum toward what you were created to contribute to this world.