Saturday, July 16, 2005

Coaching the Human Becoming

Have you heard of the new career opportunity for people who can't do, but can teach? It's called a life coach. For a fee, they will come to you (or even talk over the phone - some of them are that good) and tell you what you should do with your life.

I don't even know where to begin with this concept. Have we come to the point where we are so far removed from our friends and our family that we have to pay someone to tell us what we should do? Or has life become so complicated that our friends and/or family are useless in helping us make sense of our lives and careers? I mean, how much can Old Dad tell you about the future opportunities waiting in the field of semiconductor vacuuming? Maybe tomorrow they will invent a replacement for the semiconductor vacuum - maybe a semiconductor wet-vac - or maybe they will invent a replacement for the semiconductor. Maybe they already have and I'm just too hopelessly doinky to know yet.

I know somebody who could use some life coaching. I wish I could help him, but I have just recently figured out my own life. (I think. Ask me again next week.) For what it's worth, here's my career advice:

Oprah says follow your passion. This is very good advice. However, I must caution you that it's not enough to be passionately interested in something, or to passionately want something. You must passionately like all the crap it takes to get it. Some cases in point:

I majored in psychology in college, expecting to become the next Bob Newhart (does that date me? so be it). I was passionate about psychology. I still am. What the hell makes us tick? Why does the squishy grey goo in our heads make us write poems and limited liability company agreements, make fondue, pray to God, and wear polyester leisure suits? Yet for all the curiosity I have in my own head about psychology, I was not able to talk to strangers - especially disturbed strangers - about their problems. That is too scary for A Very Small Animal such as myself. The passion did not get me through the practice.

I spent the better part of two years in nursing school. I was passionate about nursing. I still am passionate about medicine for the same reason I was passionate about psychology. What make us go? Why do some peoples' pancreases just give up the ghost one day and say "f**k it, I'm done. Find another way to get insulin. I'm pooped"? Why does my heart just keep beating, when my leg muscles get so tired after a couple of hours? How does my thumb know to replace the thumb part I cut off with more thumb cells instead of eyeball cells? ...where was I? Oh yeah, nursing. Turns out that nurses have to attend to really sick and really, really grumpy people all day. And if they make a mistake, it's curtains for the patient and lawyerland for the nurse. It freaked me out and I changed my mind about nursing. The passion did not get me through the practice.

Now, I have a job that I like. No passion, but I like it and I'm good at it. What I'm passionate about is what I do between work days: painting. And I can use everything else I'm passionate about in my art. What turns up in my paintings is rather telling - animals I like, places I remember, people that inspire me: bears, bunnies, beaches, dogs, and Dean. This passion may not get me anywhere other than surrounded by a lot of pictures, but it doesn't matter, because I love doing it. It's challenging - horrifying when things go wrong and thrilling when things go right.

The fortunate few are the ones that have found a way to make a living from something they love to do. Like Drew. He comes home from the fire station every morning with a good story, and leaves every workday hoping to score a trifecta: fire, trauma and death (well, you can't be a fire fighter without a rather dark sense of humor, now, can you?). Of course, he gripes, but it's the griping of someone who cares about doing it right, and doing right. Lucky.

The key to passion is not the end result but the day-to-day fun of it. If you are reaching for something you are passionate about, but the road to your goal is filled with stuff that you cannot make yourself get out of bed to do, then you need to re-think your goal.

If, however, you are working towards a goal, whether glamorous and lucrative or totally not, and yet you would gladly spend your day this way anyway, whether you reach your goal or not, then you are on the right road.

And please remember this: You Get What You Pay For. I say this not as a consumer, but as someone who has benefited only from her own efforts. The more I work, the better the result. See? The more I pay out, the more I get in return. Be generous with your effort and your time - not just to others, but to yourself - and you will be repaid in kind.

There. That should do it. I believe I'm empty of life coaching advice. Unless the price is right. Call me for a quote.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Amen to that! Thanks life coach.