I’m standing at the counter in Peet’s, ordering my latte princess style: ‘tall, single shot decaf, whole milk, 180 degrees. Thanks!’ The twenty-something barista flashes me a smile and we start to chat. I’m staring at him intently as he makes my drink. Yes, he’s hot; but that’s not why I’m staring.
He is on fire. And I want to know why. So I ask:
‘Wow: you’re on fire! How come?’
‘Yes I am’. Grinning, he spills the beans (pun intended): he’s in the flow and lovin’ life. What does that look like? Playing in a band by night and working in Peet’s by day. (Hold the cynicism.) A couple more answers prove my hunch right: the fire in his belly isn’t fueled by some future-based fantasy of ‘making it big’. It’s the product of what’s occurring right now, in what, to most, would seem a pretty mundane reality.
He’s in a band and it feels right. He’s doing what he loves, but that’s not all: he’s also taking care of the basics. He’s a man with a plan, and that plan includes being a barista for as long as it makes sense. He’s grateful for the day job and the role that it plays. And when it no longer fulfils that role, he’ll move on.
It’s interesting timing. I’ve literally just delivered a keynote on this very topic to an audience of middle-aged professionals, reminding them that taking care of just one half of the ‘Survival-Thrival’ equation isn’t enough. They lap up the truth like thirsty kittens. We all need to be reminded. Regularly.
So what’s my point? Having a life that works isn’t a formula that applies only to twenty-somethings. Having just half the equation – either half – is simply insufficient, and striving to find the Holy Grail – that one job that will dish up both halves – forever – is a fool’s errand.
Starving artist …
The landscape is scattered with starving artists of one kind or another, suffering for their art. Suffering is over-rated. And unnecessary. By all means, share your gifts with others, but don’t suffer: that’s not powerful leadership. Separate out your need to survive from your need to thrive and stop assuming that you’re meant to achieve both halves of the equation through one role.
Until you take care of your basic survival needs, your creativity will always be hampered by a(n unnecessarily) tortured mind. The assumption that you’re somehow ‘evolved’ and part of the master race if you spend all of your time doing work that you love is misguided. You’re a spirit in a body and that body is going to take you down if you don’t take care of it. But does that mean putting off (until you forget it forever) your dreams of sharing your gifts for the benefit of all? On the contrary. Taking care of the basics frees you up to focus on the good stuff (however you define it). My recommendation to clients has always been to pursue the two goals simultaneously. Which is why I view ‘good soldiers’ to be no further ahead in the leadership game of life than starving artists.
… or corporate soldier?
So why, in my not so humble opinion, are good soldiers in no way superior to starving artists? Years of doing what needs to be done (aka ‘sucking it up’) has turned countless talented professionals into corporate drones, completely disconnected from what makes their hearts beat faster and empty inside.
As I learned from painful personal experience, carefully storing one’s passions away in a shoebox on the top shelf of your closet is a dangerous thing. Years down the road, even the snazziest Sat Nav would have its work cut out locating them. Once buried, they’re difficult to resurrect and update.
Engaging in activities that benefit others and have personal meaning is a surefire way to make life make sense each, right now. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Even an hour a week, or a half day a month, can make an enormous difference to your levels of energy and creativity. Make a point at least once a month to contribute to others in ways that have meaning, with zero expectation of financial reward.
This is one of those times when ‘ready-fire-aim’ is the name of the game. Further down the road, you may well find yourself able to monetize those activities in ways that are currently unimaginable. The results of your actions will give you ideas that simply cannot be accessed today. Get going, and get going now. Finding a way to contribute to others is the path that will allow you to contribute to yourself.
Title: How to Survive and Thrive: Life Lessons From a Twenty-Something
Reviewed by J.J. on Feb 16
Summary: Good advice.
Description: Feeling some resistance to the advice (‘act like you’re 20-something’) but it’s got me thinking.