Yesterday I turned 42 years old. I say this without a hint of emotion attached to the statement. It is just a number to me…an arbitrary measure of time. On the contrary, I do have emotions attached to the fact that I still have not yet figured out what I want to be when I “grow up”…professionally that is (and ‘yes’, I’m taking liberties on the time continuum here). It’s not that I believe there’s an artificial deadline attached to finding purpose or passion in life. I understand that inspiration and clarity can happen at 8 or 82 and that there may be one-true calling in life… or many…or none.
Several years ago, after the requisite period of striving and achieving in my 20’s and 30’s, it was apparent that I was not satisfied with the professional arc of my life. It wasn’t the title or the money, but rather the purpose and fit. Unfulfilled and drained of energy at the end of each day, I’d fix myself a Captain-n-Coke and sink into the couch for a full night of television. A one-day-a-week habit soon became a daily one. Sure, I still went to the gym and performed dutifully at work but I was stale and stagnating. Nothing was sparking me…it was like listening to the world through pink, fuzzy earmuffs (Why pink? Who cares…try to focus here). I knew I wanted more out of my life but I had no real direction. I felt like I had this wellhead of energy and passion that was just lying dormant beneath the surface but couldn’t find a way to access it with my thinking brain. Which was a tough position within which to be given my predisposition to logic-based living at the time (and…truth be told…still).
Question: What’s the definition of insanity?
Answer: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I remember re-reading this adage in a book and having a distinct, compelling call-to-action to change things in my life, to switch routines, to try new hobbies, to read more, to explore & expose myself to anything and everything that captured my attention in a positive and enriching way. I thought, “even if I don’t know which direction to go in life and I can’t logic my way to a solution, perhaps just taking a step towards activities that felt aligned with my true interests and self would open an unforeseen door”. In that way, maybe, I would trip over a hidden vein of insight and get some type of positive reinforcement from the “universe” along the way.
And so too did Oprah and my wife agree on this thinking…which was all I needed for confirmation. And given that I just dropped the ‘O’ bomb, I’ll stop you right there and state for the record…I did not create a vision board (but honestly, I’d never admit to it even if I did…so I’ll leave you to imagine whichever you think fits best within your version of the story).
At any rate, I started to change my routines, activities, and hobbies. This was 2013…about 4.5 years ago to the date of this writing. I joined an adult hockey league. I signed up for pottery classes. I took a six-week intro course to yoga. A read lots of books. I did triathlons. I did marathons. I planned hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail. I quit drinking for the whole of 2014. I took an online course on meditation. I adopted a new diet and eating routines. I found podcasts (yeah…this was 2014 so you can gather how “on the bleeding edge” of technology I am). I started a blog. And so on.
To date, I have yet to find my professional calling in life. And ‘yes’, that is frustrating and frequently tiring/exhausting. Fortunately, all of the books, podcasts, and experiences along way have informed my existence and allowed me to take the long-view on my existence. I know that it’s not about the destination. In a recent book that I read, there was a quote from George Bernard Shaw that read:
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”.
And with each new book that I read, or podcast that I listen to, or friend that I make, or hobby that I pursue, I am cementing a stone in the foundation of my life. And if, in the end, I never achieve fulfillment in my day job, I hope to have the wisdom and perspective to realize that it was never really about finding fulfillment in my day job anyway.
Explore new things. Keep life simple. Be humble. Take care of yourself (and others!). Never stop learning. And in that way, when aligned opportunities and “luck” arise, you will be in position to take advantage. Happy Belated-Birthday to me.