Winter Wisdom

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It is snowing again.

We’ve had a pretty snowy winter up here in Vermont. It’s been a while since I have seen my yard.  There is a big pile of snow from past plowings at the end of my driveway. My cat stays pretty much on the porch right now. I am fortunate though. My house is close to the road and my driveway is short. I have a guy who plows it out after each snow. Snow is pretty low drama up here.

Today was a bit messier. My plow guy hadn’t made it. He generally waits till the snow stops before he digs us out, and it’s still falling as I write this.

But my wife and her silver matchbox car had to get out. It was a slow slog of old fashioned shoveling and rocking and pushing, but we eventually got her to the road and off she went. I haven’t heard from her yet, but I am assuming that is good news and she made it to nearby Rutland OK.

I drive an almost 20-year-old Isuzu Trooper, your basic tank of a four-wheel drive, so I made it out and to my replacement diner (Where I go when my favorite diner is closed for the day) to work a bit. That’s where I am right now.

I have a funeral to write this morning. People often think funerals are kind of formulaic, but the truth is most of us work hard to personalize the services to the family. It’s the last goodbye and you want, with all your heart, to have it be a remembering of the best of that person and a time when healing begins.

This afternoon I have some coaching clients.  One of my clients is in the midwest, where our snow would be considered a mere flurry. The other is in DC, and they got rain. It doesn’t matter where they live though – that work is done via video conferencing, so things like snow don’t impact it a bit.

I’ve spent most of my life doing work I liked. I’m lucky that way. But the past few years, my work has migrated to being something that has meaning. On the surface of things, I’ve done stuff that mattered in the past. I could point to projects with Networks, Colleges and Companies that were groundbreaking, that made the news, that pushed technology in the television world forward. It was pretty cool stuff.

But a couple of years unemployed left me rethinking everything. I learned to live on almost nothing, and oddly, it felt good. Less to worry about. I thought hard about what I got out of the 30 years work I had done so far. What was I proud of? What left me feeling fulfilled? What made me feel like I mattered? If I was going to work another 20 years or so (and I expected to.), what did I want to do beyond paying the bills?

People think that’s easy, knowing what we want to do. How many of us have said “If everything fell into place, I’d like to do (Fill in your dream here.)?A few of us even did the work and got to do what we wanted to do. Only to find something is missing. Success, it seems, is not the same thing as feeling like our life matters.

There’s no secret to that. Nothing I know in life is a secret. People have been discovering and rediscovering the same “Secrets to Life” since the beginning of time. We repackage them. Give the steps new names, give the work a new twist, a new title, a new marketing campaign.

But in the end, the secrets to life are pretty simple. They always were. They always will be. We just choose to ignore them. We chase the bling not the foundational things that work.

And one is knowing ourselves. Our real selves. Not the selves that people have told us about ourselves, not the roles that have been thrust upon us, not the things we have told ourselves to help us deal with the cards life has given us. Not that stuff.  In fact, that is the stuff we have to peel away to get back to the core of ourselves.

And that is work.

For me, it meant looking at what parts of my three decades of work still worked for me. I worked in high technology, big systems, bleeding edge stuff. But the thing about technology is that it always moves forward. There are new systems, bigger systems, and the bleeding edge is always moving away to whatever is next.

For me, though, it turned out that it was people. Over the years I helped a lot of people. I took chances on hires that turned out to be wonderful at what they did, and they have moved up and up. I mentored people so they could grow beyond where they were. Today, when I hear from the people that I used to work with and that used to work for me, when I hear the results of my help and see them fly, I understand that it was the lifting up that was the fuel that gave me satisfaction.

It wasn’t flashy. It never drew crowds. But it gave me joy. And so that’s why I chose the new path I am on now. Everything I do is aimed at helping people and companies move forward, grow beyond, rise. Nothing I do will make headlines like the work I used to did. Nothing I do will end up in magazines and news outlets. Not any more.

But it gives me satisfaction. It feeds what I came to understand I wanted, really wanted in life. I wanted to be trustworthy. I wanted to lift others and make a difference. I wanted to be more than a coach or consultant. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. And I was not sure how to go about it.

It was not an easy change. It takes work. It takes time. I did a lot of education, with the John Maxwell Group, and with the United Methodist Church. It took years to get here. It felt risky, but if felt true, worth taking a chance on.

There were times I was scared. Not enough money coming in and so much to learn. I wasn’t as good as I felt like I needed to be. (That one will eternally be with me, I am afraid.). But it was true.

All because I took the time to peel away the debris of 50 some odd years, and keep looking deeper. Some of the time that scared me. Some of the time it was exhilarating. You just keep at it and keep at it and at some point, you realize there is no onion left to peel. You finally, finally, find yourself.

Years of a coach and pastor have left me with a conclusion – more often than not, when we don’t move to our best, most fulfilled place, it is because we are afraid of peeling that onion, of peeling back the layers of what everyone (including ourselves) have made of us and finding what’s at the core. It’s hard. It’s scary. It takes a lot of work without obvious forward motion.

But once we find it? OMG. Things fly forward. The obstacles are raised. Hard things become easy. It’s astonishing. I’ve seen in my own life. I’ve seen it in the lives of my clients and parishioners.

I love what I do. Let the snow fall. I won’t be looking for a reason to not go to work. I love what I do. And I would love for you to love your life as well.

And it all begins with the ancient quote by Socrates, “To Know Thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

Like I said, there are no secrets.

Be well. Travel Wisely.

Tom

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