December 8, 2006

Should I Quit My Day Job?

by Carol L. Skolnick

"Do what you love, the money will follow" is a theme that comes up a lot in "right livelihood" circles. We almost never hear "Do what you must do AND do what you love." Instead, we demand that money come primarily or exclusively from what we love. This—like other beliefs characteristic of the "manifestation" mindset—can be a set-up for disappointment. "I must only work at what I love" is a symptom of a closed, unexamined mind. It doesn't allow us to be content doing what we do...and it doesn't allow reality to guide us to the perfect work.

The day job I'd had since 1993 didn't "quit" me until 2006, although my freelance copywriting business had virtually died by 2001. For six years, I still called myself a copywriter (who did this other "coachy-kinda-thing" on the side), even though I wasn't writing much copy...nor was my heart into re-building my business.

Trying to stay in the creative services business was a struggle. I was invested in being a free agent and didn't want to go back to a 9-to-5 office job. However, I wasn't getting juicy, lucrative assignments from places like National Geographic and Doubleday Book Clubs anymore. I loved facilitating The Work more than anything but with a mortgage to pay, a medical condition and no spouse-with-a-job, it didn't feel like the right time to reinvent myself.

Finally I took a temporary position at a large company in crisis. Ironically, the temp job was my ticket out of copywriting, but not for the obvious reasons.

The company that hired me was experiencing their umpteenth reorganization in ten years. Nearly everyone there (except the new crop of powerful, well-paid top executives) seemed depressed. When I arrived (the result of a firing), longtime employees were being demoted as new people and pricey consultants came in over them. The "old-timers" were resentful and dared not speak up because they were getting older and wanted to keep their pensions (which had already declined in value due to a new investment plan). Department heads reduced to middle managers were trying to assert themselves and, in the process, alienating their direct reports. With so many new chiefs, lower-level workers were downsized and the remaining ones had to absorb the workload with no pay increases. Some of the temporary staff were invited to come on board full time at low salaries. Not surprisingly, none of us bit.

Stressful, demanding and low-paying, this job was not one I would have taken or stayed in if I didn't know how to question what I believe. However, it bought me some time to figure out what I wanted to do...and it afforded me an unexpected bonus.

I had been facilitating The Work after hours and on weekends for several years, often with clients who had work-related issues. The office became my inquiry lab; as an employee, I was in the perfect position to collect data as both scientist and test subject. How do I react in stressful work situations? How do I treat the people I work with and for? How do I treat myself when I think the work is boring, that my boss should be different, that the employees have victim mentality, that upper management doesn't care? What am I avoiding, assuming, projecting? Who would I be without my story?

As I applied The Work to my "insane" work life, I became better at handling the demands of the job and the reality of the workplace. In addition, I became better equipped to work with others experiencing stressful employment situations. This was facilitator's training at its best.

Not surprisingly, soon after I started the job, reality shifted. I received requests to go to Latin America to give workshops...and because I was "only a temp," I could take time off to do it. I got phone calls and emails saying, "I just read Byron Katie's book and I heard about your workshops. How much would you charge to work with me privately?" Clients and others who knew of my work began referring their friends and colleagues...which was the very same way that my freelance copywriting business began, years earlier.

If I love The Work and I don't make a living from it, it doesn't mean I don't get to do The Work. It might mean that I flip burgers at the fast food emporium with the consciousness of one who does The Work. It might mean that I become a wonderful burger-flipper because I have learned to love flipping burgers...even though I don't eat beef. They promote me to supervisor and I use The Work to manage disgruntled or untalented burger-flippers...and to manage myself managing them. With a clear mind, my creativity naturally emerges. I design a more efficient process for flipping burgers and get promoted to the front office of Burger Flippers International. I write a bestseller about my days as a burger flipper, it gets optioned for a blockbuster film, I consult on the screenplay and my day job quits me. What if I'd believed flipping burgers was beneath me and that I should only do what I loved?

This doesn't mean you have to stay at a job you don't love. If it doesn't in any way serve you to stay, why would you? (And you may want to inquire into that unless you are stress-lessly certain the job has no value for you.). It also doesn't mean you'll get to live your dream of being a full-time sportscaster right away (or ever)...but what you might learn hawking popcorn in the stadium stands could bring you riches you'd never receive all alone in the announcer's booth.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: How it Would Look

1. Imagine applying your "do what you love" skills to the work you are doing now. Examples:

*How would a relationship coach working as an HR administrator help employees who are experiencing fear and resentment about a takeover?

*How would a television actor working as a waiter handle a cranky customer?

*How would a Reiki master working as an executive assistant approach a stack of correspondence and a deadline crunch?

*How would a shaman run an ad agency? (Here's one who does!)

*How would an ad agency executive driving a taxi face traffic with a carful of anxious passengers in a hurry?

2. Inquire: "I'd be much happier/much better off if my day job were also my passion." Can you absolutely know that it's true?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

Carol's new eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work, will be released early in 2007. Preorder your copy here.

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