What I Don’t Know About Lasers and Prisms

Focus and prioritization appear to be hot topics in popular media right now. Isn’t it interesting how we still need reminders about subjects long accepted as principles of success?

The knowledge that multitasking is contrary to effectiveness is no secret, yet many people continue to operate as if they are somehow the exception to the rule. Kind of like how we all know overly processed fatty foods aren’t the healthiest choice, but we rationalize our fast food purchases as being an exception to our supposedly wiser normal eating behaviors. All three times we do it during the week.

As Brendon Burchard says, “common sense is not common practice.”

Attempted multitasking and being busy for the sake of being active as opposed to working exclusively toward a defined goal might cast illusions of productivity, but, as illusions, they aren’t real. Like oasis mirages in the desert, they won’t end up helping you survive, no matter how good they might look.

Thinking of illusions and seeing things, consider this: lasers and prisms both manipulate energy (light), but the way in which they do so is dramatically different. So are the results. Practically opposite.

This is such an obvious metaphor I’m certain thousands of coaches and instructors have utilized it. It’s a good one, though, and worthwhile. And since it seems we could use reminders,  lets’s go over it again.

A laser amplifies light by focusing it tightly. It creates a highly focused, direct, powerful beam with awesome capabilities. A prism, on the other hand, refracts light. It bends and spreads the light’s wavelengths, creating a spectrum of color. It’s pretty to look at; it can make an interesting display that captures attention because of all the different colors. Each color, though, has only part of the energy the beam of light entering the prism has.


We all have the ability and the choice to likewise use our personal energy. When we want to accomplish something, we can either concentrate our effort — focus — to be powerful like a laser beam, or we can spread our internal resources broadly… and create the opposite effect.

We didn’t get to play with lasers when I was in grade school (what a shame), but we did have magnifying glasses. Same idea on a simpler scale. We’ve all used a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight and burn something, right? That doesn’t happen when the same sunlight goes through a prism. You won’t be setting any fires with your energy spread out.

When you have a goal, you’re likely to accomplish it quicker, with greater impact, by tightening your focus. Move toward that one goal directly. The shortest distance between two points is, after all, a straight line.

We’re all faced with having multiple goals, though, aren’t we?

Probably not. Not as many important ones — the “needle movers,” as Christine Comaford-Lynch calls them — anyway.

You might have many interests, you might have several good ideas you’d like to pursue, but trying to address them all at the same time can lead to frustration. Which of those ideas are going to make the greatest impact? On you, your mission, or the world? Whatever the scope of your endeavors, analyzing your options to direct your energy toward one at a time is likely to increase your effectiveness and personal satisfaction.

A multitude of great thought leaders have addressed the necessity to prioritize and narrow focus. Recently, Greg McKeown coined the term Essentialism for the discipline of “making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution.” Identify and eliminate the trivial for the sake of doing what’s vital.

Consider your work. What keeps you busy, and what actually matters? Are they the same? Even close?

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule. It’s generally acknowledged that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Read the other way around, 80% of what most of us are doing is ineffective, inessential, or, at best, not immediately bearing fruit.

Do you really want to spend the greatest percentage of your living and working hours NOT moving toward goals?

What’s the fix? Self-awareness. Analysis. Clear goal setting and defined actionable steps. Review the tasks ahead of you, the things on your to-do list. Are they important and necessary? Will they propel you in a positive direction? If they meet that criteria, prioritize them by recognizing which are MOST likely to have the GREATEST impact on helping you achieve your goals. Then get to work, and dedicate your best energy toward completing them without distraction.

It’s not always an easy exercise, but it always — ALWAYS — pays off.

By the way, do you know what the term in physics is for the process in which lasers create laser beams? Coherence. So by contrast a prismatic display not only lacks focus, it’s… incoherent.

Really helps to make the point, right?


A Punk Rock Lesson for Extraordinary Customer Service

I’m working on a series of articles on things business people can learn from punk rock. This wasn’t the one I planned on publishing first, but something happened last night which illustrates the point too well to pass up.

As I was preparing to leave work, I saw a missed call and voicemail on my phone. Didn’t recognize the number, but checked the voicemail quickly in case it was something important. It kind of was. It was the fraud prevention department from my credit union with some questions about some check card charges.

I was in a hurry to get home because the Flash was crossing over on Supergirl. Oh, yeah, and to see my beautiful fiancee, who wasn’t feeling well. So I put off calling the credit union back until later.

I stopped by a favorite restaurant of ours to pick up dinner. I knew it would be quicker than cooking something up at home, plus Ashley was excited about getting a yummy dinner from there. I put in the order, tried to pay with my check card, and — yeppers — it was declined. I apologized to the cashier, mentioned I’d had a notice from my credit union about some fraudulent activity on my account, and told him I needed to make a quick call.

He was nice about it, said he’d suspend the order, and I stepped away to call my money’s keepers. Turned out my check card number had been used in a restaurant in Russia that afternoon while I was at work, for a very large purchase.

The credit union representative was helpful, explained the steps they’d take to make things right for me. I wasn’t worried about it. I know I’m in good hands with my credit union. But I didn’t have cash on me, at least not enough to pay for dinner. I apologized to the cashier, filled him in briefly about the unfortunate status of my bank account, and let him know I wouldn’t be able to pay for the order. He was understanding, and hoped the rest of my night would be good.

Just as I was starting up the car, considering the dinner options at home, a girl from the restaurant zipped out, excitedly telling me to wait. “We want to give you the food, ” she said with a smile.

“Oh, no, you can’t do that,” I said.

“But it’s already made. It would just go to waste anyway.” She encouraged me further to go back in and get the meal I’d ordered.

As I went in, the manager and cashier were bagging up everything. I told them again they didn’t have to do that, but they insisted. I promised I’d be back as soon as I could to pay for the food, and thanked them a few times for doing such a nice thing.

So here’s the lesson, from experiences like that AND from punk rock:

Don’t let rules get in the way of having a good time.

Historically, that’s what punk is all about, right? Screw the rules, we’ll do it our way! Rebellion is a rock & roll thing, but punk took it up a few notches, rebelling against rock & roll even.

You can’t write a song that matters with only three chords; you can’t have a band with two bass players and no guitar;  you have to learn how to play your instruments really well before anyone will take you seriously; you can’t name your band Dead Kennedys… punk rockers proved all that — and more — wrong.

Dead Kennedys

Rebellion With Purpose

Not that you can be a total ass. Not totally. Not and still get positive results.

It’s important to know that sometimes breaking the rules can be exactly what prevents a good time. Don’t follow basic standards, and you might not get booked to play. Show up late, or flake out on a gig, and you won’t get booked again. And, of course, it’s hard to play for an audience if you’re in jail for breaking a serious, criminal rule.

When it comes to being true to your ideals, though, striking a different path can be the best decision. Especially when it comes to setting yourself apart from boring, conformist competition.

Doing something totally different can create excitement. It can create a movement, even.

minor threat

When straight edge took a stand against the accepted rules of excess for rock and punk, promoting individuality and healthy choices instead of drugs, it spawned a lifestyle that spread across the world.

Thinking of business, Starbucks also spread across the world by going against accepted notions of how much people would pay for coffee, and breaking the traditional rules that hand-crafted beverages couldn’t be quick service, too.

Punks went DIY out of necessity. While the music industry perpetuated a belief that it took thousands of dollars to record, press, and distribute music, punk rockers broke the rules, created their own record labels, and got their stuff out quickly and cheaply. Their music and messages were just as worthy — more so, many would say — as what the public was getting from the corporations. They needed to be heard, so they broke the rules, bypassed the traditional way of doing things, and made it happen.

Breaking rules just to be seen as a badass might get you attention, but if that’s the only reason for acting outside the norm, you’re just a novelty act.

Have a good reason to bend the rules on occasion, though, and you can make legend.

Rules Versus Results

Let’s face it, rules are important. They help ensure consistency and fairness. Dogmatically sticking to a rule just because it’s a rule can hold back progress, though. These days, it can even cause you harm. If you can’t exercise some flexibility, especially when dealing with people, you limit possibilities for positive outcomes.

When small businesses are compared to larger corporations, attentive and personalized customer service is almost always considered a strength of the smaller operations. Why? Because the decision makers are more directly involved with their customers. They’re also closer to their profits and goals.

The best reason to step outside the rules is to maximize results. Why are you in business, anyway? To get results, right? Whether the results you’re working toward are sales, revenue, market share, or productivity, allowing options outside the given rules can help you better realize them.

When an opportunity arises for a deviation in normal procedures, a good question to consider is whether sticking to the rule, in that instance, will move you toward your results, or away from them?

It’s not always easy to know, of course. Using the example of my experience at the restaurant last night, I can’t say what the decision process actually was for the manager to do what he did. Certainly, giving away food seems contrary to the goal of making money. I do know the results, though: strengthened customer loyalty, ensured repeat business, and a reputation as a business which goes beyond expectations.

Of course I also went back and paid for the food once I got cash, so the product and revenue loss was corrected. They’ve also got me sharing the story repeatedly, and using them as an example of outstanding business practices, so free word of mouth marketing — the most powerful kind, experts say — too.

Punk rock is about many things. Sometimes it’s about being a spectacle, standing out from the crowd. Being bold enough to act in ways no one expects, whether you’re a punk or a business, can make you spectacular.



What I Don’t Know About Duckies and Distractions

Productivity is important to me. I think it’s because I know my time is limited, and I want to make some impact while I’m around. So I generally intend to make smart use of my time, get good things accomplished, move forward in one way or another.

I’ve been working to develop better habits to help with my focus, but, you know, sometimes things come up that interrupt my flow. Not that I’ve ever wanted to be all work and no play — far from it! — but I can’t help feeling some personal disappointment when I know I’ve wasted time.

It’s not always easy to be aware of distractions or just how much time they can take up. One nudge off course can lead to lots of twists and turns before you get back on the right path. So being cognizant of what you’ve spent time on is the first step to finding your way back.

For me, one of the worst distractions is social media. Facebook, specifically. I know I’m not alone. I’ll decide to check in, see what’s happening, find out if anyone’s tried to contact me, and if I’m not careful I’ll wind up scrolling and scrolling through my news feed mindlessly, letting precious minutes add up to precious hours. Now, I’m not a Facebook hater. If I was, there’d be no problem. I believe there are benefits to social media, not least of which is being in touch with good people. Most days I see or read something that improves my life in at least a small way. To get to those gold nuggets, though, I do find myself sifting through a lot of silt.

While I’m not always happy that I let myself get detoured so easily, I am happy to know what it is that distracts me. Because I know it’s something totally under my control. I allow things to distract me; I can choose not to let them as well.

I know people have lots of suggestions to solve my particular issue. Delete the Facebook app! Set a timer! Unfollow people and pages that clog up your feed! Just don’t use it at all! At one time or another I’ve either considered all these options or actually done them. What’s worked the best for me, though, is listening to Ernie.

When I was a young dad I was lucky to enjoy a good bit of children’s music. I think a lot of folks are familiar with the Rubber Duckie song from Sesame Street. If you aren’t, it’s been around since 1970 (I just found out it was even nominated for a Grammy in 1971!) and is sung by Ernie to his favorite bathtub toy. In the late 80s a new song debuted on Sesame Street with a pretty good message:

“Put down the duckie” started popping up in my head when I caught myself wasting time on something a couple months ago. I’m not sure exactly what brought it to mind. It may have been because I got sets of rubber duckies for my co-managers for Christmas. What I found, though, is that it helped. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but for me, having a mantra, if you will, silly as it is, that I actually said out loud, got me back on track with a smile.

Social media isn’t the only duckie I have to set aside for a while in order to get things done. With all the good new comic related TV shows, TV has become a real temptation these days. Sometimes I don’t realize something’s a duckie until it takes up a certain amount of time. It’s a challenge, since I’m also working on being more present and giving people more focused attention. Whatever distractions you find impeding your productivity, maybe Hoots the owl’s advice will work for you, too. You don’t have to totally eliminate entertainment or non-productive stuff from your life. Just put it down until you meet whatever goals you have set for yourself.


What I Don’t Know About Big Changes Resulting from Small Decisions

Remember when Buckaroo Banzai drove through the mountain? He explained how the solid parts of matter — the atoms, quarks, neutrons — only make up a fraction of what people consider to be the whole thing, and that most of a thing is empty space. That’s how I’ve often looked at our lives. Sometimes it seems like life is a series of a small number of significant moments upon and around which the rest of our time hangs. When we look back, sometimes the most important  things we do or that happen to us occur without fanfare or invitation. Choices made without much thought, decisions we expect to be small, made on the spot, wind up leading to consequences broader and with greater impact than expected.

Take this one, for instance: I was paying my phone bill a few months back when it occurred to me that dang phone service was costing me too much. I investigated options through my carrier to see if there were changes I could make to my plan to lower the bill. There weren’t, really. No biggie. It had been my choice to sign up with the plan and get the phone I have; I couldn’t be upset the company was charging me the rate I’d agreed on. What did bother me, though, was how little I was getting in return for paying one of my largest month bills. Again, no one’s fault but mine.

“I’m paying over a hundred dollars a month just to be able to scroll through Facebook wherever I am?” Seriously, I said it out loud to myself. That’s when I decided to make sure to get a better return on my phone investment.

Thinking how I could make better use of the tool the phone is supposed to be, I recalled educational apps and podcasts I’d accessed in the past. What could I do with the phone, how could I use it to be an asset rather than a liability? I started with the TED app.

The very next day, while eating lunch in the break room at work, I watched TED Talks. One of them was Shawn Achor’s “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” I was inspired by his talk to check out his book, The Happiness Advantage. I was impressed enough, I bought the book. Then I read it. Then it changed my life.


Not the same way The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai changed my life, but it made an impact, pretty much right away, on my behavior at work. What I read and learned from The Happiness Advantage set me to explore other books and resources related to positive psychology. I instituted new habits, and, yes, found myself to be happier. Not only at work, but also at home and in all aspects of my life.

I have plenty more to say about The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, and the pursuit of self-improvement. The point I wanted to make here, though, is it was a small, simple change because of a brief moment of realization that brought about major adjustments in my life. Take care with your moments. Consider your choices carefully. Don’t be surprised, either, if something great comes around when you don’t expect it.

What I Don’t Know About Making Progress

A lot has happened since my last post here. Considering how long it’s been, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

The most exciting piece of news is I am now engaged to be married. My wonderful girlfriend, Ashley, accepted my proposal, and we expect to be married sometime this year. I wanted to take this step for a while but had to save up for a ring. Call me old fashioned. I am, in some ways. Ashley makes me so very happy. I love our life together.

Almost as exciting, I completed the first draft of my novel, Dead Man’s Party. I’ve been working on it for almost two years, although that’s counting several months in the middle when I had to take a break from it. I returned to the project last February, fired up and anxious to finish. I learned a lot through the process. I am still learning. It has been fun. Hard work, too. Not only because it’s hard to squeeze writing time in my schedule. A few things in the story wound up different in the end than originally imagined, but I am very pleased with the results. Now I am revising the draft, making corrections, fixing those points that no longer make sense, increasing tension, and strengthening the characters. This might be even more enjoyable than writing the original manuscript. I am thrilled with the way it is turning out. I hope to have a presentable draft ready by May.

There’s been progress at the day job too. I won’t say much about it, but I have received some nice recognition. Should get a bonus in the next couple of months, which will be nice.

I found a terrific group of writers in Charlotte and joined their critique group. What a talented bunch of folks. Thoughtful, caring, and a lots of fun, too. The meetings are refreshing and informative. I’m pretty lucky to have found a group like this.

I hope things have been going well for you, too.

What I Don’t Know About Sabbaticals

I had the day off from my job last Friday, and like most of my days off I’d given myself a more than adequate list of things to accomplish.  More than anything, I’d been looking forward to having a full day in which to write.  I felt like I was getting a good start on the day by knocking out some housework, figuring I’d get that out of the way to better devote the rest of the day to my creative work.  Then I went to the computer.  Possessing best intentions, I somehow got distracted.  I realized I wasn’t feeling motivated to do what I’d been craving the time to do.  I procrastinated, taking care of other minor tasks, teling myself “once I finish this other thing,” then I’d get down to writing.  But it never happened.

It got to be lunch time, so I ate.  I watched TV while I ate.  Then I watched TV after I ate.  You may not know this about me, but I don’t like watching TV, especially when I know time is slipping away, and there are so many more important things to be doing.  It’s that feeling of needing to make the most of the time I have that compells me to fill my days off with expectant to-do lists.

I realized I was tired.  All morning, even as I knowingly avoided moving forward with my writing, I grew more and more upset with myself.   Fortunately, about halfway through the day, I chilled out.  No sense beating myself up.  Wasting time?  Maybe.  Maybe using the time to rest is really what I needed to do.

Back when I was studying for the ministry, I prepared a sermon based on some passages in the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was one of the Old Testament prophets, sent by God to give some pretty dire messages to the Israelites.  Specifically, Jeremiah let the people of Jerusalem know that if they didn’t straighten up, God was going to destroy the city through terrible means.  What was the terrible thing the people of Jerusalem were guilty of?  Not honoring the sabbath, the day of rest.

Honoring the sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments.  It’s number four, as a matter of fact.  If the commandments were given in order of importance, it might be interesting to know this one comes before honoring your father and mother, to not kill, to not commit adultery, and to not steal.  God wants people to take a break once a week.  And He was more than willing to punish people if they didn’t.  Not only Jeremiah, but the books of Ezekiel and Nehemiah illustrate some gruesome ways sabbath shunners met their ends.

I’m not really fearful of divine retribution, but the idea that it’s not only nice for folks to rest once in a while, but necessary, is one I can easily agree with.  I still don’t understand how I can be extremely inspired when I don’t have the time to write, but then extremely unmotivated when I am afforded the time, but I do understand that sometimes things just cant be forced, and occassionally it’s okay to let myself just do nothing.

Today, though, is for writing…!

“Why stay in college? Why go to night school? Gonna be different this time”

I felt suckered.  Or at least a little misled.  I’ve moved past it now, and realize my problem is mostly one of bad timing.

For a very, very long time I’ve struggled trying to connect with the right occupation.  While I’ve seen other people simply glide into work they seem satisfied with, it has been a major challenge for me most of my adult life.  I’ll allow that my problem might be due to a somewhat romantic belief in the existence of vocations; that there really are good matches of work to a person’s skills, temperaments, and talents.  I have also allowed that I might just be mistaken in my belief, and also that I might be wrong that a person should expect to not hate — and hopefully enjoy — the work they dedicate their time to performing.

I have been fortunate to have drifted into work situations which were both enjoyable, personally fulfilling, and excellent fits for my talents.  The years I spent at Borders were especially good.  Managing a Hot Topic was pretty close too.  Unfortunately, losing the job there was surprisingly traumatic, and shifted me into a new period of searching and evaluation.  Truth is, I still deal with this, but my mindset has changed to where I don’t agonize over it quite as much.  And there was a period recently when I thought I’d found the answer, and stopped worrying about it completely.

After a couple of years of daily evaluation, seriously stressing over the options, asking myself over and over what I wanted to do with my life, it came to me, suddenly.  I remember vividly the phone call to my dad where I excitedly told him about my epiphany:  I was going to be a paralegal!

Paralegal was one of the occupations on a short list I made a few years back (the others?  OTR truck driver and private investigator), so I had considered it a good bit.  I even picked up a book a few years ago, long before ever REALLY giving it a shot.  At this particular point, though, it seemed to make a load of sense.  I saw list after list of growing occupations and best fields to go into which ranked paralegal as one of the top options.  Demand for paralegals and legal assistants was projected to continue growing in the next several years.  I researched and found out what starting and average salaried for paralegals were, including in Charlotte, and they were perfect for my standards.  The paralegal role and duties — writing, researching, evaluating, communicating — were a great match for the skills I had developed and which were recognized by previous employers as my strengths.  And as boring as the job may sound to some people, to me it was exciting work, something I could imagine inspiring me to go to work every day for a long time.  And, conveniently,  there were at least 3 reputable college programs in my city designed for working people like myself to gain the necessary education to get a start in the field.  It seemed that with a small investment in money and a doable amount of effort, I could achieve a real change in profession and be on the way to financial fitness and, more importantly, a purposeful, fulfilling job.

Looking back, I can see where I should have been more critical — and it was uncharacteristic of me not to be — of the promises made by the school promoters.  Okay, they didn’t promise so much as reassure, but there was a very casual confidence expressed regarding what could be expected by completing the program, including entering the legal world as an employee.  I was so sure of my decision, and so focused on my goal that there was a very real momentum carrying me quickly forward, and in a hurry to reach my goal, I overlooked some of the real possibilities that might lay ahead.  Besides, I was incredibly dedicated; I was certain I would achieve my goal.

Part of the reason I was convinced being a paralegal was the right call was due to a recent career exploration and educational experience. In a not-as-brilliant or quite as thoughtfully planned (but with interesting parallels) realization, I had decided getting a real estate license would be a good move.  Again, I had evaluated several options, and it appeared to be a good means to great income with minimal investment.  The real estate course was just over $300 and would last only a few weeks, with classes a few days a week.  when it was over, I figured I would be licensed and could either enter the high-rolling world of real estate sales, or move on to something like property appraisal.  In the end I didn’t pass the licensing exam (I wasn’t able to study properly due to outside issues), and, coincidentally, the market was just starting to turn downward.  I wound up deciding I wasn’t really interested in being a RE agent.  But through the classes I did discover something exciting:  I really liked completing the HUD-1 forms, and enjoyed the challenges of working through different contracts.  So you can probably see here where the connection to the paralegal path was made.

I made sacrifices to attend the paralegal classes.  The hardest was leaving the band I was in.  I also took on several thousand dollars more debt (the opposite of what I wanted, as I was trying to eliminate debt, that being my other main source of stress — but if I finished the program and got a good job…) in order to afford the program and books.  I gave up free time and replaced it with hours spent studying and working on class projects.  And I had to take a job not really paying enough for my expenses because it fit the schedule I needed.  No complaints from me, though, because I could see the end goal, and knew it would all be worth it in short time.

It was the second time in my life when I thoroughly believed I knew EXACTLY what I should be doing with my life.  And it was the second time things didn’t work out.

I earned my bachelor’s degree (and an associates degree!) in preparation for the ministry.  In high school I felt a true calling to the ministry, and spent the next several years moving toward serving in the church, never, EVER giving it a second thought or moment’s doubt.  Until I did wind up working in a church.  The experience was so bad — and, granted, other things were happening to change my life at the time (to be written about in greater detail elsewhere) — I felt little choice but to abandon that position.  Maybe that’s why I’ve had so much difficulty finding a real purpose or satisfying job?  Maybe I’ve been a little like Jonah, running away from my real calling?  I really don’t think so.  Still, since then I have never felt so sure of a direction.  Except maybe pursuing the paralegal role.

Which brings me back:  I did great in the classes, if I have to say so myself (this being my blog, I guess I do have to).  There were a couple of challenges getting work completed on time, trying to work it all around a busy schedule at my job and other commitments, but overall I seemed to be making impressive grades and excelling at the material.  I put tremendous effort into perfecting the written assignments, analyzing cases, and researching legal topics.  I listened and got the message throughout the program that finding a good legal job depended greatly on networking.  No problem.  I can’t really say whether being in the band improved my performance skills, but it certainly improved my networking abilities.  I understood, and was prepared to do whatever it took.  First in my class to join the local and regional paralegal associations.  Unlike some of my classmates, I saw the mock interview exercise as one of the program’s greatest values, and took all the guidance to heart.  I rewrote and revised my resume a number of times, spending days on it, literally, until it appeared to be perfect.

None of that made much of a difference when it came to actually landing a job.  Because the most important thing an employer looks for when hiring a paralegal is the one thing I did not have, and could not easily get:  experience working as a paralegal.  We’re probably all familiar with these Catch-22’s.  For a good while I truly thought I could spin the experience I DO have as transferable skills, and I believed my good classwork and connections I’d made would also speak well of my abilities.  It took me a year to conclude that wasn’t so.

There are things I could have worked on harder, especially with the networking.  But the demands of the job I have already been working weren’t making that easy.  I did consider the internship option, but my financial situation does not make that actually feasible.  I’m not sure how many positions I applied for, but of the dozens I did, I never heard back from anyone.  Not once.  Even the legal temp agencies didn’t respond.

Of course, while I have been trying to find work as a paralegal, the downturn in the economy and the associated layoffs have meant there are a multitude of experienced paralegals and even attorneys out there applying for the same jobs.  I’m not one to easily make excuses, but I’m also a little too old to be irrationally stubborn on a point like this.  After just over two year’s work trying to get to my goal, the smarter and more sensible thing to do might be to revise the goal.  So I happily move on.

With help from friends, family, and some pretty good books, I’m actually feeling a lot better these days about not having it all figured out.  It would certainly be nice to have all the answers, and the means to get to them, but I don’t stress over finding meaning in a job anymore.  And as much as I don’t want to sound cheesey, I have learned, I think, that the answers for me, at my age, aren’t in classes or school, but inside myself.  I definitely see the value in continued learning, and I am learning A LOT these days, but at this point in my life, I think I can do something meaningful with the skills and knowledge I already have, being the person I already am.

Might as well start… here.

I’ve been planning to do this for a while.  I did a few blog posts last year and the year before that, mostly clarifying some thoughts for myself while I sought a new direction for my life.  Funny (or not, really) that I’m again (still?) dealing with the same questions.

The most pressing and persistent — painful, even, to prolong the alliteration — issue for me is finding the right job.  I sketched out a 3-step goal for financial independence a year ago, and a job is only a small part of it, but I continue to search for a role that will be somewhat fulfilling, with at least a measure of purpose, which makes use of my abilities and truly challenges me.  I haven’t read Your Money or Your Life yet (it has been recommended byseveral people whose opinions I value, and is on my list to get to soon), but I’ve skimmed enough to understand the concept of “making a dying.”  Dad, too, has repeatedly stressed to me the value of my time and my life’s energy.  Surely it is worth more than what I am being compensated for by NOT being able to even approach my potential at my current job.  Surely.

So I’ve studied finance.  I’ve studied real estate.  I earned a paralegal certificate.  I’ve continued to develop my writing.  I have become a hell of a networker.  And, most importantly, I’ve learned a few very important things about myself.

Turns out I really do like accounting, and organization, and research, and I’m good at those things.  I am thrilled by being productive.  I kind of like working by myself, but do like to be around people.  I’ve faced the fact that I need to feel some importance related to my role, whatever it may be.

Where I’m working now only partially satisfies — and too often frustrates — the goals I’ve identified as vital to me.  Admittedly, where I am now was not intended to be my dream job, and it is better financially than my previous position.  But there is, I honestly believe, a better fit for me out there.  And I am determined to find it.  Soon.