Toward the end of the introduction of my most recent book, It Is What You Make Of It, is a kind of admonition; a clarion call, as it were.
“There is a virtual army of contentious voices around you screaming that life “ is what it is,“ and particularly in places, you feel stuck.
Your work-life quote is what it is.“
Your social life “is what it is.“
Your physical health “is what it is“
I’m saying all that is garbage. Your life is not just a set of steel circumstances that “or what they are“ without any hope of change or improvement or transformation. I don’t know exactly where that voice is coming from in your particular life, but I want to help you locate it and shut it up forever.”
It’s actually a somewhat poorly kept secret that I’m not always very interested in the specific accomplishments or achievements of those I get to work with as a coach. In other words, while I certainly do find a lot of the projects my clients introduce me to interesting, it’s pretty much never the book or the album or the business startup or jewelry line I’m emotionally invested in. Instead, I am regularly and often deeply moved by the person doing the work; who they are, and who they are be becoming.
You are the gift you are offering the world.
The service or the artifact you’re working at or dreaming up is how you’re passing yourself on.
Which is why one of the most important chapters for me to have written in that book (the one I read from a few moments ago) highlights a rather unsavory event from my vocational history. I won’t recount the entire story here; I think it’s worth reading in the book.
But for the purposes of this episode, here it goes, in short:
I was working with a designer/art director on what would be my first book project. It was a massive project because we’d thrown in visual art, a second edition of the book, documentary video, and music…
So… having bitten off WAY more than I could chew in the time I gave us as a two-person team, I was stressed.
We’d passed our first self-imposed deadline and then another and then I realized how badly I needed to get the thing turned in to be available for the tour dates I’d booked.
in my stress, I blew up at one of the customer service agents who was employed by the printing service we’d hired to make the book.
We’d had a few errors come back when we submitted the files and I … kinda .. lost it.
I don’t remember exactly what I said at the moment, but it was pretty insulting and the young man on the phone took it personally. And then… he quietly and very effectively retaliated by digitally corrupting the upload process so that, over the next several weeks, it became impossible for my project to be approved and completed.
Eventually, my partner took over the conversation with the printer and we got the thing done.
And.. honestly, I’ve always been decently happy with that project; it’s not great.
The most important aspect of that entire process was that I realized I didn’t like who I became while making it. And that being someone I liked; someone respected by partners and workmates and readers and listeners (… someone who respects and honors partners and workmates and readers and listeners) was not only more valuable and more desirable, it’s more enjoyable.
I am the gift I am giving in and through my work.
It’s not the service or the artifact I’m working at or dreaming up; it’s me, through what I’m making.
Which is why, along with 4:30 am wake-ups to ensure I put my most focused work hours in when my head is clearest, I do the work of ensuring I can be clear at all.
I see a therapist and have for many, many years.
I work with a spiritual director.
I get exercise and get sleep
I’ll find myself a session or two with a new coaching client, hearing the hesitation and confusion on their end while I ask them about how often they’re getting outside and what time they’re getting to sleep. I stopped asking about the project and started tying the value of even doing the project to their health and wholeness because that’s what I think it’s all about to begin with.
You are the gift you are giving the world.
Which leads me to this: in the same way that books don’t write themselves and melodies don’t just fall into place; in the same way that Justice doesn’t just roll down and Peace doesn’t just get a chance… you and I do not simply become. You and I don’t just get healthy. Just like your idea needs time and curation and attention from you, you and I need the help of those outside us in order to be shaped and grow; sometimes even just to heal and get right.
I don’t recommend therapy because I think you’re broken.
I don’t recommend spiritual direction because I think you’re lost.
I don’t coach because I think you’re incapable.
I think you might be just fine without any of that.
I really do.
But I don’t do what I do, whether it’s this podcast or the book “It Is What You Make Of It” because I want you and I to be fine. I want you and I to be way better than that; and that takes deep, hard, inner-work… often work you and I don’t have the training or expertise to executer much less the altitude on our own lives to do effectively.
So, while you’re working on your passion project and your legacy, who’s working on you?
Links For Justin:
Order the new book – It Is What You Make it