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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And The Fulfillment Will Follow

About a month ago, I was reading Seth Godin's Tribes, an interesting collection of brief essays centered around the concept of groups of people connected to one another via a leader and an idea. Godin explores the idea of the various manners in which tribes have come to exist over time as well as the way that technology has removed physical and geographic barriers towards the creation of new types of tribes and new types of leaders.

It's a good book, but the thing that sticks out most in my mind, even now, is a brief, somewhat tangent scene in which Godin describes being on vacation in some tropical paradise and waking up in the early morning hours unable to sleep. So he heads down to the hotel lobby to catch up on some email. A couple just getting back from the bars, stroll through the lobby and one of them shakes their head at him in a "tsk tsk" manner and comments it's too bad that some poor slobs can't escape work for a mere 2 weeks.

Godin didn't respond to the barb but rather shook his head and felt sorry for those people who likely spend 50 weeks a year focusing all their energy and thought on those 2 weeks when they can escape from work.

I know how he feels. And sometimes I question myself for doing odd things like putting in well over 40 hours per week, checking work-related email when on vacation or taking calls from work or from colleagues when I'm supposed to be "away" and on vacation.

But I don't do it because my boss pressures me to work overtime.

I don't do it because my job is so demanding that I have to be there all the time.

I don't do it for any other reason than I actually honestly LIKE what I'm doing and it doesn't really feel like work.

And if I didn't like what I was doing, I wouldn't spend those 50 odd weeks a year, or over between 80 to 90% of my waking hours, doing it.

I actually fail to understand how ANYBODY puts themself through that type of hell where 50 weeks of the year are so unbearable and stress-ladden that all your energy, time and thought is channeled into those 2 or 4 or 6 if you're really lucky, weeks AWAY from your "day job." As if that time away from what you spend most of your life doing could every possible claim back all that other wasted time.

I'm sure I could be making much better money doing a slew of other things or having pursued another career -- but at the end of the day, the money wouldn't make me happy if I weren't doing something I could be truly passionate about and believe in.

I've long been a believer in doing what you love. Most people might be tempted to add "and the money will follow" to that, but to me it's not about money. Sure, you need enough money to provide food, shelter and clothing -- but beyond having enough to support those needs, is it actually money that makes people happy? I sincerely doubt it. Sure, there are people in million dollar homes living within 5 minutes of my modest home -- folks who don't have to worry about buying an expensive lunch rather than the brown-bagging that I'm doing, or who drive an expensive sports car around while I get around in my hand-me-down 12 year old pick-up truck, or who fly somewhere far away to spend a week or two in some tropical paradise while I take day trips to a local beach or to visit family. But are they actually happier and more fulfilled than me?

I sincerely doubt it.

They might have money streaming from their pores, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are any happier. I measure wealth in a different way -- being surrounded by people who bring meaning and fulfillment to your life, being surrounded by tasks and challenges that also bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. That's wealth to me. All around wealth.

And I'm wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

I'm very lucky to have the people in my life that I have -- the friends, the family, the relationships I have cultivated over the years. I'm also very lucky that I have pursued a career that is satifying. While I've never been rich in terms of income, I've long been extremely wealthy in terms of satisfaction and the people whom I interact with on a daily basis in both my personal and my work life.

So when I'm on vacation and still thinking about work-related items and doing little things here and there related to the "day job" that helps me pay the bills, I'm not a slave to them -- I'm merely chosing to spend my time that way because it's pleasurable to me.

To me, a vacation is NOT about abandoning work and getting away from it all -- to me, a vacation is about spending more time with my family and friends and doing things with them that are fun and pleasurable and perhaps a little less scripted than the things that occur in the "9 to 5" hours of the day. The fact that what I do in my day job is fun and pleasurable means I don't have this burning need to get away from work in order to have fun. I have fun every single day. A vacation, to me, then, is just a different kind of fun, typically in a different setting or environment than where I normally spend my time.

And dammit, I'm one lucky SOB to be able to be having fun all 52 weeks of the year, regardless of whether I'm at work or on vacation.

I often feel like I've won the lottery.

Perhaps I have.

Only this isn't the type of lottery where you buy a ticket and hope to be the single winner. It's a lottery where anyone who wants to put a little effort into it can be a winner. It's a lottery where EVERYONE can win, every single day of the year.

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