Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Notes from JS

Notes from talk by Linda Lehrer from the Aspen Institute on "The Next Step: Coping with Change" (final session):

"Sabbatical" comes from the idea of resting on the 7th day, or fields lying fallow in the 7th year.  A chance to completely shut down in order to regenerate.  People were forgiven their debts and allowed to start anew.

This time also gives people time to reflect.  What am I doing here?  What's it all about?  Is this all there is?

Your answers may change as you go through life.  Consider your response to the question of "the good life - what is it for you?"  Your answer at 16 is different from your answer at 30... and is likely to continue to change as major milestones occur throughout your life.

What the "good life" would include for me now: creativity, family, living in/appreciating the moment, having adventures, a good job, knowing my direction/purpose/passion and feeling that I'm fulfilling it, fearlessness, love, balance, peace, security - financial and otherwise, flexibility, opportunity, happiness, serenity.

When you try to get in touch with your passion/direction/purpose, sometimes it helps to think back to what you wanted when you were a child (before your self-expression was stifled).  Try to think about how you saw the world as a child.  Kids express color, use their imagination to describe physical objects.  Think about how they use objects - they spin in their chair, they use a brush as a microphone...

To do this kind of thinking:

  1. Spend time alone.
  2. Get quiet.  We often don't do this because we are afraid of what we'll hear - the music teacher's voice telling us we can't sing - these are the wolves, the fears.
  3. Simplify.  What is cluttering up your life?  What can you let go of to get the freedom you want?  It helps to remember, when you are setting the priorities for your life, that trade-offs aren't necessarily forever.  If you move away from your friends to take a new job, you can always move back later.
  4. Pay attention.  Look around and see "the hole in the street."  Notice what makes you hesitate.
Key: you don't need to decide what you'll do FOREVER, just decide what the next step is.

Remember: no change can happen without taking risks.  So build up your muscles for taking risks.  Try incremental risks.  And take note that not everyone defines risk the same way.

Misery loves company: others may want you to stay because if you can do it, maybe they could, too (and if not, what does that say about them?).  Like fairy tale of village next to dark wood: village elders say the wood is too dangerous...brave kid goes and doesn't come back.  Elders say no good came to him, but maybe he's happier living somewhere else.

Think of journey of life as that of a slinky.  Cyclical but moving to different levels, always moving forward. Different stages at different times.  When moving to the next stage, consider:
  1. Separation.  Don't pay attention to the myths that hold you back: that you're too old, that you can't try something new.  To change, you need to tell yourself a new story.  Your next step doesn't have to be the happily ever after.  Just focus on 10 feet ahead, like when you are driving at night and can only see what your headlights/high beams show you.
  2. Going to the source.  You need quiet time to determine your direction.  Don't need to see final destination, but need to know where you are headed.
  3. Re-integration.  When JS consulting gig is over, what will you integrate into your job search and into your life from your experience?
You, Inc.
Thomas Friedman has said that the new economy isn't about looking for a job, but creating one; finding a place for yourself.  What do I want to do?  What do I want my new story to be?  If necessary, it's ok to think about a "rent job" as how you make money while pursuing your new career.

Your story needs a hook.  It also needs to include your background + your values + your actions + what's going on around you, all told in a compelling way.  All together it should paint the picture of why they should hire you, what you bring to the table. Practice. Write it in a letter.


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