Face it: Oprah’s not calling, and not much will change in your life without taking different action.
My total income in 2010 was enough to purchase a late-90s Chrysler Sebring. I allayed my financial fears with the certainty that providence was right around the corner. I had a plan. Oprah would read my blog and say, “Holy shit, how did the world ever live without David? Get him a book deal and TV show stat.” Money problem solved.
Perhaps I was not patient enough. Perhaps, had I stuck to my plan, Ms Winfrey would have read my blog, realized I was the next Dr Phil, albeit younger, thinner and without the authority or the doctor prefix. Perhaps I was completely deluded.
Most of us have difficulty owning the results in our lives. We see the crappy jobs, unhealthy relationships and flabby bodies. We recognize they’re problematic. But we live with them because we are certain something is going to change real soon (read: Oprah’s intervention). We have plans. We’re going to marry that chick from OK Cupid whose favorite movie is “Godfather II.” We’re going to leave our job and start a food truck selling ostrich-meat tacos. We are going to get a PX90 Workout System, cut out carbs and be totally lean and ripped by summer. We’re stoked for a minute or two.
But what happens? The chick couldn’t stop talking about Mario Puzo. The food truck never went beyond late night eBay searches for the truck. PX90 and no-carbs were trumped by “Breaking Bad” and Cool Ranch Doritos.
The two main reasons we don’t change are:
- We are deluded about who we are and where we are at. When using the GPS on my phone, I’m asked if it’s okay to use my current location. It does this because it can’t tell me where to go if it doesn’t know where I’m at. Most of us refuse to accept where we’re at with our lives (jobs, relationships, health, etc).
- We believe the problem is outside ourselves and therefore don’t take responsibility for our lives. The problems, we think, are finding the right job, mate, workout system and diet, the right whatever. But the problem is never out there, later. It’s right here, now, and it’s us. And unless we change now, nothing else will.
In early 2011, my then-girlfriend and I were talking about our future—cohabitation, procreation, other -ations. These were real world plans; ones that required more than half-baked plans and fantasies to realize. You can’t buy diapers with delusion.
None of our plans were going to happen if I kept waiting for Oprah to call. Had I waited, our future—if we got this far—would involve two babies: one baby-sized and another 6’3”/180 pounds.
I realized that if I wanted a future that included taking care of someone other than myself, something had to change.
The first thing I had to do was accept where I was at with work. At the time, I was doing a bunch of fun stuff that could charitably be called work—writing, organizing cool events, occasional odd jobs. None of these things paid an adult wage. I’d recognized the unsustainable nature of this situation for a while, but recognizing and changing are vastly different things. Until I had a paycheck, my realization was devoid of meaning or reality.
Because I didn’t want to blow it with my girlfriend, I had to accept where I was at. I was not the bestselling author, self-help authority, cultural icon I thought I was. I was a 34 year-old with a very spotty work record, who wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do when he grew up, who needed money. Until I got real about that, my spiritual GPS couldn’t take me where I wanted to go.
Having my location set, I looked for a path forward, which required that I take responsibility for my life. I asked myself what I might be doing wrong. I didn’t allow myself to blame a weak economy, a society that didn’t appreciate artists, or poor modeling from my parents (both of whom were always gainfully employed, for the record).
What I saw was I lacked boldness. Up to this point, I was “trying” to get paid work. I set up informational interviews, checked Monster, LinkedIn and other job boards, I sent out half-hearted requests for work–I did all the things to get a job that didn’t require courage.
If I wanted to get a job with my resume, I knew I had to be bold. I had to be willing to do whatever was needed—not whatever was comfortable. It was a tough market and potential employers were unlikely to say, “Let’s hire that timid guy. He’s really going to be an asset.”
Moving from where I was at, taking full responsibility for my behavior, I devised a plan—one based in reality, mind you.
I decided to write an email to 100 of my contacts who were gainfully employed. I left some people out because, as much as I loved them, I didn’t want to waste my time hearing about bartending jobs or focus groups gigs. I wanted real work. Here is some of what I wrote:
Subject: Request for Help
Few things are as sublime as genuine dependence. Having no shame in asking for what you need. Today, I need your help.
I need and want work. I’ve been plugging along with Lucid [an event I produced] and my blog for a while now, but frankly, I don’t make enough money to support myself, much less the family that’s in my future. I also find myself eager to show up someplace where I can contribute to a larger team.
I have a request: If any of you have ideas or leads for jobs, will you please let me know?
What I’m looking for: I’m open. I see my chief strengths as written and spoken communication as well as relationship forging and maintaining. I do event stuff, but my main joy is working with people. I believe these qualities lend themselves to writing, sales, marketing, HR, PR or advertising positions.
Just as important as what I will do is where. I want to be in a dynamic, progressive, conscious/non-evil environment. I’m open to big and small organizations alike–-from Google to start-ups. Regular work is preferred to freelance, though I’m open to the latter. Some areas I’ve been considering are tech, marketing/branding firms/shops, food, conferences/events and media. But again, I’m open to suggestions.
My resume is thin, but I’m not afraid to start at the beginning. I welcome the opportunity to prove myself.
I will reach out to you personally, but I want to first cast a wide net. If you have any suggestions or are willing to lend your insights, please let me know. I look forward to spam-free communication meeting.
Until then, with great appreciation,
The response was amazing. Within five days, I was contemplating two very attractive job offers with very non-evil projects, making adult money. I took the one job where I continue to work to this day. I married my wife and we now have an eight-month old baby. (Oprah never called, but I’m still open to that possibility.)
None of this would have happened if I had not accepted where I was at with my life, had I waited for something outside myself to remedy the situation, had I continued to delude myself that things were going to get better someday in the near future. They weren’t and they don’t.
With my experience in mind, here are some things to try out:
- Name one area of your life you are hoping will get better.
- Get honest about where you are at with that thing and what will most likely happen in that area. For example, if you’ve been underemployed your whole adult life, you will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s likely.
- Take full responsibility for your life and see where you’re coming up short. For me, I was coming up majorly short in boldness.The problem is never out there.
- Think of an action based on where you’re coming up short. For example, my email represented an act of boldness.
- Take that action now. Like, really. Thing will never change if you don’t.