April 3, 2012
Filed under Uncategorized
A funny thing happened to me in the barber chair today…
I’ve been unemployed since September 2011. The circumstances that led to that hiatus are inconsequential. I’ve worked non-stop full time for the better part of some 30 years, with a few breaks here and there. These past seven months have been a blessing in disguise, because I’ve reached a place where I know what I’ll accept, and what I won’t, and most importantly, where fear no longer dictates my actions. (OK, I’ll confess I’ve been enjoying unemployment way too much!).
But back to the barber chair…
I’ve had the same barber for 10 years. A first generation immigrant, he is one of the kindest, most honest gentlemen I know. He put two daughters through college cutting hair, and he can’t imagine doing anything else. He’s told me so on more than one occasion. Every time he sees me, he expresses a genuine concern for my situation; he encourages me and reassures me – and tries to give me advice.
As he was shearing me today, I held back the laugh I wanted to let loose as he talked of the bad economy, lack of opportunity, and the need to “play it safe,” to grab whatever one is offered in this brutal world. He asked me all about my job search, my health insurance, are “they” offering me enough money, enough benefits, etc.
He seemed genuinely stumped that none of these things were really worrying me very much.
If there’s one thing I have tattooed on my brain, it is this – never act out of fear, and never let fear stop you from acting. So I felt I needed to apologize to my barber if I’d hurt his feelings with my seemingly dismissive response to his interrogation.
Billy Joel once wrote,
Advice is cheap; you can take it from me —
It’s yours to keep, ‘cause opinions are free”.
Billy also wrote,
Now, with the wisdom of years, I try to reason things out —
And the only people I fear are those who never have doubt.
Can I get an Amen?
If I’ve learned anything in 56 years and 3 careers (so far), it is that telling someone else how to find a job, a career, or the right way to pursue either is the near equivalent of the blind leading the blind. I can share my experiences, contacts, assets and liabilities with you. I can recommend. We could trade war stories over coffee, and we might even come away as friends or at least respectful colleagues.
But at the end of the day, if you attempt to conduct your work or personal life based on the opinions of others, regardless of their depth and / or breadth of experience, or worse, if you begin worrying about what other people think of you, you will most assuredly stop being yourself.
If you’re thinking “OMG Joe, is that all you are saying – ‘be myself’ — is that the best you can do for me as I prepare to leave NYIT and head into the meat-grinder of the working world with $***,000.00 in student loan debt?”
Well, the short answer is … yeah, but with a few caveats.
See, this stretch of joblessness has been an invigorating time for me. I’ve discovered that there is a lot of life ahead, and a lot more things I can do now that I have time to focus on what I love, care about, and understand. And my barber’s admonitions made me think deeply about how fear is working on all of us 24 – 7.
Fear makes us take jobs we don’t really want, or worse, that we have no passion for; fear makes us think we just HAVE to have the new car, the great wardrobe, the big house – fill in your own blank here. I’m truly stunned at how many hours I’ve worked in the last 20 years so that I could achieve status, pay for things I don’t need or want, go places that I didn’t enjoy, do things that bored me to tears, and be around people I couldn’t stand on and off the job.
Fear of joblessness, homelessness, hunger, and all those horrors we read about every day haunts us all. You could probably make a persuasive argument that fear is the main engine of our economy; if we don’t continue consuming we’ll all die.
Newsflash – we’re all going to die anyway. So take some advice from an old book written a long long time ago (1989) in a galaxy far, far away. Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.
A highly successful and wealthily-retired banking executive I met in a past career, who guest-spoke for me to a room full of anxious college seniors said something I’ve never forgotten. Your first job won’t be your dream job; it will merely be your first job. Don’t worry so much about what that job is – just use it as a means to gain some traction in the working world, and find those wings that will carry you to greater heights.
If you’re true to yourself, some day you may even be as happy and successful as my barber.