Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Last week I Zoomed with Clay (name changed), a client who is a manager in the IT department of an international company.
Clay hates his job – and really hates it in these pandemic days.
He’s the classic case of a person who was promoted not because he showed managerial promise but because he was good at what he did.
Although he has the potential for becoming a solid manager, he has no desire. Rather than take charge of his career he’s resigned to doing a numbing job for the sake of a pay check.
Prior to the pandemic, I think he would have welcomed the idea of getting fired as it might have prompted him to look for more satisfying work.
Now, though, he’s stymied in the habit of going through the motions.
I asked Clay what he’d like to be doing if we lived in that longed-for imaginary ideal world.
Without hesitating, he said, “I’d like to write operas.”
Wow – I hadn’t seen that coming!
He explained that he had wanted to pursue a career as a classical musician, but his parents would not support such “nonsense” and they guided him down a stable professional path.
As you may know, sometimes stability can come with a steep price tag. Clay is paying that hefty price.
During these days of quarantine, I’ve been doing spring-cleaning and for me that involves not just tossing out the stuff that’s been collecting dust. It’s also a time to sort through links to articles and posts that I convinced myself someday I’d use.
Here’s an edited obit clipping I passed along to Clay. It’s for a Michael Masser.
You probably don’t recognize the name, though Masser, a stockbroker-turned-composer, wrote hits for Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack.
I’ve kept the obit because it tells a story I don’t want to forget. And it’s the kind of obit that I hope someday can be written for Clay.
Here’s how Masser made his career and life changing decision (as written by Sam Roberts in the New York Times).
As Mr. Masser biked to work as a broker in Midtown Manhattan in the 1960s, he would detour to the Juilliard School to putter on a piano. A self-taught pianist, an inner muse was urging him to switch careers and pursue his true calling.
‘I was working as a stockbroker in New York and had the seemingly perfect life,’ Mr. Masser told The Chicago Sun-Times in 1988. ‘But I was unhappy, and someone I knew convinced me to see a shrink. I walked in and told the doctor I wanted to write music. He said, ‘What’s the problem with that?’ I told him that didn’t go over well in my family.
He listened, took my money and said: ‘Here’s a note of permission to write music. That’s all you need to clear your conscience.’
And it’s funny, because that’s all I was looking for: permission. I had been the dutiful son and husband for so long, I had forgotten about living for myself.’
In these pandemic days we are all on a wild roller-coaster ride of emotions and thoughts. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. I believe, though, that this is also a time of remarkable opportunity.
The opportunity to allow ourselves to think about our life in ways we may have become afraid of. In ways we may have forgotten.
The world has been turned upside-down. There is no going back to the “old normal.”
All that lies ahead is the “new normal.”
I encourage you to give yourself permission to think about who you want to be in that new normal.
Is there something you’d like to be doing other than what you have been working at?
What are you going to do about that desire?!
Do you want to break through the numbing thinking that is preventing you
from being influential and heard?
To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,
contact me at: