Asking Tough Questions In A Time Of Fear


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.


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 failure.


In fact, I think he welcomes the idea of getting fired.


Oh, how we complicate our lives!


I asked Clay what he’d like to do instead of managing an IT team.


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 guided him down a more stable professional path.


Sometimes stability can come with a steep price tag.


Lately I’ve been doing spring / summer-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 clippings and 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 Michael Masser who died last July at the age of seventy-four.


A stockbroker-turned-composer, Masser wrote hits for Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack.


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 this time of unnerving pandemic, many are fortunate to simply have a job – and so many others worry if and how they will work again.


The fear is real.

The challenges are real.


Both need to be respected.


BUT – fear does not have the right to blot out hope and vision.

It is still legitimate to ask yourself where you want to ultimately put your energies. Who you want to be and become.


Even in these frightening times, I gently ask you:


What about you? 

Is there something you’d like to be doing other than what you’re now working at? 

What are you going to do about that desire?!


Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

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