Friday, April 30, 2010

Who's Got That School Spirit?? Not Me. (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist.)

In high school, I was voted the one with the most school spirit.

It was one of the greatest ironies of my life so far. I had no school spirit. I went to a terrible high school and took every chance to explain as much. To this day I am convinced that awarding me that superlative was a class joke on me, though I've never been sure who orchestrated it.

The point is, I've never understood the idea of school spirit. Not for it's own sake at least.

Starting from about 6th grade and continuing up through college, I had almost nothing of what they call school spirit, despite official pleas and efforts to establish same in the student bodies of which I was a member at any given time. My least favorite week of the year tended to be "Spirit Week", where everybody expressed their alleged school spirit by painting their faces, wearing school sweatshirts, or going to that most loathed of compulsory social events, (yes, we were MADE to go in high school) the Pep Rally. I never wanted to go to these damn things, and thankfully in college I could and did, opt out.

"But it's YOUR school," cheerleaders and even staff members would sometimes tell me. "That's YOUR team out there."

Is it? Does the win/loss record of the basketball team affect my personal reasons for getting an education in even the slightest ways? Does what I do in class in any way affect their game? No on both counts, so it is hardly "my" team. But back to school spirit.

There is much more to a school than a sports team. Yet pep rallies and school spirit are almost always centered around the sports. You hoot, clap and holler for all of the members of your school sports teams, whom you have not met, and probably will never talk to in most cases, while girls in short skirts shake things for them. And if you are a fan of sports, or do in fact know the team players, that's great for you.

Yet the cheerleaders, the athletes, and in most cases the staff and faculty would never be found at the opening nights of any of the school plays, or in the churches for the school choir concerts. Would they be moved to do so by a plea that, "It's YOUR chess team? It's YOUR debate club"? I am willing to bet in the negative in most cases.

Sports attendance in schools I think is merely the most convenient, public way for people to prove they are towing some kind of line. Which is why I think many staff and faculty members who haven't the least interest in sports end up at homecoming games and other major tournaments in such large numbers. And schools count on such a conflation between the excitement of sports events, and the overall quality of the entire school to distract people from actual pressing problems that are pertinent to the school's stated mission. Such distraction never worked for me.

But in the end it's not only about the sports favoritism that is inherent in almost all school spirit activities. I wouldn't fault a school for having an active athletic program, (so long as they are surpassed by the educational aspects of the school.) But for me to feel any kind of "spirit" for an institution, I need to feel that the whole is putting as much effort into my well being as I am putting into it. None of my schools ever did this, and I find it next to impossible to manufacture spirit ex nihlio for an institution that doesn't reciprocate the effort in anyway.

I was just a number whose problems were shoved aside, ignored, or mocked in some cases. Attempts to point out weaknesses with the system were met with censorship. Any attempts to innovate were squelched. Only half the time did the various staff members extend even an adequate level of energy to insure my educational experience was tolerable. At virtually no point did anybody go beyond their obligations to make my education memorable, even after repeated pleas from myself and others. It was, in most cases all about going along to get along, which a school, if nowhere else, should avoid. My schools didn't.

In short, my various schools never gave the slightest indication that they would bend over backwards to help students live better and learn more about becoming authentic citizens of the world. Yet most students still painted their faces, wore the sweatshirts, crafted the signs, and participated in all the requisite behavior that "school spirit" entailed. Even when I knew personally they were getting screwed by the administration in the exact same ways I was. Mind boggling then, mind boggling now.

"Think of all the school has given you," some former colleagues would say.

My response is that I never felt obligated to be grateful when my school managed to barely accomplish the very goals of a school; educating me. Something I paid them handsomely to do anyway.  

I have heard the assertion that it does the individual good to show loyalty, (spirit) towards an institution of which they are a member, regardless of the circumstances. That the very act of expressing school spirit has positive effects for one's own spirit, and for one's reputation, within the institution. And there is no doubt that ass kissing gets certain people a certain distance. But I can't stomach it. Never could.Even if it is "just what you do" when you're a student.

In the end, I am not against school spirit as a concept. In fact one of my biggest regrets in life is that I never attended an educational institution that deserved my loyalty. I would love to know what it feels like to go whole hog in support of a community of which I am a member. I am astonished by people who continue to support their colleges decades after they graduate. Those who feel so moved by their experiences when a student that they go to the homecomings every year and visit their old dorm rooms. To have that much appreciation for a place is foreign to me. Probably why I am not a member of any alumni association. Probably why I have never been back to my college campus, and don't intend to go back anytime in the near future. The schools mean nothing to me now that I am gone. They barely meant anything when I was there. But not because I chose it to be that way. Rather, because I am no good at one way investments.

I like to hope that this lack of attention to students is not universal. That for me it was just a matter of bad luck that I always picked the wrong schools. Indeed, everytime I chose a school, literally, they announced some massive years long realignment plan that was designed to totally change or expand the school into something it was not. Perhaps if I had attended each of my schools in a time BEFORE they were struck with the notion to totally rebuild, I might have felt loyal to them. But it was not to be for me.

I hope that my children feel they can fall in love with their schools. It seems to be such a potent, rewarding feeling for so many that I envy in a way.  Perhaps if I ever go to graduate school as an old man I can show school spirit for that.

But still no pep rallies. Too noisy.

Did/do you have sincere school spirit for your high school/college/grad school? Tell me about it. I want to know how it feels.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your Calling: Deserving It vs. Working For It

More people know what their true calling is than conventional wisdom would indicate. In our instant productivity cash flow oriented society, the emphasis tends to be placed on how fast and often we are receiving a pay check, and what we are doing about making it larger. As a result we often pigeon hole ourselves into whatever is available for us to do as soon as we hit the work force. Every hole must be filled, and if you don't have a job and are physically capable of filling that hole, our society dictates that you have a duty to fill it. Your feelings, your happiness, your relationships and the other intangibles be damned.

That is if you are lucky enough to find any kind of job anywhere.

It's no wonder people don't allow themselves the privilege of determining their calling. Or admitting to it. For I contend, as I said in the beginning, that more people know what their calling is than it appears. But they have been conditioned to ignore it.

There is a reason they refer to it as a CALLing. Something inside of you, (or perhaps a higher power) calls on you to make use of that unique blend of talent and passion for something that only you posses. Yet too many people do not choose to answer the call that they know they are receiving. There are many reasons for this refusal, (lack of immediate success, a lack of education about how to proceed, dismissive family members), but the biggest reason, in my estimation, is feeling that they don't deserve to follow their own calling. That they somehow must earn the right to follow a calling before they proceed to do so.

"I need to prove I can get a Master's Degree in something useful first."
"I have to rough it and pay my dues first. I can go after my calling when I am comfortably retired."
"It's just a flight of fancy. I haven't lived the kind of life that produces a Hemingway. (Or Beethoven or Schweitzer.)"

And on it goes. We convince ourselves that we must be bestowed with a special status or given cosmic permission before we are truly worthy to pursue the calling we feel inside us.

Yet I ask you, why isn't the calling itself special enough to convince us to follow it? For what else are we waiting, exactly? The truth is you already deserve your calling. You were built for it.

Now a calling won't just unfold without effort. Following a calling takes hard work, research, perseverance, some pain and a bit of luck. Just like everything in life worth doing. But the fact that it may be difficult, often misunderstood, scoffed at or seen as very odd doesn't make it illegitimate. It just makes it all worth it when we finally achieve it.

What if we were trained and encouraged to discover and pursue our true inner calling from the very beginnings of our education? What if society were designed in such a way that doors were opened in each area for those that had felt called to same, as opposed to those who have a sterling resumes and great inside connections? How might things be different?

Are you pursuing your calling? If not, why not?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The "Magical" In Life...No Wand Required (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist!)

Hold on to the magical, if you believe in it. And if you don't believe, start. And you will have to put forth some effort and define "magic" in whatever way suits you best, since it is a million things to a million people. But I am sure you know what I mean by "magic", and Merlin ain't got nothin' to do with it.

I am also sure you have experienced people pissing on your idea of "magic". How often have you heard people say something like this when it comes to letting go, or no longer experiencing magic;

“I have to enjoy every moment this offers, because once it’s over...”

“It’s time for me to settle down, and stop doing/thinking/longing for such things.”

“I’m not a kid anymore. I'm too old for that stuff.”

And they let go of the idea of magic. Like a Greek Chorus I try to mention to such people that they need not bow to this depressing notion; that they are confusing the circumstances under which they experienced magic with the reasons they did so. That such thinking only invites magic to die once a certain age is reached or they become far away from a certain location.  Also, like a Greek Chorus, I ultimately fail to alter the thoughts and actions of those to whom I speak this all important truth. Completing the metaphor, some element of tragedy usually follows. A tragedy of spirit.

But I say to always hold on to beauty. Insist upon magic. (However you define that.) Be open to the mysterious.  Don’t resign to the end of these intangibles because some arbitrary social system, (which only happens to be prevalent at the moment), insists that it is time to do so.

Think of the times that most people associate with that "magical" feeling. Something they can "never get back". The first time they fall in love. Or "being young". (For some this is high school, for others, college.) Perhaps a very special vacation. What do these types of circumstances have in common? People are more open to the transcendent during such moments. They allow themselves to live at the exact moment more than at other times. They insist on cares, worries, anxieties and fears being placed in the back seat on a regular basis.

Then someone tells them that college is over, they are not a kid anymore, life is difficult, and there are responsibilities to be upheld. As though each of those things preclude the concept of sublime wonder.

But you can feel that sense of cosmic freedom at any time, if you remember three things:

1)You can fight for magic.
2) You have every right to do so.
3) You will find it if you want it.

The setting may change, but the over all connection to the mystical need not decrease as you get older, or take on more responsibilities, or finish high school, or finish college, or get married. That is a myth. It makes you easier to control. To mold you into something convenient, as opposed to something authentic.

What is/was it for you that has been magical? Those late nights with friends? That starry night? That rain you got caught in? That last minute road trip you found yourself on? Whatever it is, keep doing it as long as you live. The magic is out there, and will find you if you stay open and willing to receive it by doing the things you love.

If staying up late with friends has the potential for magic for you, for God’s sake don’t stop doing it just because you are passed a certain age. If having a drink with people you love has brought you magic before, don’t refrain from it because it happens to be Monday instead of Saturday. Tuesday will get there either way.

I am sure I am very much an enigma to many. It's part of being Too XYZ. And like anyone else I have my fears and anxieties about not being able to have enough money or enough influence in this world. I have basically none of either so far, and many out there would tell me why I am not "ahead".

"Why don’t you grow up? Quit blogging, being in plays, and staying up late listening to music. Why aren’t you in bed? Why haven’t you settled down? Gotten a wife, had a child, given you mother grandchildren? Hang out with people your own age? The time you spend writing about magic should be spent with business cards in hand marching door to door and INSISTING that you need to be hired. And if not, stop relying on your family for financial support and get a job you hate. You are supposed to hate work. You have bills to pay, so pay them any way you can. Enough of this actor/writer shit."

Well, I will tell you why I don’t do those things. Because in each case, doing so in some way squelches the Infinite within me, and I have seen enough of that sin in my lifetime.

Life is hard, whether we want it to be or not. I do agree with the naysayers on that point. But my counter argument is, why make it harder by denying ourselves the inexplicable beauty we find when we behave in “childish” ways? How am I supposed to counteract the fact that the rat race sucks by throwing up my hands and running head long into it?

There is a very large amount of cynicism out there in the professional world. And the more I have started to network, tweet, and otherwise engage in social media, the more of it I encounter. I am constantly told how unprofessional I am, and that they will write books about me one day for being so noble, after I have starved to death. (I refer such folks to this previous entry of mine.) It's no wonder I have never really gotten my foot in the door of the world of personal branding, elbow rubbing, meta-networking and cold calling. It denies me the magic, and even worse, denies me the right to desire it.

But desire it, I do. And if you do as well, feel free to join me in doing things a little differently. I welcome the company for a change.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

8 Reasons that Volunteering Sucks. (So Far...)

"When you volunteer in your community, you get back far more than you put in."

"No matter what your skills are, you can use them to make a difference through volunteering."

"Volunteering will help you develop a resume and skills that will make it easier to  find a job in tougher times."

"Volunteering is a great way to network and make new friends."

The statements above have two things in common. First, just about every volunteer organization has some combination of these sentiments on their website and in their literature.

The other thing they have in common is that I, Ty Unglebower, find every one of them to be a crock of shit.

Once you finish gasping at the thought I will continue.

Too XYZ is a blog about the experiences I have had. Not one-off experiences but trends that I have noticed in my travels. If your only comment is, "that's not true everywhere," please don't bother to comment. Nothing is true everywhere. Nevertheless I standby my thesis statement that traditional volunteering has trended toward being a crock for me. None of those four statements above has proven true for me yet, and I'm not the only one. This message board thread bears out my belief that it's a bit of an epidemic.

So, without naming names of the specific organizations involved, here is my list of eight reasons why volunteering isn't worth it.

1. Nobody gets back to you.

Not unlike 99% of hiring managers these days, the vast majority of volunteer coordinators do not bother returning the emails, phone calls or letters of interest that people send to them wanting to know more about their organization. Such places beg and grovel for volunteers constantly, even placing ads in newspapers and online boards calling for same. Yet when people want to know more about schedules, duties, opportunities, etc, nobody is moved to pick up a phone or click off an email. Many will claim that their offices are also staffed by volunteers and as such they get very busy and don't have time for such things. But really, if you can't find time to return inquiries from potential volunteers, what's the point? The office is the face of your organization and if it's cold to people, nobody will care about helping you.

2. Politics

"Every place has politics," know-it-alls like to say. While that is debatable, what is not debatable is that most people hate politics, whether in Washington, D.C. or in their offices at work. It may not be avoidable in those places, which is why people who take what little time they have out of their busy lives to volunteer want to avoid even more politics at all costs. The royal court structure of who's in and who's out that develops at volunteer organizations is appalling. Playing favorites, keeping secrets, gossip and intrigue. I want to help homeless people, not find a way to play the public relations officer against her arch enemy, the supply manager, so I can get the shift I want at the shelter next week.

3. Lack of appreciation

You might be amazed at how thankless volunteering can really be. I know there are those evolved souls who do work without any need to get anything back because it is the right thing to do. And I agree that volunteering is about helping someone or something else other than yourself. And when it comes to helping people in need, I agree. But that doesn't apply to the organizations for which you do the volunteering, who really should be thankful for the help they get.

Is the fact that you do noble work really an excuse to not say "thank you" to your volunteers? Or to make them feel guilty about not wanting to take on more responsibilities and longer hours? I have rarely been thanked for the volunteer hours I have given up, and have even been bitched at when I had to end them. Such places don't want volunteers, they want machines.

4. It's become too much like a job hunt.

One add in my county's volunteer message board ran like this, (I am altering it enough to hide their identity)

"The Jones Shelter for the Homeless is seeking kind-hearted volunteers to help register new clients into the system. Must be proficient in  MS. Excel and other database software, have excellent phone skills, able to come in on weekends and keep a positive outlook. Previous clerical experience, preferably in a shelter environment is a major plus. Fluent Spanish is desirable. A bachelor's degree is strongly preferred,but not necessary. No phone calls please."

Sounds like a job post to me. Not only based on the amount of work required, but the rather high level of skills expected for a volunteer position. Nobody out of the kindness of their soul can walk in off the street and be trained for this position. And with so many people out of work choosing to turn to the volunteer sector to prevent "gaps" in their damn resumes, they are getting all of the volunteer positions too. It shouldn't be stiff competition to volunteer at a homeless shelter.

5. Proselytization 

I don't volunteer to help those less fortunate so I can take part in a prayer meeting or a church service. And here is a newsflash; starving people generally come to a shelter to eat, not to be witnessed to. Of course not all shelters have a religious tone to them, but a great deal of the volunteer organizations that offer help to the indigent and destitute are in fact run by churches. Churches ought to separate missionary work from volunteer work, for the sake of people who desperately need a platform to help the needy, but don't wish to make it a religious experience, for themselves or the ones they are helping.

I once volunteered with a church at a soup kitchen run by the county. It clearly states on several signs that there is to be no religious witnessing to the clients, but the meal began with a prayer anyway, and that disgusted me. Don't make starving people listen to your blessing before they eat. Give them the food. I never went back.

6. New people get the shaft.

Similar to the politics complaint.

"Martha can't hear, can barely see, and needs a walker to get around these days. But she has been in charge of the kitchen on Thursday nights for 54 years now. You and your three professionally trained chef friends may be willing to offer your wonderful expertise for free as a way to make the kitchen run faster, cheaper, and serve more clients, thus saving us money, but here we do things Martha's way. You had better ask her about that."

And if you are new, and everybody else that has been around forever is doing everything, and you have nothing to do, nobody gives you anything to do, despite the call for volunteers. Or else all of the good jobs go to the more familiar people. And if you somehow do end up doing a job, and you do it a different way than the person that usually does it, somebody will actually UNDO what you have done and REDO it according to their own method because "we've always done it this way." I have seen people moved to near tears when they discover someone new has covered the cobbler with foil as opposed to the plastic wrap. Anything from a polite debate about "how Nancy does it" to an all out fight, complete with people quitting usually ensues.

In the mean time starving people are literally waiting even longer to be served because the way we cover the damn cobbler is of the utmost importance.

7. Fundraising

I hate it. I hate being asked for money, and I hate asking for it myself. I won't do it. Yet it seems anymore there are two types of volunteer positions left anywhere these days. Those that are fundraising positions, and those that are called something else but end up being fundraising positions.

I get that organizations always need money, but when will such places learn that shaking a can is a very specific skill that not everybody possesses? You cannot just take people who want to volunteer to help abused animals and turn them into an army of fundraisers. They didn't volunteer to raise money, (which is the same the world over.) They volunteered because they are good with animals. They have a gift for making them feel comfortable. But they are new, and those skills are not sought after today. (See numbers 4 and 6.) But we always need money, so we are always willing to take on more people to collect donations.

8. You are given more to do by the hour.

Somehow those that come in to stuff envelopes on Sunday afternoons end up being asked to makes copies, set up client contact lists, return a few phone calls in the morning, lock up the place when they leave, coordinate efforts with the shelter in the next county, and grab a gun to go hunting for the Thanksgiving Turkeys in the nearby woods. 

And if they decline, they get, "I guess you don't care about helping out as much as we thought." 

My hope is that you will take this list in the spirit in which it was given; and that is to point out the popular fallacy of how volunteering in it's own right is somehow more noble than other pursuits.

Note the "thus far" in the title of this entry. My hope is that one day I will find a volunteer organization that will fit my needs and desires, and vice-versa. Than perhaps I will feel uplifted by volunteering my time. But until then, I'm taking a break from looking.

Do you volunteer? Where? And have you ever experienced any of the problems on my list? How did you deal with same? Let me hear from you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Exceeding Obligations

"I'm not obligated to do that."

There are two reasons people say that. One is to legitimately protect themselves from being used and abused.

The other is to be a lazy pain in the ass.

Cry all you want about special circumstances, but in my life I have come to the conclusion that these are the only two reasons. And the later version is one of the most obnoxious sentences I can hear a human being utter, because it is done for its own sake. People refrain from something they are not obligated to do simply because they are not obligated.

I have for years adopted one main metric by which I judge the quality and character of people I encounter;

How willing are they to exceed their obligations?

That means of course that unlike many in our society I don't see "fulfilling one's obligations" as an admirable trait. The fact that many people do not fulfill their obligations doesn't mean the simple act of doing so makes you a hero.

When I become upset or offended by someone failing to take an extra step for me or for someone else, it's not usually because the person "has no right" to behave that way. I'm not marching on Washington demanding that laws be changed and the Constitution be amended. I am responding to a lack of warmth or consideration on the part of people that have it within their power to make something easier for others, but opt not to because it is their right to do so.

Yet it isn't a matter of rights, despite many acting like it is so.

"I have no obligation to throw my trash away. This is McDonald's, they pay people to do it."

"I have every right to sit on this bench despite the fact the old lady in a walker would like a seat. You can't make me get up. It's a free country."

"My friend has left a voice mail, text, and email in the last few days, but this is my weekend. I don't like feeling obligated to get back to someone just because we are friends. I have personal space and have every right to kick people out of it when I feel I don't want to know what their needs are."

Well congratulations. You know your rights.

But when you choose to directly ease the job, the difficulty, the pain of someone else by doing something that you are not obligated to do you are sending the message that you feel something, somewhere outside of your skull has meaning. That there are in fact things taking place on this planet involving people other than yourself, and that there is a greater good than what you can determine with your five senses.

In short, it makes you a decent human being, when merely fulfilling your obligations does not.

Use some damn common sense. Don't sell your soul. Don't endanger yourself or your loved ones. Know your limitations and don't break the law unless it is a fundamental issue of personal conscience. But don't stop at your "obligations" either, because quite frankly, the mere obligations we have in place in our society for one another and for our community are somewhere between piss poor and non-existent.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making Friends vs. Becoming Friends

We often see those terms as being interchangeable. Indeed when I am speaking casually I often use them as such. But they are not.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first listed current definition of "make" is;

"to cause to happen"

The first current definition for "become" given by the same dictionary is;

"to come into existence".

Despite there being some overlap in the secondary meanings of both words, these two initial definitions are quite distinct. They are the definitions I am using pertaining to friendship.

It could be truly said that I almost never truly make friends.

This doesn't mean I have social anxiety, per se. I walk in crowds all the time. I order food, give directions and such. Nor am I anti-social. I respond to small talk that is initiated by someone else. A little bit. But I am just not in the business of "making" things like that happen. It isn't me.

I do not go to bars or clubs with the express purpose of making new friends or even acquaintances. When invited to a party I converse almost exclusively with those I already know, unless introduced to someone else. If I know only a few people at a very large party, I usually will not attend at all. I don't strike up conversation in elevators, and I do not start chats with people in check out lines.

Again, in short, I do not make friends.

They do, however, often "make me" as I say. But when I want to write in the active voice, (as we are supposed to), I say "Jane and I became friends."

This is usually do to me and "Jane" engaging in the same activity. It is no coincidence that 90% of my current friends are people I met through theatre. Theatre is one of the only social activities I engage in on a regular basis that involves large numbers of people who are initially strangers. Also, being in the trenches of rehearsing and performing a live show can bring people together quite efficiently. Friendships "come into existence" on and behind the stage due to mutual struggle and passion.

I engage in no other activities that consistently bring friendships into existence. (One of the cons of freelancing.) 

My relationships are always built on mutual activity. They form as a result as pursuing something else with others because the inner natures of both me and the other people are more accessible that way.

Now, I can practically here all of my new Twitter and Brazen Careerist acquaintances choking on their coffee as they read this one. I can hear word for word what they would say; both as individuals, and collectively as some sort of Gen-Y Borg Cube:

"You need to acquire the ability to make friends. How can you not be out there, exchanging your business card, talking up your freelance skills, shaking hands, exchanging phone numbers, going to tweet-ups? You may not like it, but you are doomed to failure in this day and age if you can't go into bars, group activities, even libraries and just start introducing yourself to people around you. The world turns because of extroverts. Be one of them."

My new contacts are good people. I like them. I have learned much from them in the 6 months or so I have been engaged with them via various new social media. They mean well in most cases, and I appreciate it. And in many cases they are correct.

But not in all, and probably not in this one.

For I am Too XYZ to be like that. I fully realize that being that way does make things happen faster in many cases. And as has been the case with many people, I am doing more "virtual friend making" thanks to the internet. It allows me to behave more like the hand shaking conversation starting extrovert at Starbucks. But I will never BE him.

I am sure I will attend a Tweet-up one of these days. But even if I do it will not be like it is for most people, because I just do not posses those skills or that personality. I think those that have it really don't understand that people like us that are Too XYZ can no more evolve out of some of our traits than we could suddenly turn into another race or gender. It just isn't there.

I am not ashamed of this. Too often we are asked to rewrite our DNA because we are told "that's just the way it is, like it or not." Those words are often spoke, with ease, by people who were born to be the way they are asking me to become. I long to improve, but I do not long to change, and there is a difference.

So my goal is to seek out, learn about, and if needs must, personally create new means by which people like me can make the connections that need to be made, while not feeling like we are wasting our time trying to be something we are not. I have spent a lifetime doing this in small degrees, so now it is simply a matter of enlarging the scale of it. My "tweeps" have already helped me do this in some regard. But I know in large degree it is up to me to dig that unorthodox path myself. Or at least with the help and advice of fellow Too XYZers out there.

Is this you? I want to hear how you maneuver in the world of friends if it is. Comment me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What DON'T You Want? (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist!)

Being goal oriented is important. Most people know that. It gives one a focus. A target. Something to both visualize from the spiritual standpoint, and something for which to plan from a more earthly standpoint.

Yet goals are things which we have not yet achieved. Which means they are in the future. Which means there are bound to be obstacles on our journey to completing them.

Sometimes we know exactly what our goals are. When we do, we can easily see most of the obstacles that lie in our way towards said goals. What we do not see right away becomes clear as we take that journey.

But what if you are not sure what your goal is at any given time? Or what if it is a very broad goal? (i.e. move to another city.) What then? How to focus and gain all of the benefits of a clearly defined goal?

First, take total stock of all current condition pertaining to the subject at hand. Think really hard about every detail of your life. But instead of thinking so hard about what you want in the future, determine with as much specificity as possible what you do not like about the present.

Say you live in New York City. You want your life to change somehow. You want something different, but you can't quite put your finger on what would make you feel better. Set that aside, and think long and hard about what you do NOT like about your current situation. Perhaps you are tired of crowds. Of noise. Or pollution. You may not know what you want to do next, but by isolating those things that make you most unhappy, you would perhaps have discovered  it is time for you to make your way to the suburbs, or perhaps a totally rural environment. Where or how is not important today. Just determine where you could go to be away from that which dissatisfies you.

Your job is ok, but you feel it's time for a change. But a change to what? Is anything better than what you have now? How can you know? Again, think deeply about what it is about your job you simply cannot stand. Have you grown weary of all the traveling you must do? Do you miss being able to always be at home at the end of the day, instead of a hotel room somewhere else? Then perhaps this means you would prefer a desk job at this point in your life. Or at least a job that requires you to go only to one place during the day, and nowhere else. Again, you haven't decided where exactly you are going next, but you have determined that one of your goals will be to research jobs that will allow you to stay in one place.

Many advise you to ignore that which is negative, and think only of your dreams, and what you want. But if you are like me, and sometimes Too XYZ to know exactly what you want to change, it can be of great benefit to determine what it is about your current situation that you most want to be rid of.

Don't take this approach lightly. This should be the result of deliberate soul searching on your part. Because just as we are not always of what our goals should be, we are also not always sure what is bothering us about life. But take the time, and put in some mental/spritual effort, and it will come to you. And when it does you are one step closer to having an all important goal.

Have you ever made a life decision based at first on what you knew you didn't want any longer?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Passion, Not Obsession.

Two of my biggest talents and passions are theatre and writing. I have spent years looking for ways to make use of both in my career.

So far I have met with only minimal success in doing so. And do you know why? Well, there are plenty of career know-it-alls who think they know why. For years I've  read and heard this advice in regards to a career as a writer. (Though you hear the exact same words regarding a career in theatre.)

"If you can even for a moment imagine yourself doing anything else other than writing for the rest of your life, don't write. Do the something else. Writing is not for you."

Pursuant to this, those that are trying to make it their career are often heard to say things like;

"I just have to write. I eat sleep, drink, breath and piss writing, day in and day out. If I am awake and not in the shower, I am writing, and I would write in there too if I could."

Yeah...and if anyone behaved this way pursuant to wine consumption, what would we call them?

The fact of the matter is, I am both an actor and a writer. I am a freelance writer that is just starting to hit a bit of a stride, and I am an actor that performs in amateur productions that don't usually pay. My goal is to make a total living one day utilizing one or both passions.

Yet, sin of all sins, I can visualize myself doing other things.

Yes. I can see myself getting back into radio, if there were any openings. I know I would enjoy some sort of musical career if it came along. I could probably spend a few quiet, content years just getting a paycheck from a used bookstore.

And if I had a family to support in an emergency, I would even be able to see myself taking a more menial job, if a kid's life is at stake.

In other words, there are many things for which I have talent and interest that I could see myself doing, and have at some point tried and failed to get into. The fact of the matter is that I have had more chances to use my writing and acting skills than I have my other skills thus far.

However, even though I am both a writer and actor, and I do love being so, I do other things. I walk. I enjoy movies. I limp my way through video games sometimes. Poker. Conversation. Beer. It may shock you to know I have been on dates with women.

What is my point? My point is, despite being a writer, I simply am not obsessed with the idea of writing. I do not do it all the time, every hour of every day. Any given day I do not write at all. I know that must shock some of you writers out there, but somedays I don't feel it. If I worked for a company I would of course put in writing time everyday so as to fulfill my job duties. But as a freelancer for the time being, I'm not always there.

Nor should I be. This notion that writers, actors and other creative types must be constantly working on or at least thinking about their respective craft is for the proverbial birds. We all have talents, and perhaps all of us have callings and destinies. But it is not for any of us to abandon being a well balanced human being.

Dedication to and visualization of a goal or dream is one thing. And a damned important thing at that. But I grow weary of the suggestion that by being able to imagine my life turning out in some other good way I am declaring myself unfit as a writer. I am equally weary of the notion that in order to be considered a true writer I have to feel compelled by some unknown force to write all the time, everywhere.

It's not like eating, folks. Writing can sometimes be hard work. It can in fact be a pain in the ass. It can be like pushing a rock up a mountain. But I am not a writer because I am in love with pushing rocks. I am a writer because I am compelled to see the view from the summit of the mountain. I just push rocks right now because that is what is required to get me there.

So embrace passion, not obsession.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Frustrated Fellow Too XYZers (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist!)

This is not an exceptionally creative post, but I came across a thread on a job hunting board that rang so true with me that I simply had to share it. Especially when I consider that no other thread that I have yet encountered in the world of the job hunt has been so universally in tune with my own experiences on the matter.

It is a frustrating, depressing, and some will say cynical thread. Many would probably dismiss it as belly aching. But these people are not worthless anymore than I am. They are worried, anxious, in some cases rendered hopeless, by a job hunting system that, no matter how many times it is written about, explain or engaged in, just simply doesn't make any damn sense to a certain personality.

Like my own. And to all of us who have found we are Too XYZ.

Read the thread. Each post.  And don't dismiss the people as lazy or stupid. Those of you who never have any problem landing jobs, try to listen carefully to what these people who have been out of regular work for a year (or years, such as myself if you discount my freelance work) have to say about their predicament. This is what I and people like me have been up against. It is a perfect indication of just how unhelpful so much of the standard job hunting advice tends to be.

We don't know why. If this is you, perhaps you don't know why. But you are not alone.

Here is the thread. Perhaps add to it yourself?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"You're Just Saying That"

My recent forays into another level of social media have exposed me to all sort of articles, blogs, Tweets, etc pertaining to personal success and branding, and networking. Most of them are valid. (Even some of the ones I don't do for various reasons.)

I think I have found one very simple act that can greatly improve one's brand, chance for success AND one's network. There aren't a whole lot of books about it, as far as I know. I don't believe the concept has been studied. It also lacks profundity, (unless you find the simple to be profound.)

Accept a compliment.

No, I didn't make a mistake. I realize that giving sincere compliments is useful when it comes to adding to one's network. But it doesn't do much good to give them if you can't recieve them.

I am not talking about yes men that indiscriminately kiss your ass.I am talking about people in our lives, strangers, new contacts, friends, lovers, whatever, that pay you appropriate compliments, which you find the need to deflect.

"I'm not sexy, I'm overweight." "You're only saying that because we are friends." "You tell everybody the same thing."

Think of the two main messages you are projecting when you deflect a compliment.

1) "I don't trust that you are telling me the truth."
2) "I don't have confidence in myself enough to believe that what you say about me might actually be true to someone."

This isn't to say that we are going to agree with every compliment we are given, even if they are sincere. You might not like the new haircut you got, even if your friends do. But this isn't about agreeing. This is about accepting, preferably with a simply, "Thank you, that's kind of you to say."

If what we project to other people is as crucial to networking success as all of the gurus say it is, perhaps we should keep this in mind the next time we are complimented, instead of giving in to what seems to be trait that is ingrained into us by society itself; rejecting those who compliment us.

How good are any of you at accepting compliments? How do you feel when you are complimented and why?