How to Build Self-Discipline (Video)

This week I launched a brand new YouTube channel as an experiment in creating and sharing video content. I’ve posted three videos thus far, two short ones and this longer one, called “How to Build Self-Discipline”:

Feel free to subscribe to the channel if you so desire.

And, if you enjoy the above video, you may also want to check out my new online course entitled “Opening to Greater Possibilities” – you can learn more about the course and access a free preview of it here.

Thanks, and all best wishes! 🙏☮💗

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Kindsight

Have you ever noticed it can be far easier to treat other people with kindness than to do the same for yourself? You might be able to hold great compassion in your heart for others as they face life’s difficulties, yet be merciless toward yourself whenever you feel you have fallen short in some way.

Why is this? Why do we internally beat ourselves up in ways we would never think of outwardly doing to someone else?

Back in the ‘90s, Chris Farley captured this phenomenon brilliantly in a recurring comedy sketch called “The Chris Farley Show” on Saturday Night Live. (If you’ve never seen it, Google the segment in which he interviews Paul McCartney.)

In the sketch, Farley plays a version of himself who is endearingly sweet but nervous to the hilt as he interviews his celebrity guests. His character gets so upset over his own performance as interviewer he literally smacks himself on the head and berates himself out loud for asking such “stupid!” questions. His guests have to reassure him he is doing fine just so he can proceed with the interview.

The sketch was lastingly impactful because, through the genius of Farley’s physical comedy, he laid bare a nearly universal psychological experience of self-denigration.

While it may seem obvious that treating ourselves this way is unhelpful, counterproductive, and even harmful, it can be a hard habit to shake.

Something I have noticed upon revisiting old journals of mine is that I seem to be able to generate a great deal more compassion and understanding for my younger self now than I was able to do for myself at the time. I could (and did) judge myself harshly for perceived mistakes and flaws when now I am able to see things a bit differently.

I can see, for instance, how needs of mine were not being met and so of course I behaved the way I did. I can see how I had not yet built certain psychological muscles and had not yet had the benefit of more life experience so of course I was less skillful in certain areas. I can see how I could not predict the future (still can’t) and so how was I to know certain things?

I am also able to give myself a lot more credit for things I was able to do and accomplish, in spite of what were at times trying circumstances. I can actually be impressed with my younger self now over things I did not fully appreciate about myself then.

I have a theory about all of this.

Just as it is hard to have the presence of mind to say or do the perfect thing in the moment you are having a particular experience or encounter (it often occurs to you hours later, right?), I think it is harder to be kind to yourself in the midst of difficulty than it is to do so later on, or when the difficulty is otherwise being experienced outside of yourself – say, by another person, or even a fictional character in a movie or TV show.

In other words, it seems there is a relationship wherein a certain amount of distance optimizes our ability to be compassionate. That distance may take the form of physical and/or mental or emotional separation from the pain being experienced. This would explain why it might be easier to have compassion for a younger version of yourself since, in a sense, that younger version is a different person from the you that you are right now.

The term I use for this phenomenon is kindsight (I thought I had coined it myself years ago, but a quick Google search suggests otherwise). Kindsight, to me, is the ability – through the gift of hindsight – to look back with greater compassion and kindness toward oneself and/or others.

The wisdom derived from your own lived experiences, combined with the distance provided by the passage of time, can allow you to see through more understanding eyes and a more loving heart how you or someone who may have hurt you did the best they could at the time, given the resources they had – or lacked – within themselves. Kindsight can allow you to release some of the baggage from the past that may be weighing you down and move productively forward.

I believe the world would benefit from a lot more kindsight. In order to move on from our own mistakes, be they “real” or imagined/presumed, we must be able to forgive ourselves and love the person who made them. We must afford ourselves the same understanding and compassion we would give to any other person we deeply care about (or, in some cases, that we would even bestow upon a complete stranger).

Take a moment today and offer yourself a generous heaping of kindsight. A younger version of you buried deep within might just be yearning for it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opening to Greater Possibilities…is Here!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that my brand new online course, Opening to Greater Possibilities, has arrived and is now available for purchase! 🥳

I am super proud of this course. It was a true labor of love to create, and I hope and trust that it shows.

Consider this the official launch, and you (my blog readers) the first to know and have access to it.

I have crafted an offer that I hope will appeal very strongly to those who would be most interested in and most benefit from this course.

You can find all of the details here.

Thank you for checking it out, and here’s to us all opening to greater possibilities: for ourselves, our loved ones, and the planet and its inhabitants at large. 💗🙏☮

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Life on the Other Side (Thus Far), Including a Creative Breakthrough

In the last post, Observations from the Other Side, here is a point I did not make:

When we are on the “before” side of a big decision, we can only speculate what things will be like on the other side of that decision. Our speculation can be informed by both past experiences as well as our innate human capacity of imagination. Some things may be known, or surmised, in advance; others can’t be.

I knew in advance of my own decision that, as I put it in this post on the subject:

I want to change the direction of this story, and leaving the job forces me to do just that.

Starting now, for sure, my day-to-day life will be different! I am well aware that “different” doesn’t always translate to “better”. I am signing up for certain challenges and stresses that I may otherwise have avoided or continued putting off.

I already knew – incredibly well – what delaying my decision looked like.

What I didn’t – and couldn’t – entirely know was what things would look like on the other side of it. That’s what makes big decisions scary. That’s why they require courage. And, perhaps, faith.

However, it is only on the other side of a big decision that we gain the real perspective. We see more clearly – perhaps with something akin to disbelief – what we had been putting up with, accepting, tolerating, or settling for, when we didn’t actually have to be. It might have felt like we had to. It might have felt like we had no real choice. But now, on the other side, we know otherwise. We know because we made another choice…and lived to tell!

If you are on the other side of a big decision and looking back at your “old life” wondering why it took you so long to make a change, I hope that you will have much compassion for your younger self.

Perhaps we wish we could have made such a decision sooner. But, for whatever reason, we were not ready or equipped to do so.

In life, things take us as long as they take us.

Despite the external appearances of some folks, and despite the social media “highlight reels” we are subjected to, the truth (as I see it) is that we are all beginners at this thing called life. Some things come more easily to us than they do others. And some things come far more easily to others than they do us. It is best not to judge ourselves (nor others, if you can manage that! 😉). It is best to have compassion for both.

A couple of quotes I love that speak to this point:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“But this I know: if all mankind were to take their troubles to market with the idea of exchanging them, anyone seeing what his neighbor’s troubles were like would be glad to go home with his own.”
― Herodotus

I am not suggesting all of us suffer equally. I am suggesting, though, that suffering is damn near universal. And, even for the most fortunate among us, our fortunes can turn on the flip of the Universe’s switch, and the mere awareness of this can create immeasurable suffering in and of itself!

So: compassion is the way to go. With others, and with ourselves. This lesson alone can take a lifetime or longer to really grasp to the point where we are living it on a regular basis. I’m working on it myself, sometimes achieving greater success than others.

***

In the last post I promised to reveal the big “creative breakthrough” I recently experienced.

There is no question in my mind that, in my case, this would not have been possible without having first quit my job. I am not saying this is the Answer for you. I am fully aware that not everyone who wants to do the same is in a position to do so. (It takes as long as it takes…in my case, in part it required building up enough of a savings cushion to be willing to take the leap and the risk.)

But the gift of space and time was, for me, essential to my getting to said breakthrough and then riding the momentum of it once I did.

Back in October 2020 or so, I first came up with the idea for a book. I worked on it in fits and starts but never really gained a lot of headway with it.

In January of this year (before quitting my job, still) I published this post, in which I solicited input from readers to help inform the subject matter I was writing about. Which was, in a word: stuckness.

As further explorations and sub-topics occurred to me, I added to what became an entirely disorganized and unwieldy mess of a Word document. I managed to write an introduction I was pleased with, but the task of laboring through all that followed in an attempt to make it coherent felt weighty and burdensome.

One day in the latter part of May (after having already quit the job and settled in a bit to this new reality), I sat down to write out an anecdote I wanted to use to illustrate a key point about how our beliefs inform our actions and results in life. It was a simple story from my childhood, but I labored for hours to get the wording just right, chiseling and fine-tuning the sentences but never feeling fully satisfied with it.

At some point, I said to myself: this is ridiculous. If I were telling someone this story in person, it would take me all of a few minutes. And it would probably make a more lasting impression because I’d be able to employ my vocal and facial expressiveness to convey the story rather than rely exclusively on typed words to do all of the work.

An aha moment.

What if I experimented with video? What if I used the simple tool at my disposal (namely, my MS Surface Pro) to record myself telling the story, the way I would to someone in person?

It proved to be a revelation.

For eight weeks straight, I was on fire creatively, refashioning the unwieldy Word document, as well as ideas that emerged during the process of recording itself, into a full-fledged digital course. I cannot recall the last time I was so absorbed in a larger-scale creative project. It was amazing!

I worked day-and-night on it, but motivation was high, continuous, and completely unforced. Recording, editing, tweaking. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It felt like this was a project that had been gestating for years. And now I finally had the means of birthing it into being. It was ripe!

The result: an online course I will be offering soon, entitled Opening to Greater Possibilities.

(If this had remained a book idea, who knows if/when I ever would have completed it. Now, in course format, it is done. A concrete example of the theme of the course! 😊)

OTGP covers a wide variety of ways in which we can access and explore more of the possibility space around us, so that we can live with greater vitality, deliberateness, joy, and authenticity. The emphasis is on practical suggestions that are highly actionable. It reflects a lifetime of lessons learned and insights gleaned, and includes a number of personal stories to enhance the ideas within and give them a bit more substance. The vibe is positive, supportive, genuine, and intimate.

I am super proud of it! 😂

Here are some of the specifics:

OTGP consists of 12 modules (not including a short introduction and a course wrap-up).

• Each module features a video lesson (average length: 25 minutes), plus an accompanying PDF that highlights key points, sometimes includes supplemental material, and features journaling prompts to stimulate ideas and generate possibilities!

OTGP is self-paced. It is designed to be a resource one can return to whenever in need of ideas, a refresher, or a jump-start. It is chock-full of suggestions, and no doubt different ones will jump out and appear relevant for participants as they, and life circumstances, change. So, lifetime access will be granted to those who invest in it.

• There are optional discussion threads within, so – to the extent that participants care to – they can add to existing discussions or start their own. This adds a nice social component to what is otherwise a “private” course experience.

• A group of beta-testers has already gone through it, and some tweaks have been made as a result. The feedback has been stellar!

Now comes the challenge of putting it out into the world. Of getting it into the hands of those who would most benefit from it.

To that effect, I have been immersing myself in the overwhelming world of learning about digital sales and marketing. A lot if it, honestly, turns me off. I have decided I will simply not do those things that make me squirm, however effective they may be at “sales conversion”. I insist on treating those who would receive my offerings – and communications about them – as human beings worthy of respect, not simply “targets”, “numbers”, “wallets”, etc.

The goal is to reach those who would most benefit from the course and offer it to them, and  to charge a fair price that also honors what it took for me to create the thing.

Whether I like it or not, accomplishing this goal necessitates a certain amount – perhaps a large amount – of marketing savvy in the digital world.

I have come to the realization that, no matter how much I study, I am not going to be anywhere near as skilled at this as people who actually know the field. And, so, I am putting aside my DIY tendencies and willingly soliciting help from the right person/people/team. I have been interviewing freelancers on Upwork, and it has been reminiscent of my Internet dating experiences from many years ago! 😧 Still, I’m pressing on…

If you happen to be knowledgeable in this realm – or can refer me to someone who is skilled, reliable, has integrity, and would be interested in working with me on a project like this – please let me know.

Thanks, and more to come as I get closer to launching the course!

Posted in Career, Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Observations from the Other Side

No, dear reader, I have not died, and am not writing to you from the Great Beyond…

By “other side” I am referring to being on the other side of a major life decision. 😂

As some of you following this blog are already aware, I quit my job (of six-and-a-half years) earlier this year.

For the full scoop on how I arrived at that decision, see this post.

As detailed there, this decision took a lot of time, perseverating, and, ultimately, courage to make. I won’t belabor the points already made in that previous post. Rather, I will report here on my experiences since making that decision and my perspective on things a little further down the road.

The six-word version, for those short on time: I’m so glad I did it.

The more nuanced version follows.

Reclaiming ownership of my time was a tremendous gift to myself. Because I have a cushion of savings, I was able to not go directly into panic mode.

Still, I would not describe the time that has elapsed thus far as “relaxed”. Wherever you go, as they say, there you are. If you are bent toward existential angst, for example, odds are you will continue to experience that, even after making a big change that feels right. (Not that I know anyone like that. 😉)

Liberated from the tedium of my old job-related duties, though, I have been able to breathe anew. Giving myself this time and space has allowed me to more deeply delve into ideas that come my way, and to act upon more of them, and more frequently.

It hasn’t alleviated all worries, not by a long shot. I’ve essentially traded in one form of stress for another. So far, though, I can report that it has been absolutely worth it. It’s the stress I have willingly chosen, and for good reason (again, see this post)!

My approach has not been one of enacting some Grand Master Plan for transitioning from workaday existence to successfully-self-employed existence. Even if I had such a plan, I know better than to presume things would fall right into place. That’s not how the world I’m familiar with (after nearly five decades of experience here) works.

Instead, it has been more of a “one day at a time” existence in which I check in with myself through frequent journaling and determine my next “right-feeling” steps, one at a time, as they reveal themselves to me. And, of course, I am realizing the necessity of flexibility. I try out ideas, see how they go, and pivot/shift/adjust accordingly.

I’ve actually found myself working harder, and longer hours, than while employed. The difference, though, is that I’m working on things (or working on figuring out things) that matter to me.

It’s a big difference.

Of course, one still gets sidelined by the occurrences of everyday life, as is inevitable. A pulled muscle here, a dealing-with-insurance-companies-issue-that-takes-forever-to-resolve there.

So, when these things happen, you deal with them and, to the extent that they derail you from more productive and interesting tasks, resume your intended endeavors as soon as you are able.

The irony is not lost on me that this mode of existence – diving into solopreneurship and figuring things out as you go – requires that I face head-on three of my biggest lifelong challenges, which I documented back in this post from nearly seven years ago.

Those challenges (lifelong ones for me) are:

1) Patience.
2) Detachment from results.
3) TRUST…in life, myself, the Universe, what have you.

Another challenge that has come up has been one of balance. When I was an employee, it was so much easier to switch out of work mode once I clocked out, and actually have a better balance of self-care activities, hobbies, etc.

Jobless, I have more time to incorporate balance. Yet I find myself obsessed with business-related tasks, reading and research, and not actually carving out said time in a balanced way. This is not a complaint, mind you, merely an observation (from the other side!).

Part of this lack of balance feels right. The situation demands, for a time and to an extent, that I be out of balance, that I be consumed with getting things (namely, income-generating things) moving. However, I can see that this is not a good long-term strategy for living, and so I must figure out a way to incorporate some balance now, even if/when a lack of balance seems appropriate. Because I can see this becoming a trap one can easily fall into if one is not careful.

All of that said, I’ll tell you something really cool about being on “the other side”:

As my savings has been creeping steadily through the pinched center of the financial hourglass that I have willingly flipped over, I’ve already done, and grown, quite a bit. And I am learning new things every day!

Some highlights to show for the adventure thus far:

• I now have a basic website up and running on http://ericteplitz.com. Finally. After having had the domain name (I kid you not) for 15 years without ever having done anything with it. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a start.

• I have begun coaching. While I still have much to learn in regard to both the practice itself and the marketing end of things, this feels like a fit and a good use of myself. It is work I can bring my full self to, in the name of helping people with issues that really matter to them. It is creative, people-centered, and a stimulator of growth on both the client’s end and my own. This feels like it is part of my reinvention puzzle. Time will tell how much of a part.

• Due in large part to my solopreneurial efforts and endeavors, I have been reaching out to more people, and nurturing relationships old and new in ways I likely wouldn’t have prior to making the Decision.

• Most significantly, I experienced a real creative breakthrough! The details of which I will save for the next post, so stay tuned… 😊

Posted in Career | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

New Article on Tiny Buddha

My newest post can be found on the website Tiny Buddha:

It was a challenge to attempt to convey this highly personal story in ~2000 words, but I did my best.

Many thanks to Tiny Buddha for the honor of having it published on their renowned blog!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Transformational Journaling, and More!

“…it’s doubtful to me I’d have acted as boldly and deliberately, that I’d have reflected as deeply, that I’d lived as full a life without having incorporated journaling into it.”

The above quote is taken from my contribution to a book on journaling that has just been published. Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing is available now! You can preview the book’s contents and/or place an order for it via the publisher, Routledge (currently offering it at a 20% discount) and, of course, on Amazon. The book was co-edited and curated by Lynda Monk and Eric Maisel.

The volume consists of 51 chapters, offering numerous perspectives on and approaches to journaling, while elucidating its transformational potential. Mine is the fourth chapter, entitled “Journaling Your Way to a More Authentic Life”.

It is hard to overstate the impact that my own journaling practice, now decades long, has had on my life.

My earliest attempts at journaling were always short-lived. Typically, I would only find the time to journal when nothing particularly noteworthy was going on in my life. Once things “got interesting” my practice would inevitably fall by the wayside.

Looking back, I realize this is because I had not yet turned journaling into a practice. I had not locked it in as a habit like, say, brushing and flossing. I had not committed to it, because I did not fully appreciate the value of it. And, of course, it is difficult to fully appreciate the value of any practice until you’ve been doing it for a while.

False starts when attempting to integrate any new practice or habit are wholly predictable. And lapses can occur among even the most dedicated practitioners, because life (you may have noticed) has a way of derailing us from things. However, life can also be forgiving of this, and we can choose to begin again and resume benefiting from a nourishing practice.

If journaling is a subject of interest to you, I hope you will check out this new book. While the target audience is coaches and therapists, anyone interested in learning about the myriad benefits of journaling, as well as a wide variety of creative and helpful approaches to the practice, will find it a wonderful resource.

***

Speaking of “coaches and therapists”:

As previously reported, I have begun a coaching practice of my own. It is a true joy and honor to bring my “full self” to the table in service of helping others tap into their own strengths, resourcefulness, and authenticity. I work with people one-on-one to help them face their most pressing life challenges and move toward greater fulfillment and life satisfaction.

If you are interested in learning more, please click here. I offer a free consultation with absolutely no obligation or pressure whatsoever. It’s really just an opportunity to have a conversation and see if I might be able to assist in any way with whatever it is you are struggling with. All conversations are completely confidential. If you are at all curious, I encourage you to take me up on this offer. I am very easy to talk to, I promise. 😊

***

Finally, I have been riding a (pretty intense) wave of creative inspiration lately, and am excited to share with you some preliminary news about it! I have been developing an online course that will be released sometime this year (exact date TBD). The course is entitled “Opening to Greater Possibilities” and is chock full of stories, practical suggestions, and powerful mindsets that facilitate moving beyond our preconceived notions of ourselves and what is and is not possible for us. It is about transcending our own limited ways of looking at things and operating in the world, and opening ourselves to the greater possibility space that surrounds us, but which we often have trouble accessing for any number of reasons.

If you are interested in becoming a beta tester for this course, please email me at “eric (at) ericteplitz (dot) com” and I will send you more information about what this entails. You can also send me a message via the Contact Form on my website.

Thanks, and hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Two Exciting Announcements: A New Book, and Coaching Services

Announcement #1:

I am honored to be included in the soon-to-be published Routledge collection Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing, Edited by Lynda Monk and Eric Maisel.

My contribution is the book’s fourth chapter, entitled “Journaling Your Way to a More Authentic Life”.

The book can be pre-ordered for a discounted price on Routledge’s site.

Many different approaches to journaling, as well as testaments to its myriad benefits, can be found within. For a complete description of the book’s contents, click here.

Announcement #2:

I am now offering one-on-one coaching services. The coaching is intended for people who: a) find themselves “stuck” in some area of their lives and would like help and support as they navigate a potential shift/change/transition, and/or b) people who wish to live with greater vitality and could use assistance and support with envisioning ways of doing so that are in line with their values and priorities.

Basically, I help people get in touch with themselves so they can move toward living with greater authenticity and fulfillment.

To learn more, including how to request a free consultation, click here, and feel free to share the link with anyone else you think might benefit from this offering.

Thanks, and all best wishes!

Eric

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

How and Why I Decided to Quit My Job

If someone asked me in recent years “How do you like your job?” my go-to answer was: “Everything about the job is great! Except the job part…”

What I meant, and would proceed to explain, is that I worked in a beautiful building, in a prime location, with a very reasonable commute (especially by LA standards), for a well-regarded nonprofit with a worthy mission, amongst a community of both highly-educated and highly likable people, in a pleasant working environment with an above-average corporate culture that in some ways was truly fantastic (chief among these for me was a workplace music club; for more on that, check out the series of posts – with video samples embedded within – that begins here).

So: what on earth was I complaining about? Objectively speaking, and compared to many other people’s work situations (including previous ones of mine), I had it pretty great. I was, in many ways, both privileged and fortunate to have this job. What right did I have to be unhappy with it? (Believe me, I asked this of myself regularly – which, by the way, is a tell-tale sign you’re not happy with something.)

The bottom line is that, despite the myriad benefits and the fact that it was the most desirable office job I have ever had for the above cited reasons, it was still very much that: an office job. I was good at the work I did, and I took a certain amount of pride in being reliable, responsive, proactive, and dutiful in my role, but it was wholly unsatisfying work. It felt of very little consequence, was devoid of any intrinsic meaning, was not a stepping stone toward something else that was desirable, was not particularly challenging (other than enduring it 😯), did not provide opportunities for growth, and did not make use of what I feel are my unique skills, strengths, and talents. In sum, it was soul-deadening. I made bids at securing other positions within the company, but competition was stiff, and these efforts all proved fruitless. (And, truth be told, none were likely to have been dramatically better.)

So, I played a very familiar game with myself that I like to call The Bargaining Game. It goes like this:

  1. Experience existential distress over job dissatisfaction.
  2. Weigh out the pros and cons of the situation. Make the same lists over and over and over and over again in my journal.
  3. Decide that it’s not wise to leave the job without some other plan for earning income.
  4. Play the Calendar Game (this is my favorite sub-game within the Bargaining Game – check it out!). The Calendar Game consists of looking ahead at the calendar and telling myself: “Look, just hang in there until x date” that equates with some reward (e.g., a slew of upcoming paid holidays, a three-paycheck month [hey, these only come around twice a year when you’re paid bi-weekly], becoming fully vested in the company’s retirement plan, some arbitrary savings milestone that will have been achieved by said date, etc.).
  5. Rally myself to make it to the future date decided upon.
  6. Repeat Steps 1-5 above.

This game can be played, literally, for years and years. It never ends until you decide it does (or Life decides for you). While I feel like I invented this game and perhaps should have patented it long ago, I suspect it is one of those games that exists in humanity’s collective imagination and dates perhaps as far back as the invention of jobs itself, if not farther.

Now, I’ve ended up playing The Bargaining Game at nearly every job I have ever had (certainly every office job). And this has gone on for decades. (If you have a lot of time on your hands, and want to read more about my personal journey in this realm, I wrote a ten-part series of posts years ago called “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” that starts here and traces my numerous attempts at breaking this cycle within the larger context of answering that question.)

I’ve done it all: left jobs of this ilk with very well-thought-out plans for work I would do instead, with somewhat-thought-out plans of what I would do instead, and even with no plan at all. I’ve gone back to school, tried to grow a side-hustle into a full-time business, worked as a freelancer, done all sorts of things, but have always (thus far) ended up with my ass right back in a chair in a cube in an office somewhere. My own personal version of Groundhog Day.

Right now, we’re (still) in the midst of a pandemic. Uncertainty – economic, and otherwise – remains high. And I’m 48 years old, no spring chicken.

And yet, I’ve just gone and done it again: I’ve quit my job. I will tell you that in all my life I don’t think it’s ever taken as much courage for me to do as it did this time.

So, why did I do it?!?!?!?! Simply put: I don’t want to live this way anymore. It’s not the worst of all possible lives (in fact, that’s what’s so insidious about it, and why it’s so easy to remain stuck there). But I want to change the direction of this story, and leaving the job forces me to do just that.

Starting now, for sure, my day-to-day life will be different! I am well aware that “different” doesn’t always translate to “better”. I am signing up for certain challenges and stresses that I may otherwise have avoided or continued putting off. However, as you probably are already aware: everything in life is a trade-off. There are pluses and minuses to pretty much every decision you can make and every situation you might find yourself in. (It can sometimes feel like a stretch to find the positives, or in some cases the negatives, but they are probably there, even if it takes some work on your part to become aware of them.) With this in mind, it makes sense, then, to make decisions that are truly worth making. And by “truly worth making” I mean decisions that, to you, after thoughtful consideration and deliberation, are worth the trade-offs. This is a very personal and subjective thing. Extreme cases aside (especially ones that cause obvious harm to others), there typically are no right or wrong decisions, just choices that have corresponding consequences. Consequences you must be willing to accept and deal with, both anticipated and unanticipated.

In some cases, a decision is a no-brainer because the benefits clearly outweigh any perceivable downsides, or we reason that we have “nothing to lose”. In other cases, though, we may be paralyzed by indecision and end up playing some version of The Bargaining Game for months, years, decades, or perhaps the rest of our lives. And doing so has definite opportunity costs.

So how did I, personally, arrive at this particular decision to leave my job, you might ask? How did I manage to stop playing The Bargaining Game (at least this time around)?

In this case, it was a series of insights and events that built to a crescendo wherein I finally reached my tipping point.

(WARNING: if you want to make sure you don’t follow in my footsteps, I suggest you stop reading here. 😉)

For a long while before quitting, I tried very hard to implement the sensible/logical/reasonable approach, which to me sounded like this:

Keep the job and work on other projects on the side. If something gains traction and even generates income, great! If not, though, nothing lost – you still have the job.

Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?

There was just one small problem with this approach. Though the reasoning seemed airtight, in practice I found it nearly impossible to build any momentum on personal projects, especially ones with an eye on eventually earning income. Why? Two major reasons:

1) Work days were basically spoken for. By the end of them, my energy and concentration reserves were all but depleted. I had no freshness of mind to devote to such projects. Rather, after work I had a strong need to decompress, relax, and recover. This meant that my only potentially productive days (personally speaking) would be non-work days. But that meant I would have to, on the weekends, sacrifice recreational activities that restored me in favor of working on possibilities for alternative income streams. Even if I managed to devote significant time to the latter on a given weekend, the subsequent work week would sweep me away from such a project, and I would find that I would be all but starting over again when I revisited it. Progress was frequently stalled, and slow-going at best. Even negotiating a schedule of reduced hours with my employer did not change this dynamic. It wasn’t enough.

2) My motivation for working on “alternative income stream” ideas in my free time was generally not high. Why? My income needs were already met by my job. It wasn’t an urgent problem! Far too easy, then, for me to put this off.

I would come across things periodically, online and off, that would “speak” to me about my dilemma and clue me in on the decision I needed to make. I’ll share a select few of them here:

1. A couple of old blog posts by Jack Bennett.

Specifically, this one: Go To Your Edge,

and this one (that I had actually left a comment on a number of years ago!): Go To The Places That Scare You.

The quotes that stood out to me from the latter were as follows:

“Generally speaking, the path you’re most afraid of following is almost certainly the path of most rapid growth.”

“We do not gain power by avoidance of reality, but only by facing those things that we wish we could avoid.”

2. A TEDx Talk by Scott Samuelson called How Philosophy Can Save Your Life.

These lines from the talk, in particular, cut right through me:

“If you want to save your life, you need to turn it from a humdrum thing into the precious thing that it’s meant to be.”

“Freedom is the one thing you should never ask for.”

I still needed to work through some inner resistance, however.

Even just considering quitting my job caused me anxiety at times. I felt so fortunate to not have had my job and income seized from me involuntarily during this pandemic year like so many others had. The truth is I had come very close to the brink of leaving the job just before the pandemic hit. I recall in February 2020 being so tired of everything that I nearly gave my notice. Why I didn’t do it back then, I cannot honestly say. Perhaps it was divine intervention, or my future self traveling across time and space and interceding on my 2020 self’s behalf. When all hell broke loose in March, I was so grateful I had not quit! There was so much fear and uncertainty in the air, and my employer rose to the situation and handled things beautifully, really prioritizing the safety and well-being of us employees and, like many other companies, allowing the majority of us to work safely from home.

When safety and survival are your primary concerns, self-fulfillment appears as a luxury that is beside the point. So it was pretty easy, then, to brush it aside again. For a while.

Many of my established ways of coping with my job dissatisfaction (cultivating friendships with colleagues across the organization via in-person lunches, embracing the previously mentioned musical opportunities at work, going to yoga classes walking distance from the building I worked in, etc.) were, obviously, no longer options. And after a full year of working from home, those desires from deep within for doing something more satisfying with the majority of my conscious hours came to the fore with a vengeance and needed to be reckoned with. Of course, this past year has had many of us rethinking our lives and priorities in general, as all kinds of shifts have been and still are taking place worldwide.

Quitting the job forces me to come up with something better. If I relegate that to a side project – placating as this might be to my security concerns – I have found that, in practice (at least for me, at this stage of my life), it simply will not happen.

I must emphasize that I am in a fortunate and privileged position, as a function of both dumb luck and deliberate behavior on my part, to be able to take such a risk. I have steadily saved (this last year more than usual, working from home and being restricted in terms of going out). I have kept a vigilant eye on my finances for many years and know my spending habits and patterns well, so I have a good sense of how long my savings can support my current lifestyle. My wife and I have medical coverage under her employer’s insurance plan, and we don’t have any kids (two huge factors right there). Perhaps most significantly of all, I have my wife’s blessing to do this. She understands me and my long-standing dilemma quite well, and is supportive and onboard with my making this decision. (I’m not sure I would have been able to go through with this decision otherwise, quite frankly. It would certainly have made it much more strife-ridden.) For this and numerous other reasons, I can tell you that my choice of marriage partner has been, easily, among my very best life decisions. 💖

Even STILL…actually taking the leap, for me, meant summoning quite a bit of courage. I want and am determined, as I’ve always been, to do right by both my wife and myself.

There were some important realizations I had come to regarding my job, that I had captured in my journal. Here were the main three:

  • Leaving the job was never a question of “if”, only “when”.
  • Keeping the job, in my case, was a fear-based decision. I was clinging to the perceived security of it, and staying at the job out of fear of losing this “security” – not out of love for and/or belief in the value of what I was doing each day.
  • Despite the ease and comfort (and discomfort, but known discomfort) of my job, it was clear that THERE WAS NO GROWTH ON THIS PATH, ONLY STAGNATION. I want to do far better for myself – and for others – in terms of my creative productivity, sense of purpose, and doing what feels like meaningful work.

None of these realizations were new to me, per se. What tipped me over the edge into courageous decision-making really amounted to this, plain and simple: a heightened sense of mortality – namely, my own.

My wife is a palliative care social worker and sees firsthand on a near-daily basis how life can rob people of their grandest plans, even those who did everything “right”. For instance, those who worked hard their whole lives and saved for retirement with plans of living out their dreams in their golden years, only to have their health be too compromised at that point (or, in many cases, dying before even reaching said golden years). The reality is all of our years are golden years (most especially those in which we have good health), and none of us knows how many of these we ultimately will have.

Around the time I was coming to a head with my decision, I was reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a beautiful and beautifully written, deeply humane and philosophical book that touches on issues of aging, dying, and quality of life (particularly as one nears the end of one’s life, but in essence for us all). This also got my internal needle moving.

Perhaps the biggest tipping point of all, though, was not merely hearing about or reading about death in the abstract, but by experiencing the deaths of people I knew. Over the last several years I have lost several friends and even more acquaintances (the natural trend as one gets older), including a friend whose death I witnessed firsthand in the hospital. In January of this year, two more came along, one at a far-too-young age (i.e., quite close to my own), and one at a tragically young age (36) that was completely unexpected and shook me to the core.

Death is coming, folks! And it really has a way of trivializing the trivial.

***

At the start of this post I mentioned that my personal assessment of my job, whenever asked, was: “Everything about the job is great! Except the job part…”

This response may have been cheeky, but it was also sincere. There were many secondary benefits to the overall situation that was my job. And, somehow, these benefits convinced me to remain there for, arguably, too long, trading in that most precious of resources – years of my life – in exchange for the security-producing effects of a steady paycheck.

Now think of it this way, especially if you have related at all to the job predicament I have described in this post. Suppose you had asked me: “How is your relationship going?” And suppose my answer had been: “Everything about the relationship is great! Except the relationship part…” And I then proceeded to explain my position to you by citing all of the benefits of the overall situation that amounted to my relationship (let’s say, for example: we live in a beautiful house together that I could never otherwise afford, my partner comes from a wealthy family and I get to travel all over the world with them several times a year, people like my partner and tell me how fortunate I am, my parents adore this person, etc.), but I also mention that the relationship itself is a far cry from satisfying and that I feel like a pale, hollow version of my best self within it.

What would you think?

Perhaps you would think that the trappings of the relationship, great as they may or may not sound to you, are just that: trappings. Maybe you would surmise that I was staying in such a relationship because I did not believe I deserved, or could attain, better. Or that I did not have the courage to strike out on my own and try.

Now, it is a fair argument (and one I, myself, have made) that I am not comparing apples to apples here. A person can survive – and even thrive – without a life partner (plenty of single people do), whereas a person almost always needs some amount of money/income (and, if you live in the US, health insurance sure is helpful, too) in order to survive, not to mention thrive. I cannot refute this point. But what I can say is that we often stay in less-than-ideal situations because we don’t, or can’t, see a better option for ourselves, whether or not this is actually true within the scope of possibilities that make up the Great Unknown. This has certainly been the case for me with respect to my working life.

Maybe, now, that will change.

Posted in Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Soliciting Your Input on the Subject of “Stuckness”

I am gathering information for a writing project I have begun and, if you are willing, I would be most grateful and honored to receive your answers to a few questions:

1. Are there any specific areas of your life where you have felt intractably “stuck”? (This could be in the realm of health, relationships, learning, work, finances, habits, creativity, “comfort in your own skin”, a fear you have not been able to overcome or transcend, acceptance of something, or anything else at all). If so, what is the area of stuckness? 

2. As best as you can articulate or delineate, what has been the greatest obstacle(s) for you in breaking the cycle of stuckness in this area?

3. Can you think of a different problem you had that also felt intractable, but which eventually was successfully resolved? What was the problem? And what thing, or combination of things, helped you move past the stuckness? 

You can answer the above in any degree of detail you choose: a few words, lengthy essays, or anything in between. I will read all responses, however long or short they may be. I realize that these questions are very personal in nature, and I promise to keep whatever you do share with me confidential. The intention is for the information collected here to be incorporated into the final version of this project (whatever form or shape that ends up taking) in such a way as to be useful and helpful to others in similar predicaments. You can send your answers to me directly at: mrhominid (at) gmail (dot) com.

If at all possible, please send me your responses by Sunday, January 31st.

Thanks, and hope everyone is staying healthy and safe!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments