Monday, May 11, 2009

A Paradigm Shift 5-13-09 Editor's Column

I’m sure many of us know someone who has at one time or another said, “I’m going to get out of this job and do something I’ve always wanted to do,” or “someday I’ll enjoy my job.” But how many of us have actually seen that person take that leap into the unknown?

While changing gears sounds easy when it’s brought up in discussion, it’s entirely different when it gets down to putting the pen to paper. However, sometimes it’s exactly what the body, soul and mind need.

I had the pleasure this weekend to meet someone who had actually done what so many people often only talk about: she decided to pursue a career that would make her happy.

It was on Sunday morning that a knock on my door revealed two strangers requesting my help in moving a couch from the third floor to the first and then out and into a moving van. Once I was able to get the couch downstairs, I was asked if I could do a little more for $20, to which I agreed.

From there, we meticulously stacked and situated the furniture in the truck and moved it to this woman’s - Linda was her name - graduate housing apartment on the University of Illinois Campus.

Once we had arrived, we not only moved the furniture into the cellblock-like structure, but we conversed about our different backgrounds.

Linda was a 53-year-old veterinary medicine student with eight months left of her schooling. She had purchased the furniture that we were moving into her new, but temporary, home with eggshell-white walls, for a total of $300 and even then, she felt that she had too much furniture.

However, that is not what interested me most about Linda. What interested me was that Linda, originally from Canada, had been working for the better part of the last 20 years in New York City with various pharmaceutical companies as an advertising specialist. She was also involved with the art scene and enjoyed the diversity that some of the city’s neighborhoods had to offer.

However, it reached a point that the work she was doing - in her opinion, helping the drug companies hold hostage the consumers that needed their products to survive - no longer appealed to her, nor did wearing the black suits and board meetings.
So, Linda, a woman who had never previously experienced debt and had a lucrative career in front of her, gave everything she had away and decided to become a veterinarian.

Now, even with around $300,000 in school debt, Linda - a student that forever wants to learn - finds herself in the driver’s seat of her life.

She plans to use the degree she is earning from the University of Illinois to travel the world and help villages and needy people and animals, enjoying life for what it is worth, one day at a time.

After I left Linda, having received more than $20 could by just by the interaction, I couldn’t help but wonder what stops us from taking that leap? What are we afraid of that keeps us from stepping out of our own shadows and finding the light that will breath life into us?

Simply put? Failure. We are afraid to fail, so we do what we know and try to stay there. However, sometimes life requires us to step outside that comfort zone and put ourselves into situations that might otherwise feel compromising, but those that could prove to be the best decisions of our lives.

Will there be bumps along the way? Of course there will, but the chance of experiencing such a level of self discovery is not without its pitfalls, nor should we expect it to be.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is, when people say “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” or any other saying of the nature that would hint to taking that leap of faith, maybe we should think a little bit harder about it.

Maybe there is a career move that you would like to make, but you’re afraid of failing, even if you know you could do it with a little bit of effort. Perhaps there’s a new opportunity in your company but the responsibilities scare you. Or, maybe you’re like Linda and you need to shift gears completely and rediscover what it is that drives you. Whatever the case, don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from potential greatness.

And, on a side note, if you hear a knock on your door, don’t be afraid to answer it. Sometimes the best things in life are the unexpected conversations that you have that come from a simple knock on the door.

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