Love and Hate What You Do

Way back when, you took your very first job. Do you remember what it was?

For me, it was babysitting. My parents bought a house in a brand new subdivision when I was seven. All around us, families moved in with kids either five or six years older than me, or five to six years younger than me. A few years later, the older kids were all in high school, dating and working at stores and restaurants. I was the only one at babysitting age; I was ten, which looking back now seems very young and very scary. But it was the way of the world. I was in demand! I needed a calendar I was so busy — no kidding. And I made serious cash — I loved it!

But that’s where I started learning the good and the bad that comes with every job. The cash was my main motivator at the time. But I gained more with the job; it helped me build my people skills — dealing with parents and with kids. Some of the kids were anything but wonderful. One child stood and cried the entire time his parents were away. No matter what I did, he wouldn’t stop. I watched him several times before I said, “no thank you.” I learned we should be able to choose what we do, who we do it with, and learn when to say no.

At 14, I wanted more. So I found a job as a scorekeeper for rec games at the local parks and rec. Yeah, I don’t think they pay kids to keep score anymore, but they did back then. Basketball, volleyball, softball — I worked year round for all the different rec leagues, turning in my scorebooks as I left each night. I’d work three, sometimes four nights a week. And during tournaments, I’d work all weekend long. What teenager doesn’t like a reliable cash source and the ability to work on her tan in the summer too?

All of a sudden, I no longer worked for myself. Instead, I had a boss — the rec center management, the supervisor in the gym, the players. And they all let me know when I made a mistake.

But I liked regular paychecks. I was sucked into the status quo.

And so it went, every few years as I worked my way through college, through my twenties, through moving out and taking responsibility for my life over from my parents, and as I combined my life with my husband’s, discovering what it took to make a family succeed.

With every job came added responsibilities, a greater learning curve, more money, greater benefits. I learned. I grew. And I discovered one important rule:

Never fall in love with where you are.

Because falling in love with where you are is the same as dying. Staying where you are makes you complacent. Accepting what you have means you’re finished growing.

I took a job with a government audit agency in my mid-twenties. High level, upward mobility — I could count on one hand the number of managers between the president and me. Yep, that president — of the United States. I had a badge and wasn’t afraid to flash it.

I became so familiar with red tape, towards the end of that job I thought they carried it in by the box, stacking it up all around me. Or at least that’s what it felt like at the time.

During one project, we brought in an additional team from another office in another city. They set up shop in our conference room, and we worked together closely for a few months.

I got to know one woman in particular well. She was a few years younger than me, even earlier in her career. She was the ripe old age of twenty-five; I remember quite vividly when she declared, “three years down, thirty-seven to go.”

We all laughed at the time. But in reality, that’s how many, many people looked at a “good” government job. The benefits were great. And for most people, once they were “in”, they never left. Or at least until retirement or the grim reaper came knocking on the door.

Ugh. The more I thought about it, the more I said, “not me.”

My father’s early death at the age of fifty-four confirmed it.

I said my goodbyes. I traded in the security of a government position for the thrill and excitement of self-employment.

And even though that’s been a part of my life for over two decades now, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped moving forward and growing.

I moved from being a top-notch wedding photographer to contracting for book deals, to coaching other photographers on how to run a business.

I’ve built dozens of websites, sold or merged many of them over the years.

And always, always when I reach the point where I’m comfortable with who and where I am, I give myself the challenge of reaching for something more.

Like selling off my family home, getting rid of two-thirds of my stuff, and setting in the Pacific Northwest for a while.

Like deciding to add the challenge of being a romance novel writer to the mix.

Yes, I’ve succeeded at many things beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve failed epically as well.

The good gives me encouragement to continue.

The bad gives me a map of how to do things better.

With every moment of my life, with every opportunity I pursued or adventure I’ve taken on, I quickly learned to take the good with the bad. Because both ultimately are needed to give me a life of fulfillment; one where I don’t just sit back and die.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. 
The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” 
-Norman Cousins
“There are far worse things than dying. 
Not living while you have a chance is one of them.” 
-Coach Lee
“The fear of death follows the fear of life. 
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” 
-Mark Twain
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. 
Make sure it’s worth watching.” 

[SEE ALSO: What Lifestyle Design Really Means]

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