Doing Your Work: your life, your calling, our world

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True or False:The following career advice is awesome...

Studies show that people with a university education make more money. Therefore, get yourself a formal education, even if you can’t afford it, preferably from a prestigious university. Your degree will ensure that you gain employment and have all the skills you need if you want to bust out on your own. When you go for that job, find one where the roles and expectations are clear. Follow the rules and you’ll have security and move up and make more and more money. Try to go for something that you enjoy, but it’s most important that you find a career that’s stable, has benefits and tops up your pension plan (which will most certainly be alive and thriving in 35 years.) Aim to make a sizable income so that you have the freedom to do what you really want to do (on your days off.)

Don’t worry about accruing scads of debt because as long as you work hard, think positive and build vision boards you’ll totally be a millionaire in like 5 years. And if that plan fails, our social systems will hold and nurture you until you get back on your feet again. But above all, this world is changing and is unstable, so try to find safety and protection within our systems, doing the best you can to meet societies expectations.

job securityDid the sarcasm seep through? Honestly, I tried to write that objectively, as if that advice doesn’t completely suck. Do people even dish that out anymore? Any of you kids out there still hearing that from your parents? In my early twenties, I spoke in high schools about entrepreneurship and was always surprised when these bright and creative teens would tell me that their parents were more concerned with them following the above model than pursuing what they felt called to do. I’m pretty sure such advice was obsolete 15 years ago. It certainly is now.

Let’s try this again, something a little less ‘grandpa’s era’ and a bit more true to the times...

Do what you love. You’re a creative and radiant being. It’s absolutely your right to pursue your passion. Break the mold, fuck the conventional rules and express yourself. Do something that makes you happy, that fulfills you. Be the artist of your own life and make the art you most want to make. Don’t listen to those who try to steal your dreams, they’ve given up on theirs. Follow your bliss.

So what happened for you as you read that? Were you like...YEAH! Or were you like, uhhh...not so sure...or maybe...or, can I really go for it like that?

I’ll tell you how it felt writing that. Forced. Kind of achy and a little bit dirty, my heart’s in it but not all the way. You see, I was raised by Boomers. That ‘follow what you love’ stuff is what my cells are made of. My father was the kind of hippie whose beard you could braid and who told teachers who complained about my ‘attitude’ *ahem*, spirit, that ‘he refuses to squelch my self-expression.’ When I was eight and wanted to paint, my parents didn’t buy me the subpar supplies we used at school, they took me to a real art store to buy the real deal stuff. Not because we had a lot of extra money, we didn’t, but because it was important to them to support what was important to me. I’ve always felt like who I am and what I want to do has been supported and encouraged. With ‘follow your bliss’ being a massive part of my upbringing, it’s totally informed how I’ve pursued my work. And I’ve been rather successful at pursuing and making a living at what I feel called to.

dowhatyouloveBut for where we are now in the world, for where we’re headed, I think that advice is misleading and partial. Don’t get me wrong, for people who are still trying to break out of cultural confines, whose parents insist they should take a particular path and for whom the belief that being who we are and putting ourselves first is unacceptable, this path is likely really appropriate. That advice, after all, came from a generation who watched their parents fight in an atrocious war, who were shackled by roles and were dutiful to an unhealthy society. Breaking free and giving a damn about one’s personal freedoms and happiness was important. And still is. But the worldview that we should all do what we love and pursue our own happiness, coupled with our consumer based culture where ‘what makes us happy’ is sold to us in perfume bottles and size zero jeans, results in a generations of soft, entitled, self-obsessed, self-conscious, competitive narcissists. I know, I am one.

What’s supposed to be a beautiful vision for personal and creative liberation becomes, instead, an odd combination of permission to be personally fixated while also a tremendous amount of pressure to go it alone. There’s also an implied assumption that doing what you love or following your bliss is supposed to be easy, big, fun, and blissful. But what happens when it isn’t? What if you don’t know what you love? What if you can’t see the path that takes what you love and makes a living at it? What if you do what you love and follow the path to making a living and suddenly you’re doing a bunch of stuff you don’t like and are losing sleep over it? Have you then failed at bliss following? It’s one thing to fail at something you don’t care about, but to fail at following your own bliss? Ouch.

If I’m supposed to follow my bliss, why isn’t it very blissful?

Because we have Bliss confused with personal gratification, soothing, ease, and never feeling pain. This creates a void. And filling that massive void will never happen if the focus is primarily and solely on you and your need to fill. You will not convince me otherwise. Ever. Did you notice that in the second round of career advice there was nothing about others? Nor was there anything about tenacity, adversity, hard work or contributing to the world.

gunLife’s hard, kids. No one has been more in denial about that than me. In fact, it’s likely my aversion to pain and my hunger for freedom that's had me do so well in my work. Every time I find myself somewhere difficult or painful, I want out. I’ve come to know a major piece of my calling as being smack square in the midst of reducing suffering. Mine. Yours. All of ours. Thankfully, the way I’ve tried to dodge pain isn’t by quitting or throwing tantrums or hiding away, but by doing real work. Sometimes this is buckling down and muscling through. Sometimes this means making excruciatingly difficult decisions, which brings me further into pain for a while. A quick mental scan through the ways in which I’ve ‘worked’ to follow my bliss include failing hard and losing lots of money, asking for help when I really wanted to have it handled, doing what I said I’d do-- over and over—even when I wanted to quit, quitting when I thought I should press on, taking a nap, falling apart, soul searching on the mat, in temples, on mushroom trips, making my work about others, taking risks with a pounding heart and trembling hands, confronting the enormity of my inner world and just how much my feelings and wayward thoughts lead the show—for better or for worse.

Uncovering a Calling

This article is about how we pursue our life’s work in a full and satisfying way. So I’m going to get all meta on you for a moment and let you know about my own life’s calling… which is, working with others to express their life’s calling. So this article about our calling is an expression of my own. I’ve gotten to grapple with all of what I’m exploring below while going through the process of writing this puppy.

Even more specific within what I feel called to do is a theme that keeps showing up and that is, bridging, merging and exploring of our interior selves with our exterior worlds. That is, how do we line up our inner selves with our outer world in such a way that we feel all of who we are is honoured and gets to come to the party? With so much complexity to our lives, trying to make our living, in the way we’re most called to, can feel daunting. It’s easy to subscribe to either/or mentalities in relation to what’s possible and if we do that, we may end up abandoning our spirit or our bottom line, our joy or security, our deepest longings or relationships.

So if I were to try to cram advice down the throats of youth today, it wouldn’t be some dire warning of the uphill climb that leads to security and social acceptance, nor would it be some ra-ra sunshine speech that belongs on a bumper sticker on a hippie’s van between ‘my karma ran over my dogma’ and ‘my other vehicle is a broom’. It would be a call to really spend our whole life building our life’s work and goes as follows: Know who you are. Do your work. In the World. For the World. Now let’s tease that apart.

Know who you are

So this sucker alone will take a lifetime. First, let’s deal with the fact that we will never ‘arrive’ anywhere. And yet, we’re arriving somewhere all the time. Hopefully we’re growing, changing, expanding, evolving and thus knowing who you are becomes a continuous exploration, declaration, inquiry and observation.  Like moment by moment here, people. There’s so much complexity within each of us, this is no project that’ll be checked off your Thursday afternoon to-do list.

knowyourselfKnowing who you are means knowing your own story, and knowing it as a story. Feeling your family and cultural lineage and the way in which it shapes you as well as what you’re scrubbing away, shaking off, throwing down. It means knowing your habits, compulsions and addictions, what they do for you and what they’re limiting. It’s about knowing your limitations. And you gifts. It’s about holding lightly your identity, allowing yourself to be, see and embrace your own uniqueness, your own song and flavour while not becoming too fixated and dug in about this iteration of who you are.

Knowing who I am is about intimacy. Intimacy with me, with my subtlety and nuances, with my preferences and automatic responses. I want to be deeply intimate with my why. Why do I want what I want and loathe what I loathe? Why do react the way I do to what I do? Why do I love who I love? It’s about being deeply intimate with my emotional self. I want to feel what’s arising, its throb and texture. I want to know my sorrow and my envy, my joy and anxiety. I want to be intimate with each and every corner of my fierce and tender humanity, comfortable with her, accepting of her, trusting of her and have her back.

When I know who I am, I know where I stand. This is a pivotal, foundational orienting compass for pursuing one’s calling. The more solidly and deeply we know who we are and how we work, the more our calling comes fully online. From a gentle whisper and slight stirring, the work we’re here to do turns into a raging river and cracks of thunder, church bells, laughter and neon signs pointing and cheering.

Do your work.

Do your work. Not your father’s work, your neighbours work or your mentor’s work. Don’t do the work the committee in your head who’s chattering away tells you is acceptable work, or what your grade two teacher said you wouldn’t achieve beyond. It’s there, on the tip of your tongue, your heart, the ledge you’re terrified to leap off of. It’s the art, the venture, the revolution that’s pleasing to the deepest, widest, highest part of who you are. It’s what energizes you, interests you, flirts with you. Your work is that which pouts and stomps her feet each time you ignore her or distract yourself with something other than her holiness.

Originally, this section was called Do what you love. But that can so easily be conflated with do whatever you feel like doing and for those of us who feel like kickin’ back and smokin’ joints and feeling sorry for ourselves that we don’t have the right conditions to pursue our dreams, well, that ain’t the work. Further, doing your work doesn’t always feel like something you love, it doesn’t come through everyone in the form of ecstasy or joy. For most of us, in fact, there are mountains to climb and walls to scale in order to do our work, which demands a whole lot of muscle, panting and sweating. Doing your work isn’t always easy. Which is why knowing who you are is plenty helpful. Doing what you love and are called to do means taking risks and overcoming resistance. It means honouring what stirs within over whatever beliefs, teachings and demands from others conflict with this. Sometimes there’s decades of other work that leads up to even feeling like we’re truly on our path at all.

doyourworkSo what’s your work? Maybe you know it, maybe it’s right there without a doubt or a quiver. Or maybe it’s quiet and suffocating beneath years of obligation and denial of possibility. What is so interesting, exciting, liberating, important or comes so easily to you that you’d do it for free all day long if you knew you’d get food on your table? Do that. There are many places we can look and a ton of definitions and distinctions we can hang on what our work is. Maybe it’s what you knew you wanted to do when you were five or what others are doing that you most envy or what you’d pursue if you actually believed you could make it happen. Maybe it’s what your mother would be horrified by that you can’t bring yourself to accept is what you’re called to. Maybe it’s what your family most wants you to do and despite your love for it, you won’t give them the satisfaction. It’s what you’d do if you could just relax about the money, your reputation, what others would think, where you’re supposed to be by now, what you believe is possible and how it’d impact your family, friends or identity.

For me, the experience of doing my work is one of being energized and expanded. It’s what fires up my creativity and connects me to the hearts and longings of others. It’s where I’m scared and know I must lean into. It’s leadership. I feel a sense of push and a sense of pull. The push is within me, to wrestle through and overcome whatever is between me and that which wants to be created. The pull is from outside of me. I’m called toward something, can feel something wanted of me, the future of what I have to offer waiting for me to embody her.

I’m a coach and a writer. The writing I’m most called to is that which bridges our interior experiences with our exterior worlds. That’s what I’m working to do with this article, feeling into the interior aspects of ourselves in relationship to our work and in relationship to our outer worlds. I want to reach into you. I want you to have access to me. Through that, we can connect our worlds intimately, close the gaps of our own experiences and a have greater understanding of ourselves and each other, which may impact how we bring who we are, out. With coaching, the majority of my clients are entrepreneurs. Most of what we work on is in the realm of life’s purpose, lining up the interior calling, desires and deepest impulses with external actions and results. This is where we take our work into the world.

In The World

Gettin’ ‘er done. Your work is only your work if something’s happening. Let’s not confuse this with ‘I’m getting the result I want.’ Results take a while to come into form and usually they’re not what we expected. Doing our work in the world requires a dance of action and allowing, showing up and letting the cards fall where they may. Our work isn’t our work if we’re just envisioning it, dreaming about it, planning what we’ll do one day when things are different. That’s imaginary. If our work isn’t taken out into action in the world, it won’t grow. It needs to be fed. Work gets fed through feedback. I don’t mean feedback, like reviews, although that’s part of it. But both interior and exterior feedback. When we do something, something happens. We get a result or a feeling, a reaction, it feels right or it feels off. When we’re awake to what’s happening, we can sense into what’s needed next. This may be plodding away at a project, the feedback being, as we see our body of work growing, it gives us something at our back, to rest into and press on with. This feedback could be in the form of what we’re trying to do being stagnant, not moving. The lack of motion tells us that we must do something else, maybe it’s time to call in support, get braver, tweak or even repeat.

takeactionI was a writer before I could read. I used to fill up binders with pictures of the stories I couldn’t write out yet. But the difference between wanting to be a writer one day and knowing myself as a writer, is actually writing and doing something with it. My poor dear friend Miranda suffered four months of traveling through Thailand with me when we were 18, listening to all the fucking things I planned on writing without a word to page. I wasn’t doing my work in the world. As a result I was anxious, self-conscious, drunk and a little bit crazy. When I’d even just sit down and write a crappy little poem, then share it with her, all was released and I was sated. Writing that crappy poem in my head wasn’t enough if it wasn’t coming out into the world. Was the result what I wanted it to be? Is my work crappy poems? Of course not. But waiting for perfection to emerge before acting births nothing and thus nothing grows. Month by month, week by week, the more I produce of what I’m called to do, the more I put it out into the world, the better it gets, the more lined up the results become to what I really want to be doing.

In my late teens and early twenties, I was more interested in human development than anything else. Still am. Also, since I was raised in a bubble of work loving hippies, it wasn’t until I got my first job that I realized that some people don’t like their work. Back then I knew I wanted to work with people on loving their work, but I didn’t yet have the skills, confidence and understanding to just go about coaching and consulting people when I’d yet to hold down a job for more than a year. So when I opened a hair salon, which I knew wasn’t what I wanted to do long term and wasn’t an industry I was particularly interested in, I knew it was a place that I could practice and do in the world, some of what I’m called to do. I got to merge the interior expression to the exterior aesthetics of thousands of people, making their salon experience less about emulating some celebrity and more about expressing their own unique style. I created an environment for my staff that was creatively empowering and juiced up with love and respect and ensured they really loved their work. I knew what I was moving towards, but didn’t know how that would look. By the time I moved from running that salon into coaching and consulting, I had enough experience at my back to be able to move into the next iteration and really offer something out into the world.

For the World

Work is something that you produce. Something’s happening. Asking what it’s for or on behalf of is an interesting and important question.

fortheworldThis planet cannot sustain itself while it’s inhabited by billions of human beings who are out for themselves, their own consumption and endless growth. Our denial of this must be ruthlessly exterminated. Your work is not for you. My work is not for me. Do I want to feel pleasure and satisfaction? Yes. Do I want to be taken care of, provided for, and remunerated through my work? Hell yeah. But is my work for my own personal gain, regardless or even at the expense of the world? Never. That wouldn’t be my work. That would be a distraction. I cannot and will not reconcile that one human being’s life’s purpose could ever only go in one direction, toward them. In my mind, that is not life’s work, but a shallow hologram, out to keep us from the depth of effort, risk and vulnerability that comes from doing real work. If your work isn’t some kind of offering for this world, for its betterment, if your work is about using the resources of others for your own comfort, consumption and gratification, please do the rest of us a favour and ask yourself why you’re doing that and to what end.

I’m not trying to impart that we should be martyrs or that our calling needs to be expressed in direct service of others. Nor do I suggest that bigger is better, that the further the reach and greater the impact, the better your work. When I say for the world, I don’t mean global causes, although that might be your schtick. Very small may be your own divine flavour of purpose. Some life work goes on a massive scale, some is humble and quiet and barely leaving a trace. The distinction for me is, is your work an offering or a taking? Are you fixated on what you’re getting from the world or what you can give to it? Giving up what you’ve got for the greater good, even when the greater good is a small circle around you, you expand outward with that giving. And things get easier. Maybe you’re offering art, ideas or help. Maybe you’re offering heartfelt smiles and impeccable punctuality. Maybe you’re offering some direct and much needed challenge of stale and broken systems. Your unique You-ness can be expressed and offered in many different ways. When we’re rightly concerned with our own survival, it can feel counter-intuitive to give outward. But if we were all offering out more, each of us would have to less to worry about in terms of getting our needs met, because we’d be able to trust that we’re all looking for ways to take care of each other, rather than taking care of the one and only Me.

Weaving the Interior and Exterior together

Throughout your days, in regards to your work, what are the overall themes of what you’re paying attention to? Is it, what needs to get done and how much you’ve checked off that list? What you really wish you could do and all the ways in which what you’re spending your time on isn’t that? How much energy you have? How about your financial situation and your survival? Maybe you’re paying attention to meeting certain goals, of your own or given to you by your company. Perhaps your attention repeatedly flits to how you’re doing in the eyes of others, if you’re measuring up to what they want or what you think they want.

Each of us has our own preferences when it comes to how things are going in our lives. We have ideas of ideals that we check against, usually unconsciously and without questioning what’s driving these ideals. “I’ve had a good day if…”

In my experience, when chipping away at, shaping and building our life’s work, expanding what we’re checking for allows for a deeper sense of satisfaction and contribution. Using each of the above as a reference point for checking is a helpful way to begin to notice our own preferences and ways of orienting and navigating through our work. We scan through our experience and check inside for who we are, what’s important, what we want, need and ache for. We also check inside ourselves for what wants to be expressed, what we have to say, are passionate and fired up about or quietly yearn to produce. We check for where and how we’re honouring these inner worlds, how we bring them out in the world. We check for opportunities and explore possibilities to bring ourselves out in nourishing and useful ways. We check into our outer worlds as sounding boards, for how we’re being received and then check back in about how that sound reverberates within us. Then we bring out the next iteration into the world. We check our results and impact, we notice what’s happening and are curious about the impact we’re having or not having.

Our checking and what we’re paying attention to becomes a tapestry, continually weaving our inner selves with our outer worlds. When we offer up what we’ve got and pay attention to what happens, continuing to be both receptive and active, a feedback loop gets created that allows us to refine, grow and develop our life’s work. When one of these gets left out, an imbalanced feedback loop occurs, which skews our capacity to create what we really must create.

Abandoning Self

When knowing who we are gets left out, we’re not awake to how we’re experiencing or reacting to what’s happening and thus can’t track our interior evolution. Our action taking isn’t grounded in what matters to us and over time, we can end up way off track, far away from who we really know ourselves and our work to be and have a foggy sense of wondering how we’ve ended up here. The feedback loop becomes one of checking externally, trying to make the world ‘out there’ give us some form of interior satisfaction, which we wouldn’t be able to experience or identify even if it did because we don’t have sufficient contact with our interior.

Abandoning Calling

When doing our work gets left out, fertile ground for addiction gets created. Denying our calling, or that we have a calling, offends the soul. If we’re not checking for our calling, our connection to it and the ways in which we are expressing it, the feelings of self-betrayal can become excruciating. This will typically drive us towards continuing to check for what will soothe us or get us to some circumstance we believe will be better for doing our work. This kind of fixation becomes addictive because the more we look away from our calling, the more pissed off our calling becomes and the greater the distractions or substances need to be in order to numb out, dull or ignore our work.

Abandoning Action

When we’re not checking for what we’re actually doing in the world and paying attention to enacting what stirs within, we can get lost in an inner swirl of how things need to be before we can act. When we’re not checking for our calling being expressed in action in some way, we’ll think that what’s off in doing our work has to do with something other than what’s truly missing, action. We check for whether the path is clear or the fear is gone. We check for whether the vision is perfect or the results are a given. We check for what others are doing and how we measure up. When we’re not taking the work into action in some small way, the feedback loop reinforces lack of action, or action as distraction because it gets harder and harder to act on what we’re actually called to do. Waiting to offer, launch or act until the circumstances are perfect and we feel safe and secure to do so will leave us in endless loops of restlessness and self-flagellation.

Abandoning the world

When doing our work for the world gets left out, our fixation on ourselves intensifies and makes doing our work far more difficult for a few reasons. First, when we fixate only on our own wants and needs, our world becomes smaller and thus closes down our ability to produce good work. Secondly, we can all smell a narcissist. You can count on that over the long haul, people will be able to tell when you’re just in it for you and won’t want to work with you. For those of us who want to offer our work out to others, we want to see that work ripple further and if we know it ends with you, we won’t feel so compelled to give. I love working with people on having them express their life’s calling, not just because it’s good for them, but because I know it’s good for the world to be inhabited by people who are expressing their purpose.

Bringing it all together

outwardThere’s an interesting paradox that I’ve repeatedly seen in myself and in others. When we’re checking externally and are externally fixated on what the world ‘out there’ will provide for us, or who we should be by its standards, we become increasingly more internally obsessed and confused. We compare ourselves and our work to that of others and more often than not, fall short. We become someone who must fit into something ‘out there’, measure up or compete.

But when we begin by checking internally, looking for what inside us can be offered outward, providing for the world, we become less fixated on ourselves and our world expands. It benefits us to serve. So selfishly, your work will feel better and be more successful if you’re focused on what you can give, create, solve, expand, heal and make happen for all of us.

Further, this world needs us, all of us, to really step up and represent. Individuality and self-expression are important, very very important. But when they are all that lead us, it insults the part of ourselves that is never separate - from each other, the earth, any of this. But, when we only pay attention to what we’re doing to serve and not take care of our own wants and needs, not having our service line up with our own unique flavour of self-expression and individuality, we insult our calling. So we need both, a continuous bridging of these inner and outer worlds such that we can each more fully bring the entirety of who we are to our life, our work and our world.

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  • Comment Link Tanya Monteiro Monday, 07 May 2012 12:36 posted by Tanya Monteiro

    I kept thinking of the Thiel Fellowship program, link below. Brilliant read, thank you

  • Comment Link James Barrow Tuesday, 08 May 2012 14:59 posted by James Barrow

    Chela this is brilliant stuff - thank you.

  • Comment Link Gregor Bingham Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:47 posted by Gregor Bingham

    Hi Chela,

    Having now met you, I can't help by focus on the energy that you have, or seem to have, and how that may help and hinder your (or others) ability to serve? I ask for two reasons, I really connected to what you have written, I noticed it's deep truth and also a clear sense of my own introversion with engaging with that truth - at your energy level. Typical En5 stuff. More specifically how do you attend to your own obstacles when your energy is not so available?


  • Comment Link Chela Davison Friday, 11 May 2012 16:18 posted by Chela Davison

    Tanya- Thanks for the link, interesting read/project.

    James- Thank you.

    Gregor- Hi. My energy level, yeah it's pretty high. I would say that for the most part, it's one of my gifts and it serves me well in serving others. For me actually, I have so much energy and it has an extroverted, vibrating, intense quality about it that I HAVE to serve with it, work with it, offer out or it can be overwhelming and destructive for me.
    Why I say it's one of my gifts is because it's unique, or at least rare maybe. That is, as you're pointing to, my amount and kind of energy isn't available to lots of people. Nor should it be. I don't think trying to operate as I do would serve you or anyone else. My sense is from your comment of being an En5, that if you tried to work with some of what I'm exploring in this article at my energy level it would be counter-productive and not honour who you are. And I'll bet you have the capacity for steady focus and deep consistency that I could never touch in my wildest dreams.

    So yes, as you wonder about, my energy does help. And at times it hinders, when not grounded or focused, I can become overwhelming or unclear for others and myself. Further, I have come to rely on it. So when it's not available, I can feel lost and scared and push myself in painful ways. In fact when writing this article, I had a tight deadline and had just finished a really long, intense project and was spent. The 'know who you are' piece of this article was really alive for me because I could see myself trying to muscle through. I lost all kindness towards myself, all joy with writing this article- which given the topic- felt out of integrity for me. I knew that what was most needed was some rest, even though that's not my habitual way when under stress or when my energy drops. So I wrote a dramatic e-mail to the team here, pushed my publishing date a month and went to bed.

    So that's one edge I have been working with when my energy is not available, is being kinder to myself, focusing on rest and looking for what I can let go of or relax about.
    I've also been trying to just offer less energy. Sometimes for me (which may be the opposite for you?) I offer way more energy than is actually needed. When I am tired or under the weather, I have been trying to just regulate my output but not bringing as much, which feels internally like I'm not doing/being enough which can cause some anxiety, but the results end up being just fine. I've also been working a lot with subtle energy and noticing the ways in which I've tried to regulate myself with caffeine or inspiring information that's stimulating. Which throws me off and exhausts me in the long run. So I'm trying to even that out so that what I'm offering has a steadier quality to it.

    How about you? How do you tend to your obstacles when your energy is not so available? I'd love to hear more about this clear sense of introversion with engaging with this truth and more about what's come up for you in reading this.

    Thanks for being here, Gregor.

  • Comment Link Tessa Saturday, 12 May 2012 04:48 posted by Tessa

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read on 'your life's work' - that gnarly topic that's been marketed to a thousand times by both defiant rebelliousness (follow your dreams and ignore what they all say!) and tradition (do what's tried and true). But as you say so eloquently here, it's so much deeper and more nuanced than that.

    As long as I can remember, I've wrestled with a deeper hunger to know my own truth and to bring that truth into the world, to pursue both personal fulfillment and social progressiveness. Hardly a day goes by that I don't spend some time reflecting upon my ever-evolving manifesto of personal beliefs and offerings. And at times, it's felt like an impossible duality. I spent most of my teenaged-into-college years fighting against the older generations' way of thinking, so much that I really sank into what you call the "tremendous amount of pressure to go it alone." Even when I left art school to become an Internet warrior, rallying others to the cause of social change and creative revolution, there was still a part of me that felt lost, at precisely the issue you break down in this post: the merging of the outer & inner worlds. Self-knowledge and authentic work are hard-won battles, for me, but the third part you mention- bringing the work out into the world- has always been the most difficult. It's always been much easier for me to retreat into myself, knowing what needs to change but not knowing where to begin at a tangible level.

    It's why I love your story of starting a hair salon to test the waters of your life's calling, then leveraging your experience into your later coaching practice. Doing something like that takes guts. It takes an acknowledgment that this 'follow your calling' thing isn't a perfect process from the get-go, but trust that the lack of perfection doesn't negate the possibility of realizing one's full truth in the real world, either. Thank you, Chela, for articulating such an important subject of inquiry, and for giving me some much-needed clarity and hope as well. I'm glad I found your writing tonight.

  • Comment Link Gregor Bingham Monday, 14 May 2012 01:23 posted by Gregor Bingham

    Hey Chela,

    I am 'excited' to be here!

    The ‘thing’ that is rich for me here with your experience with the entrepreneurial effort is really about energy. What’s the gas that propels us, and as an En5 two things intrigue me hugely, how to engage what energy I do have resourcefully (competently, efficiently, servingly), and how to develop more of energy. I feel sometimes like an electric car, not shy of going as far as I want but more aware that I might not find a receptacle halfway along! Though that is my usual angst, I am pretty darned curious how energy is for others, because it factors in to so many things, and I would be remiss to consider that people with ‘lots of energy have it made’. You see where I am with this.

    My ‘capacity for steady focus and deep consistency’ is tied to energy, and worked best when I was on Zyban for stopping smoking years ago. I didn’t sleep too well, but boy could I do the most mundane task happily and all day. Hmm, 1 week of Zyban, or 20 years of Zazen?

    I like though the human aspect of the struggle too, and how integrity can be another yardstick to beat ourselves with. I think I would be fine now writing an article that was important to me and saying at the end ‘I started off well, but lost focus, this was more difficult than I thought but is very important to me, maybe you can help clear up the murk in my understanding with your own clarity’. That sounds hugely liberating to me, thank you, like sharing the baby.

    It’s just so shitty for me when my energy drops, I am still trying to find ways to manage. I have improved in the ‘knowing myself’ arena, but the double whammy for the En5 is when the energy drops, so does the competence. Sometimes I just don’t know the reason my energy is low and that bugs the hell out of me. One new way, and there are many, is singing, I’ll learn a song on the guitar and then learn to sing it, something about the sound of my voice being louder and in the midst of music creates something of a release, but I have to ‘give ‘er’ otherwise the energy remains locked up. It’s a conspiracy, my vocal range is less than two octaves I think, so trying to sing Harvest Moon, or Stay (faraway so close), can be a bit taxing. But indeed liberating. From what though? That muse? The one that integrates me to En8? Temptress and Gatekeeper! I think she lives in my corpus callosum and gives me the ride of my life (pardon the pun) if I connect my inner dots. I think I’d like to be more James T. Kirk about it, but I have a lot of Scotty in me: I’m givin’ her all ‘ave got Captain, or Bones ‘I’m a Doctor not a mechanic!’.

    The capacity to tend to energy fluctuation though, as a ‘best practice’ that has embodied, is for me to see exactly where I am energetically and either decide to decouple form tasks and ‘take rest’, or to have a shower. They say putting a cranky child in water is the best thing, and it works for me. I do that at parties all the time. Not. Maybe I will start!

  • Comment Link Chela Davison Tuesday, 15 May 2012 03:51 posted by Chela Davison

    Tessa, Thank you for these rich, heartfelt words. I appreciate that this article has touched something for you and that you've shared about it here. May you continue to blossom in bringing your work into this world.
    Gregor, I love this..being welcomed into your world with riding the energetic waves. No, don't think that those of us with energy 'have it made' just like I mustn't think those with focus have it made. I enjoyed reading this in particular because managing my energy is a continuous game, I liked hearing how others do it. I like to move. Or clean. A clean open space always energizes me.

    Much love to you both!

  • Comment Link Helena Alder Sunday, 20 May 2012 13:16 posted by Helena Alder

    Hi Chela,

    I just wanted to say - I love, love, love this article - thank you for writing this piece on work & vocation - simply brilliant!:) This is by far the best article I have read on the subject, and I must say it is refreshing to hear such an all-inclusive and down-to-earth realism weaved in with passion and heart... This area of work has been maybe the most confusing area of my own life to navigate - exactly because of those modern and post-modern messages above; hearing from my family that I could really do whatever I wanted to do, BUT... (fill in career advice 1), and then disintegrating in what I did choose to do, before trying to navigate (the shockingly narcissistic) career advice 2 - which kinda coincided well with my introverted Ennea 4... Not a good combo:)

    So my comment is really a great thank you for fleshing out this topic so clearly and eloquently - as this is something I have been playing with intuitively for quite some time now, and your words and structure - especially around the checking piece - reminds me and points me towards how to keep navigating this area of such complexity with increasingly more and more skill. Awesome!

    Hope this message finds you well and kickin'!

    With much love and gratitude,

  • Comment Link Leah Adams Tuesday, 22 May 2012 15:41 posted by Leah Adams

    Inspired to add my cheers without any new insights. Helena said just what I was thinking. Well done. Much loved and appreciated.

  • Comment Link Chela Davison Wednesday, 23 May 2012 17:12 posted by Chela Davison

    Helena and Leah,

    Thank you. I am thrilled that this article has touched you and offered something. I appreciate you letting me know. It's a fun thing, working with this 'checking' piece. Your comments being one aspect of 'checking' for me in my work. On the one hand, when writing an article, if I am focused on others and whether it's going to work for them, it can really mess me up and create fragmented lame work. The checking has to come from within. Yet, receiving feedback that a mark has been hit, that you have been touched, that something in here has resonated, it gets to reinforce my own sense of strength in my voice, perspective and work. Thus, you're helping in the feedback loop that allows for my own work to grow.
    I am deeply grateful for that. Thank you.
    Much Love

  • Comment Link Kirkor Wednesday, 23 January 2013 17:05 posted by Kirkor

    Briliant posts Chela.

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