The other day I discovered Seth Godin, acclaimed author and entrepreneur. I immediately warmed to his calm, unobtrusive demeanor in interviews. I enjoy his succinct, non-redundant writing style. But most importantly I’m flabbergasted. Because he made me realize that I am a cog. Which, according to Seth, makes me the opposite of a linchpin.
Don’t get me wrong. It took me a lot of effort to become a good cog. I studied. I worked abroad. I learned foreign languages. I earned additional certificates. Whatever I had to do to fulfill the standard high-level job description. On top of that I was disciplined and hard-working. I kept my head down, most of the time, methodologically checking things off my never-ending to-do list and methodically moving up the career ladder.
It’s only when I hit a brick wall, a burnout, that is, that I took the time to evaluate how much all of this actually meant to me – only to make the very unsettling discovery that it meant far less than I used to think. Prestige and good pay do help make you feel good about yourself (and also pay the rent). But they do not make you feel good.
So as I started reading Seth’s books and watching his videos I realized what I had been missing: the drive and courage to add true value, to create meaning, to make a difference, big or small (who decides what’s big or small anyway?), a very personal contribution to something unique, or special, or new, or at least newish.
Admittedly, not everyone is a born entrepreneur. And even fewer people are successful entrepreneurs. But, fortunately, this is not the point. The point is that everybody has at least some degree of entrepreneurial spirit residing within himself/herself. And it can be expressed in many different ways. I want to move closer to this side of the spectrum. Because I have the nagging sensation that it might make me happier.
Unfortunately, it comes at a price: The price of failure. The price of vulnerability. The price of harsh judgement by others. None of which I am particularly fond of. Yet, the potential reward of risking that much is to win a lot. And I’m not talking about money.
I am talking about waking up in the morning and looking forward to starting the day. The excitement of being gifted with time, twenty-four hours every single day, to contribute to something that is worthwhile to myself and hopefully to others. And to feel passionate about it. Not annoyed. Or bored. Or stressed out.
I want to be a linchpin. I want to do human work. Not work like a machine. I want to add value, if only to my own life.
I’m starting to have an idea about what might spark my passion. But I am still unclear about where on the spectrum ranging from interchangeable cog on the one hand (not me anymore) to free-floating artist-entrepreneur on the other hand (probably not me, either) I would feel most at home. Meanwhile I practice trusting that the answer will reveal itself in its own time and in small digestible increments, so that I’m not completely overpowered by the newness and scariness of it all.
Hopefully I will find the courage to follow the trail of small aha moments and mini changes to open doors that I would not have even have peeked through a few years back. I am still afraid of failure, you bet. I am also still afraid of vulnerability, of course. And I am still very reluctant to give up part of my security in exchange for some more freedom, probably the hardest part. But all of this a little bit less so than a year ago.
I can feel things changing. Gradually.
So maybe, just maybe, if I keep inching forward in this direction, releasing just a teeny-tiny bit of fear every now and then, I will – self-caringly and self-daringly – act more and more often on new opportunities when they present themselves, first in small parts of my life, eventually in bigger ones, just as I have done in recent months. And I might just wake up one day and be happy. Doing exactly what I love doing.
Being right where I want to be.
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