Heart-Centered Livelihood

Defining Heart-Centered Success in Your Own Terms for Your Work and Your Whole Life


What does it mean to define heart-centered success in your own terms with work and your whole life?  You don't necessarily need to become famous or rich.  Most importantly, you don't need to give up anything that's really important to you.  Clarifying what heart-centered success means to you is about getting to know who you really are and what really motivates you NOW.  The drive to find work and a way of life that deeply satisfies the needs of a person's spirit can be so powerful that it blows right through old messages from teachers, parents, peers, and the media that say, "you can't" or ''that's not what you're trained to do" or "you won't be able to make a living at that."

If you’re feeling burned out or limited at work, it’s likely you’re seeing your professional future and the picture of your life based only on your past and present experience, training, education, or family expectations.  As Barbara Sher in her book on strategic change-making, Wishcraft, asks:  “Were you given real help and encouragement in finding out what you wanted to do-- and how to do it?”  

If not-- and most people I’ve worked with have not been-- then your first step is:  

Begin to envision an authentic career and life as an integrated process based on what motivates and inspires you in the present moment! 

If you're reading this post, you may be exploring what it means to feel successful

in your career or the quality of your life as a whole— with relationships, creativity,

fitness, travel, spirituality, and whatever else is important to you.  Perhaps there's something intangible that you long for to bring a glow to all parts of your life.  This is what I call the "heart-centered" quality of success.  Your can feel it as energy, vitality, and passion.  Essentially, it's about understanding what it is that calls you.

As I wrote in my book, Success with Soul, "Vitality is our energy and passion to live fully, to discover our purpose, to awaken to the gifts we have to offer and not just get by— on the job, in our relationships with others, in every activity we undertake."

When I coach people, that's where we're going— towards where their energy

vibrates at a high level and towards where they are genuinely attracted.  At this energetic level, you're able to connect with what is most meaningful to you— and to your capacity to let this open and flourish.

Nicole, is a coach in her mid-50s with a strong business background, hardworking and creative.  She began coaching with me because she felt stuck professionally.  She believed that to go forward, she needed to create a bigger business involving associates, trainings, and informational products.  Each time she took a step in that direction, however, she could feel herself losing energy and interest.

Her dream was to go back to living in the country on a good-sized piece of land, but she insisted that she needed to make more money before she could afford to do this.  However, she was clearly longing to take action in a new way.  

So I asked her if she’d be willing to look at whatever she enjoyed doing, then brainstorm ideas for career directions for each possibility.  Soon it became clear that everything she loved doing was in the outdoors.  With “Hiking,” she considered becoming a professional photographer.  “Kayaking” led her to the prospect of offering kayaking tours.

But when she offered “Chickens” as what she loved, then I really heard the passion in her voice, while she felt the upsurge in her energy!  From this place of aliveness, she envisioned starting her own chicken farm of free-range chickens, finding someone with land with whom to partner (thus reducing her need for instant capital).  

In fact, she was passionate about wanting to rid the world of chicken factory farms that torture these animals to force them to produce.  By educating people about the humane advantages of backyard chicken farms, she also saw she could have more opportunities to be outdoors helping people make this happen. 

She even stretched her vision to consulting with Hollywood film professionals about setting up “boutique farms” in their spacious backyards.  With her passion, knowledge, business and coaching skills, she saw clearly how she could help them design and operate aesthetic, flourishing, self-sustaining chicken environments.

Most importantly, Nicole felt supported in embracing a new work and life direction that made her feel alive and ready to work at achieving her dream. 

So if feeling heart-centered success in your work and your whole life sounds like the direction you'd like to take, ask yourself—

What is heart-centered success to me?

How do I want to contribute from my heart?

What support do I need to lift my energy to a higher level to find purpose and aliveness in my work and my life?

Authentic Livelihood— What If You Always Knew What You Loved to Do?

Like many people watching the Olympic competitions in Rio de Janeiro this past week, I found the U.S. women's gymnastic team absolutely riveting. Simone Biles, in particular, with her stellar back flips, aerial somersaults, and serene poise caught my attention. Then I became interested in her back story, which showed that she'd been interested in gymnastics from when she was a young child.

Barbara Sher in her book, Wishcraft-- How to Get What You Really Want, zeroed in on this point, that what we really want to do emerges in different guises with great clarity from when we're quite young. As she says, "You were very busy when you were two . . . You knew perfectly well what you loved and what you wanted. And you went after it, without the slightest hesitation or doubt . . . Those 'rare' and 'special' qualities we think distinguish geniuses from the rest of us? You had them. I had them. Where did they go? . . . Ask any famous woman or man, and you will probably find that they remember having a very clear sense of what they were meant to do at a very early age."

Finally, Sher asks, "What talents or abilities might those early interests and dreams point to?"

Back to Simone Biles' childhood upbringing. Since her birth mother struggled with drug addiction, Simone had no opportunities when she was very young to let her natural curiosity and aliveness have full scope. When she was adopted by her maternal grandparents at age five, however, they immediately noticed that she was "happy, but hyperactive, leaping off furniture" and "doing back flips off the family's mailbox before she even took a gymnastics class."

Fortunately for her, Biles' adopted parents and her coach, Aimee Boorman, supported her in following her passion and channeling it into gymnastics, which she loved since being introduced to it at age six. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Boorman identified something in Biles that she knew she needed to nurture. She went with a low-key approach that's rare in this sport. That meant letting Biles simply have fun in the gym in her early years, rather than pushing her towards Olympic greatness and risk losing her entirely."

Essentially, Boorman gave Biles back her early childhood of exploring and enjoying running, flipping, and twisting in the air. Gradually, Boorman introduced Biles to new ways of focusing her energy and abilities that allowed her to become the top athlete that she is now without burning out her joy in being who she is doing what loves.

We know we're not all champion athletes, Nobel prize winners, or Mahatma Gandhis. However, what Sher calls your "genius" and others call "authentic self" is there right from your beginning, "like the genes in a seed that say it's going to become a . . . palm tree, or a rose."

So if you're feeling stuck, and not sure what your career or life path is or wants to become, ask yourself:

What did I love to do when I was a child? What gave me joy?

For example, I loved to create things where I got to put together bits of fabric, paint, egg shells, and found objects. So my first job was not selling lemonade, delivering newspapers, or babysitting. It was teaching other kids on the block how to make papier maché puppets and other arts and crafts objects that I was learning from my own art teacher. Even then I enjoyed what I evolved later for myself--- being my own boss, working in my own environment, and helping people enjoy learning to create something new and interesting in their lives.

Then ask yourself:

What is it that gave me joy and delight as a child that I'd like to bring into how I work and live my life now?

Did I love running? Did I love to sing? Did I like drawing pictures? Did I enjoy collecting rocks and shiny objects when I went out walking? Did I like riding horses? Did I enjoy helping people find lost keys or cats? Did I like to read or tell stories to my younger brother? Did I relax by watching clouds scudding by in the sky?

And then ask:

What held me back from doing this?

Was it a lack of support when you got into school? Or an assumption that only certain skills can guarantee you sufficient income? Or....?

And then:

What are the essential qualities of what I loved doing as a child that I'd like to bring into my work and whole life now?

These could include-- being able to move freely, feeling creative, exploring new things and places, being with animals, spending time outdoors, building things, teaching, having time to be meditative, and so on. Imagine how these essential qualities of what you loved doing when you were young could be part of what and how you work and live now.

And finally:

What is it I need to learn in order to integrate these essential qualities into a new career or way of living that I love now?

This might be developing particular career skills. Or it might be getting coaching support for a career or life transition. Or it might be meditation practice or yoga for inner balance and centering.

Remember the advice of coach Aimee Boorman--- trainer of Simone Biles, who just won four Olympic gold medals--- to the five U.S. women gymnasts in this 2016 Olympics: "Success is being happy and healthy. Compete from a place of joy!"

What Would It Be to Create Your Own "License" to Fulfillment?

Do you wish you had a career that let you take risks, experiment, and feel creative fulfillment?

Do you wish that work for you was as fascinating as play is for a child?

If so, you'll be intrigued as I was by a recent post from my colleague, Linda Graham, MFT— "Orville Wright Didn't Have a Pilot's License"— that gives another perspective on the groundbreaking work of Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of "the first fixed-wing powered aircraft." Their professional expertise was manufacturing and selling bicycles. Their hobby and passion was creating flying machines.

In other words, they had no experience flying planes, no credentials, and no pilot's license because there was no plane available to them to fly until they invented their own. The world of flight and transportation was revolutionized by the Wright brothers' vision, persistence, and willingness to risk their lives in a creative venture few could imagine at the time.

What would it be like to give yourself your own license to connect with your creative juice on your authentic life path? Give yourself your own license to fly? Anywhere? Anyhow?

I was reminded of the career trajectory of Dana Gioia— currently California's Poet Laureate and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)— in reading a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, "Poetry for the People."  Dana created his own "license" as a poet the other way around. First, he got his degrees, including an MBA at Stanford's School of Business and an MA in Comparative Literature at Harvard. Only afterward did he find and follow his professional path as a writer, translator, and purveyor of poetry to the people.

How did this happen?

I met Dana at a poetry reading at Stanford University when he was a business school graduate student. He stood out because he was dressed in a suit— not the usual attire for students who came to poetry readings. When I spoke with him, it was clear that he was dedicated to writing poetry, yet he was going back east to work for General Foods Corp.

How, I wondered, could Dana hold that seeming dichotomy— mixing a corporate business career with a passion for creative writing? As it turned out, he balanced his work at General Foods by writing poetry after hours and having a family. At a certain level, it was a happy time in his life— until the sudden death of his infant son.

Deeply in grief, Dana found himself in a profound life transition. His formal degrees helped him in certain ways professionally. However, it was this shattering, life-altering experience that freed him to give himself his own "license" to come out in the world as a poet and a champion of poetry for people. It was then he realized that "what really mattered to me was my family, my writing and my sense of my life as a spiritual journey."

Whatever had taken him into corporate work (perhaps a good, steady income), was no longer important to him. The vision he had for the next phase of his life became radically different. He bowed out of the corporate world and into a new, creative beginning.

Going back to his Chicano, Sicilian, and Mexican working-class family roots and love of poetry, Dana wrote a seminal article, "Can Poetry Matter?" that critiqued mainstream poetry for acting as a closed door that left out most people. This led down the line to his becoming chairman of the NEA, in which he developed the popular program Poetry Out Loud and campaigned to make NEA grants available in every congressional district in the US. Now, as California Poet Laureate, Dana feels that "the challenge of the arts in the 21st century is to discover how to create a cultural conversation that is as inclusive as possible."

I'm looking at the photo of Dana Gioia's smiling face as he stands in front of the tangled boughs of a live oak tree in northern California, where he lives with his family. Clearly, he's found true fulfillment, personally and professionally, in giving himself the "license" to return to the creative touchstone he knew for so long was right for him.

What is something you feel passionate about that you'd like to bring into the center of your work and your life?

What do you need to free inside yourself to make this happen?

What would it feel like to create your own "license" to fulfillment?

Are You Following Your Yellow Brick Road?

When my brother and I were children, we loved being read to by our father at bedtime, most memorably, from the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The pure, imaginative escapism of journeys to a magic country that no one could see from the outside, where inanimate objects were alive, animals talked, and even children had the power to create transformative changes was the most wonderful experience!

So when I recently discovered the book, Finding Oz, by Evan Schwartz, I was intrigued to find that this master storyteller and creator of one of the most influential American childhood books— The Wizard of Oz— had cycled himself through six failed careers by the time he was forty, when he began to get traction as a published author of children's stories. Prior to that, he was a chicken breeder, a traveling actor/playwright, the sales publicist of an oil lubricants store, the owner of a variety store, a traveling salesman of fine china, and a newspaper writer/publisher.

Winding through the twenty-three years he devoted to these career paths in hopes of making a steady income to support his wife and their family, was his own "yellow brick road"— his passionate love of making up and telling stories, particularly to children.

On your own path to finding work and a life you love, what can you learn from L. Frank Baum's journey on his "yellow brick road"— his dream path straight from the land of Oz?

Notice what blocks your path— Usually what gets in the way of finding work you love and making other life changes is fear of losing what is familiar, risking financial loss, fear of judgement by others, and uncertainty about the shape of the future. Baum's ever-present challenge was "the fear of failure" about how to make a profitable living, especially as the stakes got higher with a wife and four boys to support.

As Schwartz writes about Baum a few years before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: "Frank was always in danger of becoming a slave to his fears, not unlike the famous traveling companions who enter the perilous land outside the Emerald City, where they press ahead in constant fright of both the known and unknown forces of the forest."

Recognize the golden road within yourself— What's interesting is the length of Baum's meandering career trail, and how long it took him to accept the gift of his true nature as a storyteller and author. In each of his undertakings, Baum— an optimist by nature— achieved some measure of success. However, his heart was not really in being a business owner, which he refused to accept until his journalism and final sales ventures collapsed financially.

His storytelling, he felt, had to come out the back door of the work he did for a living.  He believed the overriding message of his time and his culture, that real work was primarily buying and selling material objects or necessary services. Storytelling was fantasy and belonged only to childhood. (Note that The Wizard of Oz was one of the very few American children's books when it was published in 1900.)

Interestingly, however, all of his six careers before becoming a published author required that he create and tell stories.  This was his own golden road, the path of his authentic self.

In these occupations, his stories were for adults— about why people would live better, happier lives with his exotic chickens, adventurous plays, oil products for their new-fangled machines, products designed just for pleasure, and human interest tales. The environment he lived in did not make it easy for him to visualize a future as a well-paid author. For that, he needed the support of his spiritual allies.

Accept the support of allies to help make powerful changes— Who were the allies who most supported Baum's spirit through the long haul of his inner transformation?  First, his sons, who adored their father and his wonderful stories.

His second major ally— his formidable suffragette and Theosophist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage— had initially been more of a wicked witch in his life. She'd felt that he'd gotten in the way of her daughter Maud's being able to finish her college degree at Cornell (true) and that he wouldn't be able to support her daughter financially (not true).

However, as her own spiritual life evolved under the influence of Theosophy, she became the closest person in his life to see that Baum's "right livelihood" must have its foundation in what was quintessentially himself— in telling and writing children's stories. It was also she who discovered the growing trend in magazines for story writing for youth and got Baum excited about this new professional possibility.

Inspired by her insight into his true self and her support for his new career direction, Baum, it seems, transformed Matilda in his Oz books into Glinda, the Good White Witch.

Know when it's time to take the leap— and take it!

When he was 40, Baum was diagnosed by his doctor with a weak heart that could no longer take the stress of being a traveling salesman. Plus, his children were unhappy with him away so often. At this point, Baum took the leap and made the decision "that there was a future for him in crafting tales for children," and began writing stories for which he was paid and published.

Two years later, in 1898, following the death of his mother-in-law and fearless ally, Mathilda, "suddenly, this one story moved right in and took possession," as he wrote his publisher. Later, he said in an interview, "It was pure inspiration. It came to me right out of the blue . . . I believe the magic key was given to me to open the doors to sympathy and understanding, joy, peace and happiness." He drew on what he knew— the bleakness of the Kansas countryside in the 1880's, tornados/cyclones, oil as a means of bringing machinery to life, farms, witches (the denigrated power of women that Mathilda had written about) and the human spirit, embodied in the girl adventurer, Dorothy.

And so the story of "a yellow brick road leading to a city of emeralds" was born. As Schwartz writes, "[The yellow brick road] would be the path where the spiritual adventure unfolds." The challenges that Dorothy and her companions meet on the yellow brick road were the challenges that Baum himself met on his journey towards right livelihood, which also led him to self-awareness, confidence, aliveness, and well-being.

What is the destination of your yellow brick road?

What are your particular challenges on your yellow brick road?

What do you need to meet and transform these challenges into successful outcomes?

Love from the Heart of Wood— A Valentine to Passion, Boundlessness, and Resilience!

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here’s a classic romantic love poem stanza I’d like to share for Valentine’s Day! What I get from it is that love is boundless, passionate, and enduring. Elizabeth Barrett Browning grew up in London in the 19th century, an invalid under the restrictive oversight of her Victorian father. She freed herself through expressing her soul through her poetry (for which she was famous). This ultimately led to her meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the poet Robert Browning, who literally helped her liberate herself from her father’s home— leading her to a new life in Florence, Italy, where she blossomed, as a person and a writer.

A different sort of valentine, but one that shares Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s feeling for the passion, boundlessness, and endurance of love are the words below of George Pocock— the migrant English builder of state-of-the-art crewing shells (boats) in the first half of the 20th century. Pocock was also the soul partner of the varsity crewing coach, Al Ulbrickson, at the University of Washington, brilliantly detailed in the book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

As mentor to Joe Rantz— a member of the crewing team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Pocock would meet with Joe to talk with him and help him find his inner core as an athlete and a person:

Joe crouched next to the older man and studied the wood and listened intently. Pocock said the rings told more than a tree’s age; they told the whole story of the tree’s life over as much as two thousand years. Their thickness and thinness spoke of hard years of bitter struggle intermingled with rich years of sudden growth….

As Pocock talked, Joe grew mesmerized. It wasn’t just what the Englishman was saying, or the soft, earthy cadence of his voice, it was the calm reverence with which he talked about the wood— as if there was something holy and sacred about it— that drew Joe in. The wood, Pocock murmured, taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here….

Pocock paused and stepped back from the frame of the shell . . . carefully studying the work he had so far done. He said . . . it wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually . . . When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.

What is love? From these special "valentines," I believe that feeling and sharing love is the foundation of all the well-being and success in our lives-- because love endures in the heart of the wood, is resilient, has infinite beauty and undying grace, and is, finally, larger than ourselves and who or what we love.

The Wave That Carries Us Forward

As you pass over the threshold of another year, feel the impetus inside you that has brought you to this place, this time— the ending of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.  Have you drifted here in a natural way, as a leaf lets go of the tree? Have you moved purposefully toward this place, like a dancer in the final movement of the dance?  Or have you felt a shaking from within that impelled you forward, from still water into the arching crescent of a wave?

For me, 2014 was truly like launching myself into a huge wave with the coming out of my book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance. In fact, as you can see, the cover of my book is derived from the famous print, “The Wave,” by the Japanese woodblock artist, Hokusai.

When I chose this image for the cover of my book, the wave appeared to be facing backward, as my colleague and friend, Tamara Alfaroff, noticed. Thanks to the magic of technology and the skill of my book designer, Mark D’Antoni, the wave on the cover now faces forward— carrying all before it with its supreme power, energy, and elegance.

What is the impact of the image of a huge wave— cresting high over your head and just about to crash— for you?

As I searched for an image of what would convey the experience of helping people find work they love and learn to live in balance, that of an enormous wave seemed to say it all. I mean, it takes energy to find work that genuinely nourishes you. And “living in balance” to me means learning how to nourish yourself through cultivating and enjoying the energy in all that is important to you. So the giant wave indicates dynamic balance, like real life— like the seeming stillness of the ocean that is, however, constantly shifting and rarely static (even though there are times when we’d like it to be that way).

As you can see on my book cover image, the wave is just about to complete its arc— rising from the sea, encircling the air, and about to touch the ground. There is completeness here on the wave’s elemental journey back into its oceanic source. Even the fire element is there, embedded in the wave’s upward surge of power.

How can you access your inner wave of energy and power to manifest the dream you want to live out in 2015?  If it’s not clear to you, please contact me for a free consultation about how coaching can give you the clarity and support you need to do just that. You can also read my book and check out my website for free reports, earlier blog posts, and other information about how to work and live authentically and well.

May 2015 be a time of deep fulfillment and happiness for you!

The Art of Play As Work You Love

Recently, I had a very special time sharing my home for three wonderful weeks with my goddaughter and her life partner from Stockholm and their eleven-month-old, Edgar.  Being with Edgar was a totally absorbing experience-- watching his shining face, bright with the pleasure of going out to the garden to scatter pebbles, dig in the ground, squish fallen plums with his thumb, or examine the hose nozzle with complete attention.  

Was he playing?  Or working hard?  Or both?  He was fully absorbed in all his activities, repeating his actions over and over until he was satisfied in some way.  Only then would he pause to look up and watch a butterfly, or call out, “Ah da da,” clearly meaning “I did it!”

In my ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I opened my chapter, “Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body” in this way:
When you watch well-cared-for babies and toddlers at play, it’s amazing to see the spontaneity of their movements and voice.  When they feel something, they act on it.  Or yell, or gurgle, or sing.  They’re so free inside to express themselves with their whole body selves.  It’s such an enlivening experience to be around them and interact with them!

The point is, when you love what you spend a lot of time doing-- whether you’re playing or working, whether you’re 11 months or 45 or 80 years old-- you radiate a joy of engagement and accomplishment that is as contagious and inspiring to others as it is compelling to yourself.  You are in your own energy, where, as one client told me about her new, consciously chosen profession, “It doesn’t feel like working because I’m involved in learning and doing that fascinates and motivates me.”

Carol Zweck, author of the best-selling book, Mindset, refers to studies where children with an open mindset, when offered the choice of doing easy or more difficult puzzles, chose the latter because engaging in learning that was challenging was what energized them.  It was “work” that was play in its purest form-- apart from the need to look successful to teachers or peers.  As Buddhism states, attachment to outcome is one of the sources of suffering in humans, for which the antidote is to stay in the energetic interplay of oneself with the activity or situation at hand.

In the work I do as a coach-- supporting people in going through the process of making new choices that will let them move in the direction they really want to go-- I’m informed by my many years as a somatic therapist to help them slow down and pay attention.  With each step forward, they also deepen their learning about what they’re feeling in their bodies and their spirit.  The process of change is so much more than making leaps from this job now to that position there.  It’s about the way your whole being is involved in feeling, learning, expressing, and connecting with what is real and true for you.  

Concerning the work you do, it’s really quite amazing how much valuable information you can sense with your body about a career decision or change you want to make by taking time to explore and go deeper into yourself during a time of transition-- rather than just running forward to the next thing.  In fact, time expands and opens possibilities for you when you stop rushing and pay attention to the sound of a bird call resonating, the feel of sunshine on your shoulder, and what you’re really wanting to do now.  

When you really feel the depth of what you’re wanting for yourself, you will then know, with confidence and clarity, what you have to do-- and the path opens before you with surprising ease.  The actions you take will then lead you to greater career and life satisfaction and into the art of play as work you love.

Defining Success in Your Own Terms-- Claiming Your Professional Dream

"To have a possibility of happiness we must at the beginning fall in love at least a little with our work." -- David Whyte, The Three Marriages

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I note that a major reason people come to me for coaching is a feeling of dissatisfaction with their work and career paths-- with what they are doing and the sense of disconnection with whom they have become.  Often, they don’t even recognize that they’re trying to model their ideas of what success is on what their parents or other influential people in their lives have wanted for them. In direct and indirect ways, people get messages from childhood about what they can do, can’t do, should do, and shouldn’t do in their professional lives, from their families, teachers, mentors, peers, and society at large.

In her insightful book, Hand-Me-Down Dreams, Mary Jacobsen asserts that in order to claim our own dreams for our work and lives, we may need to examine whether our parents were able to live out their dreams. Did they get the education they wanted? Were they stopped from having the career they wanted by virtue of their sex, class, racial or ethnic background?

Or Whatmaybe the careers they really wanted didn’t exist. Life coaching, for example, was not a recognized career when I graduated from college-- and is now booming. New job categories in the fields of technology and health are proliferating.  Also, the growth in number and kind of small businesses has been phenomenal over the past decade, as people (many of whom are women) pro-actively learn to sell and serve in areas of interest to them. In this way, as George Kao, social media marketing expert, suggests, you can at least have some money coming in while applying for jobs that interest you.

Those of you seeking a career within an organization might like to know that anthropology was just a blip on the map when my father discovered it. He'd expected that he would become a doctor until a friend in his freshman year at college told him about an exciting class being offered in the new field of-- anthropology! My father definitely took a risk in choosing “the road less traveled,” but he didn’t see it as a risk. Anthropology called to something deep within himself he hadn’t been aware of-- a way of working that involved cross-cultural exploration, using other languages, and opening new, global channels of communication among people.

Had my father become a research physician, he would certainly have pleased his own father, an immigrant to this country, who would've been delighted to have a son be a doctor-- a career offering societal respect and financial security. But when his father gave him his blessing to go in this new direction, my father didn’t hesitate to claim his new career path (being a professor at Stanford University, which lasted a lifetime).

Despite the scarcity of job opportunities at the time, my father was convinced from the start that he would find way to work as an anthropologist-- and would enjoy it in a way he never could have as a doctor.  What was important for my father was that his own father didn’t demand of his son that he sacrifice a way of working he'd chosen in order to please his father’s desire. The great gift my grandfather gave his son was the emotional freedom to follow his own path, trusting that he would best support his family by loving his livelihoodf.

The kind of conviction and determination of my father is really the bedrock of many career seekers and innovators up through now who have felt professionally successful. Steve Jobs, for example, who created his own tech career and business, knew what he wanted to do and persevered, even under humiliating adversity.  By the time he was 30, Jobs had set up the wildly innovative and successful company, Apple-- and then was fired by the Apple board, who felt he was no longer the right person to lead the company.   He was devastated and blindsided.  As he said in his commencement address to Stanford students in 2005, “I felt ashamed, I didn’t know what to do.  I’d been rejected, but I was still in love.”

His lifeline, ultimately, was discovering deep inside himself that no matter what, “I loved what I did.”  Not knowing what else to do, he followed his intuition using “beginner’s mind,” and started the company, Next, still doing what he loved to do.  Then he got back his dream job when Apple rehired him, with Next technology becoming “the heart of the Apple renaissance.”

Most of us are not Steve Jobs, but most of us do have the potential within ourselves to choose to work at something in our lifetime that deeply satisfies us by what it allows us to do in supporting, innovating, leading, and enhancing something that's important to us.  Defining success in our own terms requires that we listen deeply to what we are genuinely called to do and "pass by that which we do not love."

Now try this exercise: Write down a list of all the jobs and careers you’ve tried. For each, write down what you liked best about it-- and how it affected your satisfaction level with your whole life. Afterwards, consider and then write down, your own definition of success, wherever you are in your life path, with regard to: 1) The way you work and/or stay involved in your community; 2) What messages from your family and/or society you’ve had to overcome to find rewarding work; 3) What kind of support you've received (from family, friends, coach, therapist, colleagues) to find rewarding work; and 4) What is important to you in your life as a whole.

What is the next step you plan to take to claim your professional dream?

What is Success with Soul?

Right now, it’s playoff time in American major-league baseball, with its heady atmosphere and personal stories of its players seeping through newspaper ink, the airwaves, the ether, and even, at times, my mind with its limited awareness of this national pastime. However, one player’s story from a recent New York Times editorial leapt off the press for me.

Did you know that there is a terrific pitcher on the New York Mets team who was an English literature major in college and who used his literary skill to write a “well-received” recent memoir about “his own struggles with childhood sexual abuse and adult loneliness and shame”?  Meet pitcher R.A. Dickey who is 37 (old for a pro baseball player) and just started with the Mets in 2010. Like the protagonist of Bernard Malamud’s book, The Natural, Dickey spent many years in the minor leagues before getting his big chance.

In my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, there is a chapter called, “Defining Success on Your Own Terms,” in which I write about the quality of “soul” that is the essence of fulfilling work and lives:

             ....I am stirred by what Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, says, that work is “central to the soul’s opus.” I want to know more about work as “soulful.” When we say something has soul, like joyous music, we mean that it grabs our spirit and sings out to us.  When something feels soulless, like certain work environments, on the other hand, we have a feeling of deadness or lack of energy in its presence.  

             Soul is a feeling of life and vibrancy that we can feel within from our experiences and relationships in the world. Soul is real and tangible, and it deeply affects our ability to feel satisfied with the lives that we create for ourselves.

Returning to R.A. Dickey, I find his story simply fascinating as regards the evolution of “soul” in the sudden arc of success in his work and life. As the NY Times editorial says, “before joining the Mets . . . he had played pro ball for 16 years. They were difficult ones . . . He was a middling pitcher . . . He got bumped around, sent down and passed over. He started getting old.” Did Dickey start to feel an urgency at his age and stage of life that his work begin to grab his spirit?  Was he looking for a change of career-- or for a way to succeed as a baseball pro? Certainly, he was feeling the need for something that might call forth his spirit more than warming the bench in a baseball minor league.

I don’t know his whole story or what motivated him to start practicing the knuckleball-- “a spinless pitch as difficult to master as it is to hit.” Whatever it was, he came through this season as a winning pitcher with a unique pitch-- “the bright light” of a team in trouble. More than that, however, he also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this year to help raise money to support women and girl victims of slave trafficking in India. Plus, he wrote his book. 

Success with soul for Dickey was clearly more than making it to a major league in baseball, though that was certainly important and gave him a larger platform with which to share his voice. In his mid-thirties, he opened his heart from his own sufferings and took conscious, visible action on behalf of the sufferings of others. He found the “soul” in his “success”-- “a feeling of life and vibrancy that we can feel within from our experiences and relationships in the world.”


To register for this FREE class, please click here! 

The Soul of Successful Career Change and Lives in Balance

[An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Successful Transitioning to Work You Love-- Inspiration for Those on the Path to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance]

  “The more deeply our work stirs imagination and corresponds to images that lie there at the bedrock of identity and fate, the more it will have soul . . . Most of us put a great deal of time into work, not only because we have to work so many hours to make a living, but because work is central to the soul’s opus.

                 -- Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

What is the soul of success? What does soul look like and feel like to you?

Since most of my work is with people seeking fulfilling work and/or lives balanced by rewarding relationships and well-being, Thomas Moore’s words stir me with a sense of wanting to know more about being soulful. When we say something has soul, like joyous music, we mean that it grabs our spirit and sings out to us.  When something feels soulless, like certain work environments, on the other hand, we have a feeling of deadness or lack of energy in its presence. 

Soul is a feeling of life and vibrancy that we can feel within from our experiences and relationships in the world. Soul is real and tangible, and it deeply affects our ability to feel satisfied with the work and lives we create for ourselves. 

Soulfulness also involves both the dark nights and the illumination that comes from going deeply within ourselves about the changes we seek. Soul asks that we extend ourselves into all our senses, our hearts, and our minds. Soul is being vulnerable and open enough to risk making the changes we need to work and live fully-- and therefore is about creativity and change. 

When you step outside the bounds of what you have known, you must find a different radar to guide you in choosing new directions for work, relationships, or generally how to live. In my experience, it is your awareness of energy and vitality-- soul-- that is the crucial guideline. Almost invariably, my clients seeking new career directions are, underneath that, asking for work that is energizing and adds to their sense of purpose and breadth in their lives overall.

For example, Moore suggests a radically alternative way to exploring whether your career options have enough to engage you in an ongoing way. He suggests asking questions, which I’ve paraphrased below, about the “soul benefits” of different options/directions for your work, such as: 

What is the spirit of how or where I want to work?

Will I feel I’m contributing authentically as a person?

Will I have a feeling of community in how I work?

Do the people I’ll be interacting with love their work?

Is what I plan to be doing and producing worthy of my time and energy commitment? 

I knew two women-- one who had a position in a nonprofit group with me and another in a public relations firm-- who were both dissatisfied with their work in these places. However, I didn’t really understand that until they both started their own businesses and began simply radiating happiness. Then I realized how pinched, critical, and dissatisfied they’d both been while working in environments that lacked purpose and satisfaction for them. What a difference it made for them to take charge of their own professional directions, and feel they were contributing authentically and doing what was worthy of their time and energy! Like the Ugly Duckling, they blossomed in the environments appropriate to who they really were.

I’ve worked with many people who’ve come to realize that in their quest for satisfying jobs and careers, they’re really looking for what will make them feel alive and empowered for the significant amount of time and energy they will be spending at work. The connective feature among them all is clearly the desire to live and work with what energizes their spirit-- with soul! 

If you’re interested in creating a soul-ful career change with a plan for balancing your life priorities, join me for my two-part teleclass, “Successful Transitioning to Heart-Centered Livelihood and Life in Balance”-- on Wed., June 6th, and Wed., June 13th! Click here for further information and registration.