What’s the big lie? It’s that nice car where the payment is killing you but it leads your friends to think you’re not in the struggling group. And your ego is happy to have it concealed. Maybe you have nice clothes and makeup and hair, but also a back-breaking credit card bill, or exotic holidays that are added to your line of credit. All of that looks great on social media but it’s also what keeps you running on that treadmill. Still, that’s probably better than the rest, who aren’t into cars or fashion or travel but they are running because of cancer, a divorce, a disease or a lawsuit.
Since the housing crisis almost a decade ago, around the world many people are struggling with the downturn. A lot of good people worked very hard for years and now they’re exhausted, broke, they’re losing everything and they can’t even figure out where to turn in their white flag to surrender. They literally wonder where their life went. Certainly having a positive, abundant attitude will help a great deal in finding solutions, but we must look for our solutions in spiritually sound ways.
I heard a guy who wrote a book on happiness on the radio yesterday and he stated that everyone has a dream inside them and that everyone can make their living doing something worthwhile and fulfilling if they just approach finding it the right way. This has become a very popular idea and the implication is this choice would carry you safely and happy into your later years. I’ll agree that we should lead inspired lives, but that’s where I depart from most other people on what’s real. In fact, I would argue that selling that idea is part of what’s causing the suffering we’re seeing today.
Yes, you could write a book that sells a million, but there was a reason that novelist was listed as one of the most over-rated jobs by Forbes. That’s just one book. There’s very few writers who string several together. You might write a great app–that happens all the time. It also doesn’t happen the vast majority of the time and that’s okay because you’ll likely find more happy people at simple jobs than at impressive or powerful ones.
As Paul McCartney said about what he’d do if he wasn’t a musician; “I’d be a gardener or a carpenter.” That’s wise. Those people do their time, don’t think about it too much and then go home with a clear head and no one texting them from work at 11pm. They sleep well and they have the energy to put into dreams that have nothing to do with money.
My Dad just shingled roofs most of your life. It’s hard work but it’s honest and it keeps you in shape. He was happy to provide for his kids. He took actual active pride in that. He didn’t feel badly for what we didn’t have, he was pleased that he gave us a stable home with no violence–which is something he didn’t have.
In this world there are bad stone-cutters, there’s true craftsmen and there’s Michelangelo. Dad was a craftsmen. The first two aren’t failed attempts at the third. The first is either inexperienced or in the wrong job, the second’s day is made up of their focus, which is why they can be admired by other stonecutters. It’s only Michelangelo’s fame that makes us feel like he’s a pinnacle, but we have to remember he was forced to build a church he didn’t want to build for a Pope he didn’t like. It’s not like that fame bought him more time with his stone angels, rather it took him away from them.
Rather than look for a lofty dream or something big or profound or impressive, try making everything you do profound with your presence. I watched my Dad often at work, and unlike a lot of workers you never saw him muttering to himself about anything; how he wished the past had gone, how he hoped the future would go, or how he felt the present moment was treating him personally. He just nailed shingles.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but that quiet mind and focus added up to peaceful days, a happy man and a wonderful father, and those are extremely fulfilling things that will please you far more than fame or wealth on the day you die. So don’t feel lesser if your work isn’t shiny and impressive. What matters is that you’re fully focused on the doing of it, because when my Dad shingled he wasn’t excited or inspired, he was truly Zen. He simply chopped wood and carried water and he didn’t think too much about it. And as it turns out, that is actually what real success looks like.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.