Tips for Fishing and Living # 90

Tip # 90:

“A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work.”

Author Unknown

This is only true if you don’t fish for a living, although professionals can find joy in the job so long as they bring the same perspective as that of the amateur. What I mean is if what you do for your career – any career – is something you love doing then it’s going to be fun more often than not. If it isn’t your best version of fishing – what you love doing – then you aren’t enjoying yourself the way you could be, and it’s either time for a new job or a new  – better – perspective.

Sometimes, a person really needs is a little perspective as presented in Andy Andrew’s book, The Noticer. In it we meet a wise old man who keeps showing up to coach various people in a mythical small shoreline town in order for them to gain a better perspective for their lives so as not to suffer.

“All that we have is a result of what we have thought.” Buddha. We’ve been down this road many times before in other essays, but it’s important enough to revisit. Our thinking about what happens is not what happens, it’s our thinking. And it is our thinking that we can do something about. Namely: create a new perspective.

This popular fishing quote above makes certain sense when we think of our work as being similar to fishing, since our work can be something we choose to do because we find it enjoyable. In reality we can make just about any kind of work or career to be our choice, and we can therefore ensure it is enjoyable – be it fishing or anything else. Even in work or in other situations that we may not completely enjoy we can still choose to focus on those parts we do enjoy. Not to sound Pollyanna, but, as the very old song goes, we can “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” The song goes on to tell us that if we this we will at least “bring gloom down to the minimum.” A sure fire way to make “work” more enjoyable is by gaining a better perspective.

I once had a job I was initially happy with, but over time I began to dislike it more and more. At the height of my consternation I also felt I couldn’t leave it, at least without first having another one to go to. Being married and having children made me I see my options differently than when I was a single person. So instead I grumbled (mostly to myself) as I went about feeling trapped, discontented, and resentful.

Then one Friday as I was about to leave for the weekend I decided to quit. Only the thing is I decided to quit and not tell anyone I quit. In instead I went home and for an entire weekend I took on the notion that I had left my miserable job and I imagined I would not be going back to it EVER.

In my mind it was over; done with; and I felt great. I was liberated. I felt relaxed and at peace for the first time in a long while. Toward Sunday evening I began thinking about Monday morning. As I deliberated on what I was going to do I began to think that maybe, just maybe, this job was not quite so terrible, and that there were parts of it I actually did like. I realized I enjoyed working with most of my colleagues. I also saw himself well suited for the work I got to do there. I, in other words, I started to see some positive aspects of this job I had secretly quit. As I thought of more positive aspects I then began to come around to seeing real trade-offs within my job.

I began to think I would give it another chance, and also how I might be able to make the job better by making small but significant changes. Believing I could do this effectively there was a real possibility I could be more content with it. It was worth a shot.

Monday morning came and I returned to my job feeling cautiously optimistic, a bit more positive, and certainly grateful that I had neglected to tell anyone on Friday that I had quit.

Knowing our purpose helps make our lives so much easier. At that time, that job was a good fit for what I thought of as being in alignment with my gifts and talents. I also had to admit that it seemed to be simpatico with my life purpose. It did take a bit of intentional focusing and genuine reflection to realize my purpose being fulfilled in that job back then. A good hint is for any of us often comes from our likes and the things we good at. Sometimes other people tell us what they see our contributions are. Praying, listening and discerning are important aids as we focus on our life purpose.

Focus is paramount toward gaining insight as to where we are being called. We need to pay attention to recognize this calling. Those things we like – or love – doing, those things that enlivened us and give us joy are important pieces of information. I realized there were many aspects of that job that I probably would have done even if I was not paid to do them. When we can get paid to something we love doing we are in a great place.

When I was a pre-adolescent I used to love taking things apart to see how they work: be it a clock, a radio or some old small appliance. Putting them back together wasn’t always such a successful endeavor, but I usually did learn from these activities even at the cost of wrecking these things. Eventually I got better at putting them back together, and I even discovered I had some mechanical and electrical aptitude. Eventually I improved fixing more than breaking things. God bless my parents. They were so patient. Although I didn’t pursue a career in either the mechanical or electrical field I have used many of these abilities to keep our 108 year old house in somewhat better shape.

It took me a bit longer to realize that I was even more keenly interested in people – in human beings and how we operate. I was fascinated about what our motivations and behaviors could mean. What makes us tick? My curiosity about how things work turned out to be quite similar to my fascination about the human spirit. My long captivation with us human beings continues to this day.

I once coached a company division made up of all mechanical and electrical engineers. They wanted to understand how they could improve managing their departments. I began by describing how people operate as either “step-up transformers” or “step-down transformers” in describing how certain people bring either a calming presence to their department or an inciting anxiousness to their department. Also I told them about how one’s energy is likened to that of electrical power, voltage, and energy, and more. We made all sorts of metaphorical connections as we spoke their language. They became excited seeing how they could better understand and deal with their employees using a language they already understood.

I have been studying human behavior for over fifty years, and I continue to do so. I think of myself as an applied philosopher when it comes to people: I believe in our inherent goodness. I believe I have a certain aptitude for listening, and for helping people get themselves in better working shape, and therefore have happier lives. My philosophy has to do with the fact that I basically love people, and see people as lovable, even when they do not.

I’ve met with and worked with thousands of individuals and couples over these many years, and I am only more convinced about our goodness. These same people I have had the honor to work with are also the ones who have taught me – are still teaching me – so much. I hope I have helped them as much they have helped me to be more effective with others. While we are all different and unique individual people, we all pretty much want the same things. While I don’t pretend I know what is best for someone; what I do is provide suggestions and some possibilities. Basically I offer a new – better – perspective.

 All of us have a purpose. This doesn’t mean we are destined to do one singular thing for our entire lives. We may ultimately do several different things over our lifetime; or we may move along into other similar areas as we grow and evolve.

I know a man who graduated from college and then studied and trained as an attorney. He worked in law for a number of years until he decided it wasn’t in alignment with what he saw as his life purpose.  He went back to school to become a licensed electrician. He is now much happier doing this work than what he had been previously doing.

There are people who have an avocation (hobby, side job, some volunteer task, or engaging project) they enjoy as they also have a particular career. Their career is what pays the bills, and allows them to do their avocation. Sometimes they eventually transition over to this avocation to make it full time work. Sometimes they keep both pursuits going. Some are simply happy at their careers to begin with and it sustains them; while some evolve the career into advanced levels within their field or related area.

Whatever the case, the one thing we each have absolute control over is our own thoughts. This is what puts us in a position to control our own destiny. It does, however, require us to be conscious and awake so we can recognize any opportunistic doors that may open up we might otherwise miss had we not been paying attention.

We all know the joke about the man up on his rooftop as the river waters keep rising. As the flood waters get worse he desperately prays to God to save him. God replies, “I’ve already sent you a canoe, a motor boat and helicopter. What more do you want?”

Part of that job I mostly disliked had to do with the boss I had. What made that job a good learning experience was it offered me an opportunity to deal with a difficult boss. As I took on this possibility I made some important changes. I began doing things that helped me see this boss in a newer light. Eventually that boss left for another position. Before he left he recommended I be given his job. We had come to respect each other even as we were quite different in many ways. We remain0ed friends over the years that followed his leaving. He died a few years ago, and I was shocked to discover I was in his will and received a sum of money from his estate.

Because I consider myself a lifelong learner I try to be open to discovering new and different possibilities. Richard Rohr has recently shared some thoughts about this past four years that are ending. He considers this last one an apocalyptical year. He explains that we usually think of apocalyptical as disastrous. Rohr contends that it is more correct to see it as a “pulling back of the veil” and a revealing of something that was not as we had once thought it to be. It is our “Aha” that this year has actually shown us the artificiality of business as usual.

I have frequently stated that we must not go back to the so-called normal past because normal was not normal; it was dysfunctional. This TERRIBLE year that is now passing has revealed some things we thought of as normal but now we can see them as dysfunctional. Let us not go back, but go forward. We must go forward taking with us all we learned and bring this wisdom into a new normal. We will not get it all perfect. We can shift more toward our ideals while we also address our reality as we move into our new future.

We can love fishing and still not like the mosquitos or the sunburn. You can love catching trout while not enjoy cleaning them. That old job never became perfect. Instead I gained a better perspective. I recognized certain trade-offs and I intentionally choose to stay while I also worked on minimizing negative aspects. This mostly worked out, but not always.

I also developed strategies to help me compensate for those taxing times. I formed support groups with like-minded colleagues; I down-played some of my work successes so as to not make my boss jealous and resentful. I learned to not take any of his reactivity personally. And I started writing magazine articles that got published as a positive outlet.

Perhaps most importantly I learned to not take myself too seriously. This turned out to be a very helpful perspective. One of my favorite slogans is: “You can never be too serious.” I have this one displayed in my little office. Whenever I read it I can’t help but laugh. It helps me laugh and lighten up.

Right now I am enjoying a good cup of tea and I am smiling.