The blessing of a jackhammer (and what that has to do with creating work you love)

road construction

There’s a big road construction project going on across the street from me. The last couple days have been filled with wave after wave of jackhammering.

There’s not much to do but tune it out, but every time it stops for an extended period of time I’m struck by how peaceful it feels. The silence is almost palpable.

Every time I experience that silence, I realize how much tension the jackhammer has been causing – both in my mind and my body. The silence feels like a little trip to the spa where that tension just drips away.

Sure, the incessant rattle of metal on concrete has been irritating, but it has also been a blessing.

Huh? How could a jackhammer be a blessing? Let me explain.

Quieting the jackhammer of the mind

Grating as it has been, the noise of the jackhammer has helped me experience the peace of the silence in a way I seldom do when the noise level outside is just at your standard urban hum.

Every time I feel that silence, I think, “Ohhhhh, that’s what’s there when the noise stops!”

That jackhammer and the silence in its absence is a perfect metaphor for what happens in our minds, and the peace and spaciousness that comes if we can quiet that mental jackhammer even just a little bit.

The jackhammer and the profound peace of its absence has been giving me a frame of reference – an experiential analogy, if you will – for what happens at an internal level, both with the noise we create in our minds and the potential for peace when we find ways to turn down the volume.

Recognizing the unacknowledged tension

One of the most striking things about the peace following the noise has been a realization of just how much tension I was holding in response to the jackhammer, even though I thought I was tuning it out.

It’s the same in our minds. Our thoughts create a tension in our minds we often don’t even realize is there. Maybe it’s the shrill underlying hum of a worry about the future, or rumination about what he did, or what she said, or how you screwed up.

Maybe it’s an ongoing battle with what is and an insistence that things should be different. Perhaps it’s just an addiction to going at mach speed without the ability to really relax.

Whatever it is, it frequently creates an underlying tension there that can suck your energy dry.

What jackhammering (and quiet) has to do with loving your work

The goal of getting Wild About Work isn’t just finding work you love. It’s also developing your capacity to fully experience the juice your work offers.

The tension and energy drain created by the jackhammer of our minds has a constricting effect. It makes us smaller and less open. It takes us out of flow, rather than helping us step into it.

The benefit of toning down that internal jackhammer is twofold. First, you reduce the energy drain it causes. And second, the more you can do to quiet that internal jackhammer, the more internal space you have to experience the good stuff.

How to turn down your mental jackhammer

In the Wild About Work model, one of the basic foundational pieces is some kind of grounding practice (or even better, several grounding practices).

There are a bazillion different ways to turn down the volume on that internal jackhammer. I’ll dive more deeply into a few of them in future posts, but for now here’s a handful:

Mindfulness: This is simply pulling yourself back from whatever wild gyrations your mind is doing in the past and/or future and experiencing what is happening right here, right now, without overlaying a story.

Meditation: A regular meditation practice – even just a few minutes per day – can have a profound effect on the noise in your mind. You can use it both as a regular practice and as a way to ground throughout your day.

Breathing: Your breath is a great tool for getting out of your mental noise and into the present moment. Try simply focusing on your breath for sixty seconds at various intervals throughout the day.

With any of these, try to take an approach of softening, rather than effort to make something happen. An effort to relax only contributes more tension to the mix.

Try this: Here’s an experiment for the next week, if you’re up for it. Every once in a while throughout your day, stop and notice. Are you grounded and present? Are you spooled up and tense? Just notice. No judgment.

Then  take ten breaths. Focus your attention on how the breath feels. Connect with how your body moves as you breath in and out. If your mind starts to wander as you do that (it probably will), just come on back to focusing on the breath.

That’s it. Notice, then breathe. Notice, then breathe.

Simple, right?

Let me know how it goes!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Change your life (seriously!) with a Positive Journal

In 2008, my business was in freefall, and I was broke, broke, broke (not to mention stressed, stressed, stressed). The financial crisis had hit me hard – not many people were thinking about creating careers that lit them up when they were worried about survival.

I was complaining to a friend about my situation and she said something that stopped me in my tracks. “Curt, where is the abundance in your life?”

I realized that I actually had great gobs of abundance in my life – just not the financial version. And yet it was my stress about the financial variety that was taking up my entire field of view. I realized I needed to do something to focus more of my awareness on what was positive in my life.

positive journalI decided to keep a “positive journal.” In the video above, I talk about the experience and the incredibly positive impact it had.

Knowing that any attempt at regular journaling I had made in the past had a limited life span, I decided to create a framework by making it a 30-Day Experiment. I love 30-Day Experiments. They’re long enough to start seeing results, but not so long that night on impossible to stick with it.

My only rule for the journal was that anything I wrote in it had to have a positive focus. Here are the four main areas I explored:

Gratitude: I made it a regular habit to do a deep dive into gratitude. The more I did it, the more I saw reasons to feel grateful, both big and small.

Abundance: First I made a laundry list of all the kinds of abundance I experienced in my life (love, freedom and flexibility, ideas, beauty, health, fun, etc.). Then I started picking them one at a time and asking, “Why is that important? What is the positive impact of that in my life?”

Shifting out of the negative: When I found myself stuck in a negative rumination, or a habitual negative perception, I would sometimes explore how to shift that? How could I look at things from a more positive angle? What are the positive possibilities?

Positive question prompts: I started using open-ended prompts to help me spotlight the positive. For example, “Life is good because _____,” and, “I feel confident and capable when _____.”

So what about the title to this post? Isn’t that just a tad hyperbolic? Well no, in my experience, that was exactly what keeping a Positive Journal did. More accurately, it changed my experience of my life. If you think of your awareness as a pie chart, my daily focus on the positive increased the percentage of that pie that was taken up with seeing the positive.

I went into it with a fairly open mind. I didn’t really know what effect the experiment would have on me. Turns out it was huge. It was actually a key part of being able to emotionally navigate a really challenging time.

Here are some of the outcomes I experienced:

Noticing the positive: What’s good start entering my awareness more naturally. It was already there, but this expanded my awareness of it.The more I paid attention to the positive, the more positive I noticed.

Looking for the positive: Not only did I passively start to notice the good stuff in my life, I also found myself actively scanning to find more. It wasn’t something I put effort into; it just started happening on its own.

Short-circuiting the negative: I started noticing the negative, limiting stories my mind created and automatically looking for alternative, life-enhancing stories.

I highly, highly recommend trying this. Make it a 30-Day Experiment and see what happens. Try to find a regular time each day and dive on in.

If you do it, I would love to know how it goes! Please share your experience in the comments below.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The life-changing potential of one single small step

footsteps

Do you have a big dream you feel inspired to pursue, but somehow you just never quite get started on it?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how often we let our goals and dreams languish on the shelf, waiting for the time to be right to pursue them (or maybe even feeling deep down like we probably never will).

There are a bazillion reasons we do this. One of the biggies is feeling overwhelmed at the size and perceived do-ability of the vision.

With that in mind, may I present to you…<drumroll,please!>…the superhuman power of one single small step!

Many of us have a tendency to over-complexify things. Looking at the big picture is helpful when it helps you get context for where you’re going and what you need to do to get there. But if you find yourself shouldering the full weight of that big goal right here in the present moment, it’s time to get small!

Why is a single-step focus so powerful? :

Taking that single small step creates momentum

Sometimes the worst enemy of what we want to achieve is the simple inertia of inaction. Taking a step puts you in motion. And when you’re in motion, more movement is easier.

It’s like the difference between trying to start riding a bicycle in a high gear from a standstill and shifting into a high gear while you’re already zooming down the bike path. It takes a lot less effort and feels a lot easier on your legs if you’re already in motion.

Taking that single small step creates success

Taking a single small step can start creating small successes you can build on. Even just the fact that you’re in motion can be celebrated as a success. Feeling that sense of success can cultivate a greater sense that the action you take can lead to more success.

Taking that single small step creates insight

When you take steps, you get results. Something happens as a result of the action you take. That might not always be the result you’re looking for, but regardless of the outcome, there is a potential for learning.

Most of us want the path to success to look like this:

Step…Success…Step…Success….Step…Wheeeeeee! Big success!

A more accurate (if abbreviated) picture is this:

Step…Hmmmm…that didn’t quite work. Why not? What could I do differently?…Step…Oh yeah, that’s better…Step…Crap! I thought I had this figured out. What went wrong?…Step…Ohhhh yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about, baby!

Taking that single small step creates opportunity

Finally, taking that first step puts things in motion that can open doors to opportunity you would never have seen if you just stood at the starting line and scanned the possibilities you could clearly see from there.

Maybe the door opens because taking a step created a connection you didn’t have before. Maybe that step planted an idea in your head. Maybe it gave you a better picture of the reality of what you’re trying to do, so you can adjust and refocus.

The opportunities you can see when you’re standing still is just a fraction of the opportunities that will show up when you start taking action.

At the end of the day, standing still and thinking about what you do will never take you down the path to your goal. The only way to get there is step by step by step.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

11 career change blocking mistakes to avoid

 

11 career blocking mistakes

Do you have a career change percolating? Want to make it as fluid and successful (and minimally painful and challenging) as possible? Then today’s post is for you!

For thirteen plus years in my Passion Catalyst work, I have had front row seat on people’s career change efforts. Along the way,I have had a bazillion conversations with aspiring career changers, both my clients and others.

In the process, I have gotten a good picture of how people get in the way of a successful career change. I would like to share a few of the big ones here.

Taking a blind leap

This is probably the biggest mistake I see people in danger of making. They feel frustrated and stuck, and they want to hightail it out of Dodge into something better ASAP. And so they jump ship to something that seems attractive, only to discover too late that they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

Before you commit to any career change, take the time to get a deep understanding of what makes you tick. Figure out what energizes you, and where you shine. A good place to start is identifying your energizers.

Immediate gratification mindset

Here’s the cold hard truth. A successful career change almost never happens with the flip of a switch. There’s no giving your notice on Friday and starting a grand and glorious new career on Monday.

Wanting the immediate gratification of a change to something new is understandable, but it gets in the way when it becomes a guiding desire.

It can lead to mistakenly assessing an opportunity as not possible (what might be impossible immediately is often possible over the course of a couple years). And it can contribute to a feeling that you’re failing when you’re actually making progress (if your definition of success is a dramatic change in the short-term, even good but slow progress towards change in the long-term can feel like failure).

Believing your no

When my clients are at the stage of assessing the feasibility of the potential careers they have identified, I always advise them to question it any time the answer is no.

Sometimes no really is a valid answer, but other times it’s more of a knee-jerk no than a well-supported assessment. An example of this is the scenario I mentioned earlier of someone mistakenly seeing something as impossible when taking a longer-term view would open the door to possibility.

When you look at a potential career and ask, “Is this feasible,” follow any no up by asking, “Is that really true? What assumptions am I making? Are they valid? How could I make it feasible?”

Believing your yes

The flipside of believing your no is flying down the path with an unquestioned belief in your yes. When you decide that an a new career option, spend some time building a case for why it’s a good idea. Will it really work for you? Is there really the potential there you think you see?

Don’t take a pessimistic approach to this. It’s more one of positive curiosity. Think of it as testing the solidness of a rope bridge across a river before you choose to go runnning across it.

Not expecting obstacles

Another really common mistake I see people making is somehow not expecting obstacles to pop up. This can lead them to mistaking a roadblock for the end of the road. “Crap! I guess thisn’t isn’t really doable after all.”

Reframe what obstacles mean. Rather than something that proves that what you’re trying to do isn’t possible, or that you don’t have what it takes, just look at them as a normal part of the landscape you’ll inevitably need to navigate.

Over-expecting obstacles

It’s also an all-too-common mistake for people to fill their path with phantom obstacles. Awareness of the possibility of obstacles can be valuable, but continually assigning a solid sense of reality to obstacles you haven’t even encountered yet is a recipe for trouble.

As you move towards a new career, make it a habit to check in with yourself to see if any limiting imagined reality is slowing you down.

Not creating an inner foundation

OK, you know by now I’m going to weave this one in any chance I get. When people don’t have a solid inner foundation – when they don’t have a grounding practice to slow down the hamster wheel in their minds – it’s easier for doubt, worry, and fear to take over.

Developing some kind of grounding practice, whether it is meditation, Qi Gong, breathing practices, mindfulness, or something else, gives that poor overworked hamster a break and helps you come from a greater sense of peace.

No objective forum for assessment

Somewhere along the line in their career change, people often feel like they’re not making any progress (some of this is that immediate gratification beastie rearing its head again). And when they do, it’s too easy for them to throw up their hands and say, “This isn’t working.”

Having a way to objectively check in can help immensely. It might be as simple as taking a journal and asking questions like, “What steps have I taken? What progress have I made? How am I closer to a successful change than I was? What difficulties am I running into? What can I do about them?”

Not having a plan

Diving in and winging it is a great way to fall flat on your face. When you decide to make a career change, spend some time creating a plan for how you’re going to make that happen. What are the steps? What do you need to learn? What relationships do you need to develop? What’s standing in your way? How will you navigate past that?”

The more you think it through in advance, the fewer surprise you’ll encounter and the better prepared you will be.

Over-attachment to a plan

Some people run into the opposite problem from the free-wheeling no-plan-for-me types. They get so rigidly attached to their plan (and their goals) that it gets in the way of being able to nimbly recognize and capitalize on opportunities and explore alternative routes past obstacles.

Make it a habit to check in with your goals and plans and ask, “What needs to change here?”

Mistaking molehills for mountains

I mentioned this one under “not expecting obstacles,” but it merits its own focus. When you run into the inevitable pothole in the road, resist the urge to create a story that the road is washed out. Let the molehills stay molehills.

When you find yourself responding negatively to a difficulty, ask yourself, “Is this difficulty really as big as I think it is? Is my response proportionate to the actual size of the problem?”

So there you have it. Ten mistakes you can avoid in your career change. Which ones are you in danger of making?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to ride your fear to success

Does fear ever stop you dead in your tracks and stop you from stepping fully into your potential? Do you ever feel inspired to do something, then watch that inspiration seep away as fear leaks into the picture?

If so, welcome to the human experience! That happens to all of us, to some degree.

In my most recent Wild About Work video, I take a look at how to harness that fear to help you reach your goals, rather than letting it stop you.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

5 types of support you need to get Wild About Work

If you want to create work you love, do not, do not, do not fall prey to the notion that you can do it all yourself! That’s a great way to both fail and have a really sucky, insecure, fear-filled time in the process.

When I first started my Passion Catalyst coaching work back in 2001, I was making a change from a past life as a marketing guy. While I was a natural coach (I literally put a framework around what I did naturally), I wasn’t a career expert.

To start developing a knowledge base, I interviewed dozens of people who had successfully pursued their passions in their careers to learn from their success.

It was a fascinating project. One of the biggest themes I saw was this: “I couldn’t have done it alone.” Almost every single person I talked to echoed some variation of that theme.

Today’s video reflects that basic truth that getting Wild About Work is NOT a solo sport.

In the video, I dive (with my customary perfect imperfection) into five key areas to seek out support:

Emotional support: Guess what? You’re human! This ride is going to be a lot less bumpy and a lot more effective if you consciously seek out emotional support along the way.

Professional support: Seeking out mentors can play a huge role in creating a career you love. There is no shortage of people who have been there, done that – why not tap into their insights?

Clarity support: Whether it is a coach like me or a friend who has a gift for helping you sort through things, having someone in your life to help you get clarity can help you minimize the time you spend spinning your wheels, help you stop getting in your own way, and find focus so you can take action and get traction.

Inspiration support: Surrounding yourself by people who inspire and energize you can be .a source of fuel you can put into your success.

Role model support: This is related to the previous one. You become the people you spend most of your time with – make who you become a conscious decision by spending time with people who embody the qualities you want to develop.

As you can see, this video was another step in my path of perfect imperfection (taking action and doing something, rather than dithering with perfectionizing and doing nothing). The white noise of the waterfall is stronger than I would like. Time to get a remote mic, I think.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Career Passion 101

A big part of getting Wild About Work is doing work that energizes you. In this video, I share a nuts-and-bolts, common sense approach to finding passion in your work.

Based on the approach I developed in my Passion Catalyst coaching to help my clients create careers that energize and inspire them, in this video, I take a look at:

  • My definition of passion
  • Why passion isn’t about what you love
  • How to identify your passion’s basic building blocks that you can use to both improve your current work and plan for passion in your career’s future

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The good enough secret to success

Is your vision for what you want to create in your world being repressed by the inner tyranny of perfection? Does the need to “get it right” drag down your efforts to reach your goals?

If the answer to that is yes, this video is for you. In it, I take a look at the good enough secret to success (while taking another step in my path of perfect imperfection).

As Brene Brown said in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis.”

I’m committed to moving towards my vision for the impact I feel called to make in the world with positive, productive, perfect imperfection. I’m not sure my ego will ever actually buy the story that imperfection is OK, but I’m gallumphing forward whether my ego approves or not.

I learned a couple things doing this video. First, I need to reposition the lighting in front of me so you don’t keep seeing the reflection in my glasses (or just get some dad-gummed contacts!). And second, I need to figure out how to eliminate the shadows from my wild gesticulations.

I cringe a bit when I watch this video (cringing seems to be a standard reaction as I take steps here), but I love that I’m in the game and taking action.

How about you? Is there anything you need to do to move towards your goals that would benefit from a little perfect imperfection? What would taking a good enough approach look like? What one thing can you identify that you can do “good enough” and start creating some momentum?

good enough screen shot

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The power of perfect imperfection

I want to invite you to join me in something I am convinced will both open the door to possibilities and facilitate momentum towards your goal.

What is it? Perfect imperfection!

In my last post on wearing my Vulnerability Hat, I mentioned how I have dragged my heels on starting to share my ideas via videos, in large part because of a desire to get it perfect before I put it out there.

Over the weekend I realized I could – and probably would – keep planning for perfection until I retire if I didn’t just do something. I needed to get away from my computer, away from creating any kind of setup that would make it look professional and slick, and away from the temptation to keep doing take after take until I got it “right.”

So I did the only logical thing – I climbed a tree.

Yep, the maiden voyage of my Wild About Work videos was done 20 or 30 feet up. No way to obsess about perfection when I’m hanging on to a tree branch as I talk.

Here’s the video. Keep reading below for my thoughts on perfect imperfection.

As you can see, the video was high on imperfection. Oh-too-shaky? Check. (It gets marginally better around the 1:20 mark as I realized I needed to hold it with two hands.) Looking at the screen instead of the camera? Roger that. And let’s face it – it’s basically a video selfie.

But here’s the thing – I did it! Allowing it to be perfectly imperfect allowed me to take action. I blasted through the stuck inertia of the last umpteen months and made a video. I embraced the perfection of imperfection and did something. And that gave me a video to post here, results to learn from, and momentum to build on.

I have to be honest, posting this video in all its imperfection isn’t the easiest thing for me to do. But I’m not going to make any progress toward my vision of helping live energized, impactful, heart-based lives by sitting and making things perfect. I’m going to make progress by taking imperfect action.

The idea I talk about in the video of making everything an experiment made it somewhat easier. My commitment in doing this was to give perfection the heave-ho and make it an experiment, learning from the results and building on that.

And guess what? I got results! I learned! I moved! Mission accomplished.

How about you? Where in your life do you need to embrace perfect imperfection and take an experimental approach? What are you not moving on that you could blast free with a little experimentation?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Why I’m wearing my Vulnerable Hat

vulnerable hat

In my career, I wear two hats – the Expert Hat and the Vulnerable Hat.

The first is that of subject matter expert. After more than thirteen years of deep focus on how to create an energized, meaningful, impactful career (and life), I feel pretty comfortable with that hat.

My other hat, though, is a little (OK, a lot) less comfortable. The Vulnerable Hat is the one worn by just another poor schlep trying to navigate things as best he can. It’s the hat of the guy who doesn’t always know what he’s doing, who feels fear, uncertainty, and doubt more often than he would like.

I like presenting the first hat to the world. It fits well, and I like how it looks. So it’s tempting to wear that hat and only that hat when I show myself in public (e.g., on this blog).

But that, my dear reader, would be doing you a disservice.

Everybody has a Vulnerable Hat

One of my pet peeves about the self-help/personal development world is how seldom the experts show up with their Vulnerable Hat on. With a few exceptions, you seldom hear them say, “Yeah, I’m really uncomfortable. I’m kinda racked with doubt about what I’m doing here. Boy, are my limiting stories up around this!”

And while I understand why, I think presenting a picture of only the Expert Hat paints an inaccurate picture that is impossible for anyone to live up to.

If you think of your career path as a journey, what you get from many personal development experts is a polished multi-media presentation about the trip. “Oh hey, that looks great!” you think. “I want to do that!”

And so you embark on your own adventure, only to discover that it’s not all highlights. You also get lost. You miss your flight. You get sick. Sometimes you just want to go home and sleep in your own warm, comfortable bed.

And somewhere along the way you start to feel like maybe you’re just not cut out for this. Something must be wrong with you, because, while you’re certainly experiencing some of the highlights, you’re also experiencing a big pile of suckitude.

Suckitude is normal

I want to tell you, that pile of suckitude is part and parcel with the adventure. The odds are piled high against your doing anything in your life that will make you look back and say “Yes!” without experiencing some bumps and bruises, fears and doubts along the way.

So I want to give you the good, juicy stuff. I want to come galloping in with my Expert Hat, giving you insights and looking good in the process. But I also want to be authentic and transparent, because I want to normalize the suckitude.

I want to reinforce the idea that it’s OK for the journey to be a mess, that it’s normal to feel like everyone else has it more together than you do.

Creating a career and a life that energizes and inspires you isn’t just about swooping in with your Looking-Good Hat and striking a pose (though that’s a fun part of it). It’s also about navigating the bumps, recognizing that they are part of the landscape, and not taking them on as your identity.

Getting in my own way (and doing it anyway)

I have been intending to start a video series for eons. I have so much I want to share, and doing it by video seems like a great addition to the mix.

But I haven’t. Why? Because I have stopped myself. I have stopped myself with a desire for perfection, researching how to do it, but never actually doing it. I have stopped myself by wanting to get it “right,” but not quite knowing what right is. I have stopped myself because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and at some level I haven’t wanted to “go public” with that ignorance. And, in an endless loop of stuckness, I have stopped myself with the inertia of not doing it.

Over the weekend, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it, imperfectly, and see where it takes me. It was fun, though I cringe a bit at the imperfection. Most importantly though, it was a step. It wasn’t just about making a couple videos. It was about setting something into motion and navigating the inevitable obstacles in the landscape.

And did I happen to mention that everybody has obstacles they’ll need to navigate? Some of those will be external. A lot of them will be internal.

If you experience those bumps and bruises, and that fear and doubt, it doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. It just means you’re in motion.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing the video that came out of it.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

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