“And then it happens: One day you discover that staying the same is scary and changing has become your new home.” ―
As I’ve shared with you before on some matters I’ve been a slow learner, like on embracing change. For some people it’s not like that. They make a permanent home of a life filled with change.
Like my friend, Mark.
Mark’s parents were abusive alcoholics and he grew up mistreated, unloved and mostly ignored. He walked around for years with a belly full of anger.
Like many neglected boys, he found an outlet in sports and role models in coaches. He went on to become an honor student, a stellar two-sport athlete and a computer whiz. After college he found success and went on to build his own company as a consultant to many Fortune 500 companies.
Somehow, he had managed to turn his anger into a learning laboratory where he taught himself to calm down and to not repeat the mistakes of his parents. What had been taken from him, he learned to give to others.
I worked with Mark for a year, then lost touch. It was only through a set of difficult circumstances that we reconnected.
And I was glad we did. For Mark had gone on to execute one of the most amazing changes in direction I had ever witnessed.
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” — Scott Peck
He recounted his story to me. He said one night his wife confronted him with the observation that his career was subverting their family; his constant traveling was preventing him from being present to the needs of his boys and being a generous husband to her.
For years, Mark had been on the fast track, traveling and doing all the things entrepreneurs do to grow a business. But his wife wanted OFF that track: too many missed ballgames, missed parent conferences, missed dinner conversations. Then came the coup de grâce: “You need to find a different career.”
- Such an ultimatum could have ignited a ferocious argument.
- He could have fought tooth and nail to protect the business he’d worked so hard to develop.
None of that happened: no fight, no argument, nothing at all. He just listened deeply, then asked for time with his boys and listened deeply to them as well.
He then asked for a little time for himself. After he considered all he’d heard, he concluded she was right.
Soon after, he quit his job, enrolled in a masters program in education, and took a job coaching and teaching at the local high school. On top of that, he signed on to be the school’s bus driver. He told me, “Driving the kids to and from school allowed me to get close to my new ‘clients.’ A good teacher needs to know their students.”
All these decisions he made with no histrionics, no loud arguments, no begrudging resentment — just simple, straightforward acceptance. Mark had changed his career from businessman to teacher.
I asked him, “Okay, I get that it was time for a change, but how could you make it so immediately and decisively?”
He said that he’d learned two lessons growing up in a home where neither of his parents listened to him nor had any interest in changing: to learn to listen and to never fear change. “How can you love without listening and listen without changing? If in listening to my family I’m required to walk away from one career into another, so be it.”
“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble” — Henry Miller
Just a thought…
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