Tag Archives: balance

A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero #7

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)

Meet Penelope.  A professional who has worked out a way for making lots of money, doing what she loves, and changing careers seamlessly.  Perhaps it’s all because she has an inbuilt industrial-strength bullshitake detector.

Read on to get a dose of her tough love.

Like many other creative and sensitive people, Penelope feels a strong need to do what she loves.  Unlike many others, she has not taken the ‘starving artist’ road.  Instead she has gone to great lengths to satisfy her creative cravings while paying bills. That’s because Penelope feels adamant about people having a false belief that they should get paid for doing what they love. In her speak: “A capitalist world needs mundane stuff to be done – stuff people will not necessarily love.  If we’d all really do what we love, we’d be having sex and eating apple pie…”

“In adult life what we’re looking for is the intersection between what we’re great at, what we love and what people will pay us for…”

This is what her career Nirvana looks like:

As she went on to tell me: “The commitment to finding (that point) is the only honest way to find a career.  And if you say that you have a career but you haven’t found that, you’re lying to yourself.  Because we all want to be valued financially…our self-esteem is higher and our sense of personal stability is higher if we can support ourselves.  And so the idea that you change careers to do something that you can’t actually support yourself in, is bullshit(ake)…It’s not negativity (towards) career changing, it’s negativity towards bullshit(ake).  It’s negativity towards being a brat about work life…we all compromise and that’s what adult life is.”

Note to self: Pursue what you love – but don’t feel entitled to getting paid for it.  And please, don’t take this personally. It’s just how the business world works. Instead look outside of your work life to do what you love. Above all, be honest with yourself.

She’s been one to put her money where her mouth is.  During the first decade of her working life she made it a point to have two jobs at the same time.  One job was for doing what she loved, the other job was for paying the bills.  While she played professional beach volleyball, she worked at bookstores.  While she wrote, she taught undergrads.  While she learned about interactive media, she coded HTML.

Even after she started running her own companies at 29, she kept this trend alive.  Today, Penelope is the CEO (and founder) of BrazenCareerist.com, a website that receives 500,000 hits per month and is ranked by Alltop as the top online destination for young professionals. She’s also the author of the book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, which has been widely successful.  If that was not enough, her syndicated column runs in over 200 publications and her blog has over 32,000 subscribers. (Penelope is also a single mom of two)

Note to self:  Time is only mental.  If you’re committed, you’ll make the time.

Penelope is also a strong advocate for change.  As she described it to me: “Careers are…mutational…(and) the idea of career change is outdated…career change as a noun or a verb is outdated…Career change is kind of like a permanent state.”

“Even if you do what you love – and get paid for it – you won’t want to do that your entire (work) life.  We’re going to have (work lives) for 50 to 60 years.  Anyone who’s doing the same career for that long has brain damage.  It’s just too boring and it’s a waste of a life, and your learning curve flattens, and your personal life changes…So there’s nobody who’s being honest about living a life that is true to them saying: ‘ I’m set in my career for the next 60 years’  It’s ridiculous – it’s just dishonest.”

Note to self: A career is a living thing that is constantly evolving. Both change and impermanence are part of the package.  Rather than resist this reality, prepare for it.

Even so, she recognizes that change is hard – and disruptive: ”Changing careers is extremely scary and (needs to be) well-thought out. (It) involves making compromises in your life. If you’re not feeling that, then you’re lying to yourself.”

As a person who craves challenges, she follows a braid model that allows her to minimize the pain and disruption caused by change. Her braid is woven with three strands – which she keeps very separate.  One strand is for paying bills.  That’s the career that she aims to master.  She knows that the stronger that strand is, the more money she stands to make.  The second strand she keeps looser and more fluid. In this area she looks around for new opportunities, and for intellectual and creative stimulation.  That’s the strand that has allowed her to change courses seamlessly. The third strand she labels relationships. That’s the strand that brings meaning to her life.  As she puts it: “(It’s) a no brainer.  It’s ridiculous to say that work gives meaning.  Work doesn’t give meaning – relationships give meaning. Work keeps things interesting, it makes us feel useful, (it) makes us feel part of a community…People who think they’ve achieved higher meaning through their work than someone else are arrogant and misguided…We achieve meaning through relationships.”

That’s in synch with her child-hood dream – as she wrote in an email to me:

Childhood dream: to not be lonely”

If you haven’t guessed it by now, Penelope is a planner and quite strategic.  She generally has a solid goal and aims to run her career around it.  Her model is so powerful because it’s pre-emptive and keeps her adaptable.

As she summed it up for me: “The most effective way to do a career change – which is what I’ve done every single time – is I’m always working on two careers.  I have one career I’m becoming great at and earning a lot of money because I’m working hard at mastering…and I have another thing that I’m doing which is looking around, experimenting, trying new things, doing a lot of work for free.  …What it is really, is the commitment to permanent self-exploration so that career changing becomes a seamless part of your life. If you don’t do it that way, every time that you change careers you completely disrupt your life.”

As anyone with business sense, Penelope has an exit strategy.  She knows how to get out before she goes in.

Note to self: Work with the end in mind. Incorporate a bridging strategy into your career. Have two things going at once.

What has worked best for her is self-knowledge and self-trust.  She believes that self-knowledge trumps everything. And in spite of her success, she admits to having felt lonely, afraid and out of step with everyone else.  Twenty years later, she now knows that if: ”you’re feeling those things, you’re probably on the right track…”

A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero #5

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click 
here for the full story.)

Move over, Jana has arrived. 

In a 5 feet 5 inches frame, and just over twenty years, this woman has already managed to pack what would take most several lifetimes to accomplish. 

For starters, Jana is more than half way through completing a self-funded medical degree (sans financial aid).  Already she has co-authored a research paper with one of the world’s top neurosurgeons (Dr. Charles Teo). She’s the VP of an executive board of a medical student organization. And she tutors other medical students.

She’s also one of the world’s youngest Bikram Yoga teachers.  And has taught yoga across Australia and around the world.

On the side, Jana plays and writes music and is currently working on a record and training for a marathon.

In her words, her career Nirvana is: ”becoming a surgeon as well as working to change our global healthcare systems.  I want to see medical care become more about education and prevention than drugs and treatment. This is where yoga comes in…”

Jana embodies a hybrid existence.  If you ever meet her, you’d agree that she comes across as ambitious and determined, yet at the same time she’s free-spirited and peaceful.  And if you look close enough, you’ll soon realize that inside her a left and a right brain co-exist in harmony. Like most left-brained doctors, Jana’s rational and factual. Whenever I’ve practiced yoga with her, she has explained, with clinical details, the medical benefits of every pose, and has been very quick to point out when someone’s pose is out of alignment.  Yet, unlike a doctor, she’ll admit that some things have happened in her life by pure chance – without any scientific explanation. Like Bikram Yoga.

She wrote to me: “I met Bikram Choudhury, (the founder of Bikram Yoga) …It was a chance meeting. He looked at me from across the dinner table, called me over and said: ‘You’ll become a yoga teacher. I know more about your life than you do and I can see your life’s path…’”

“A week later I deferred my (medical) degree, found people to take over my apartment…sat my final exams for the session, got my vaccinations and medical health all checked, and left for (Los Angeles) with $1000 in my bank (account) to study to become the youngest Bikram Yoga Teacher to date at that time.”

She goes on to say: “It wasn’t a choice. It was a path. Yogis say that everything has a ‘dharma’.  (The) wind’s dharma is to blow, fire’s dharma is to burn and humans’ dharma is “love, truth and sacrifice”. When you’re living your dharma they say all falls into place and so I think at that time and ever since, things just falling into place means that I’m on the right track, living my dharma, so to speak.”

Note to self: In a new world, unrules are the new rules of success.

More than a schedule, a day in the life of Jana sounds like a rap song where the rapper is left breathless:

“I wake at 5 most days, meditate, teach yoga, do a yoga class, go to clinic which is where I’m a student doctor, leave and teach another yoga class, then go home to study medical and yoga topics and sleep at 12am, get up and do it all again.”

She ends her line of thinking with: “There is a lot to do! I don’t watch television and I don’t think I could tell you the last time I felt like I was ‘wasting time’… Life is efficient…”

Note to self: There is no such thing as an unimportant day.

And how does she manage to lead such an efficient life?

As driven as Jana is, she lives by one mantra – and one mantra alone:

“I know the relative importance of all parts of life and know my health, mental and physical, is number one.”

As a true yogi, she wrote to me: “No matter what path you’re on – for me becoming a doctor – if you don’t have your own health, you have nothing. Like Bikram says: ‘The most important thing in your life is you  – not what you do or what or what you know or what you study or who you love – because without you, there is no your life.’ So having a complimentary practice like yoga, exercise, meditation, should be something you make time for everyday… we should praise, maintain and appreciate our health.”

And sounding like a doctor who has just finished writing a prescription, she explains: “I have so much information about how yoga and meditation lower blood pressure and benefit every system of the body. Since I started (practicing) yoga I have barely had a cold, I sleep less and feel better, I crave better foods and I feel incredible. I want everyone to have this accessible to them before they reach for medications and…fast food. It would save our healthcare system billions if people learned how to balance their lives and their health… not to mention the life years it would save.”

From what she wrote to me, it’s clear that she practices what she preaches:

“Every day that I got home from study, I would think: ‘I’m learning about health, but I have no time or outlet to be truly healthy myself. What am I doing? Even though I am learning. I’m getting fatter and unhealthier and more tired everyday.’ Then I found Bikram Yoga. It gave me the health and energy to study health at university. It was the perfect counterpart that kept me sane in an intellectual world where it is easy to go mad. There were so many times before I found yoga that my medical exams would push me nearly to the edge of a nervous breakdown; often tears and really catastrophic thinking patterns. But now I breeze through with the knowledge of how to be efficient and how to be calm and equanimous.”

Note to self: More than anything else, respect your health.  You’ll last longer. 

In spite of her achievements, Jana is far from perfect.

As she admitted in an email: “I stumbled over a few things on the way to being accepted into medical school. I missed the date of application for medical school when I was in my final year of high school because I had moved out of home, had a turbulent time and was not given guidance on the matter!”

This mishap landed her in a medical science degree for two years before she could transfer to the Bachelor’s of Medicine program. 

Note to self:  So what if at first you don’t get what you want? If you try hard enough, some day you’ll get it.  How badly you want something will determine how hard you work towards it.

True to her self-awareness, she leaves us all with:

“I would say that this multidisciplinary approach has meant I can relate to a lot of people and that I feel very satisfied but I also often feel overworked and like I am never giving enough to each part of my life individually! The solution…the balance…I’m still working on that.”