This morning, at my favorite diner, I ran into a family I had recently helped through a time of loss. They invited me their table (which is why I am late with my writing this morning) and we had a wonderful hour catching up, talking family and local history. When we got up to leave, there were hugs all around. They thanked me again. “You are like family.” I told them, and they are. It was a good morning, a reminder why I do what I do.
I left my corporate world in 2011, without a clear idea of what would be next. I had spent a 30 year career with companies that designed and built Broadcast and large scale A/V facilities. It was a career that had moved steadily from an inside support position, to ever larger responsibilities and ever larger customers. M clients, by the time I left, were mostly TV Networks, Major Universities, Fortune 500 companies and Sports Arenas across the country. I had, I believed, an impact.
My life is smaller now. I pastor a small rural Methodist church in Vermont. I spend a couple of days a week as a spiritual counselor for Bayada Hospice. I coach an exclusive clientele. I teach a couple of on-line courses. I paint and sell a few paintings.
Back then, if you watched Television, I probably helped make it possible. Today, mostly, you never hear about the work I do, unless I mention it in passing. It’s a smaller world, by far.
When I left the Broadcast world, I immediately stopped hearing from most of the clients and customers and manufacturers that I worked with for so many years. Never mind that we had built many, many multimillion dollar projects together, or worked together for years and years. My major impact, it seemed, was the dollars we had exchanged and gathered together. I don’t regret those years. Not at all. I had a blast doing what I did. Few people had as much fun working as I did. I was never bored, always challenged, always learning. I worked with some great people.
My smaller world is different. I impact fewer people. But far more deeply. And when whatever brings us together is done, that impact resonates and is remembered for years and years. It runs deep. From time to time the woman I love will ask me if I miss the work I did, and do I think about going back.
I don’t and I don’t.
I don’t think there is anything special about my journey. I think most of us, when we are younger, are seeking a certain kind of growth and impact. We want more. We think bigger. Moving up is important. It is part of that age and time in our lives as we are raising families.
As we age, we start to see life differently. Relationships take on a different meaning. Depth have more value than breadth in our lives. I’ve seen it in my own life, and in some of my coaching clients, who worked hard for certain goals in their life, only to realize that oh-so-typical success story still had something missing. And what was missing was not the trappings of life, but depth.
Let me just say this to you. If you are at that place in life, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t think you have to blow your life up. You can make the migration over time, slowly, and not suffer through it, but thrive through it. There is no need to throw out your old version of success to get to something deeper.
My own migration took a decade to be where it is now. And it was a migration, not a leap off a cliff. Don’t be afraid of it. Simply look it in the eye and start to look for the places where you can find that depth. Give it time. Lean into the personal. Let the flashy trappings of success slowly go.
In its own way, my own migration has been as exciting as any deal or project or new company started that I have ever done. Smaller in some ways, but bigger in others. And worth the risk of changing gears in mid-life. I was never unhappy with my work, but I can look back and realize that changing gears as my soul changed was the smartest thing I have ever done.
So, if there is a vague dissatisfaction with an otherwise successful life going on in your head and heart right now, don’t fight it. Listen to it. Examine it. Lean into it. Trust it. And move into it. Slowly. There are paths and if it is depth you seek, you can find your way.
And with it, happiness.
Off my soapbox,