#55 – About Playing Jazz, Taking Risks and Living an Adventure

Okay today my question is #55:  what one thing do you really want to do that you have never done? What’s holding you back?  I pulled it yesterday as I always do, so that I could think about it.

My first thought was, “Hmmm, nothing!” Pretty much every time I want to try something, I do.  Then I remembered that I used to want to jump out of a plane and I haven’t.  But the reality is, I don’t really want to.  I’m afraid of heights and I really, really don’t want to jump out of a plane.  In fact, once I signed up for a charity jumping out of a plane event, and collected all the pledges and then had to give them back because I changed my mind.  Now I have two new knees and I am not even allowed to parachute.  Whew!  Thank god!

Then I remembered my big dream.  My B.A.D., my BIG AUDACIOUS DREAM!  I grew this dream in 2000 when I was in Maui.  I loved Maui.  It was so touristy and everyone was transient and very friendly and welcoming.  I remember sitting on my balcony and coming up with a wonderful dream, my B.A.D.

I decided that I wanted to go to someplace kind of like Maui.  It would have to be warm, touristy, with lots of transient people.  But not as expensive as Maui.  Some place like the Keys in Florida, or maybe St. Croix.  Some place where people go to get away from their history.  Some place where people don’t ask questions.  Perhaps Spain or Portugal.  Or South America.  Or Cuba, I love Cuba.  Some place where they speak Spanish or Portugiese.  Some place safe and friendly.

I want to take a ‘time out’.  A time out from my real life and my job.  On my way from my real life to my new life—let’s call it Portugal for now because that’s my most likely place at the moment—I would stop and become a new person.  I would change my hair, my clothes and my name.  Not legally of course; I would just start calling myself something new like ‘Jazmin’ – Jazz for short.  Back in 2000 I thought I would get dreadlocks but not now.

I would go to my new life for anywhere from four to six months and become Jazz for short.  I would become a painter who paints large abstracts to music.  I would become a new person—outgoing, outrageous, fun, uninhibited.  I would become Jazz and I would meet new people and create a new—short—life.

I would spend my days painting and my evenings being a social butterfly, sitting in the town square, dancing, drinking, entertaining my new friends.  I would keep a journal of my new adventures.  It would be fun!  Scary! But fun.

Then at the end of my time, I would come home and become me again. I would publish my journal and call it ‘Playing Jazz’.

Of course that was before ‘Eat Pray Love’ and ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’ took my idea—kind of.

Now when I came up with this idea, I wasn’t a painter.  Now I am.  Now I paint great big abstracts, sometimes to music.  I’ve even gone to St. Pete’s in Florida and played this role for a few minutes at a time.  I guess I’m practising.

So why haven’t I done it?  I’m scared.  I think I’m too old.  My original story would have to change because of my advancing age.  And my son is very opposed.  He doesn’t understand why I need to take on the Jazz persona.  Why can’t I just go and have a vacation in Portugal?  He’s afraid that I will die over there and they won’t know who I am.  I’ve tried to reassure him that I’ll still be me; I will just be called Jazz.

This past spring, I was talking to someone about my Jazz idea and she was all excited and encouraging as people always are when I share it.  Her enthusiasm was contagious and when I got home I looked into a self-funded leave.  That would certainly be possible.  But now, things are changing at work and it probably isn’t possible.

Someday I may still go and play Jazz.  When I solve the questions:  where to go? What to live on? Where to live?  Am I too old?  What language should I learn in preparation?

Jazz isn’t dead yet.  She’s just hiding under a rock.

#51 – About Retirement and Money and Planning

I’d probably be bored anyway

Today I have pulled question #51:  If retirement was not an option and you knew you’d be working for the rest of your life, what would you do differently right now?  This is an interesting question to pick right now because I am in a position to be making this decision right now.

I have been self-employed for a good part of my working life.  All of my other employment have been contract or have lasted no more than five years each for various reasons, sometimes because I got bored and moved on and sometimes because of internal changes and layoffs.  Six years ago, I had the opportunity to get a job with the government and I decided that this time would be different!  This time I would stick it out for at least ten years so that I could receive the full benefits package and retire, if not on easy street, at least just around the corner from it.  I was determined.

Now I, more than most, should know that there is no such thing as job security.  I’ve been a career coach since 1981 and in 1994 I had the contract to provide transitions workshops to employees of the very government I am now working for—in the same building.  So when people say that a government job is secure, I scoff.

To my credit, I never completely close other doors, so over the past six years, I’ve written four books and worked half-heartedly at developing other streams of income.  But it was half-heartedly because I really did think I was going to last for ten years.  And after all, I live in Canada where we have a pretty good safety net.

Now it turns out that the branch of the government I work for is being divested and at the very least I’ll be working for someone else, probably.  So much for the great government benefit plan.  So much for sticking it out for ten years.  So now I am seriously thinking about what my options are and recognizing that retirement, as in sitting on the porch in my rocking chair, probably won’t happen.  That’s okay because I don’t have a front porch or a rocking chair, and I’d probably be bored pretty fast anyway. In fact, I was planning to go to university and get a degree in fine arts.  I have even been working on my portfolio since I only have four years left of work.  So much for that!

So I have picked up my pace a bit.  I have written a new book.  I am developing a package that will be available this fall.  I know that my biggest challenge if I want to grow my business will be growing my list so I’m using a variety of means of doing that.  I have upped my mortgage payments with the hope that it will be paid off before I retire.  I am breathing new life into some old networks so that I can get more consulting contracts.

But what I am not going to do is worry.  That is a useless waste of energy and it makes me listless.  I don’t have to worry really.  I have a lot of options available to me and the better I can stay focused on that, the better off I’ll be.  Actually I’m working on a new book about this very subject—dealing with change in chaotic times.  It’s called, Spread Your Wings and Start Walking and it will be about scenario planning.  This is just going to be hands-on research for my book, that’s all.

#39 About Choices, Decisions and Fear

Question 39 is ‘Do you ever second guess yourself? Which one do you usually go with—the first or second thought? Does that usually turn out for the best or should you perhaps rethink your strategy?’

First or second?  How about third, fourth, fifth …and so on?  I’m a Libra.  That’s what Libras do.  I can argue all sides of an issue and still not make up my mind.

I used to work as part of a team made up of nothing but Libras.  Our team meetings were a hoot.  We would all start off with our own opinions and then argue loudly and heatedly and end up with everyone on the opposite side by the end of the meeting.  But we all loved each other and it was actually great fun…until we got a new boss who was a Taurus.  But that’s a whole different question.  I’m pretty sure I have one about worst bosses ever.

I have heard that, when doing a multiple choice quiz, you should always go with your first thought.  Sounds like a good rule and certainly one that would make test-taking easier.

But life isn’t always that simple and as a career coach I have seen people suffering from ‘paralysis by analysis’.  They cannot make up their minds and end up doing nothing.   Sometimes people are immobilized because they just see so many options.  Sometimes they can’t see all the options that are available to them.  But either way, making a decision is scary because people are so afraid of making the WRONG choice.

Well I have a solution.  Here we go:

1.  Remember, you cannot predict the future.  All you can do is make a decision based on what you know and the resources you have available right now.  You have to accept that ‘right now’ is a moment in time and that after you make the decision all kinds of things might change.  But if you made the best choice you could based on ‘right now’, let go and don’t beat yourself when things change.

2.  Do your research and then stop and make the frikken decision! Don’t research endlessly.  Do the best research you can and then make the decision based on what you know ‘right now’.  Over-researching is a sure route to ‘paralysis by analysis’.

3. Be open minded and list all the options you can think of.  Don’t limit yourself and the possibilities

4. Don’t bother with pros and cons.  Focus on the pros for each option.  People like to make lists of pros and cons.  I know I used to do it too.  The problem with pros and cons is that it sets up an expectation that there are good choices and bad choices.  When you don’t know what the future will bring, you are really just arbitrarily labelling and scaring yourself in the process.  Instead use a technique introduced by Susan Jeffers in her book, ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’.  I’ve used this for years in my career coaching practice and I have to attest that it does take away some of the fear associated with making a decision.  Here’s how it works:  list all the options across the top of the page and then list the good things about each option under that option.

5.  When you’ve come up with all your options and listed the good things about each one, count them up.  The option with the most pros—wins!

6.  Remember, you sometimes don’t have to choose just one.  Sometimes, you can see that one option is the most loved and has the most pros but it’s not possible right now.  Sometimes, you can see that one option is best ‘right now’ but that you can work towards the most-loved and best option so that you can pursue it at a later date.

Using this process has been a real help for me in making decisions.  Give it a try.

My basic philosophy is ‘lighten up’.  Life is an unfolding.  You allow one opportunity to unfold and then others that are completely out of sight suddenly appear and offer a whole new path for you to explore.