Beyond Unemployment: Re-Constructing Employment

For 24 years I worked with religious dedication to my job. It was dutiful toil punctuated with moments of enlightenment and inspiration. Then I was unceremoniously fired.  

One warm, sunny morning in 2007, I entered my office and found myself on the receiving end of a push from the universe. I was given a box with what were thought to be my personal possessions and a one sentence letter explaining that I was no longer employed. Dusting off the brutality of the moment, I felt a rush of relief as I walked to my car. I had broken free from the bonds of formal employment.

It took time for one reaction to rise above the other. Some days the fear of how I was going to provide for my family and the carelessness of my employer’s action took center stage.  Other days I celebrated my freedom and the weight of so many responsibilities off my shoulders.

Finally, it was the something coming alive in me that defined my next steps.

Stable employment had been many things for me: a necessity, a rite of passage, a proving ground, a social arena, and a place to develop and mature. It was so many worthy things that I didn’t fully take note of losing myself along the way. Perhaps not unlike a person who needs the institution of marriage so deeply that they tolerate a climate where their soul is lost and starved.

As the developer and director of a $1.4 million department in a community based social service agency, I knew I could build projects. We never had the luxury of a fixed income source for anything we did, so I learned the key ingredients of keeping money flowing through a mission: only set out to do things you truly believe in; pay close attention to the context you find yourself in to determine what is needed; listen to a thousand voices around you not just a few; be vigilant and responsible with the details; inspire and support the team who delivers the goods; and speak frequently and passionately about your mission.

I decided now was the time to get behind my own dreams and apply this same framework to myself and my life work, not just my job. FullThought: Conversation and Decision was born.

It is a leap of faith and I am still in mid air.

It is an uphill battle daily; there is not even an established industry for who I am and what I am doing. With FullThought  I work to teach and make contagious practices of focused, mindful conversation to tap the genius in our families, on work teams, and in executive decisions. It is path to solve problems more efficiently and to learn to live together in a better way. I call myself a consultant. For now that works, but I don’t believe that box will ultimately define what we are able to accomplish with this mission when I am able to build a team around me.

It has been more than 4 years now. The loaves and fishes approach to life is working. I have reclaimed what freedom means to me. I am doing work I am called to do. I seek out and keep the company of people I find inspiring. I set my own hours. I tend to myself and my family without defending myself to anyone. 

It started out as unemployment. It has become a personal revolution and when I look around I see many others exploring these frontiers. It is beginning to look more like the wave of a cultural revolution. It is terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I am eager to see how long I can ride the wave and where it takes me.

(Re-published from my blog February 2011.)

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