Don't Wish for This "Misfortune"

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The process of finding authenticity is a very individual and internal one, and it can easily be obscured by having too many “advantages.”

Joanne just picked up a couple of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, for me at a yard sale.  It’s a massively big book, so every night I’ve been reading through some of the short essays.

Thoreau said this:  “I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.”

Frequently, I see “advantages” given early in life that misdirect a person and leave him/her with a strong desire to change courses in their 40s or 50s.  The best medical, dental or law schools cannot provide enough benefit to provide a fulfilling career path if that path is not a match with the unique gifts of the person involved.  

I have a friend who, while a gifted singer and performer, has never developed these or any other talents as he is busy protecting the money he inherited from his father.  He’s too focused on that to develop his own talent.  A current client was “given” the best education money could buy, including medical school, and now at age 52 realizes he has never pursued his real “calling.” The process of finding authenticity is a very individual and internal one and can easily be hidden by having too many “advantages.”

I was raised in a poor farming family in rural Ohio.  Not quite “born in the open pasture” but almost.  My dad managed to provide for our family as a volunteer pastor and a pretty good farmer.  My inheritance was a strong work ethic, seeing an example of integrity and character, a 62-yr marriage, and being called a “wise son” by my dad.  That’s enough for me.  Beyond that, it was up to me to find my path and live it out.

Expecting the government or corporations to provide fulfilling jobs is to reverse the process of finding one’s “vocation.”  A true vocation helps us grow as individuals while we meet our own needs and address the needs of those around us.  To have someone “give” you a job is likely to short-circuit the process of finding your “calling.”  Believe you can structure your work around your goals, meaningful relationships, and your dreams and passions.  Look inward to give shape to the work that is fitting for you and the application will appear.

Expect change and workplace volatility to enhance your chances of creating meaningful work.  I find that it is often in the midst of change that we find our true direction.  

Thoreau adds:  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.  With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”  

The “consistency” and artificial path created by a big inheritance or winning the lottery may in fact foster a “little mind.”  Don’t wish that for yourself or inflict that on your children.

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