Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gives you pause.

Earlier today a friend and I were IM-ing about some work issue or another, and as we digressed, she mentioned that she'd volunteered at Ground Zero yesterday, helping families preserve cherished items their loved ones had left behind that fateful day. Gave her pause, she said. For one thing, it really put into perspective the budget cutting stuff we were talking about. Put in context, a few bucks for a multi-billion dollar corporation didn't mean squat. Definitely isn't one of those things that you'd put in your obituary.

Now, I guess that's not all that surprising to hear. Life and death being more important than business -- it's a fairly common sentiment, any day of the year. Nonetheless, it got me thinking.

I've sat in countless business meetings where people avoid the really difficult dilemmas in favor of picking apart and "solving" the easier stuff. You know -- rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It's a very human tendency that makes us feel more in control. The big issue, well, nobody could have fixed that, but at least we decided what color to paint the hallway!

When you think about it, though, even the toughest of the business dilemmas are a lot easier to suss out than the really important things in life. Maybe that's why so many people get so out of whack and lose balance in their lives.

Consider it. Figuring out how to shave a half million dollars off a billion dollar budget is a hell of a lot easier than finding the one true love of your life. And all of the chair swapping of some pointless office decentralization is phenomenally less messy than figuring out what you're meant to be doing with your life. And really, anything you run into during a typical day at the office is a lot simpler than living each day as honestly, ethically and authentically as you can. Perhaps that's why so many people avoid the real life stuff in favor of work.

I know I'm not saying anything all that profound, and certainly there are others who could say it a lot more powerfully than I. We've all heard the bromides about living each day to the fullest, and how many of us pledged to see September 11 as a lesson or a message to live more authentically? But six years later, how many of us truly have?

I guess it all comes down to courage. It's a lot easier to be the person some company pays you to be for 50 hours a week, or the person that your family or your friends or teachers say you should be, rather than the person you were born to be. It's sure a lot easier to adopt someone else's mistaken view of who you are, versus trying to discover for yourself.

Then again, maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves when we're trying to work it out. Growing takes time, and it does take courage: courage that often doesn't come easily. Stop making pronouncements and just be.

And hope for the best.

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