If I paid you big $$$ to stare at a wall... would you?
Here's my story of refusing golden handcuffs and striving to "stay hungry and stay foolish."
Once upon a time...
I was an engineer with a cushy job.
And every day...
I created software in an office park, in a chair that squeaked.
And every day...
Our team heard the same strange word:
We made them. Adjusted them. Moved them. Then we adjusted them some more.
But were human beings put on this Earth to create widgets?
What else are we supposed to do?
But it wasn't always this way...
I remembered a story from middle school:
The principal called me into his office. A lunch lady accused me of calling her a name, but she must have confused me with someone else. I had to apologize.
So I hatched a plan.
"This Valentine's Day," I wrote in an email to friends, "pack your lunch. Don't buy it from the cafeteria. This is a lunch strike. Forward this to everyone you know."
And a few days later, hundreds of students packed their lunch.
And I remembered another story, about a club I created in college:
We had 150 members, and our mission was to "playfully spread joie de vivre and enliven public space."
One day, we tossed ideas around, and our minds began to speed up. Somebody said we should do a flashmob. Another person said, "make it absurd - worship something big!"
Finally we all decided to organize a flash mob where people would temporarily 'worship' a fountain while chanting nonsense Gregorian-style.
When our student newspaper asked, "What makes a person agree to do something so... insane?" an astute observer – no doubt a graduate student – replied:
"A slew of people seemingly worshipping the fountain can be read as the requirement for all students to bow down before the great phallic, ejaculating symbol of a patriarchal university."
Dr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
And I had other memories too:
Receiving a Young Innovator award from the MacArthur Foundation
Interviewing over 50 community leaders along a chain of referrals
Being paid to speak at universities throughout North America
So why had I resigned to widgets?
Meanwhile back in the office park...
Every evening I read books. As many as possible. And I tracked my investment on large boards.
Every 3 months I also set 30 personal goals in 6 areas:
Then I put these goals on another enormous board. A friend and I discussed them weekly. And finally, at the end of every quarter, we reflected on our progress and what we learned. Then I made 30 new goals.
Rinse and repeat for 3 years.
That was in the evenings.
During the days I still sat in my squeaky chair making... widgets.
But then one day...
What? Why are we wasting our potential on this?
I looked at a coworker's screen.
I decided not to stay much longer. So I put a picture of a surfer next to my computer, and I continued saving money.
Then I sold everything and moved to the Middle East...
To reboot. Completely.
(And to see what Fiddler on the Roof meant by "Traditiooooooooooon!")
I studied and spoke a new language.
I studied ancient texts.
And I surfed in the Mediterranean. It was sweet.
But then one day...
I was walking around the Old City of Jerusalem.
The sky was sunny and blue. Crisp air. The buildings and streets made of the same light brown stone.
And all around me were...
Thousands and thousands of fervently religious Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
Each one lipping their own sacred scriptures. Each one consumed by their own ideology.
And each one actively trying to shut out the modern world, a suffering hero in their own self-orchestrated purgatories. The more obsessive and exclusionary the more their peers called them pious.
And that's when I realized...
These might be the wackos who blow up the world!
I felt claustrophobic.
And it was around that time that a friend heard about my comprehensive and determined tracking of goals and reading.
"You'd make a great coach," he said.
I missed America and its expansive sense of possibility, exploration, and adventure.
I missed its openness to try new things — rather than merely repeat historical scripts.
So I went back to America...
And became a professional coach.
I knew how I wanted to contribute to the world: Nurture the next generation of leaders (and learn from them). People who chart the middle path -- between religious fundamentalism on the one hand and complete relativism on the other. Pragmatic idealists.
No more widgets!
I threw myself in... full-time.
So I posted this to Facebook:
Friends responded, and a few months later testimonials rolled in:
But still, it wasn't easy!
I kept trial-ing… I kept error-ing…
I started to figure out how to earn a modest living doing this.
And now a few years later...
I know how challenging it is to feel like you have a gift to give — and a responsibility to share it.
I know how challenging it can be to go off on your own.
When everyone is telling you to stay in that office park and collect that six figure salary...
Don't do it!
Are you an entrepreneur with BIG DREAMS -- like Elon Musk, Dean Kamen, or Paul Newman?
Are you solving GLOBAL PROBLEMS -- like Buckminster Fuller, Stewart Brand, or Albert Schweitzer?
And are you guided by your HEART -- like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, or Fred Rogers (yes that Mr. Rogers)?
If you answered yes…