Monday was a big birthday. For the last few months of my 40s I’ve been thinking about all the people I’ve known over the years who power down in their 50s. I will be powering up. I’m only getting started.
Those “freedom 55” commercials when I was a kid told us that work sucks, so go do the thing you love at 55. The sell: you don’t have to wait until retirement at 65, you can leave that awful job 10 years earlier. You can be free of work.
I long ago decided that whenever I am able, I want to be doing the work I love, that energizes and challenges me, and feels meaningful. There are times when I do things I don’t feel like doing, or took a job because I needed the money, but what I look for now is work that aligns with my soul, what I feel called to do.
And so, over these holidays that have just wrapped up, in my last days of my 40s, I woke one morning with a clear realization: I am in the middle of my “work life” and I plan to work for 30+ more years.
I am in the middle of my work life and I plan to work for 30+ more years.
Over the last 30 years, from twenty, my “work” on the surface changed many times. I went to school, had a few jobs, and then set up my own consulting company. And while consulting I started this blog and wrote a book. I expect what my work looks like over the next 30 years will shift too, as I keep learning more about where I am going.
I’m not signing up to do the exact same thing for 30 years. I’m signing up to be activated and energized by my work. I’m signing up to grow with my work. It’s also a good test: On the whole, do I like the work I’m doing enough to do it for 30 years? If not, I’m not doing the right work.
I’m signing up to be activated and energized by my work. I’m signing up to grow with my work.
I invite the challenge of doing the work necessary to notice the work I want to do and do it. I am not powering down at 50. I am powering up by actively choosing to be more ME.
- Sending my book, Nest City, out in to the world (Edmonton launch, April 18, 2020)
- Writing more (blogs, and I can feel another book coming)
- Teaching (Nest City ideas)
- Working with citizens and cities to support their efforts to hear themselves, in small and large ways
- Working with citizens and cities who desire to discern where they are going, and how to best move in that direction
- Clarity around the work to which I say YES (and no)
- Clarity about the energy I invest in professional and personal relationship (hint: I’m looking for emotional maturity and choice to learn and grow, even when it’s tough)
- Playing big and sharing explicitly what I think, feel and see in ways that energize me
Over the last few years, as challenges have popped up in life, I’ve experienced the fear in others when I play big. When I left the big job and started my own company, some expressed worries (theirs, not mine) about my livelihood. When my marriage ended and I headed out into life without a spouse, some were upset and distraught in ways even I was not distraught (their upset, not mine). When I landed a publisher for my book a dear one told me my writing is shitty (their upset, not mine).
I’ve learned that when I play big there are significant forces to stop me. There are some people close to me, and others further afield, that desperately want me to play small. Some are explicit, while others are insidious, telling me nice things, while sliding in wee jabs here and there. (They aren’t courageous enough to acknowledge that their upset is their own.) Even more insidious is how these external voices collude with my own inner critic voices, working very hard to convince me to keep my head down and play small.
I’ve learned that when I play big there are significant forces to stop me.
In many ways that count, I’ve not been putting my head down. I’ve made big choices for myself and stuck with them despite forces (in others and myself) to have me shrink back to what I was. A few desperately need me to shrink because they are not comfortable with my growth and the accountability I ask of them. All I know is that their need for me to shrink is their need, whatever the reason—and I most palpably feel it. The result: we no longer have close relationships because to do so means I have to shrink to meet them in their no-growing zone.
Choose not the sterility of safety, but brave space to live into where we are going.
I choose relationships where we are honest with each other and choose not the sterility of safety, but brave space to live into where we are going. I choose relationships where our bigness is welcomed, not threatening. I choose relationships where we hold each other accountable for the consequences of our actions (harm happens, intended or not.) I choose relationships where we each are doing the emotional labour to be our best selves. I choose relationships where we remain open-hearted to the mistakes we all make. Me included.
I’m powering up.
Do want to power up with me? Who are you powering up to be?