“If you can’t do something right, then don’t do it at all.” Ouch. This little “old school” saying, often repeated to me by my Daddy, was the basis for my success and my burnout.
Growing up on James Island, I watched my Daddy become a successful football coach (winning the SC State Football Championship for James Island High School in 1968) and having the tremendous respect and loyalty of so many boys and girls that grew up under his leadership. He loved that role and because of that he was successful. I saw him take a hobby of growing camellias and turn that into a passion and religion. He grew them (over 600 plants), cultivated them, won awards for them, helped create Camellia Societies about them, became an expert on them and was known for them. He was a competitor but more importantly he loved his camellias and it showed. And that’s why he was so successful.
So while I was given a standard to do my best, that “old school” saying came with limitations. I was less apt to try something if I didn’t think I could succeed. I worried about failure instead of understanding that failure brings new knowledge and growth. As I maneuvered through my career and corporate America, I worked beyond hard, often sacrificing a balanced life for a hardworking, successful career.
And while my Daddy was showing me that when you love what you do you will be successful, you will have fun, and you will come alive; the tapes running in my head were “only do it if you can succeed”. Wow, I missed the point completely. So when he was frail, and not doing well, and my work asked more of me in regards to time, travel and distance from him, and he said to me “you need to quit”, I thought he was losing it. He always wanted me to work, sometimes asking, “did you get a raise yet?”. How could I quit? I had worked hard to get to a place of …working even harder (?). Shortly after that conversation, he passed away. And he left me with the best gift I have ever gotten.
The gift of purpose. And I never saw it coming.
My Daddy loved his family home. As rental property for the last 30 years, it was run down and I was embarrassed by it. We would ride by and he would say how much he loved that house, and my husband and I would just look at each other. He saw something we didn’t see. We saw a run-down mess, he saw memories and love. So when he passed away, and we had the chance to renovate the home that my great grandparents built, and that he grew up in, and that my grandmother grew up in, I had a purpose. No experience, no reason to believe I could do this or would be successful at it. But I knew this would be something he would have done if he could, and it gave me courage and purpose. Courage to quit my job and retire. And the purpose to restore the home back to it’s original single family home and to bring another generation (the fourth) into this family home.
So (with the encouragement of my husband and lots of girlfriends), I jumped all in and did something completely out of character, embarked on something I had no idea how to do. And amazing things started happening. The fear, uncertainty and doubt of the project never showed up, at least in my mind. I only saw the positive, the potential, and the purpose. People helped me along the way, new friends and family connections were made, I gave myself permission to try things I have never done, and I learned some new lessons.
- Go for it
- Be patient with yourself
- It’s ok to fail – because even with failure there is growth
- Ask for help
- Stop and smell the flowers
- Run towards the things that make you come alive
So now I am looking for that next purpose. I am casting a wide net to see what I love to do, what else I will be passionate about, doing things that I like to do but may be marginal at (like growing camellias). I am exploring and seeking to uncover my gifts. As authors Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro outline in their book, Whistle While You Work: Heeding Your Calling, answering the following simple questions can reveal your calling and lead to new realms of success and fulfillment.
- What gifts do I give to others naturally?
- What gifts do I have that I most enjoy?
- What gifts do I have that I give most often?
Because our own individual gifts are what make us come alive and “what the world needs is people who have come alive,” Howard Thurman.