THE POWER OF OBSERVATION
When you are unemployed it is possible to enhance your powers of observation, due largely to the fact that you are no longer narrowly focused on your career. Testing these newly amplified powers requires perseverance and an ability to divorce yourself from thinking about your past job and allowing anger to shorten your perspective. Allow yourself to expand and let your senses absorb your surroundings (god, this sounds like one of those self-help books, doesn’t it?). You will see more things to which you can apply your sense of wonder, some worthwhile, many absurd.
Recently, I was walking past a dumpster and noticed a box sticking out of the top of the partially open lid. It wasn’t that the box had colorful graphics or an attractive color, but rather, it had a message that drew my attention. On the box it said, Do It Yourself Success Kit. Wow! What an opportunity for a suddenly unemployed person with a newly enhanced sense of awareness. The possibilities fairly leapt through my brain. Could this be a sign? Could it be the proverbial message in the bottle that we all seek?
Carefully, I approached the dumpster. Glancing about, I made sure that no one who knew me would see me rooting through the trash in a public receptacle (There’s a classic episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza is surprised by his future mother-in-law while retrieving and eating a chocolate éclair from the kitchen trash. I didn’t want to make something like that a real-life experience for myself). I carefully rescued the cardboard from its companions and looked inside. Nothing. There wasn’t even a company name that would give me a reason to search the Internet or the telephone directories for the true meaning of this enclosure for the salvation of the unemployed. I regretfully returned the box to its erstwhile home and continued on my way, pondering the possibilities. Perhaps there was a meaning to this exercise if simply applied my sense of wonder to it.
I have always prided myself on being a consummate do-it-yourselfer. I change the oil in the car. I repair furniture that has loose glue joints. I build shelves in closets. I repainted the house. Why couldn’t I create my own Do It Yourself Success Kit?
Returning home, I applied myself to the task (well, I am unemployed, and we are allowed to do things like this) with a yellow legal pad and a number 2 wooden pencil. At the top of the page I wrote “Do It Yourself Success Kit” and then sat and pondered for about a half-hour.
What is success? Is it making more money than you can spend in a lifetime? Is it receiving adulation from the multitudes? Is it running faster or throwing a ball better than anyone else in the game? Is it creating something that will make the memory of you, as an individual, live on beyond your allotted span? Or, is it finding your own happiness? I realized that personal success is based upon having a goal and that a Do It Yourself Success Kit would need a goal as the key element.
This process brought back memories of junior high guidance counselors, college career workshops, countless career seminars, written statements of interest and aspiration (a new one each time I was transferred to a different corporate division) and, finally, recent outplacement workshops we unemployed types were required to attend. What the hell was my goal?
Pondering for another half-hour (try doing that while working for a hard-nosed divisional vice-president!) I came to the conclusion that my long-range goal was to be happy (I wrote it down) and that my immediate goal was to find some kind of employment that would put food on the table. These two goals, at times, seem mutually exclusive. Would I be willing to sacrifice my happiness for money?
I began to write down things that made me happy and was amazed at the length of the list. Then, I began to write down things I know that I can do that might possibly make some money, or possible employers who might hire me based upon my skills. The list of money makers was lamentably shorter than the list of things that made me happy. For instance, I don’t really think that a ski resort would hire me because I really enjoy skiing – besides, it’s pretty seasonal when you live in Pennsylvania.
For some reason, I held the lists up and placed them side-by-side. A little light went on and I committed them to text on the computer – Column A and Column B – and printed it out. Then, I took my trusty pencil (Ever notice how anyone who ever worked for a newspaper or a magazine prefers a pencil to a pen?) and began to draw lines from the happy items to the moneymakers/employment items – just like those matching tests in grade school. I was surprised at the number of connections, multiple connections in some cases, which I could make between being happy and making money. Admittedly, some of them were real stretches, but it was a good exercise in beginning to make my own Do It Yourself Success Kit.
Try it. It may not get you a job, but it will help you believe in yourself.