My name is Mike Vardy, and it took me a long time to get here.
Where’s here, you ask? I could say that it’s WorkAwesome, which would be true. But WorkAwesome for me isn’t just the name of this site – it’s the space I refer to as “here.” The place where work and life meet and coexist. When they flow together, you’re “here.” And it’s probably closer to your childhood than where many people are at right now.
Remember the sense of wonder you had when you were a kid? Dreams weren’t just possible – they were going to come true. You could be anything you wanted be and it didn’t interrupt the pattern of your life. Everything flowed in and out of each other. But as you grew, your responsibilities did as well. That sense of wonder became more of a sense of wondering why you spent so much time “fooling around” when you could have been doing something worthwhile. Life eventually becomes just another day at the office.
(By the way, if this isn’t you – I mean, if it REALLY isn’t you – then simply read on for the enjoyment of the article. For those of you who this relates to in any way, shape or form – let’s continue…)
Getting Off Track
I fell into the trap. I wanted to be a creative artist growing up. I spent countless hours on stage in high school, wrote endlessly (my journal turned into an ongoing sci-fi serial that my teacher couldn’t wait to read), sang at the top of my lungs and loved every minute of it. Then the wheels fell off. I got caught up in earning money – I got “creatively lazy.” Following your passion – and following through on it – is hard work. I just wasn’t up to the task at the time. So I simply stopped.
I went to work for a large wholesale outlet. I worked my way up to temporary supervisor, then got a transfer to the West Coast to help open another warehouse. Six months later, I was the manager of two departments in yet another new building, working 18 hour days as we prepared for the opening. I was making decent money, had great benefits, and was on my way up the corporate ladder. I was important. But not fulfilled.
Sure, I was productive. I was excellent at monitoring and keeping up with my to-do lists. My superiors were impressed with the color-coded highlighting system I used to keep track of my progress. With me, things simply didn’t fall through the cracks. That was important. But I wasn’t thrilled.
The Missing Ingredient
A really great meal only happens when all the ingredients are in the right place, in the right moment and at the right time. You could have an amazing Italian dinner, but if you’re not in the mood for it, it just won’t be amazing to you. If you’re up for French cooking, but there’s a touch too much salt – it just doesn’t seem right. A delectable apple strudel could be sitting in front of you, but if you’re not hungry for dessert it really doesn’t matter now…does it?
I seemed to have my house in order. But something was missing. I just needed to be reminded of it. Now, I wasn’t able to jog my own memory; it took a good friend who was unaware of the impact his suggestion would have on me. However, he knew I’d be good at it, and for that I’m forever grateful.
My friend took me to an improv class.
Juggling = Struggling
That was it. I was back. I went to more and more classes. I became part of the troupe. I exercised my comedic muscles and – much like muscle memory when you lift weight and exercise – they came back very quickly. I became enthralled with every opportunity I had to perform. I had rediscovered my passion of creating and making people laugh – and I was good at it.
As time went on, my career became less of a focal point for me. It suffered as a result. I’d lost interest – it wasn’t where my head was at. I’d been so driven by my career that once I started to show interest in other areas of my life, I was unable to keep my head in the game. I was never a good juggler.
I had to make a choice – or had someone help me make the choice. Ultimately, I ended up stepping down as manager and left the company a short time afterward (and perhaps in a future article entitled How To Exit Gracefully, I’ll show you how to and how not to do this), moving on to eventually land my current position. Happily, my current job falls somewhere in between my past managerial role and involvement in the creative arts. I’m back on track with my productivity – color-coding and all (both in software and “paper-ware”) – and with that sense of work-life-joy balance I’ve found more opportunities have come my way on all fronts. While others may say that they’re on solid ground, I prefer to be on liquid ground…because liquid flows better.
The path I took may not have been straight – or easy and without risk – but it definitely has been rewarding. You don’t juggle as much when you’re happy. Therefore, you don’t struggle as much, either.
Working Awesome = Awesome Work
I’m not suggesting you need to go out and quit your day job so you can finally realize your lifelong dream of becoming a beat poet or start professionally gambling (although the aforementioned friend of mine could just do the latter in a few years – he’s that good!). What I am saying is that you need to find the joy in what you do to do it well. While you’re busy looking for that joy, here’s a few tips on how to prepare yourself once you do find it:
1. Find a productivity system and stick with it for 90 days.
Don’t deviate from it. (Mind you, don’t go crazy and write things like “sleep” and “eat” in it, either.) The longer you take to choose a method, the longer you’ll take to become the method. You don’t want productivity to become your hobby. The field is crowded enough – and I don’t want any more competition!
2. Make time for yourself to follow through.
You need to do this to get better not only at whatever it is your passionate about, but you also need to do this to get better at following through. Schedule it – and much like your productivity system of choice – don’t deviate from it.
3. Enjoy the ride.
You can’t revel in awesomeness if you don’t stop to be part of it. If you find this hard to do, simply remember the following quote from a very wise man:
“Sometimes when I get sad I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story.” – Barney Stinson
Smart man, that Stinson.
The Bigger Question
You’ve read my list of suggestions, so you should be all set. That is, unless you can’t find any joy in what you’re doing. And if you can’t find that joy, riddle me this…
What are doing and why are you doing it?
I expect that answer on my virtual desk by the next time we meet in cyberspace. Until then, remember: Inaction speaks louder than words.