A damned fine question

An artist asked the gallery owner if there had been any interest in his paintings that were currently on display.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” replied the gallery owner. “The good news is that a gentleman inquired about your work and wondered whether it would appreciate in value after your death. When I told him it would, he bought all fifteen of your paintings.”

“That’s great!” exclaimed the artist. “So what’s the bad news?”

“The man was your doctor.”


Had my haircut yesterday by a bubbly, happy, scintillating lady we’ll call “Jill” who was just so full of life and energy that she was a genuine pleasure to deal with.  We were talking about how she works so hard and enjoys it so much.


She said that her manager is responsible for the mood in the shop, by using something she calls an “iceberg model”, where the daily tasks and responsibilities (what you see above the surface”) rest upon a sound foundation of values, beliefs, short and long-term goals.


Perfect.   There IS no intrinsic value in most human tasks, save what we bring to them.   Being king can be a misery, cleaning toilets can be blissful service.  WE DECIDE.


Now, some would say: if you consider cleaning toilets to be blissful, won’t that doom you to a life of cleaning toilets? Well, first of all “doom” is your word, not mine. You can’t see what I’m saying from that position.  Go back to sleep.


Secondly, there is a natural human tendency to seek the “edge” of our capacity, expression, and potential for service.  If cleaning toilets is the most you have to contribute, sure.  But in all likelihood, that’s an entry position for something else, and all you have to do is keep finding ways to offer greater value, and understand the psychology of DEMONSTRATING that value to the decision makers, and have the self-love and self respect to demand to be rewarded according to your contribution…and you’ll be fine. Skill and marketing and negotiation.   That pretty much covers it.


“Jill”  has found a way to bring something she loves (sharing, helping people look their best, artistic expression, conversation) contribute to her personal stability (caring for her daughter, providing a foundation on which she has the time to ask what she wants next in her life) and a fine, fine understanding of the purpose of life (to seek joy).  That means to be happy NOW, not just when she  “gets there.”


And if her current manager or working environment becomes unpleasant? She has confidence that she can demonstrate her skills to another business. Or that she can go it alone. Or if that business dries up, she knows how to communicate with people, how to sell products and services. She’ll shift occupations if necessary, and still be herself. The same water, poured in another bottle.


I hear people all the time talk about how they are trapped by their jobs, and miserable there.   But frankly, I’ve never heard such a story where I hadn’t heard one even worse, where someone DID change jobs. And even if that person seriously believes they can’t change jobs…


You know what?  Down the road, many of them get fired. And you know what?  If they have developed demonstrable skills, and know how to market and negotiate, they land on their feet. Turns out that the barrier was their FEAR, rather than an external reality.


They had no confidence in their skills (what had they spent 10,000 hours doing, anyway?)

They didn’t understand that money comes more from marketing than any other specific capacity (“You’re not in the business of X.  You are in the business of SELLING X”.   They resent this, or THINK they understand marketing and sales.  This is really sad.  A test: ask them how many books they have in their house, and they’re likely to say “thousands”. Ask them how many of those books are on marketing, and they are likely to give you a blank expression.)

They don’t know how to negotiate (“in life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you can negotiate”)


They don’t believe in themselves.


They know, in their hearts, that if their own most beloved child was starving, they would move heaven and earth to find the work to feed them. That if someone put a gun to their kid’s head and said “either get a job you love at a decent wage, or her brains are on the wall” they’d damned well find a way to avoid the repainting job and get a new career.


Well…I’ve got news for you.  Every time you get a paycheck, you are paying for it with a chunk of your life.   If you had to cut a joint off a finger every time you cashed that check, you’d suddenly understand what you are actually trading.


When you ask yourself if you deserve to “go for” whatever you really desire in life, ask one question:   “How long am I going to be dead?” A damned fine question.


Armed with the answer to that question, go out and make your life what you want.


If you want to be a writer, GO FOR IT.   You may fall on your face. But you can try it in and around your other actions.  Don’t have to quit your job. And if you DO quit your job and “go for it?”


Well, if you don’t make it, as long as you have confidence of having invested your 10,000 hours in something interesting…know how to market…and how to negotiate…


You’ll do fine. You’ll figure something out.


And if not,  hey…there’s always cleaning toilets.


Write with Passion!



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