Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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How many times as it happens to you? Maybe you’re watching TV or listening to someone describe their life, and you hear something like:

“I’ve known what I wanted to do with my life that I was four years old. It all seemed to make sense to me.”

When you think about it, that’s an amazing certainty. To know, from an early age, what it is you are going to spend your life doing. And, yes, some of us are lucky that way. But it’s easy to lose track of the basic need of all human when listening to such stories.

“You need that rite of passage before you can continue on. That brave self-understanding that you can lean your dream upon.”

The fact that some achieve such a self-understanding early in life does not change the fact that you must make the journey through the gate to live the life that is waiting for you. Envy is just another excuse for not making the journey.

Dave’s Story: Some years ago, I worked with a guy who had built a government contracting company. He came to me because he was dissatisfied with his life. Dave was making lots of money, his family was secure and, by most measures, the was a success. But he wasn’t passionate about what he was doing.

It took us a while to sort it out. But eventually we arrived at the gate. Dave was passionate about teaching. He admitted that, if he was free to do anything, he would spend his time developing innovative ways to teach young people.

“It’s a far cry from helping the government develop weapon,” he said apologetically. “But, if I had my choice, I would rather spend my time helping kids learn. It’s a damn sight better than helping the government learn how to kill people more effectively.”

And so, the journey began. Dave was surprised at how supportive his family was. They had all been sensing the rising tension and frustration that came to dominate his life. His wife told him to go for it. “I want you to be happy with what you’re doing. That’s more important to me and kids than anything else.”

It took the better part of two years to disentangle Dave from his company. We ended up selling to the leadership team. During that time, he said about learning a new craft. And, along the way, he developed a couple of very useful approaches to teaching.

Laura’s Story: It was one of my stranger mentoring engagements. It was also one of my most satisfying. Some years back I was hiking Great Falls Park on the Maryland side. It’s a beautiful place with hiking trails all over the place. The late spring weather was wonderfully crisp. The Does were bringing their Fawns out. I had come across a set of triplets and was sitting on a rock enjoying the view.

The Doe’s ears went up. Then mine kicked in and I heard the sound of someone coming down the trail. As she came over the rise, I showed her a palm and then put my finger to my lips. Luckily she got the message and quietly work your way around to my rock. We sat together for half an hour while the Doe finisher grazing and shepherded her triplets back into the woods.

“Thanks,” she said. “I was walking along and not paying any attention to what was going on around me. “

“That’s the way most people live their lives,” I replied. She got a strange look on her face and said, “that’s exactly what I was thinking about. Isn’t it strange that I was thinking about being aware and that made me unaware?”

And so began a journey. Lauren and been a kind of child prodigy. She found science and mathematics very easy. After college, she got recruited to a government agency that allowed her to do all sorts of interesting things. The rub was that those things were not proving particularly interesting to her.

Over the next months we worked to disentangle her innate capabilities from the person that she might become. It’s a complicated idea. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that that something is what you should be doing.

The hunger that Laura was feeling was for human contact. Science and mathematics tended to make her feel isolated and disconnected. It took a while but we finally sorted it out.

The fact that you can play the notes doesn’t mean that you can make the music.

Laura ended up leaving the government agency and opening a gift shop that featured the works of local artists. She loved being the bridge. And the fact that she was establishing warm relationships with both the artists and her customers became an important part of her life.

After a couple years of working together, she said to me “I’ll take it from here but I’ll never forget our meeting in the woods changed my life.”

Now how about you?

Forget about Dave and Laura. You heard the stories. Now it’s time for your story. Go on a journey and find that thing which you really love to do. Don’t worry about what other people will think. Just find it. It is the path we all must walk. It is the way to self-realization, affirmation and experiencing the joy of living.