The Sprint Retrospective had just ended and I was finishing up my notes from the session. I looked up and found that Wayne and Garth (not their names) had hung back after everyone else left. We started talking about the sprint, and that led to discussions of the project, and that led to questions of job satisfaction. The question at hand was, “How do you know what you’re meant to do?” For this question, Wayne had a way to cut through the noise.
Say you won the lottery. Not the big lottery…but a few million dollars. Enough that after taxes and the lump sum disbursement shake out, you have enough to invest and receive a tidy sum of about $200,000 per year for the rest of your life. Not an excessive amount, but certainly enough to live comfortably on without having to actually work. What would you do?
Garth jumped right in. With a big grin on his face, he declared, “I would sail.”
This caught my attention right away. If you’ve read my other posts in this blog, you know I am a sailor — I have a boat, and find countless metaphors between my adventures on that tiny craft, and my professional life.
Wayne wasn’t done yet. “Do you sail?”
“Well, no,” Garth replied. “I sailed once a long time ago. But I enjoyed it very much. I would sail.”
Wayne pressed on. “What is keeping you from doing that now?”
Garth looked confused.
“I mean, on weekends. Couldn’t you sail on weekends? I know someone with a boat who sails every weekend. I could introduce you.”
Garth looked down at the table and seemed lost in thought. I wondered if Wayne would push him farther. Instead, he turned to me.
“What about you? Same question. What would you do?”
Now you have to understand. I sail. I rediscovered sailing a few years ago, and I even have dreams of one day having a much larger boat on Lake Michigan. So you would think, that with Garth’s example laid out right before me, this should have been a no-brainer.
Without missing a beat, the moment he asked the question, I blurted out my response: “I would teach.”
Wayne raised his eyebrows, a little taken aback by the force that the words came out.
He wasn’t nearly as surprised as I was.
“What’s stopping you from doing that now? There are many colleges in the area that have weekend and night classes, and they’re always looking for professionals who are willing to share some of their time.”
This question provided one of those aha! moments for me. Certainly, it held a lesson about seizing the day, and making opportunities for yourself. But it also provided some clarity into my own recent feelings of frustration.
I wasn’t teaching anymore.
I wasn’t influencing.
I wasn’t passing along wisdom for the greater benefit of anyone else.
I wasn’t achieving the one thing I would do if all considerations of income were pulled off the table.
That thought plagued me for weeks afterwards and ultimately propelled me into trying to find a new path for myself.
It seems to me that this question has power in its simplicity.
Mind you, I’m not advocating that you throw everything away and run off chasing your dreams. But maybe you can use that ultimate vision to plant a flag for your own future.
If you are very lucky, maybe you’ll find that you are doing exactly what you would love to do. If that is the case, then I salute you, and hope this revelation provides reason to sleep more soundly and contentedly tonight, as only someone who is exactly where they need to be, can do. I expect to be joining you in that place very soon.
So what about you?
What would you do?