I was about 40, making a lot of money, winning cases, making a difference, and loving my work and then. Then I stopped loving it but kept on. I started praying a simple prayer that went like this: “Dear God, give me something else to do.” I have never, as my friend David Mercer puts it, viewed God as my “cosmic bellhop.” Regardless of the intensity of my prayer there was no magic dust illuminating the path before me. No, instead there was anxiety, depression, searching, years of that prayer, and work, work, work, work, work, work. Work of a different kind.
You can imagine that the guy known for the courtroom – spending in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 hours of preparation for every hour of trial – would uncover every business opportunity, start-up, and franchise possibility. I relentlessly looked for hobbies I could convert into businesses. I did what I knew. I worked hard and dedicated myself with great passion at finding my next passion. How did that work out for me you ask. Not so much.
I have friends, former colleagues, and strangers who email me out of the blue asking for the illuminated path. Just like I did. Here’s the secret: there’s no weekend conference, book, life-coach, research project, or peak experience that will magically unlock the door that seems to be blocking us from meaningful work. Notice that I included books in that list. That’s right. My upcoming book is all about this very topic but reading it is not going to make it happen. I read a lot about meditation but it does not make me a better meditator.
It took me five years of wandering, wondering, serving, praying and listening before I even heard a faint whisper. It takes deep work on the inside in order to find meaningful work whether it’s the work we’re in right now or what we know is possible. Oh sure, we can skip over the gut wrenching hard parts, leave our broken hearts unexamined, and move to the next shiny thing but we’ll be right back where we started. If you want to know which thing you should invest in I am not your guy. If you want to know what it might be like to take the road less traveled and one without any guarantees then talk to me. And once you “find it” the work never stops because we don’t wander and wonder in order to find a destination. Hint: there isn’t one. We do this work so that we can keep finding our true selves as Thomas Merton would say. On the worst days I have stress, lose my cool, and forget to breathe just like any other job, but on my best days I experience the Divine in meaningful work. I am working on treasuring those best days in my heart so I can sprinkle a little bit of that around those days in the middle. And now, I have a responsibility to let others know – who ask me – that a broken heart is, despite news otherwise, a good and holy thing.