My Aunt Laurie, a 30+ year teacher and avid reader-writer used to tell me that when writing, you need to find your voice. And…you should hope to find people who are willing to listen to that voice! My writer’s voice, my opinions and my inspiration for life balance have been growing over time, but finding the audience who connects with my writing is a bit more difficult.
A few days ago an old client emailed me looking for some guidance regarding recruiting strategies for one of his clients. I happily responded with some available times and we agreed to chat for an hour on Friday morning. Joe and I worked together in 2007 & 2008. Joe was the HR executive for an Oklahoma based oil and gas firm and I was leading the recruiting company supporting them. Although we work for different firms now, we have kept in email contact and trade voicemails occasionally. What I didn’t know until Friday morning was Joe is a regular visitor to my blog site. Our conversation opened with “Trav- I love your blog”, which took me off guard because he began to comment on my writing frequency and how my topics seem to run in waves. My ego translated these comments into: “Hey, dude…you are a decent writer, but you are all over the freaking map with topics, get focused, would ya!” So as I was working to shut off my ego’s filter, I began to digest some constructive coaching when it became clear that Joe wasn’t coaching me, he was genuinely stating that he “connected” to the content on my blog site.
Most of my friends and family know that I am innately forthcoming with my emotions and that I am working on being very “aware” of my strengths and my weaknesses. Now Joe, he struck me as different. Joe, self-admitted, holds onto emotion, keeps them bottled up and ironically, seems to carry the same fears and concerns I have written about. He told me that the more I wrote about my challenges, fears and issues, the more he read and the more normal he began to feel (what a humbling experience for me). The reason I was so taken back was the outward appearance that Joe carries. Here is this man who from the outside looks to be as steady as a person could be. He is the father of two boys, a husband, has strong career experiences and all the while he was harboring pain and anguish about his place in society, his priorities and his life long struggle with balance. Where I have fought feelings of inadequacy and insecurity for the best part of 38 years, he had been fighting them for 52 years. Our fears, insecurities and struggle to maintain balance was all the same and it was relieving to both of us, so we continued to share ways we have dealt with and managed our challenges. It became clear to me that my “audience” didn’t have to be a young father or someone who felt lost in their career. My audience is probably larger than I thought it was going to be and I began to wonder how many young men, new fathers, old fathers, husbands (both newly weds and those celebrating 50 years of marriage) struggle with these same challenges. How many of them get up every morning and anguish about going to work, because they would rather stay home with the kids, run the errands, take a step back in their career, down size their bills (but they just can’t find anyone to share these thoughts with)?
I have learned that being open and transparent isn’t the only step. Once you have opened up, you benefit from taking action that supports the recovery of the areas you may have struggled with. It was eye opening, humbling and an honor to talk with Joe and to learn from someone who has been working to “stop the chase” and find more balance too. Admitting that I have faulted in so many areas of life is abnormal to most people, but truth be told, everyone is screwing something up at some point in life and I am just now realizing how much easier it is to adjust your course if you don’t feel alone on the journey. Honesty and humility enables a person to “let go” of the bullshit that comes along with all of those fears.
After being honest with my parents, my wife, my friends, my coach (the list goes on), we have found ways to adjust the course I was on. I am less than 12 months away from being “bad debt free”, I have made adjustments to my career (so it works around my schedule and not the other way around) and my relationship with my wife and children is based on honesty and humility, which doesn’t make being a parent or a husband easier, just more genuine.
As I have been taught, it is unrealistic to think we won’t continue to make mistakes. We will continue to be fearful (we’re human), we will continue to make poor decisions, but having the nerve to be open and transparent about how we are feeling enables us to locate others who are going through the same struggles and you’ll be surprised as to how many people are trying to work through these challenges alone.
Remember- there is safety in numbers!