Fast Company #2, Jan/Feb 2000 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Journey to Fulfillment

By Karen Rigdon

Inspired by the FAST COMPANY Article

A Living or A Life? 

January / February 2000

My guess would be that at one time or another, sooner or later, for better or for worse, it happens to each and every one of us because of our humanness. Sometimes it creeps up on you slowly over the years and at other times it descends as quickly as a ravaging tornado. It is silent and yet it screams; it is that minute tug that turns titanic. It has the power to atrophy or propel your journey depending on what you decide to do with it. It is the feeling of restlessness.

The feeling of restlessness can be a powerful catalyst for positive change in ones life. In the article,  A Living or A Life? from the magazine Fast Company, (January/February, 2000, pp. 256-267), Mark Albion found himself feeling restless in his high pay, high profile job at Harvard Business School. The restlessness that he felt eventually escalated to misery, which led him to quit his job at the Ivy League school. Albion felt that he was making a great living [but] failing to make a life (p. 256). He longed to do more than just bring home a big paycheck; he longed to make a difference in the lives of others.

Albions search for living and working with a greater purpose and passion lead him to examine his beliefs and values and question what really mattered to him. The results of a survey Albion had given to one of his business classes at Harvard pointed unanimously to the goal of making more money as a student priority. He was stunned by the results but did not begrudge his students. At this time in his life, however, he wanted more for himself.

For Albion, the path to fulfillment was sprinkled with disappointments and failures but he continued to establish and nurture new networks. Finally, Albion discovered how to live a rewarding life and make a living too. He started a group, Students for Responsible Business, which would eventually have chapters at business colleges nationwide. The mission of the group is to recruit members that are searching for employment that is not only financially lucrative, but personally rewarding as well. This group ultimately led to the creation of Albions job recruitment company, You & Co., that boasts MBAs who wish to contribute to the greater good of society.

The wisdom that Albion has to share after his experiences is that the only way to find true balance is to make your passion and your work one and the same (p. 267). Integrating teaching, listening to people, and socially responsible projects into Albions work- life made it a joy because those are the things he loves. He now had a noble purpose for his life work. Albions progression through the restlessness syndrome, the intense desire for change, the search for a way to benefit mankind through his life work, and his willingness to take risks to follow his heart is indeed an inspiring example of restructuring ones life to meld a livelihood with [a] life (p. 267).

I feel that I can connect with Albion because I have had many of the same feelings that he had. I had been a private piano teacher for twenty-five years until this fall when I decided to quit and look for a full time day job. I had become increasingly restless, to the point of discontentment, with the after school work hours that separated me from my family every evening during the week but I still wanted to work with youth. It was important to me to make a difference in the lives of kids and I had been volunteering through the Rotary Club for many youth-oriented programs.

I was surprised when I received a phone call in August from the principal of rural K-12 school and asked to teach music full time there. I accepted the offer and gave up my private teaching business. It has been a wonderful year so far because I have been able to help build the self-confidence of so many children through the music medium. I feel I am making more of a positive impact in the classroom setting and I am very happy with the changes that have occurred in my life as a result of the risks I took. I am able to work during the day, teach the subject I love, and empower youth with music skills.

I shared Albions story and my personal reflections with Nancy Anderson, the assistant director of the International Falls Food Shelf. Low-income individuals and families are able to receive grocery items once a month, free of charge, from this non-profit organization. Anderson says her work at the Food Shelf allows her to help others in a more basic way and has opened her eyes to what she takes for granted as a part of life. Some of her clients have three children sharing one bedroom. Anderson says, You get to the point, if you have much of a conscience, that you dont want to feel superficial in what youre doing for a living. Theres more to life than stuff  big houses, furniture, or expensive clothing. Service to others has always been important to Andersons family and she says her job feels good - in a giving way.

A work life with a purpose appears to become more important as we mature. The outer trappings of life seem to loose their luster and what really matters is making a contribution to our fellow man. It has been said (Maurice Sendak), There must be more to life than having everything. Perhaps that is what life is all about  not being committed to position, power, money, or stuff. Instead, using our individual talents and gifts, with open hearts, we can bring meaning to our lives as we willingly serve others.

-- Anonymous, January 15, 2000

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