Spinning Gold From Disappointments. Musings from “The Business Romantic”

2015 June 9
by Tatyana

The Business RomanticI’ve been reading and savoring a book called  The Business Romantic, by Tim Leberecht. It’s a deep, probing, playful and enlightening book that uncovers the soulful, romantic, heart-driven and human side of a person’s working self on both a private and public level.

I’m not finished with it yet but luxuriating in the ideas it serves up. I’m almost reminded of the fact that a job is like a marriage or a relationship: we commit and then we undulate the ups and downs. We might have aspirations, goals, arrival destinations, dreams of success and acknowledgments but there are disappointments, dissatisfactions, unmet longings, dark moments of the soul, you name it.

But what if, instead of turning away from these and seeking either refuge, an off button or an immediate solution in the form of change (heads-up: you still take yourself with you), you lean in to it, embrace it.

What if this chasm between an individual and their career or job can actually be the very thing that brings a person closer to the work they’re doing—and gives the working relationship more intimacy (internally and externally).

I’m not sure how or what that really means or looks like but I find it really exciting and I’m going to follow the mysterious song.

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When Do You Drop That Goal?

2012 May 21
by Tatyana

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to drop that long-suffering, well-intentioned goal you have on your List of Things That Will Improve My Life list.

There are so many ambitious, creative, disciplined, can-do folks who are often, at any given time, carrying around a goal that they can’t seem to either start or sustain. It could be a creative, health-related, physical, spiritual, ecological habit or project.

And we talk about it, struggle with it, return to it, stop doing it, agonize a bit, wash-rinse-repeat.

For example, mine is yoga. For YEARS I’ve been talking about how I should get back to yoga to keep my body strong for the other sports I love. But I haven’t done a regular yoga practice for almost 10 years.

Finally, I said Screw it.   I don’t want to do $*&(* yoga. Maybe later. Maybe not. And I got on with things.

Timing and Intentions

Sometimes our best intentions are either proposed at the wrong time, or maybe we like the idea better than the reality.

Here’s your invitation to let that Old Goal go, even if it’s just a temporary thing. Here are some questions to help you decide:

  • Do you  really, really want to do this? How much of this desire is something you want to do, or something you think you should want to do?
  • Is this the right time? Look around, realistically, at everything on your plate. Are you perhaps already doing e-Superhero-nough? If you got the idea that you have to write a blog, or meditate regularly but after two years you have little to show for your effort, so what? My guess is there’s a whole lot of other brilliant shit getting done.
  • Can you delegate? A creative professional had what she thought was an interpersonal blockage, went through a few coaches and then realized what she really needed was a personal assistant to do the admin work she so royally detested. And boy, did she get on with things.
  • Does holding this goal make you feel good or guilty? Does your energy perk up, do you smile when you think or talk about it — or does your voice fill with anguish and do your shoulders crumble like they’re standing in for Atlas? Letting this goal go can give you a delicious sense of freedom, power and ownership over how you choose to steer your boat of life — the part of it you can control, at least.
  • Is there another way to approach, or frame this Thing? For example, “I want to get in shape but I haven’t gone to my gym in years” may be more fruitful as, “I’m going to find a Walking group on MeetUp.”
  • Is there something else you may want to do more? Think about it — and imagine doing that.

In the end, most of us here are pretty disciplined, ambitious and accomplished. If there’s something we want to do and we’re not, there might be a damn good reason why.

 “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”  ―    W.C. Fields

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Is Your Work Stress Perfect for You?

2012 May 18
by Tatyana

“It’s stressful, but I sort of like,” a friend recently admitted.

She was talking about a work project that had tight deadlines, limited information, and bosses with heavy burdens on their shoulders.

Still,  the edges of her lips curl up a bit. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a freak-out show in the office.”

“And you like it because —”?

She was willing to think past the concrete speedbumps and all of the shared complaints whirling around the office, and for a few minutes she focused on the big-picture aspects of  how the job fed her personality:

  • She was working on something new, which fit her innovative, blank-slate-loving spirit.
  • The mutual lack of information forced more collaboration among different teams, so she was experiencing more collaborative interaction, which is high on her values list.
  • The Private Investigator side of her gets a thrill out of finding answers that are hard to find.
  • She loves the puzzle — putting together pieces of known quantities and unknown ones into the final product.
  • She loves the surprise element of not knowing how something will turn out — but she also trusts that it will. And she knows how anchoring her attitude can be to her colleagues and the team.
  • The urgency gives her a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment, especially after a period of downtime. “I feel like I matter just a little bit more,” she reasoned. “And it makes all the difference.”

We all have our stories of how a challenging project — that we something call “stressful”– is perfect for us.

When it’s perfect, we can write a list of why it’s perfect for us.

And when we see that list, we can move away from the popular cult-of-complaining, and focus on the thrill of the hunt.

After talking out her list, my friend was able to embrace her job challenge more lustily — rather than making it an under-the-table thrill, and even feeling guilty or perplexed by it.

May your list be with you!

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Turn a challenge into a sweet metaphor

2012 April 24
by Tatyana

Let’s pretend you have a couple, Dick and Jane.

They have their differences, like any couple.

Let’s say in a moment of high tension, Jane doesn’t know how to reconcile one of these differences, where she might like to be out in the world more than Dick.

Sometimes in these inner reconciliations, the trick is to accept the differences, even when you can’t believe someone else doesn’t want to experience the world YOUR way which is, of course, the best and only way among rational people, at least just one way to do things.

So  Jane decides to release her frustration and writes about it, which she often does in email fyi, in a sort of fast free-write loose poem-y kinda thing.
And to her rescue–a storified metaphor.

i am the eagle who wants to spread her wings and fly over neighborhoods for miles and hours

he is the domestic bird, a robin, who hops around the neighborhood exploring, poking around, but just adventuring from tree to tree

when i put it that way he sounds adorable

i sound highfalutin and while eagles are magestic and all they seem like they’d make difficult and selfish friends

hey–i like bopping around the neighborhood, too!

In about one minute, Jane sees Dick and herself in a new light.

The metaphor creates distance as well as a fun image.

Try it

If you feel frustrated about something, sit down and write out in sentences how you see the situation. To create metaphors, or story images, you can start each sentence with a phrase like:

“Let’s pretend…”
“It’s a bit like ….”
“I feel like …” (and try to use concrete words and nouns instead of abstractions)
“Once upon a time …”

See what kind of surprise you can write for yourself. Sometimes writing is the best key out of the prison of self.

Chirp chirp!



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Your Life As the Sky

2012 April 5
by Tatyana

Sometimes, even while standing at a crossroads with multiple paths, it’s hard to see and feel the choices and opportunities available.

Sometimes, even when Spring comes, and the days grow brighter and longer, a case of the existential funky blues sets in, and you aren’t even interested in the opportunities that are knocking at your door.

Sometimes, I stare down at the tangle of my beautiful life and feel confused and slightly despairing, even. “What to do? What to make of it all?” That’s an over-thinker for you.

And then I leave my little office territory and walk into a vast, lively night sky.

It’s filled with a bit of everything: light, dark, open space, cloudy formations, all of it anchored to the neighborhood rooftops I call home.

And so the question becomes: How can I turn that gorgeous, mysterious, vast sky into my Life. How can I look at my life as a constellation of stars and planets and stories just waiting to circle and burst into new stories?

Here’s a sublime poem, “The Widening Sky,” by Ed Hirsch

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Just this bowl of lemons

2012 March 27
by Tatyana

On a recent trip to Australia, my mind went into over-thinking mode, asking question that circled around:

What are my ambitions?

In truth, I was trying to point to a fire in my belly that would become the story arc of some successful proud-worthy end-goal.

After a conversation with a wise elder, I came to this:

Sometimes ambition lies in the desire to take a photograph of a beautiful bowl of Meyer Lemons –

–and after saying the word “ambition” out loud a few times, it started to sound like a crow squack in the middle of a beautiful song.

What if a sublime portrait of a pile of lemons up against a blue wall is enough?

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The “Now What” Problem

2012 February 23
by Tatyana
Drawing by Hugh MacLeod

Drawing by Hugh Macleod

A friend posed a question about something she called rainbows and pots of gold.

What happens when you arrive at your own personal pot of gold? A place you’ve been working steadily toward for years and years.

Now what?

Life is rich with Trickster-ism: We want That Job, That Mate, That Bank Account, That Holiday, That Sports or Artistic Accomplishment, the Body. And then, we get it.



And then we are left with the blushifying horror of:  Now what?

Why is this? Here’s a theory:

It’s about losing a travel buddy, a companion in the form of Longing

That eye-on-the-prize striving you’ve been intimately carrying around with you for years — it’s been like a dear travel companion. Once you arrive at your destination, you and this buddy-in-longing must part. And one of the harsh truths of life sets in: With every gain there’s a loss. You’ve lost that longing feeling and companionship.

Let’s sit with that for a little bit. OK, now let’s move on with some questions to fill up on.

  • How can you start building the next gorgeous brilliant dream-worthy vision of your life as you savor your arrival?
  • How can you start creating layered goals, creating a staggered posse of pot-of-gold destinations for yourself?

Once you reach one dream, don’t stop dreaming.  Anticipate your arrival and plan for the emotional uprising of What Now-ness–and a personal celebration.

Give yourself  time to savor where you have been and the the path you’ve travelled. Reminisce like you would over a trip through France–draw, write, tell stories to an interested ear about all the amazing experiences and steps along the way. You may need to remember them for the next beautiful destinations you dream up for yourself.

This is also another way of saying: If may appear like a content-driven life but the juice is in the process. Don’t forget to taste the sweetness.

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What If — you showed Eeyore the door?

2012 February 17
by Tatyana
The thing with Eeyores is, it could be sunny out and they’d be all, like, “It’s probably going to rain tomorrow.”

What possibly could go wrong?

Everything, and you better be ready.

For some reason, in our popular western culture, so many of us prepare ourselves for the worst. Even in little ways, like:

You think you’ll get the job, but you “don’t want to jinx it.” Stuff like that.

And in today’s world climate it’s probably happening more.

But the truth is — this kind of thinking and internal activity doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t help you prosper as an individual, in relationships, or in your work — because you’re too busy worrying. And worrying is so self-conscious and consuming.

But how do you get out when you’re stuck on a negative spin?

For starters, let’s turn some of our Eeyorean “What Ifs” on their heads and happy-fy them.

If the idea scares you — because it happens — make yourself a deal: try it for a week, a month, as long as you can, and then give yourself the option of returning to old worries. You may find it harder and less interesting to return to old ways–at least with your former vengeance.

So, let’s get started.

1. Start with the big fat downer but totally human What If:

  • What if on the walk to coffee a bus hits me and …
  • What if my boss is in a bad mood, hates my idea and fires me (or worse, publically humiliates me)?
  • What if my teenager runs away to join a sex-and-drug cult and steals all my Rolling Stones records?
  • What if [fill in your bad-case scenario here]?

2. Replace your favorite negative What If with kinder, friendlier, more creative and adventurous ones, eg:

  • What if I could flap my arms and fly, where would I go?
  • What if I go for it, believe in myself and present my ideas to the boss, what if she likes them–what if she works with me to make it better?!
  • What if I ask my kid to go for a walk with me and see how many roses we could smell?
  • What if I prepare for success and creating wonderful experiences for myself and others — rather than protect myself by preparing for disappointment and tragic life consequenes?

Which What Ifs give you a lift, a kick to your step, help you sleep better, and motivate you more?

Which ones have a better chance of happening?

Which ones are dramatic boogie men?

Which ones are benevolent spirit-builders?

What if???


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Does Commitment Scare the &#$! Out of You?

2012 February 8
by Tatyana

We want it, we fear it, we crave it, we avoid it.


This is a human connected to a ball and chain. NOT to be confused with commitment.

Commitment gives us the freedom and focus to go for our desires and reach goals and visions. And it’s a scary prison to some.

I used to be quivery about commitments, until a friend told me, “Commitment will set you free.” Since Freedom is one of my sacred values, I was in on this commitment thing.

Here’s a quote that fills out the commitment-as-freedom POV:

“Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision and enables turning our dreams into reality.” –James Womack

Here’s a playful exercise to grow some commitment angel wings:

Take out a piece of paper you can draw, scribble and write on.

1. Take a deep breath and on the inhale think about what you most want, and think in BIG THEMES (i.e., instead of “lunch” it might be “purposeful work”; instead of Excel spreadsheet mastery, it could be Helping people solve problems). In big themes you find your values.


2. Draw or scribble an image of whatever represents this desire/dream/vision.

3. Write words or a phrase that goes with this drawing. Sit back and look at what your inner creative wise self gave you.

4. What is one commitment–a word, theme, action, mantra–that this vision wants from you? What do you want to give it?

5. Write it down, and carry it with you for a week, read it before bedtime, or whenever you feel like it. See if it has staying power. Keep going until you find the right commitment focus, language or theme for you. Then … marry it!

Making a commitment is another way of saying: I know my core value(s) and I am going to be true to myself and live by my values.

Your commitment could take you on an amazing adventure.

See? That wasn’t so scary. Maybe it’s because you choose the commitment based on what you really, really, really care about. I’ve done a few of these but here’s my latest—in case you feel stifled by the need to draw well or even have good penmanship.

Funny thing is, I've been drawing the same variation of this drawing since I was 5. Combining people with nature helped me see how much I valued making natural connections. Now I get why some social and networking situations bum the bejesus out of me. Now that's freedom! (From judging and whipping self)

For some staying power

I suggest the buddy system. Keep your antennae up to find someone else who likes doing this kind of work and goal setting–they’re out there! And they’re looking for buddies and playmates to keep them on track, to learn from and exchange ideas with, too.

Like anything in life, sharing the experience, even one of the commitment process, makes the journey so much more fun and fascinating.


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Why Do We Compartmentalize Work?

2012 January 25
by Tatyana

Every once in a while I still hear the word “compartmentalize.” Not as much as I used to, maybe because it’s cool to be “integrated” these days. “Whole systems” are in.

But I still work with clients who put their Lifey-Life stuff over there, and their Worky-work stuff over here.

Of course they KNOW one affects the other, but there still seems to be a big barbed compartmentalizing-wired fence between the two.

I have always sucked at compartmentalizing, and I used to feel like a weak victim of my emotional life because when something was going down in my personal life I couldn’t keep the mood out of my professional life. Of course, we’ve all leaned on things like jobs as anchors and levelers when other sh*t is kicking our emotional arses from here to kingdom come.

The point being–back to integration and whole systems–is, when you look at your life as a whole, you may have more luck finding deep satisfaction in playing all the parts with each other, instead of against each other. And feel like you have more choice, more room to move, more possiblities.

I was in a chronic head banging situation for years because I wanted to find that one thing and drive it home for decades to come. Which wasn’t me. I do a few different things for work, just as I like to swim various strokes, and do various sports and read various types of books. How about you? Have you ever wrestled with goals that just weren’t YOU? (But sounded like nice, easy ones to have?)

Here’s a little something mind-sparking on the topic, from David Whyte’s The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship:

“In many ways, work must be a marriage; otherwise, why would we put up with so much over the years? We must have made hidden vows somewhere to follow something larger than the difficulties of the everyday.”

I love the hidden vows part. It’s like busting the mystery of the stuggle — it’s there, god knows why but let’s make it glorious and give in to the current of … OUR PERSONAL wonderful struggle.

So here’s the thought, question, adventure of the mind for you:

What if work and life aren’t separate things that need to be compartmentalized but INSTEAD are part of an ongoing conversation that shapes our identity through time?
What if work is another higher marriage, a commitment to ourselves in how we express ourselves in whatever falls under the umbrella of “life’s work”?
How do we express our true selves in the daily life tasks of our work and jobs?


PS: I do use the words “career” and “job” and “profession” — usually when I’m talking to others because I do value connection and communication.

But in my personal world, it’s called my Life’s Work, — and that word Work is broad and encompassing and ever-changing. It’s what I do day-in, day-out. Some for money, some of it not. It’s important to have the right percentage of paying work though, we’re not martyrs here!



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