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Maureen Anderson

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How I Discovered the Color of My Parachute

Posted: 07/08/2013 11:50 am

How do you change?

I mean, really. How do you change something fundamental about yourself?

Heck if I know. But I've made a couple of life-changing changes, and I attribute them to three people. One is an author you've probably heard of. Two are men you almost certainly haven't.

When I was in high school I read about a weatherman who loved his job so much he was embarrassed to get paid for it. Can you imagine? I couldn't. But the image attached itself to my brain and wouldn't let go. From that point forward I bristled when people told me work wasn't meant to be fun. That if it was, you weren't really working -- and you should grow up and get serious, for crying out loud.

Talk about a good excuse for crying out loud! I knew of people who enjoyed their work. I watched them on late-night television, I soaked up their lectures, and I read their books.

People say, "Why do you think they call it work?" Here's my answer: "Oh, I don't know. Maybe because someone in a suit decided that's the way it should be, and no one thought to question it."

2013-07-05-ParachutefortheHP.jpgThe turning point in my life was when Dick Bolles -- strolling past me in a What Color Is Your Parachute? workshop and taking in my sudden delight at being alive -- had this observation: "If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right."

Think about it. What if that applied to everything? I bet you'd change a few things. Maybe you'd change everything.

The key word in Dick's statement, to me, wasn't "fun" so much as "right." I've always wanted to do a good job at life, and I apparently longed for someone to tell me doing a good job included having fun.

What if we're meant to enjoy our time here?

The thought tickled my imagination, I let it, and now I have work I love so much I'm embarrassed to get paid for it. The thing about writing -- or radio, for that matter -- is you're not generally paid so much you can't live with yourself.

When my life started to bore me a little, when I realized I paid more attention to my weight than to meaningful work, I thought back to another man I'd read about. His big treat was one M&M a month, always on the same day of the month -- which he ate with a knife and fork. I thought it was crazy, but I couldn't get it out of my mind.

It took years, but eventually I gave up junk food. My big treat is a couple of squares of Dove dark chocolate, and that's it. Ever. If someone would've told me I'd one day be able to dispense with cookies and potato chips and sweetened cereal, I would've thought that was crazy.

But my imagination had been tickled. The image of a new way of life -- consumed with purpose as opposed to dieting -- had attached itself to my brain.

Isn't that what we're all here for? To tickle each other's imaginations?

I don't suggest you live the way I do. But thanks to people who've been generous with their stories, I'm more enchanted by my own. They showed me how to live creatively.

The main reason I'm sharing what I've learned is that it feels irresponsible not to.

What if you're the one person who most needs to hear this, today?

Are you ticklish?

 
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