I have never been much for classic “summer vacations,” much to the chagrin of my family. Summer vacations, to us, felt nothing like a Belinda Carlisle song. Rarely did we load up the ol’ Griswold Family Truckster for a pilgrimage to WallyWorld.
Instead, my typical summer vacation has consisted of a couple of long weekends of restorative family cabin time filled with campfires and cribbage, board games, ping pong, pontoon rides, and lots of reading.
I haven’t even done that this year, for several reasons, chief among them the fact that Emma and I are bootstrapping this new business. It’s not a gig where you get a lot of paid time off. So this year I have found my restorative time in a summer vocation.
Where’s the fun and relaxation in that, Grant? Well, let me tell ya.
It’s always been important to me to do meaningful, compelling work. My career, now 30 some years in, has been an eclectic patchwork of fun and fascinating day jobs that make a unique and surprising narrative when stitched together.
My résumé reads like a romp through a professional house of mirrors, careening from one thing to the next: marketing, IT, software development, retail, publishing, technical writing. A major national health care system, a little neighborhood music store, two large international software companies, a world class symphony orchestra, a couple of dizzyingly fast-growing tech ventures, an educational music publisher, and the world’s largest underground aquarium.
Focus? Nah, hard pass. There’s way too much interesting stuff to do out there.
That unique story, though, is just about the work. The jobs I have held. What I have done for a living. But what I do is not who I am.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if those two things could come a little closer together?
Entrepreneurship may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “fun and relaxing,” but for me it feels like the place where I can finally make myself more available to my calling. My identity. My vocation.
Of course, vocations (like vacations) aren’t just for summertime. I have definitely entered the autumn of my career, but luckily for me, autumn is my favorite season of all.
That brings me to this stirring little book.
About 15 years ago, during one of life’s stormier interludes, my friend Dave put this book in my hands, telling me that he read it at least once every year. I knew why almost immediately.
Parker J. Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak” is about purpose, and its subtitle, “Listening for the Voice of Vocation” makes it clear that finding your purpose is not an act of will. I was scrambling to find my purpose and this book made it abundantly clear that I was struggling simply because I was trying too hard to become myself.
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.”
Think about that. Over the past 15 years, and especially the past 4 seasons, I have. A lot.
The book closes with a beautiful extended metaphor about those seasons. It’s a hopeful essay focused on natural transformation, the essence of the process of learning to become yourself. “The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle or the joy, the loss or the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us to embrace it all – to find in all of it opportunities for growth.”
Those opportunities for growth have been all around me this year. At times they have inspired me, and at times they have overwhelmed me. But transformation through growth feels restorative. As restorative as a breezy afternoon on the dock with a beer and the tremulous song of the loon in the background? Yes. In a different way.
I’ve read “Let Your Life Speak” twice so far this year, and probably will again, for good measure, before another Auld Lang Syne beckons. In years past, it’s helped me see past the friction I have frequently felt in my work life, and understand the disconnect between my true self and the role I happened to be playing. This year, it’s helped me make the course corrections that led me to say YES to Brio.
And as summer gives itself up to inevitable autumn, it’s reinforced the sense that my pivot to entrepreneurship brings me closer to the self whose vocational truth I have been seeking for so long.
So here we go.
Autumn is calling, waiting to be jumped into like a freshly raked pile of leaves.
#briowrites is a collaborative production of Brio Marketing co-founders Emma Tuftin and Grant Henry. Periodically, however, each will takeover this blog and post about life and entrepreneurship from their own perspective.