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A Story about the importance of finding your passion

I was sitting on the top floor of the Starbucks in Fairfield, Connecticut contemplating what makes life magical. Later that morning, I had a psychology/coaching session with a man in his early forties who used to be an investment banker. Several years ago, he went through a brutal depression and quit his job. In his twenties, he liked many aspects of being a banker; the technology research, the challenge of landing new clients, and the intensity of creating and delivering pitches. However, over time, he began to hate the long hours, endless travel, and the “jerks” that he interacted with on a daily basis.

After years of non-stop travel, hundred-hour work-weeks, mental and physical exhaustion, he finally sat down with his boss to ask for more flexibility and less travel.  His boss told him that his two young children wouldn’t know what they were missing. This conversation turned out to be the last straw. At 35, John had finally had enough and walked away. He went out on his own and after two years of hard work, his new startup failed. More depression followed.  John turned to psychiatry, only to find himself in the endless abyss of psychotropic medication.

In the morning preceding our first session, I had a vision in my meditation, of Michael Jackson, being more or less “killed” by medications his doctors prescribed.  (His psychiatrist was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in jail). This was highly unusual since I never think of Michael Jackson. When John walked in my door four hours later, I recognized within ten minutes that my vision was no coincidence. John was taking seven different medications for anxiety, depression, and mood instability. He had been diagnosed as bi-polar, could barely walk straight, had recently attempted suicide (due to the medications) and felt profoundly sad. He was a broken man. For all intents and purposes, he too was more or less “killed” by a psychiatrist whom I can only assume was better intentioned than Michael Jackson’s.

Within six weeks of our initial session he was off all medications, exercising daily, and feeling much better overall. His diagnosis was flat wrong. John had no sense of purpose. One morning he asked me why he continued to feel sad from time to time.  This is from a man who hadn’t worked in years. I asked him this: “What have you done with your life over the past five years outside of taking care of your children that you feel proud of? His response was: “Nothing.” So if you have done nothing that you feel proud of or energized by, then how could you not wake up and feel sad?” I responded.

Making a decent living, taking care of our families, hanging out with our friends, is wonderful. However, it not always enough.  Many of us need to find a deeper purpose or meaning to our lives.  When we are stymied from doing so as John surely had become, anxiety and depression are inevitable.

It is very likely that you are not nearly as far off the mark as John was when I first met him. Nevertheless, let me ask you this: are you doing what you love? Are you being the person you know you are capable of being? If not, what are you going to do about it? Those of us who find our passion and purpose in life and business often have to work diligently, let go of fear, and discover the creativity of spirit within. Sometimes, we need guidance to do so!

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