Friday, June 27, 2014

Doing what you love.

don't have the luxury of explaining what I do for a living in a few words. Sometimes I am very envious of people who can say "I am a teacher", "I am a doctor", "I am a nurse", "I am a tax accountant" (okay, I am not envious of that one.)... I remember once my mother-in-law overheard me tell someone I am a Merch guy (speaking specifically about a series of events I do work for) and she excitedly asked me: "so that is what you do? You are a Merch guy - I can tell people that Luke is a Merch guy?"  That is the first time I realized that I frustrate those who want to be proud of me. I can only imagine the utter fear my mom has when people ask her "so, what does your son do for a living?" I am sure she scrambles knowing that I do stuff, but not sure how to explain it. I want to apologize - it isn't fair to all of you who love me and want to brag about how awesome and successful I am. 

I think my wife has figured it out though - after years of trying to explain I am pretty sure she has just resigned herself to answering the question: "what does your husband do for a living?" with "whatever he wants - I guess." Most of me wants to fix the problem, I want those who love me to be able to define me professionally a little bit easier. It isn't fair that they have this amazing person in their life and they have a hard time defining them in just a few words. So here it is - this is what I do for a living: 

I am joking - I can't really define it like that. Rest assured though, I do what I love. I can't think of anything more miserable than doing something I hate for most of the day so that I can then, completely worn out, do something I love. I am not interested in just working for the weekend (which is kinda funny, since I generally work on weekends). I don't have an aversion to work, I like to work - I am just not convinced that you have to hate your work. 

Work consumes a good portion of life - is it worth it to hate something that consumes that much of your time? Let's say you work 50 hours a week and sleep 50 hours a week. That is 100 of your 168 hours. Add to this driving to and from work, eating meals (to stay alive) getting yourself ready in the morning and preparing for bed at night - that is going to be another 22 hours. Do you go to church every Sunday - you are looking at a normal 3 hours of time to make that happen (4 hours if you are super spiritual). So now we are at 43 hours of life to enjoy and we haven't even talked about kids. Hopefully you love your kids and spending time with them and for them, but kids dirty dishes and laundry and have practice and recitals. They burn time. If you have 2 kids, 43 hours burns quickly, so quickly that you probably feel you are coming short of what you need. There is no time to capture what you love - life becomes all work and family obligations. Please don't hear me wrong - I do love my family; they are my favorite thing. I am not talking about spending time with your spouse and kids as something you don't love - but so often the only time we have to spend is spent on the obligations that support the life of the family. There is no time for enjoying family. 

So what is the answer? It is simple - do what you love. The answer is simple, putting it in motion is another story, but we can start small. Here are some ideas:

 - include your kids in the "work" of family. Let them drag a bag of garbage outside with you. Let your kids rinse the dishes while you are loading the dishwasher. Kids are pretty good at matching socks - celebrate every match! Do the work with your spouse - doing things together is always better than apart. 

 - Find a hobby you enjoy that makes money. My wife makes cards (and sells materials), hangs out with girlfriends (and sells them bags) and she loves couponing and hunting for grocery deals. I like building things (so I sell them). Monetizing a hobby lets you do what you love and offset the need to do what you hate. 

 - Reevaluate what standard of living you require. If eating out moves from a standard to a special activity you will save money and time. When you look at available time, maybe canceling your satellite TV or cable makes a lot of sense - is that really what you want to be spending your precious time on anyway? Great Value makes some good products. Is that quality coffee worth the time you spent to get it? How nice of clothing do you want and is it worth the time you are spending to afford it? What are you driving and is it worth the time you spend? Let's start evaluating the cost of things not in dollars, but the amount of time is costs to afford it. Time is scarce and finite. 
The path to doing what you love is not short and it will probably force you to reevaluate what you love. I know I am still heading that direction - I love interacting with people, being home, building things, making spreadsheets and counting shirts. I hope that every week I am moving closer to those things and farther away from the things I hate. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day.

Andrew told me last week: "I am ready to start working with you Dad, but I need you to teach me to count by twelves."  I have a hard time disputing that this is really one of the most necessary skills with some of the work I do. This exchange helped me to look again at my role as a father. In a society that no longer passes on trades and professions from one generation to the next, how will I prepare my son? It isn't a given that Andrew is going to grow up and do the work I do. However, Andrew is going to grow up and it is likely that he will become the man I am. The truth is that if I want Andrew to grow up and be like me at work I have to teach him how to count by twelves - but more importantly, if I want Andrew to grow up to be the man I am (or better) I need to teach him what I know about this too. 

Chances are good Andrew isn't going to grow up and do merchandise work selling t-shirts, maybe though. There is a great chance that he will grow up, be married, have kids, interact with people who have needs, have in-laws, face hard times, experience abundance, question his faith, and a slew of other normal things am American man faces. Andrew said it best, "I need you to teach me". As a father I need to teach my son how to be, if I don't - society will. I do this mostly by modeling behavior. 

Television has done a great job of devaluing the role of father. Fathers like Al Bundy and Ray Ramono have shown us how dads are the butt of the joke and fail as leaders in their household. I know that these shows are funny. I laugh at them all the time, but if this was real life - I would cry knowing that this is the model these kids have to grow up with. Television has given us some good dads too. Cliff Huxtable, Mike Brady and Andy Taylor - what wonderful pictures of fathers fathering.

Dads, if we don't step up and father - the television will. The truth is that most fathers are not like the negative ones on television. Most fathers don't come home from work, kick back the recliner and drink a sixer till they fall asleep only to wake up and make negative sarcastic remarks at their wife and kids. Most fathers aren't doing overtly negative things, but are we doing overtly positive things?

My wife would agree; the best thing God did in my life was give me Andrew. Andrew changed the whole game for me. Becoming a father shaped me in a way that nothing else has or could have. Andrew helped make me a better husband; a better man. On Father's Day I always find myself remembering and comparing who I was before fatherhood to who I have become through it. I am so thankful that God did this. I love being a father because I know the value it has added to my life. The change in me was truly unbelievable. 

Although I have been blessed through this, my job now is to pass on this blessing to my kids. I need to teach them how to be, what to be, where to be, why they should be, and even who to be. I feel like I have the responsibility to train my kids up in the way I want them to go. I want Andrew to love his wife, understand the value of work, enjoy work, give to those that are in need, make known the love of God through Jesus. I want him to do the right thing, always tell the truth and love people. This is the way I want him to go - so now I need to work a plan to train him in it. 

Happy Father's Day and good luck!

What is the way you want your kids to go?
Are there trades or skills you could pass on to your children?
What aspects of faith and spirituality do you want your kids to embrace?