It feels like a slap upside the head.
At least it does to me.
It’s that moment when someone says something and you realize, “Shit. That’s the universe talking to me.”
Some people listen to those calls. Most people, though, they miss them, only listening enough to figure out what they want to say next.
That’s the point of “when the student is ready, a teacher appears.” The teacher was there all the time, the lessons were always available. They just were invisible until the student opened her eyes, her brain and her heart.
I got the call to go to a startup seminar yesterday. It’s mostly for college students and this was the third of four, but somehow I knew I should try. I haven’t been out for a month, except for a few errands, but this one.
What I got wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. Sure, I took some notes on what the speakers said and what I got, because I burn though content here pretty fast. What do people in the wider world care about.
And then, in a session about when you know you have a customer, a gent described what his startup was doing. They are working with the big local hospital to develop a system to help coordinate information between patients, families and the care team.
Now, having had a father in that hospital for over six months while my mother was in hospice for lung cancer, I know this issue. The product I came up with for Startup Weekend — another powerful call — was to support family caregivers. I know and care about this market and I have the skills to help with this product.
I heard this guys pitch and immediately thought “Oh, shit. This is a message for me from my mother in the sky.”
Calls, you see, aren’t moments of glorious joy when everything becomes clear and easy.
No, every call is the call to work. Becoming new, taking on a new challenge, always requires hard, difficult mucking in. It is the call to struggle and sweat, merely a sign over the pathway to enlightenment, not the opening of a clear, clean and easy tunnel to paradise.
I did the work of going up and introducing myself to him, even if I had stayed silent with the rest of the milling, networking crowd. And the contact info he gave me didn’t come through well, so I am going to have to look a bit like a fool if I actually want to chase him down. Work.
The reward, though, is obvious to me. Everyone else in that room was on a team, had a mission, something to talk about, something to network over. If I had that, well, that’s getting back on the grid.
The cost, though, is also obvious to me. It means pushing past comfort, finding new solutions, taking new blows, being exposed and struggling. Ick.
I know how I handle this when someone else faces this kind of lesson, the experience of the universe slapping them upside the head. The humour of how perfect the crack is reveals itself, between the moaning and the delight.
That crack of lightning shows where change is needed, damn and blast, even as you hear the wise and wicked chuckle of your mother in the sky rippling through your head.
It feels like calling to me. And that means it feels terrifying and exciting at the same time.
One speaker yesterday said that if you want to do a startup, you damn well better like roller coasters, because that’s the experience of them. That’s why I like people who do startups; you can’t stay in a groove, you have to be ready for anything, always able to sense an opportunity or a crisis, which are usually the same, always ready to pivot.
In my experience, one of the hardest things about those moments is finding someone else who gets the how the exquisite sense of possibility is always laced with dread. Plunging in and running away both seem like very, very good choices.
In the darkest times, a light appears. Unfortunately, it is usually shining through a grate down at the other end of the sewer. Do you sit in your comfortable darkness or do you start to climb?
What do we surrender to? Current archetypes or our own nature? Possibility or comfort? What will we dig through shit to claim?
I wrote that in the car before I went into the seminar yesterday, not intending it for me. Shit.
Calling is always a curse, so if you don’t want to curse it some, it probably isn’t a calling. Who in their right mind is really looking for a slap upside the head?
Somehow, though, the wisdom will also be obvious, so if you have the will and the wherewithal to follow, you know it’s something that you should do, dammit.
Resisting calling, well, that’s what humans do. If transformation was easy, not wrenching, scary and full of loss, well, everyone would be doing it.
The question for me, at least today, is if I have one more molt in me, one more struggle, one more reinvention.
Crap. What a horrible damn question.
And what a wonderful damn possibility. Crap.