“What do you know?”
There was no doubt that I was not prepared for this question at the interview! The question should have been, “Tell me about yourself?” or “What did you do at your previous job?” I was a bit perplexed and my mind froze for a few seconds as I desperately tried to think of a good response that would surely get me the job. But, as I write this blog, I seriously cannot remember what I said. I do know, however, that whatever it was did not get me the job, and now I know why.
If I were asked this question today, I would respond with something like this: “I know Me. I know what I like, what I want, what I do not want, and what I stand for. I know what it is like to spend a day in utter despair and also what it is like to spend a day so gratifying that I never want it to end; I know how to balance my checkbook, make vegan lasagna without a recipe, run a half marathon, research and schedule a trip to Europe, make love, spend a day at the beach, write essays, dance, get sucked into my favorite CD, laugh until my stomach hurts, meet and make new friends, and gargle. I know that people are more important than anything else, that life is not about what you have accomplished but about enjoying the ride; I know that happiness and joy are always, each and every time, my choice; I know what it is like to feel the freezing wind on my cheeks, the hot sun on my flesh, and the soft snow on my face. I know that things and money come and go but my experience and my character stay. I know that no matter what the job entails, I can do it because I believe in who I am and believe in what I do. I know life. ”
It takes time (and sometimes lots of it) to come to the realization that life is a gift and truly is amazing! It takes experience (and sometimes lots of it) to come to a thorough understanding that you know more than you think you know. At a time when I was questioning what I will do next in my life professionally, someone gave me a bit of great advice: they told me to list everything I have ever done (whether I enjoyed it or not), read it over, meditate on it, and then find the pattern. This includes listing every job I have ever had, every creative or recreational experience I’ve had, every trip or vacation I had taken, every creative activity I partook in, anything I accomplished and took pride in, schools I attended, hobbies I enjoyed, anything I tried only once, anything that made my heart come alive, and also the difficult, heart-wrenching life experiences I have had. I decided to take up the challenge, and here is a partial list of what I wrote:
- Taught 2nd-5th graders as an assistant elementary school teacher
- Bought a condo and a house
- Started my own business
- Created many recipes from scratch
- Traveled to forty eight states
- Attended both of my parents’ funerals
- Took scuba diving lessons
- Discovered I loved to scrapbook and made many albums
- Moved across the USA to different cities a few times
- Fell in love (well, more than once)
- Experienced a broken heart (also more than once)
- Volunteered to teach English to immigrants
- Left an abusive marriage
- Became a mother
- Ran three half marathons and many other shorter distance races
- Graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado
- Obtained four different certifications in different subjects of interest
- Painted almost every room in my house a different color
- Read and studied many books
- Fell asleep laying on a hammock on the big island of Hawaii
- Met many people
- Went to hundreds of concerts
- Cruised in the Caribbean and the South Pacific Seas
- Was a cheerleader
- Worked as a reporting analyst, a travel agent, a teacher, a sales rep, and an administrative assistant (and more)
- Visited and experienced the former twin towers in New York City
- Performed on stage as a dancer and actress
And the list goes on!
What did I learn from this? Not only did I appreciate my life more, but I learned that I had experienced more than I had realized! I apparently love variety. I enjoy learning and stretching myself, inspiring others, and teaching. I love to be creative. I need to be engaged and active. Yes, it was encouraging to look over this list, but the most important lesson I learned from this exercise and reviewing my list was that I had the courage, confidence, and faith to step out and do something new and different. And, as I step out once again with my own coaching business, I know that deep inside, I still have the courage, confidence, and faith. Putting myself in someone else’s box or a corporate version of who I “should” be is no longer an option.
Perhaps you are dissatisfied with what you are doing with your life and are struggling with what to do next? What is your list? Everyone has one. Even if you think you do not have one, you DO. I would encourage you to take some time and write your list. Without editing what comes to mind, list everything you have done in your life – your hobbies, your accomplishments, the schools you attended, clubs you were part of, jobs or careers you had, the good and difficult experiences you have had, etc. This might take some time, so it is okay to brainstorm in more than one session. Once you are done, review all that you have accomplished. What are the activities that made you come alive when you wrote and thought about them? How did you feel when you performed the activity? Can you remember how you felt before, during, and after you did those things? How you feel indicates whether there is life in that activity for you. Then see the pattern of your life. Are there activities in your past that you loved that are similar? Or, are you all over the map like I am? What are the common threads of these activities? Once you find your pattern, you will get a clearer idea of who you are, what excites you, and what your passion(s) is. Once you know that, you are on your way to changing your life to a more satisfying and joyful one.
The truth is you and I know a lot. And, deep inside, we know what our spirit is calling us to do. Sometimes, it is just a matter of clearing out the chaos in our lives so we can see our pattern. Once we see it, “What do you know?” becomes a very easy question for us to answer.