3 things I was forced to do — and I’m better for it

Get a job

If you didn’t have to, would you?

Yet I’m betting that many of the diverse characters you’ve engaged with in your lifetime have come through your job. As well as many of your most significant challenges and growth opportunities.

The world of work is a wonderful thing. It’s as if commerce and trade were pre-destined by the Great Spirit in the Sky for humanity’s greatest lesson — to serve each other.

New York City is the best example to me. While living there it was easy to note how people who might easily war with one another were happy to serve each other — to make money. Over a hundred languages were spoken there. Who knows how many different tribes of thought. And there we all were, working, providing service, laying down political and religious grievances — to make money!

It’s a beautiful thing. Implicitly each person realizes their best case for happiness and prosperity is that every other person also gets their best shot at happiness and prosperity. It’s a mutually self-reinforcing process that grows itself to gargantuan proportions.

It’s no accident that polyglot cities are meccas of financial power.

We all serve one another while working. We may not think of it this way while we’re doing it, yet we are, we are.

Sell our house

In order to survive the impact on our business when the financial markets melted down, it quickly became apparent to me that we had to sell our house at that moment if we had any hope of surviving for two years. We did it even though it was painful and we had no idea where we’d live in the interim till we found a home at half the value — or even where and in what condition that home would be when we found it.

Ann, to her everlasting credit, understood the risks were we to wait it out. She jumped on board the very same tearful day we discussed this option. We spent the month of November orchestrating a house makeover. It was an exhaustion you imagine only a twenty-something could withstand day after day.

We sold it the day before Christmas.

A month later we were gone forever from our dream backyard.

A year and a half after making that decision, we moved into our new home — and spent the next six months rehabbing it. Again, exhaustion not meant for the fifty-year old set.

Yes the home is old and less impressive — to others. Yes, it will need maintenance the way a geriatric does. To us it is paradise.

We live on 1.3 acres adjacent to a preserve. Wildlife abounds that others only read about. Ann has the art studio of her dreams in the old garage once made over into an apartment (though this is why I love Ann! — she already has new dreams for a spiffier, bigger studio someday). Our boy can get treed, dirty, or sopping wet at any given moment — he gets to be a country boy a skip away from where we used to live.

As family and friends often point out: this home feels like us, free and loose and natural. I thank God for being forced to sell the old one, and us for being wise enough to do so.

Leave my family

One way we figured out how to make money in the midst of our business implosion was this:

We had a big van, a Sprinter van, the kind of van you can stand up in. It was mostly sitting idle as art purchases from our gallery dried up.

So I joined up with the best art transporter we knew and I hit the road. For a year and a half I was gone more than I was home. Generally it was 3 to 3.5 weeks on the road, maybe 5 to 10 days home, and then back out again.

Not only did I see the grit undergirding Americans in the financial crisis all across the country, I came to know what it’s like to have no money and to work 12 to 14 hour days — every day, no weekends, no breaks, for the entire time I was on a trip.

I hadn’t worked and lived so close to the marrow, ever. I’ve worked that hard — but was paid well. Or I’ve worked that hard in pursuit of a dream. This was existential survival. If it went well, I could work again next month. Our gallery and our people could work again next month.

I now know for sure that failure is the hardest thing there is. Subsistence living is the hardest thing there is. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in over the years where those of us who were well off would slight the working class, the surviving class. It disgusts me now that I wasn’t a more vociferous defender of low-income workers everywhere.

I also know this in that visceral way you come to know something by its absence: I need my family. I live for my family. My friends, my family, they are my present and future.

Which is why I am no longer on the road.

I would rather fail my business than my family.

The freedom of no
Affirmations do work!