“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?” – Steve Jobs
I am quite sure that different people give different meanings to Steve Jobs’ quote above. In my interpretation, he was referring to creativity and to having the courage to follow one’s heart and intuition. This is the kind of pirate I want to be.
In any case, it seems to me I belong to a loved-breed of pirates. I have recently updated my LinkedIn profile and was overwhelmed by the many congratulations received. Friends congratulate me for a new job and I am humbly thankful to all who sent their good wishes. Because I am making my way, on my own, soloing… And yet, am I too daring?
I have been an employee for almost 28 years. A compliant employee who always half joked that she had an employee mentality – as in being certain, protected and belonging. I need connection, sharing, bouncing ideas off and feedback to operate, to be at my best… So, what about now, what next?
(I open a parenthesis, as I usually do when speaking, to explain that “What next?” as banal as it looks, is one of the most powerful questions in coaching to forward an action. It surely resonates with me now more than ever before).
Next for me is moving in the world without a company to be my guide, to give me a structure for my time, work and actions. I am creating my own life. Of course, like everything else – in coaching as in life, this is a matter of choices and – I start to sense, not an easy endeavour.
But structure is good…I need structure and I loved being a part of a large system, it had meaning to me, it had a purpose and I felt I was contributing. I guess I would have to find my own structure… Allegedly we can’t separate who we are at work from who we really are – same values, same dreams, same way of doing things and relating to other people. Simple. It means I am the same as always, just learning something new.
(This sounds like coaching myself… In coaching, each and every conversation between the client and the coach is a sort of rehearsal, a testing of new ideas and behaviours, safely and courageously, before taking them into the world and making them part of everyday reality).
What is soloing really? In her book “Soloing” (my first encounter, 10 years ago, to the infinitesimal possibility of becoming an independent professional one day), Harriet Rubin talks about how rewarding and yet terribly difficult is to be on your own. She also says that the one who starts soloing gets new freedoms:
- A sense of identity…True, I feel bigger and bolder and I am surprised that it is not so obvious to the others. Well, soloing takes time and much effort – so much that night and day, work and free time are quite entangled. But it feels good, so I’ll go on. As an anonymous author put it, when soloing you should “work as if you don’t need the money, dance as if nobody’s watching, and love as if you’ve never been hurt”.
- Independence… Soloists are “reduced to themselves”. With all I’ve said before, I’m sure I made my point that this not an easy one. Overcoming the “fear” of being completely in control and commanding, there’s still the simple fact that soloing is about being mostly alone.
- A new “rapport” with income… Someone said that money earned independently are a person’s true worth. I don’t know about that. What I know is that my clients’ successes matter to me as if they were mine. And being compensated for my work now has double meaning and clients are at the centre of everything I think, write about, or do.
- Illumination…Soloing is very challenging. Working is not anymore about going to the office and following a routine. It’s not about myself; it is about client satisfaction, a contract to be fulfilled and being as good as my word. And it’s not even working, as, again quoting Harriet Rubin, “contact with work is contact with life”.
Is this really all so different from the way people being employed live? Can these “freedoms” be there for people in organizations? Are they?
I don’t claim to have the answers. I suspect that there are times – for each and every one, when the freedom of feeling totally present and accountable is there and times when it isn’t… For so many different reasons, of which none is subject to my assessment or judgement, whatsoever.
In my mind, though, it’s worth asking these questions. Why? Perhaps best explained by the following quote from “Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives”, the CTI book that guided my studies:
“Imagine a world where everyone has a compelling vision of his work, a sense of choice and purpose. Imagine a world of passionate, committed people determined to make a difference in the lives of others as they live fully themselves. Although people might be in the same exact jobs in our imagined world, they would have an entirely different frame of reference, a different attitude as they wake up in the morning. The value of work would change because it would no longer be about what job you have, but about the difference you make and the values you honour in the work you do.”