Saturday, July 14, 2012

On Taking Action - Take Two

Recently, I came to the realization that I tend to put off taking action for a number of reasons – fear, laziness, busyness, and so forth.

So lately I’ve been striving to pull out that old Nike chestnut and JUST DO IT. No matter what “it” is, I’ve been pushing myself to just take any kind of action at all – make the phone call, send the email, ask the  question, buy the book. It feels great to finally actually be doing things that will move me closer to my goals and help me become a person of action like I’ve always wanted to be.

But (you knew there had to be “but”, right?) I had a wake-up call the other day. All this soul-searching, career-exploring, self-analysis and whatnot all feels very recent to me - like maybe the past year, maybe a year and a half. And then I cleaned out my inbox the other day and came across an email from a broadcasting school that started like this:

“Dear Jennifer, Thank you for filling out our form and taking to the first steps to an exciting career in the broadcast media industry!” 

It was from August 2009.

That’s right – THREE years ago. And you know it took me months to get to the point where I was able to even take the small action to fill out the form for the school in the first place.

So that means that it’s been over three years since I started trying to truly figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. During that time, I’ve actually done quite a lot:

-        Found a career coach and went through three coaching sessions, complete with homework assignments
-        Taken numerous self-assessments, personality tests, etc. and had my friends and family complete some about me as well
-        Read through countless listings in the Occupational Outlook Handbook
-        Reached out to perfect strangers asking for information and guidance about various careers and jobs – a friend-of-a-friend sound engineer, a friend-of-a-friend events planner, a colleague in another group at work who works in the video department, and more
-        Read approximately 15-20 books on careers, job changes, and alternative lifestyles, including The $100 Startup, Career Renegade, Escape from Cubicle Nation, The Element, The Four-Hour Work Week, and The Art of Non-Conformity.

And while all that taking action feels great, what struck me was the idea that yes, I’ve DONE a lot – but have I ACCOMPLISHED anything?

Am I any closer to finding out who I am and what I’m meant to be doing?

Or am I just running on a treadmill under the guise of actually running TO somewhere, deluding myself that all this “action” actually means something, when in reality all I’m doing is running in place?

It’s a sobering thought, and I’m still wrestling with it. On the one hand, I do truly believe that every experience I’ve had has helped shape who I am and the path that I’m on, and has put me right here at this place in this time. So even if it seems like I’m not accomplishing much, I still feel that all my learning, exploring and growing will ultimately make a difference in my life.

On the other hand, I know myself so well, and I think that I can find ways to trick myself into justifying my actions as “doing something,” when in fact I’m really just putting off the REAL actions. Yes, I’ve read a lot of books, asked a lot of questions, and even written a few blog posts – but have I gone out there and looked for a job in music? Sung in front of strangers? Written a song? Quit my job?

Well…actually, I HAVE done some of that. I’ve written a few songs, and while they’re incomplete, I like them and I’m looking forward to learning more about songwriting. In fact, in a few weeks, I’ll be going to an all-day workshop in NYC on songwriting – my first real taste to see whether this is something I should be pursuing. I did a search one day, found this place, saw the one-day course, and signed up and paid for it all in one sitting – now THAT was a good “action” day!

And while I haven’t done an open mic night yet, I have expanded my service at my church to include formal cantoring without a group, just on my own up there with only the organ accompanying me. It’s been difficult and scary but I’m holding my own. That was something I had only thought about doing last summer – and this year, I took the plunge and actually DID it.

Plus, I actually have an audition coming up, which I’m certain will go NOWHERE, but the experience will be so valuable. I’m already looking forward to a long drive home afterwards to think through what I gained from it.

And actually, I’m also planning with my voice teacher to perform in a solo recital in the spring. Yep, an entire recital of just ME. We’ve already chosen about 80% of the program, and the songs range from opera to indie pop to “opera pop” (who knew?) to rock. It’s been an amazing motivation in keeping me focused and practicing during the week – I definitely need something to work towards when it comes to singing or else I just get lazy and slack off.

So while this post started out as a kind of calling myself out on my lack of any real action, I feel like just working through these thoughts has helped me turn it around into a nice pat on the back. Ok, so I haven’t quit my job and started singing in nightclubs and hawking a demo CD yet. (Ok, so I don’t even HAVE a demo CD yet!) I may not be on the fast track, but maybe that other old chestnut – slow and steady wins the race – can provide me some healthy perspective when I start feeling down.

And one more good action to point out – I finally WROTE this post after ignoring my blog for two months!! Yay, me. :)


  1. Every Sunday, my calendar reminds me to "read Jenn's blog". I'm glad you are back to writing. I love hearing your thoughts. Sign me up for a ticket for your recital in the spring. XOXO

    1. Oh, Katie, I knew I could count on getting a comment from you! XOXOXOXO Thanks for following and for even thinking enough of it (and me) to have a weekly reminder. That makes me feel like I'm not just typing into the void!

      I'm glad I'm back to writing too. I have so many...don't even know what to call them. Not quite irons in the fire, but so many potential paths I'm pursuing that things take turns going on the back burner, and I just let writing sit there for too long.

      But knowing I have at least one loyal reader (LOL!!) will help me stay on track.

      Thanks for your support as always, my friend...

  2. While I think the "what you're meant to be doing" might still be a bit fuzzy I think you have made tremendous strides in finding out who you are. In the past 3 years you have literally found your voice and have progressed by leaps and bounds. Planning your own recital is a testament to both the ability you have shown in your vocal training as well as the confidence you have gained in the process.

    I'm leaning heavily against the treadmill metaphor and throwing in with the "slow and steady..." line of thinking. You have stirred up this tidal pool of creative energy inside you and you just need to keep moving with the current. Inevitably you will catch the perfect wave when it comes.

    BTW, I think that you are on the right track with the more "compartmentalized" approach we were talking about. I think dedicating your focus will reap even more benefits that you have up until now, and look at all you've done while juggling all of these potential life-tracks!

    Love you babe.

    1. This is officially my favorite comment ever!! Love you too, babe. Thanks for the support! :*