Exploration: seek meaning

Here’s where shit gets real.

Once you know where you are, you can plan a route to anywhere else. I call it exploration.

Whether you have a final destination in mind or not, reflection gives you a sense of direction. It allows you to explore potential paths to what you really want out of life.

Let me give you a closer look at my own first steps to parallel.

I graduated college in 2006. (Holy shit. I’m old. Anyway…) At the time, I was working as a mortgage loan processor for a pool contractor. I processed loan applications and escrow holdbacks for people making five figures a month, with sub-600 credit scores, who were buying half-million dollar homes with $50k-$150k backyards. (Hey. Top of the market, remember?) I think I was making $12/hr.

I immediately started looking for that “good job” I’d been promised by everyone my entire life of getting good grades in school—you know, the fat salary for sitting in a desk not actually doing anything of value to the world job—that pretty much doesn’t exist.

The cake is a lie.

I digress.

I landed a pretty sweet gig with a company called Govig and Associates. They’re a serious headhunting organization. And after acing the interview process, after acing the six-week training program, I was paired with a mentor and started dialing water and wastewater engineers in the Carolinas.

I made a base salary plus something like half the firm’s 3%-of-first-year-salary fee for every placement I landed. I remember thinking just one placement a month would be more money than I’d ever made in my life at the time.

My mentor was one Erik Ferguson. We carpooled. We got iced coffee and cheesy tots from BK on our way. He was a seriously cool dude. He’s STILL a cool dude, and one of my most trusted advisors when it comes to career advice.

Despite his best efforts, despite all his encouragement, I was not made out to be a wastewater engineering headhunter. Our boss, Diana (also very cool), gave me the option of resigning three months in so as not to fire me for not actually getting anyone a job.

As I drove home that day, knowing I’d pretty much ruined my fiance’s birthday, I vowed that I would never chase the money again. From that moment on, I would find something I was genuinely interested in doing; something car-related.

I’ve been a gearhead as far back as I can remember. My first memory is dropping a Matchbox dump truck on my face lying in bed back when I was in kindergarten. I used to know pretty much every car on the road by its tail lights. (Now they all look like Kias, amiright.)

So I started looking for anything car-related that wasn’t car sales or service.

Remember yesterday’s example, when I mentioned reflecting on what you might love most about working on cars—research, logistics & planning; assembly; or tuning & optimization? Here’s where exploration might come into play there.

If you’re a natural when it comes to research and logistics, where else do you think those skills would be useful? How easily could you step into an online sales job at an aftermarket parts supplier?

“I need a turbo kit for a 1984 Chevy Citation X-11.” Could you source one?

What about recommending a piece of software to better qualify, hire, and onboard new employees in your company?

“We need a better HCM solution with integrated financial reporting.” Could you you build a list of viable options?

There’s a lot to the exploration stage, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover, too, ya know?

We all start out in pitch black darkness. Reflection helps us find the wall.

Exploration is how we follow that wall, looking for a light switch or door.

Tomorrow we find it.

Reflection: figure it out

GPS doesn’t tell you where to go.

It tells you where you are. That’s the first step in navigation.

How are you supposed to know which way to go if you don’t truly know where you are?

Work-life parallel is a framework, kinda like an OODA loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It’s something they train friggin’ fighter pilots to do literally at supersonic speeds. Observe your surroundings, get your bearings, make a decision, and act. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you figure yourself out on the first try, you’re one of the lucky ones. The rest of us will cycle through this loop over and over again, each time adjusting course and moving forward. And that’s, okay.

The first thing I’d suggest you do is think back to the classic, high school guidance counselor question:

If you were dirty, rotten, filthy, stinkin’ rich and didn’t have to work—what would you do all day?

Okay. OTHER than smoke weed and watch movies on the couch in your G5.

What I want you to do here is think about whatever it is you love doing most—but moreso than that—I want you to think about WHY you love doing it.

If you love working on your car, what do you love most about that? Is it the planning stage, where you meticulously figure out which parts to order in pursuit of a greater whole? Is it the way precision-machined pieces fit together? Is it the tuning stage after, when you methodically optimize all the settings and dial the machine in just right?

No matter what you love doing, there are likely smaller pieces to it. Notice them. Pay attention to them. And make note of your strengths and weaknesses. If you have the research and logistics side of the race car build down cold—but find you get bogged down in the actual assembly or need others to tune for you—you’ve got your bearings.

You know where you are. Know what I mean?

The whole point of work-life parallel is figuring out what you enjoy doing and why you enjoy doing it so you can leverage your strengths to improve your life while developing the skills you need to get to the next level—whatever it is.

It all starts with reflection.

And it always comes back to reflection.

When you know where you are, you know where you need to go.

Tomorrow we go exploring…

Becoming self-aware?

Mindfulness without meditation?

I’ve had a couple experiences in the last month that suggest I’m actually getting my shit together. These are obviously the result of increased mindfulness on my part—paying attention to my thoughts in the moment. And yet, my daily meditation practice would be best described as “anything but.”

It shows up simply enough, most often when I least expect it, too.

I’ll be fuming mad about something and think, “I *want* to be angry right now. Just a few more minutes.” And then I get back to living.

Most recently, I found myself standing on the side the interstate in the middle of nowhere. The sun was setting, and my weekend camping plans were canceled because the new engine we’d installed just five days prior had apparently blown a seal. I found myself with the usual doubts.

“This is it. I’m done with cars.”

“If I’m not interested in cars anymore, that’s probably the end of GBXM, too.”

“WTF am I going to do, then? WTF am going to do now?”

“This stupid hobby is as damaging as it is beneficial.”

The weekend prior, when we built and installed that engine, SNAFUs like this pushed our timeline into almost triple overtime. It was awful. But I wasn’t the least bit upset. I saw the disappointments, but I simply chose to focus on solutions over sadness.

And here I was, stranded on the side of the road, contemplating the end of perhaps the most significant aspect of my life beyond my immediate family—and I was evaluating the situation dispassionately.

“We’ll get it to the shop in the morning, pull the engine, replace the rear main seal, and this will all be done and behind me within 24 hours.”

At 1AM, adding a gallon of oil to Fezzik under the streetlight after the tow truck finally dropped me off, “Ugh. I am so tired. This is bullshit, but we’ll fix it tomorrow. It’s gonna suck, doing this all over again out in the sun this time, especially on less than five hours’ sleep—but we’ll get it done and I’ll be home in time for dinner.”

I was home by 3PM.

And since I didn’t make the camping trip, I actually felt like I had an extra day that weekend.

Not bad.

Not sure what all this means, but whatever it is, I like it.