“After doing this work for the past twelve years and watching scarcity ride roughshod over our families, organizations, and communities, I’d say the one thing we have in common is that we’re sick of feeling afraid. We want to dare greatly. We’re tired of the national conversation centering on “What should we fear?” and “Who should we blame?” We all want to be brave.” –Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
There’s nothing like resigning from your job without the next job lined up to make you aware of the scarcity mentality. Last night I was driving, listening to an economics expert on NPR discussing the “cascading” taking place in the American workplace. Essentially, there is a scarcity of jobs for those of us who are highly educated and credentialed. So we are taking jobs a few rungs down from those we would typically be qualified for. He said, “I’m not saying everyone is becoming a barrista at Starbucks, but…” The cascading effect then causes the next most educated/qualified people to take jobs even further down the ladder and so on, until those who were on the bottom rung fall off completely. Later, on Facebook, I saw a post which included a note to a politician written on a paper plate. The note began, “I never thought that at 52 I would need the services of a food pantry…” 52. The age I will be in July.
As word of my resignation last week has filtered out, I’ve received a few shocked and fearful responses from people who are worried about my future livelihood. Mostly, though, the response has been overwhelmingly on the side of, “I’m jealous!” “I wish I could do that.” These responses support the contention made by Brene Brown in the quote above.
For me, while I may like the idea of being brave, this move isn’t about wanting to be brave. This move is about wanting to be whole. Those things seem very different – even though I had to screw up my courage to set this whole thing in motion. In another part of her book, Dr. Brown says she took the familiar question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” and turned it around, making it, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” The original question is easy to answer – I can come up with a whole list in a matter of moments. If there were no risk in trying, why wouldn’t I try…skydiving, tightrope walking, asking someone out, going all-in at the casino, riding my bike cross-country? (Cut me some slack, that list was literally off the top of my head!)
The second question, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” is a worthy question. The answer that came to me as I pondered it is simple – “Listening.”
It is worth it to listen to the voice inside urging me to live my own life more congruently.
It is worth it to listen to the call I hear, the call to engage the gifts I have been given but have allowed to take a less central role in my days.
It is worth it to listen to my heart, which asks me to free myself to love this life more completely.
Even if I fail.
Which brings me back to the idea of scarcity. The idea that there isn’t enough – or that I am not enough – to risk making a chancy change. Scarcity makes us choose staying safe over being fulfilled. But security is an illusion – people have accidents, lose their jobs, the economy tanks, things happen – that can be ripped to shreds any day, even if we take the “safe” road. If we listen to the message that scarcity is so scary we should cower through our lives hanging tightly to our illusions of security, we can pass years and decades living half lives. This I already know from personal experience. Now, I want to know something else from personal experience.
So I am staring the scarcity monster in the eye and calling it by its true name: fear. This is worth doing, even if I fail.