Among others, two titles I’ve held in my mosaic career have been Physician and Technical Proposal Consultant
What could the two fields of medicine and construction possibly have in common?
- In medicine I operated on patients and worked with a few physicians that acted as if they were God. I was exposed to Type-A personalities in the operating room and in hospitals. As a Type-B practitioner, I often felt out of place training alongside more ego-burdened colleagues.
- As a proposal consultant, firms I consulted with built freeways, dams, urban light-rail systems, heavy rail systems, etc. Many executives I worked with were hard-charging Type-A personalities who didn’t care for the Type-B’s like me or those in their support staff.
Now I work helping other corporate personnel get a handle on their stress levels by listening, and teaching them how to incorporate mindfulness practices into their life.
Why such a drastic change?
One reason is that it’s what feels like a natural extension of my experiences years ago as a physician. At one time I spent my days meeting with patients who were in pain and did my best to partner with them to achieve better health. It was what I considered heart-and-soul work in that it gave me the sacred opportunity to co-create a healing environment and be of critical service to others.
Another reason is that because I know all too well how stressful it can be for a sensitive Type-B support staff member to work alongside demanding, workaholic Type-A bosses. Whether that boss is a surgeon who thinks she’s divine or a construction executive who thinks marketing people are just necessary fluff, I understand the range of egos in the workplace.
Working for a Type-A is no picnic. In fact, it can kill you if you don’t do what you can to prevent stress from taking over your health.
If you work in the corporate sector, heck…if you’re even alive and reading this…you’re already a victim of stress-related illness. You might not have any symptoms yet, but I guarantee that something sinister is brewing within.
Hypertension, gastric distress, Crohn’s Disease, and a whole host of other maladies have all been linked to stress, both at work and at home.
And…to add insult to injury, it’s inside job…and you’re doing all this to yourself. By that I mean that stress isn’t the pressure you’re under, it’s how your body responds to that pressure.
Researcher Hans Selye is credited with the modern definition of stress when he wrote:
“Stress is the body’s response to environmental pressure.”
A conflict with my Buddhist path
In the midst of a particularly stressful few years in which my second marriage ended and I suddenly became a single parent, I wrote my book, The Practical Buddhist: Buddhism Without the Robes & Ritual, some it from my office at work.
(Hey, you have to have some down time, am I right, Facebook addicts?)
In the book, I chronicled my experiences that led me to seek a healthier way of living day-to-day surrounded by the Type-A personalities that ordered my work life.
I explored and ultimately adopted practices that included mindfulness and meditation as well as a more secular approach to being in the world.
Not long after I was laid off -and as I started more gaining experience as a consultant- I realized that there was a conflict between the Buddhist concept of right livelihood and my consulting practice.
I wasn’t in right livelihood
In the Buddha’s Eight-fold path, one of the suggestions for living is to engage in right or appropriate work (work that doesn’t harm other beings, and does violate personal principles of morality or human rights).
As I started to reflect on my consulting work in the construction industry, I realized that there was a conflict simmering within. Then, at the end of 2013 and before I could make a decision, I was suddenly laid off from my job.
I spent 2014 and most of 2015 freelancing as a technical proposal consultant thanks largely to the contacts I’d made during the past decade, and my reputation for doing quality work. This gave me some additional time to isolate the issues that were troubling me. The consulting practice performed well, but I still wasn’t happy.
It was then that my dad was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s dementia and an aggressive form of pulmonary fibrosis. I relocated from my beach home to San Jose and for the next two years I spent almost all my time caring for him. Sadly, we lost him in February of 2017.
This two-year experience of intense caregiving demanded everything I could muster in terms of inner strength, compassion, and resilience.
As I emerged from that experience, still occasionally consulting, I finally understood the conflict that existed, not because the work caused harm to other beings (although I did cringe when I knew that our plans would force some homeowners to sell their homes to the State to make way for a new freeway on-ramp), but mainly because of the need to place myself in direct conflict with the Type-A personalities I worked for.
As an empathic Type-B personality, I soak up negative energy like a sponge. When I was traveling I often left a long day of meetings and proposal work only to collapsed in my hotel room, often not feeling like having dinner.
Most of the Type-A executives I worked with didn’t really want to listen to my input, something that’s a deal breaker for me as it turns out.
I felt increasing less valuable and more like hired gun. I was told what to do and how to do it. For me, that didn’t fulfill the goal of right livelihood and I made a decision to end my practice.
Ultimately I stopped actively marketing my services for consulting within the industry and only accepted assignment from former clients, which I occasionally still do even though it’s rare.
The circuitous path led me to you
All of that led me to start Zen-Journal. What started as a simple blog about my more mindful analog planning system, began to flourish and expand into coaching others in mindfulness practice.
The heart-and-soul work of medicine had returned, though not in a way that I expected. I now write about mindfulness and coach individuals who feel invisible, undervalued, and continually over-scheduled and overwhelmed by the demands of the their Type-A boss.
They feel like quitting, but they need to make it work…at work.
It really is the best job in the world…for me.
P.S. If you feel lost, are unsure of what to do or where to turn because of stress-related problems at work, let’s talk about it. Contacting your HR department has its risks and sometimes you’d rather them not know how you’re feeling. I fully understand that.
Please click here for information about my coaching for individuals or use the contact form below to reach out.