What If Money Were No Object?

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell

Welcome to Living Lite*, a blog focused on exploring quality in a quantity driven culture. For the opening post, I’d like to begin by providing a little backstory about myself in order to give you, the reader, a better idea of what this project is all about. I wish there were a simple “well, it all began when...” anecdote to provide a clean starting point. Fortunately, life is sloppy affair and more of a process than an event.

The Search For Quality

The spark to explore “quality” and “value” is in part due to a comic posted on ZenPencils.com that struck a nerve. This comic illustrated a quote by philosopher and translator of Eastern thought, Alan Watts, challenging us to identify what we truly desire. The quote basically boils down to “what if money were no object?” which has become a cliche of guidance counselors and Office Space lore. However, Watts expands stating that if we are not spending our time in a manner that we enjoy, contributing to what we value, then we are stuck in a strange paradox. We do work we don’t like to stay alive, yet we stay alive to do work we don’t like. Which Watts believes, and I have to agree, is stupid.

For some reason, this time around Watts’ question hit me right in the gut. It puzzled me. My immediate answer was, “well, I suppose I’d do what I’m doing now.” Which was defensive. Working as a social worker at a mental health clinic, I believed my career would provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. After much deliberation and many sleepless nights, I realized that the reason I didn’t have an answer was because I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to know because I invested a great deal of time, energy and money into my education and career. Yet, I dreaded going into work. I do find joy in helping my clients and watching them grow, however, I had made too many compromises over the years and sacrificed non-income generating passions for the sake of my career. In addition, I was invested in the idea that my career was going to deliver the fulfillment and purpose I’d been promised by so many books, motivational speakers, teachers and “hang in there” kitten posters.

So I made a change: I quit my job. Luckily, I had a pretty decent saving account built up in case I became unemployed. Human services is notorious for it’s fleeting funding. With my freed up time I began to dive into this question. What if money were no object? Well, now that I’m not making money doing social work, do I still want to do it? Helping my clients remained a source of joy, so I started providing pro bono life coaching. This allows me to focus less on the trappings of the mental health system and approach clients holistically. Next, I booked a road trip, spanning from San Diego to Denver, to spend time with friends spread across the country while soaking up the countryside. Finally, I allowed more questions to emerge. I began weighing my motivations and goals, areas I was too afraid to face because of their consequences on my career. I primed myself for change.

In Search Of Direction

So, what does this have to do with a blog? Working in social services, I encountered a wide variety of people with an even wider variety of questions. Most of the time I was expected to provide an answer, or at least to point in them in the right direction. Truthfully, I don’t believe the answer exists for any one problem and I certainly don’t have privilege to any sacred knowledge. This does not mean the questions themselves are less valuable or meaningful. What I learned is how to draw solutions out of my clients by listening to their stories and deriving value out of the act of questioning. Curiosity has the ability to draw us out into the unknown. This is where change incubates.

So this blog is a collection of valuable questions. I cannot promise the answer to any of the questions posed. However, we will explore the benefits of inquiry and maybe feel less alone for asking them in the first place. As for Mr. Watts’ question, I decided that since money is no object, a non-motivating factor, I will write, counsel and travel. And on we go!