Not long ago, Chris Guillebeau of AONC fame posed a question about something in an old David Sedaris article. It was something called the Four Burner Theory, which postulates that, in order to be successful, you must give up one “burner,” and to be really successful, you must give up two.
The four “burners” are: Work, Family, Friends & Health.
The scary part is that, of the quick mental list I made of hugely successful professionals, not a single one had all burners blazing, or so it seemed.
People often tell me that they’re seeking balance, but what they often mean is, “I’m spending too much time surviving and not enough fulfilling my life’s purpose.” In other words, one or more of their burners IS off –but they’re the wrong burners.
So, short of entering the witness protection program and starting a new life, is it possible to carve out the time to do the needed and the fulfilling? Or should we abandon all else and perform only work that is both deeply satisfying and leaves a powerful legacy for future generations?
WILL WORK FOR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE.
Unless you renounce the world, this is obviously not a practical solution if you have other committments (mouths to feed, creditors to pay, etc.). And yet, your inner Laureate, Oscar winner or Knight (who sounds suspiciously like your ego) condemns you for wasting not only time but space. Gah.
What to do?
I guess I have to say it. Okay, here it comes.
Not everyone gets to be a rock star.
I know this statement might seem un-American to some people, but the reality is that life and all its variables –our skills, opportunities, outside influences, mental and physical health, you name it– (collectively known as karma) sometimes waylay our grand personal legacy project. Or at least forestall it.
Sometimes we’ve got to hang out in the audience.
We might find ourselves working a mundane job and thinking, Damn. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just manifest my best life empire secret?
There are loads of professionals out there, some of them very good, who can help you develop a solid plan for realizing your personal and professional aspirations.
There are even some wise souls who can help you with your subtler issues, including karma.
But while you’re working and waiting for your moment in the sun, why not find the fulfilling in your less-than-ideal situation?
Why not appreciate the show?
If you have any relatives or personal friends in so-called developing countries, you realize how unbelievably fortunate we are to have the opportunity to complain about our jobs. To switch careers. To try stuff.
In most countries, there are far fewer choices, and the focus is on getting a job, period. Most often, work is regarded as service to the family, rather than as a means of personal expression, and one must find the fulfilling in the needed.
I’m not suggesting that anyone give up the idea of their dream job and settle. Definitely try stuff. Expand your circle of influence. Hey, we can!
But if you are able to find the happiness in any situation, then you will become very, very strong –and even better, content. And when you DO find your perfect occupational match, you will probably rock.