root picture by flutterby on flickr

Root by Flutterby on Flickr

Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, articulates what Your ROOT is in this blog post

When you are cut off from your root, it looks like this:

If you are trying to get your motivation just from the need to survive financially, you will feel emotionally anemic.”

I can’t tell you how much I relate to this.  Maybe YOU relate to this too?

Have you ever done a job just for the money?

How did it feel inside?

Was it the job, or was it you?

Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin, seems to say that the way to doing a better job is to treat your job as an art, and not to quit it, but I honestly disagree.

Sometimes you DO need to quit your job.

Let me tell you a story.

For three days once, I was training to be a photographer of newborns. There’s an actual industry around this, where photographers go into hospitals and seek out new moms and give them their cards and then a couple months later, come back and take a picture of the newborn. I remember driving around with the lead guy, who said I would have to drive hundreds of miles a day, no compensation for gas or wear and tear on my car, the only thing that I would get paid for was how many shoots I completed. I could see the deck was stacked against me but still I went along. We went into different people’s dwellings and tried to get babies to smile for five seconds. I saw Very young moms. Moms who didn’t speak English. Grandmas who sang pop songs about sex to the babies. New dads trying to take their SATs online. For me, it was extremely depressing. It was obvious that none of these babies had been planned, some teen moms were living with grandma, some teen moms were living in apartments with no furniture, no one had a job, everyone was destitute, and they had been conned into the value of a baby photo package. I quit, returned all the equipment, and felt strangely happy that I had made that decision to quit. The decision came from deep inside me, the part of me that had the power to say NO.  That job was based around my need for money, and it seemed like prostituting myself after the first day. I thought I needed money more than I needed to feel good about the job, but I was wrong. If you want to read more, Carolyn Myss has written a lot about the Prostitute archetype in her book, “Sacred Contracts.”

Pam Slim says,

You need a deeper root of meaning to fuel your career or business.

Why are you doing this (business) (parenting) (difficult project) (job)?

  • What will happen if you succeed?
  • Will it be worth it even if you fail?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What will you regret not doing?
  • What will you rejoice leaving as a legacy?”

This whole experience galvanized me to find meaningful work, and to do it, every day, so that never again would I fall into the trap where I was exploiting someone.

I’ve seen people with a root, and I’ve seen people without it, and I really love when people can articulate why they are here, and what they have left to do.

Not having a root can be deadly.

Once I lived with a woman in her 70s who had just overcome colon cancer. Over a period of months, whenever I walked out the door or walked in the door,  I saw her playing solitaire on her computer. She did this all day, over and over, even though she was now cancer free and could do anything. It seemed like she didn’t have a reason to go on, and then, I heard, 1 year later, she had died and I wasn’t really surprised. There was no reason to go on. Maybe this is oversimplification. Maybe this is practicing medicine without a license. I just remember looking at her and thinking, “THIS is what you survived cancer for?”

An ex-friend of mine killed himself in October 2011. He had no interest in new ideas or a world outside of the one he had occupied for the last three years, sitting in a cave in his mother’s basement, with the curtains drawn, watching TV or playing video games. I tried in vain to get him to see a therapist. He merely mocked me. I could see that he was thinking about killing himself. But he denied it. He was wasting each day. And he didn’t seem to be able to talk with anyone about it, didn’t seem to be able to accept help. He couldn’t find his root. And he didn’t want anyone to help him try to find it. In the end, not wanting to take that risk, risk being vulnerable, to ask himself what he really wanted his life to mean, I believe, made his life seem so meaningless that he killed himself.

Unearth your Root

You must nurture your root and when you are strong enough, nurture it in others people, to help them understand and UNEARTH the root in themselves.

My little brother is going through a period of searching for his root. He’s got a lot to think about. Maybe he should do this for money. Maybe he should do that for money. But what he REALLY LOVES TO DO is talk about cars, drive them, and convince people to buy them. This is what he loves to do. And he’s good at it too. But he is convinced this is not good enough. He takes endless quizzes and aptitude tests. He thinks, maybe I should manage a franchise. Maybe I should get an HR certificate. Maybe I should take the bar exam because lawyers make a lot of money. Yeah, they DO make money. If they can manage to get hired. And what he doesn’t know is that a lot of lawyers are poor, and a lot of lawyers don’t like what they do all day. A lot of people who go through law school come out, practice law for a year or two, hate it, and then do something else, except now they have all this debt, too. Every time I talk with him, I ask him what really matters to him, what would he do if he knew he could not fail? And it’s always the same. Drive cars. Talk about cars. Write about driving cars. So I keep encouraging him to do this. Maybe you know someone like this, too?

Bottom Line: It’s not a stable job if you’re prostituting yourself each day to go there, if you’re just doing it for the money, if you can’t stand how meaningless it is. It’s a prison, and you are willingly putting yourself behind bars. You need to find your root, why you are here, and pursue your own sense of personal fulfillment, not what your fear is telling you to do, and not what your parents are telling you to do. It’s really hard to calm down long enough to figure this out, with the economic crisis and global weirding and your own debt and and and…. but you must. It’s more important than anything else. And you can’t buy it. And you can’t sell it. You need to look inside to find it.

My root

My root is to help people overcome oppression in all forms, whether workplace bullying or societal oppression. That’s why I wrote my book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising in 2010, to help people understand how to stand up to their boss, how to raise money to make the world better. That’s why I started this blog. That’s why I teach fundraising/career webinars, and that’s why I’m writing my next book. The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media. These books are my legacy. They are what I am grateful to leave to the world to think of me by, when I’m gone. I think we all can leave a legacy, if we find our root. The way may not be easy, but it is clear.


picture by wenzday01 on Flickr

What’s your root?

What is YOUR root? What do you want your legacy to be?

It doesn’t have to be a book or even a series of books. Maybe your root is social entrepreneurship. Building a company with a triple bottom line. Maybe your root is having a family and nurturing them as much as you can, creating that family unit you can be proud of.  Maybe your root is encouraging people to change the world through your nonprofit. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Are you looking for your root?

Do you know someone who has found their root?

Have you seen people without roots?

Please leave a comment.