Ain't Necessarily So


What drives you? What is your passion?  Do you have that something that presses your buttons so hard that you could spend a lifetime pursuing and perfecting it? What is that certain thing in your life/career/calling that pushes and drives you like nothing else? 

Mine is connection. My "why"... my "calling" is using my talent, creativity and God given gifts to connect with others. Whether it is through my art, my photography, my writing, my visual story telling.....creating and connecting are deeply embedded in my DNA. It is what drives me. 

Defining my calling, and vaguely implementing a quasi effective plan on how to best utilize my gifts, however, has been..well...let's just say it has been an evolving skill set. It certainly hasn't been something that, until recently, I have purposefully pursued with any intent or specific direction. But, looking back along my career journey, hindsight and perspective has afforded me a particular clarity in regards to some of the life choices I have made. And, doing a little connecting of the dots through some of my life's greatest decisions, it has become apparent to me that I have been silently, and persistently, guided by a unique voice inside my heart along a path that would eventually lead me to where I could write the above paragraph about my particular calling with any kind of certainty.

Take these three life moments as examples...

 In 1989 I was in college, in love to my then girlfriend, now wife, and getting tired of not having an answer for the "what are you going to do with your life?" question. My family owns one of the oldest mortuaries in SW MO. (Knell Mortuary) It was started in 1882 by my family and my father, obviously,  wanted me to step in after college and become part of the business. After much grief, and internal struggle, the voice inside my heart directed me to choose another path, study graphic design, and turn my back on generations of history and the family business. 

In 1999, when CD-Roms were all the rage and the internet was in it's incubational infancy, I received, within a couple months of each other, two unsolicited, high profile, job offers. One was to work in the media/marketing department of an international sports facility architecture firm. The other was for an international "new media" marketing firm to work with clients ranging from Microsoft and Nike to AMC Theaters and McDonalds. Both were fantastic opportunities, with high profile clients and salary to match, but I declined both as the voice in my heart firmly said "no" to each. I started my own design shop instead. 

In 2010 that very same/successful design shop, my life dream and goal, began it's slow death spiral due to the widening recession, shrinking marketing budgets, and my constant irritation with increasingly meddling middle managers, who hadn't a single clue about good design, that continued to insist on justifying their bloated salaries by micro managing my work. I eventually "divorced" all of my clients and officially closed shop in 2013. I was devastated but in my heart I knew it was the right passion for the business had left. A new direction was needed. 

What happened between 2011ish and now started a period marked with deep soul searching and quests for clarity. After closing my design shop I was at a loss as to what was next. Goal job gone. My path and future in question. I was full on in whiny mid-life crisis mode with significant job burn out and serious doubts about what to do next. My coping mechanism resulted in a fairly intense period of severe life/career introspection that involved many long walks with my wife, quite a few glasses of beer and wine and lengthy journal writing. Thankfully no red sports car from Italy, or manly motorcycle with Harley Davidson on the side, was purchased to reaffirm my youthful vigor and up my testosterone level during this phase but believe me I was close. 

As i wrangled with my next steps...significant fear and conflict also started to seep into my psyche'. A massive storm of resistance and confusion was running through me and my inner voice was being drowned out by it as a result. It's like i somehow, subconsciously, knew that the new path my inner voice was laying out for me was so filled with uncertainty, fear, personal tests/trials and possibilities for more failure, and SUCCESS, that I absolutely wanted nothing to do with it. It was daunting just to think about, and almost impossible to wrap my head around the concept of what it was, so I just put up as many "rational" barriers and generated as much internal static as I could muster just to not deal with the enormity of it all.

Thankfully my voice was patient and persistent as it coaxed, dragged and cohearsed me back towards where it knew I needed to be. It let me know that this next goal, this next dream, wasn't optional. It is essential and would be part of the fabric of the next part of my journey.

Finally the "rational side" of my brain gave in and acquiesced to this new path.  Inner voice heard. Direction defined and accepted. The storm clouds parted and my road became a bit more clear. Time to "eat the elephant" one bite at a time and embark on my art career.. 

I'm about 6 months into my gig as "full time artist" and I now have a game plan to keep me moving on my path. While I do still have moments of questioning they are getting fewer and farther between, they don't last as long and the doubt isn't as loud as it once was. I have a plan. I have a vision and, more importantly, I have my calling restored.  

So my question to you is this. What is your inner voice telling you? Does it quietly sit in the corner and nag or does it yell loudly and deeply into the very pit of your soul.  Are you listening?  Are you on your path? Have you always known your place or are you searching? This obstinate road of following dreams gets pretty lonely and I'd love to commiserate with you and hear about your journey so please comment on this post if you'd like to share.

Willie Nelson has a song called "Ain't Necessarily So" that I listen to often and find great comfort in. My favorite line goes something like this: "Every time I follow what I'm feeling. I end up in the same place my heart would have me go. There's one rule of life I trust...that's everything outside my gut ain't necessarily so."




John Knell6 Comments