If you’re going to be following the things that bring you joy, then you’ve got to know when “enough is enough.” Just because you start something, doesn’t mean that you need to finish.
All of my growing up, I learned about “discipline.” My dad was a bodybuilder who stuck to a strict regimen and routine, which earned him a room full of trophies and a state full of admirers. He was certainly following his joy! Similarly, in school I learned that “winners never quit” and you’ve got to stick with a task until it’s done.
I’ve come to understand that some rules, however, are meant to be broken.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to learn how to salsa dance. And through the years I’ve paged through Community Education catalogs looking for just the right class to attend with Bill. And then it finally happened earlier this year: All the stars aligned, and Bill quietly surrendered and agreed to attend the “Hot Hot Hot!” salsa class with me. I was elated!
Part of me was excited to finally have some hot dance moves under my belt, and the other part was just as excited to finally cross this giant “to do” item off my list!
We enrolled in the class, which was scheduled for eight sessions at the local community center. During the first few classes, we stepped on each other’s feet (Bill even garnered a nasty bruise on his shin—oops), shared some good laughs, and learned a round of slick dance moves.
And then we quit.
It had nothing to do with the class or the instructor; all was great. But after a few classes, I realized that I didn’t enjoy the structure to the dancing, and the sessions started to feel like a chore. What I thought would be following my joy, turned out to be something different. In the end, it was a huge relief to get outta there and have our Thursday nights freed up once again.
Scary looking clouds
A few months later, Bill and I signed up to be trained weather spotters! We love weather, storms, and scary looking clouds (they actually use an acronym for this in class: “SLC”!). This, again, is something that had been on my “list” forever, and I was very excited to finally be an official weather student.
But half-way through the four hour-long seminar, we took a break outside the classroom at the drinking fountain, looked both ways, and gave each other a “Let’s go!” look. It was a thrill to be captivated by videos of damaging tornadoes and learn the science of how they form, but when the instructor began to go into detail about how to use a ham radio to submit an official weather report, he lost us both.
So we bolted.
Out of respect to both instructors from whom we fled, we sent follow-up notes of thanks with great feedback, explaining our need to bow out.
Irregardless, we were drop-outs.
Breaking the rules
I’ve been a “rule-follower” much of my life. And that’s a good thing and has served me well. But in the last decade, I’ve seen that it can also trip me up and get in the way of where I really want to be in life. Last week at a Steely Dan concert, my voice was hoarse as I shouted out my favorite line to the song, “Josie,” with all my soul: “LAY DOWN THE LAW AND BREAK IT!…” And I meant it.
So I’d like to challenge the idea that I learned when I was a kid and say that “Winners do quit.” Because in order to succeed in life, it’s essential to know when you’ve gotten what you need, and move on. This is precisely why I left my great corporate job. And why I stop watching a movie in the middle if I’m not into it. And why I forego reading a book on my shelf that doesn’t grab me (and pass it along instead)…even when everyone says it’s a “must-read.”
Sure, I could stick it out to the end, but at what cost? Following the things that bring me joy is simply too important. My time (and your time) is valuable, and I’m just not willing to sit through a bad movie, or finish a class, or read the final chapters of a book, or stay with a job…just because I “should.”