When we say we are going to change, or are in the process of changing, our line of work, we are usually referring to some broad, sweeping, and sometimes drastic, career shift. A whole new direction. A total rework. From plumber to chef, or from accountant to high school gym teacher.
The word line has many meanings. One definition is a connected series of military fieldworks or defenses facing an enemy force. As in “he was trapped behind enemy lines.” These defenses include trenches, berms, pickets, razor wire, tank traps, fox holes, sand bags.
All with one purpose: to keep the enemy out—or at least at bay.
So how can we apply this to our work? And by work I am referring less to our day to day jobs (although it is certainly applicable there as well) and more to our personal creative work. Our gifts to the world. Our art, however we define it—be it writing, paintings, music, dance, teaching, craftsmanship, personal connection, etc.
How do we keep the enemy out?
How do we keep the enemy at bay?
How do we safeguard our time, our process, and our intention against forces that would seek to destroy or impede our progress?
Understand, not all forces are malicious. Sometimes the ‘enemy’ (and I use the term very lightly here) has really good intentions. It means well and is sincere. Sometimes it comes disguised as family commitments, PTA meetings, children’s soccer games, and school fundraisers. Other times it shows up as piles of laundry, yard work, late night runs to the grocery store, or a really intriguing new show on TV. Social media and never-ending news feeds. Yes, even this blog.
True, some things in life need to be addressed. I’m not talking about shirking responsibility in the almighty name of art. But we do not need to address all of them, all of the time, with all of our attention, effort, and focus.
We can choose to draw a line in the sand. We can protect our creations and provide a safe haven where they can nurture and grow.
When I was younger, my ‘line of work’ was to say yes to every request from everyone. I would say yes to freelance design jobs I really didn’t want to do because I wanted the money. I was so afraid of saying no because I feared that if I did I would never get another gig again.
My line was weak. The enemy could sneak past the perimeter at will. And hundreds of well-intentioned ideas and projects now lay dead on the battlefield, face down in the mud.
For me, changing my line of work was learning to say no more often. Learning to listen to my gut and politely saying “No thank you.” Learning to stay true to my values and desires and dreams.
And you know what? The phone still rings, the jobs still keep coming in. Better opportunities show up. I honestly believe that when you are willing to empty your cup you create space to receive.
Is it time you changed your ‘line’ of work?
To your good fortune!