Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Are You Too Nice?

I’m feeling really good about the event I organized last Sunday. We had over 60 people at An Afternoon of Mussar, almost half of whom had never explored Mussar before. 60 is quite extraordinary for a first time event. We ended the day in a giant circle with our arms around each other doing a very simple chant.
When I shared this with David Dotson, who is running a leadership workshop I will be attending in a few weeks, he asked me a simple question: “so what is that feeling inspiring you to do.” Hmmmm. I don’t really know. I know that in 4.5 years I want to have an event at Levi’s stadium. But how do I take the great feeling from this event to move me to the next? I’m not sure. It is certainly helping me get through the mundane tasks of doing the expense reports and follow ups. I’d like to think that being a part of something great can inspire something else great. For now, I need to be content that it is helping me do something small.
Speaking of small, I was touched by the story of Ralph Body, who was fired from his job as a doorman in a luxury apartment building on Long Island for being too nice. He would bend over backwards to do favors for tenants, like feeding cats, holding packages, and watering plants. He was told in no uncertain terms, that he was fired for doing more than was expected of him. The owner of the building wanted someone to open and close the door, and nothing more.
I have experienced similar things both large and small. I almost got fired from a summer job in K-mart because I kept going to help another department who was behind because my department was fully stocked. The manager kept asking me not to do that, and I was close to getting the act because I would not obey. Time and again in the corporate world, I have seen people get in trouble for being disobedient. Whether or not it was helping the customer never came into the conversation. While what happened to Mr. Body is inexcusable, it is a reminder that doing the right thing may have no bearing on your career. It is easy to kid ourselves that we are being noticed for our good deeds when in fact others may be taking advantage of us, or just plain oblivious. In Mr. Body’s case, they noticed and were hostile to helping. What soulless jerks.
How does this tie in with the first topic? I know what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be a part of a culture that demands stupid obedience, which is why I work for myself. But what do I want to do myself? I have a vision, and a set of things to do. How can I connect the dots, so that what I am doing feels inspired? Maybe that bar is too high. Sometimes you just have to grind it out, to get the things done that you aren’t that into because they just have to get done.
What do you think? Where does inspiration fit in day to day?
And are you too nice?
Let me know – I answer all emails personally.