The Job As AlbatrossIn the Coleridge Poem, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, (or the Iron Maiden song by the same name), the sea bird that follows and brings good fortune upon a ship is shot and killed for sport by a young seaman. What follows is terrible misfortune, which can be dramatically bad when you are out at sea. His shipmates punish the Mariner by hanging the dead bird hung around his neck.

It is hung there in place of a cross. What he once made sport of has now become his cross to bear. In this way he is made accountable.

In this time of economic peril, when, more than ever in my lifetime, jobs are hard to find, I have asked myself the question if I am being a bit too flippant about shooting at the certainty of a paycheck with my crossbow with the words “A Day On” carved into the stock. Technorati Profile

For the creatively employed it surely feels like a blessing to be able to pay the bills while doing something that is an expression of one’s creativity and which demands few of the unnecessary constraints of off-the-rack, nine-to-six, one week’s vacation jobs. Which are better than no jobs at all. And, finally, this is what I am shooting at with my own crossbow, this site. I am shooting at the constraints that I and many others wish to be liberated from.

Those who are free of these shackles seem to have gotten there via one of two possible paths. Either they were raised to go down this path or else they, through force of will or good fortune, found and possibly fought their way from the path that they were on, through the dense brush, onto the path less travelled.

Some have had the blind faith or ignorance to simply tune everything else out and to go where their heart led them. I remember speaking to a bohemian gypsy jeweler alive and well in 1995 USA who told me “I can’t imagine living any other way.” Really? You really can’t imagine it? You can’t imagine yourself delivering appetizers to a table of tourists? You can’t imagine checking your creativity at the door and inhabiting a cubicle for nine hours until check-out time?

In their book, The Artist’s Way At Work, Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron and Catherine talk about dumping the albatross.  Essentially, they are writing about changing your perceptions of your job from that of a stinking, decaying albatross hanging around your neck to one that fits you better. Their thinking is one of understanding that for the present anyway, this is the place that provides your daily bread. Why not try to become friends with it? Why not give it some of what you value about yourself? Why not try to share some of your creativity with it and maybe it will begin to transform in your eyes into something more bearable, possibly even something beautiful.

They suggest beginning with the following steps:

1. List ten reasons why your job is important to you.

2. Imagine for one day that you are a Zen monk, and make every move part of your practice.  In other words, pay attention to every detail of your day.

3. List ten things that you like about the people who work with you.

4. List positive things about your current position that you can use in future positions.

5. Consider creating a new position in your company.

The five suggestions listed above illustrate ways that you can stop looking at your present job as something that is imposed upon you, as you begin taking some active role in what it means to you.

I would argue that by taking this approach to all things in your life you will soon see an evolution of your life from one that you are simply forced to deal with to one that constantly offers opportunities to be molded by you in your own image with your own creativity.

It is in coming to love and respect the albatross while it is still in flight that we come to understand the relationship between us and our work. Loving your contribution and learning to make a contribution of our creativity infused with our love is the ultimate goal.

Good things will follow.