Find Your Happy Work

To find your Ideal Work you will want to find the Intersection of 3 things: Love, Skills, and Market.

Here’s this “Holy Trinity” of Work Happiness as a graphic:

Without The Three Legs

People often make the mistake of taking an outside-in approach: for example seeing that there is a market for something in the world, and they have or can acquire a certain skill for it, and therefore think it’s what they should do. It’s logical but it doesn’t work over time. We are not machines that can be forced to do things forever. One way this inharmonious approach can happen is when we think an object – in this case more money – will make us happy, so we start with the object (more money) and work backwards. But when in harmony with ourselves at a deep level, life evolves naturally for us from inside-out.

Without the three legs of love, skills, and market, what happens? The stability isn’t there. I’ll show examples from my own life.

1. Only Love and Skill:
If you have love for a subject and skill for it, you might have some great output to show for your time, but of course you’ll have a hard time making a living.
Example: I loved making art, and thought I could have a career as a painter. I took to it like a sponge, gained lots of skill fast, and made some great abstract and realists paintings during this time, but I didn’t have a market (wrong city in part) or a marketing bent or drive or interest in self-promotion, so I only sold a few pieces over the years. I couldn’t make living at it (but I have some nice paintings for my home! No regrets).
I also tried my hand at photorealist painting because I thought realism would be more marketable, and I was fascinated by the examples I saw, and wanted to have great realism as a tool under my belt. I got very good at it, and learned how to be extremely focused (which served me later as a programmer) but it was extremely difficult and time-consuming such that I ran out of time and had to find another way of making a living. I still loved many aspects of it, such as the creative ideas that flowed, the energy of being inspired, the visual emphasis, and the right-brain holistic perception experience, and the interesting people I met, and so forth.

At one point I tried deliberately making more marketable art (for eBay) – a more commercial and decorative product – but it quickly started to feel forced, and it just didn’t work for me. I thought I might as well go into real estate or banking, which paid better, if I was going to work this hard and didn’t like what I was doing! In short I had the skill and market but no love for commercial painting, which brings us to the next:

2. Only Skill and Market:
If you have some some skill in a field, and a market, but little or no love, you can make a living for a while, but you will be heading for burnout, frustration, stress and struggle. This is not sustainable, or if sustainable, leads to health problems (mental and physical), addictions and dis-ease and stress on relationships. It’s not a happy situation and often affects the quality and/or speed of the work, which in turn affects the client’s feelings and your ability to make a living.
Unfortunately a lot of the world works this way, and our intellectually-oriented schooling and career testing feeds the underlying misunderstanding and the misuse of the mind and body.
Example: I did web development and app software programming for a few years. I had some skill with computers, and had been involved with programming as a hobby and occasionally built websites for clients over the years. There was also an obvious market for software development, and I was able to find clients and work. However I didn’t have a true love for the subject – it was fun at times but it often felt like a struggle to keep on-task and focused enough, and I was never fast enough. Programmers with a real love for the subject were running circles around me. I felt a little like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Although I could solve problems, find creative solutions, play the part, and fool people playing the part of the developer, it was not an inside-out, grounded way to work and live. And I wasn’t fooling myself: at some level I knew it wasn’t quite right. It was stressful, extremely time-consuming – not leaving time for my other interests and loves – and I took to drinking large amount of Kava Kava in the evening while working to deal with the anxiety of programming and the struggle of pushing my mind towards the solutions of problems. And then there was the constant need, as a developer, to learn and keep up with a rapidly changing, expanding, and extremely complex technical field, with deadlines looming.
I burned out on this lifestyle, not being able to meet timelines I’d set for projects with clients, running out of money, and realized I had to do something different.

3. Only Love and Market:
If you have love for a type of activity, and there is a market for it, but you lack skill, you will obviously run into a situation of not being able to offer quality work, and you will lose clients or not be able to find customers or clients in the first place. The good news is you may be able to gain the skills.
An example I can think of from my life is several decades ago in the early days of personal computers, I was fascinated by electronics and digital computers, and felt I had a pretty good general understanding of them, and there was a market for consultants. So fresh out of college I threw myself into computer consulting, confident that I could solve problems as I went and BS my way along with my general philosophical knowledge and ability to talk to people. Well, some clients quickly figured out I didn’t know what I was doing, and I realized I was stressing to find solutions fast, when I was expected to already know them. I didn’t know as much as I thought: one really does need highly detailed, specific knowledge and can’t rely on general understanding in such a highly technical field. (It seems obvious now, but I was young then!). I did eventually gain enough skills in a particular area of computer consulting that I felt more at home in (Apple Macintosh Consulting – I loved Apples design and philosophy) and learned from doing and study. I did that for many years, while doing my writing and art on the side. In the long run my love wasn’t deep enough, and my marketing ability was limited, and being an artist, writer (and gardener) was taking time away from business, so it was not a sustainable career path.

All Three, To Some Degree:

The resolution for me was to find and develop work where I was able to use my innate ability and love of visual art and design, plus interest and skill in writing, and an interest and background in psychology & philosophy, and experience with computers and software, and a market in the software field such that I found satisfying and lucrative work doing specialized consulting. This consulting involves designing and advising on interface designs, doing designs for a software company, creating software prototype (demos), writing on usability and other topics, and occasional photography assignments. No doubt things will evolve as I explore, do more writing (and photography), and find ever better unfolding and match between my loves, skills and market. Work life grows and is perfected, if you pay attention and give it presence, as part of one’s life journey.

I wasted many years trying to figure all this out intellectually when I was younger. I spent endless hours writing, thinking, brooding, reading books, talking to people, trying to figure it out: who was I? Was I a writer, an artist, a computer guy? Where did I belong? Did I belong anywhere in the economy or did I not fit in at all. Was I too unique to be able to find a happy niche? I felt like a round peg trying to fit myself into a square hole.

More Notes on Skills, Love and Marketing

“I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.” – Richard Branson

Skills and Love are not synonymous: this is often gotten backward. One can acquire great skill and still not enjoy doing something. However if you do have a natural love and bent for something – “like a duck to water” or “falling off a log” as the old saying goes – you can more easily or quickly become highly skillful. Not only will you spend more time on it, but it’s going with the grain of your being. Some people hate writing, and though they can gain skills, they never become good or great writers. I enjoy the process of writing, and do it every day: it feels as natural to me as talking (in fact easier than talking and speaking!): like a nearly direct channel between mind and page when I’m in the flow. It’s the same with photography: it felt like a calling, and I found myself doing tens of thousands of photos.

Skills are what is acquired. Love and talent are what is innate.

One of the signs of love is the feeling of joy in action when one is absorbed and free of self-consciousness, in the flow. Love is a feeling natural interest and enthusiasm that cannot be explained. Flow is best found where there is a match between the level of skill and the level of challenge.

However not everything that one has skills at and love is necessarily marketable. A market means people want it and are willing to pay for it.

Often people look at what’s marketable and then try to fit themselves into that. This is a big mistake, and accounts for a great deal of unhappiness and stress in the workplace, and n people’s lives in general.

So if you enjoy poisoning your life with “toxic goals“, have at it – it’s a free country – but why not start today creating a happier world of work for yourself, to whatever degree you can?

This is not to say that there will never be aspects of one’s work that are more boring or routine or unpleasant that you will want to get help with at some point (for example hire a bookkeeper if you have little love or skill for accounting).

The thing is to be free to do what you love and get paid for it. There are degrees of this: it is not black and white. Engaging with pure love and pure skill and getting paid a great deal, and doing this day in and day out is achieved by very few, but nevertheless there is simply no other way that is real and sustainable. So you must aim at perfecting this “art of work” and dedicate yourself to it. Choose happiness rather than misery.

Start from Where You Are; Know Thyself; It’s Not Intellectual

Forget Myers-Briggs personality tests (though they are fun party talk subjects) and the career tests that try and analyze what categories you fit into. Forget the aptitude and interest tests. There is only one way to know what’s right for you, and that is by DOING things, testing where the rubber hits the road and getting the feedback of the world. This feedback includes your own body and mind, and the feelings that are experienced. It includes the feedback of the marketplace and what people are willing to pay for what you do.
This may mean taking jobs as an experiment, even if you are unsure yet if it’s right for you: this is the whole point – to find out! It’s an adventure! (the worst that can happen is that you are fired or fire yourself, and then “good riddance!”). It can be a paid job, a volunteer job, or even a hobby that could lead to future work. An example from my life was photography: I loved doing it, enjoyed making tens of thousand of photos, and got really good: enough that I got paid 4 figures to run around shooting buildings for a client, using a fantastic camera that was paid for by the work. I got paid to have fun doing what I would do even if not paid!

Do not let fear control your life. Many people stay in unhappy work out of fear of what they imagine will happen if they don’t. They think that they have to do it. They are unwilling to take risks. Our imaginations are very powerful but they are a two-edged sword: we can imagine a rocket that will take humans to the moon (Wernher von Braun did it), and build one, and we are also powerful enough beings such that we can sit in a chair and drive ourselves into stress and insanity from mere thinking. It’s up to you. (I believe some form of meditation or mindfulness training, and spiritual-psychological understanding and insight is key to much of this whole subject, but is too much to go into for this article).

This freedom from fear is critical, but it all leaves off the question of freedom and independence in general, which I see as critical to self-realized, genuinely happy life. It works like a feedback loop: you need freedom enough to pursue independent enquiry into who you are, beyond fear and false beliefs, but is also again, inside-out: psychological freedom leading to external freedom. But I’ll leave all this that for future musings…

The Dream: A Brief Personal History with The Three Principles

Someone asked me again – this time it was Jamie Smart, via an online message – “sounds like you’ve been aware of these principles for many years. When/where did you first hear about them?”. So here we go, the story, in brief.

In 1997 I had a dream that set me on the path of learning The Three Principles. In this dream I learned that happiness and peace are the most natural expressions of who we are at the core. It is our nature. It is only our imaginations that get in the way. When we relax and clear this thinking in the moment, our problems do not exist and we can reveal a more beautiful feeling: our innate health and purity of mind. There are no words for it. It exists before the activity of the mind and words. 

The dream was really about the dream we all live in.

The Three Principles – the spiritual psychology based on universal Mind, Consciousness and Thought – has gone through various permutations over the years. For a while it was called “Psychology of Mind”, and “Health Realization”.

In the early 90’s had been seeing a traditional psychotherapist (psychodynamic, family therapist, etc.), and had gotten frustrated with what seemed to be an endless circular game: we’d go over problems and situations, suggest reasons from the past or due to personal psychology, and skills to try. Though occasionally I felt some brief lifting of the heavy feelings, they’d be back again, and I’d go back to spend yet more time and money and be the same troubled person or feeling again. It was a fragile sense of health and being, if any. After expressing this frustration one day, she suggested I look into cognitive behavioral therapy, and mentioned the name Ellis.

I searched and found a book by Albert Ellis on Rational Emotive Therapy. What a revelation that was!: not because of the exercises of working on thoughts (thoughts can hard to know in retrospect or be aware of if unconscious, takes effort to find and undo, and the technique wears out quickly), but because it was the first time I heard that thought creates feeling! What a tremendous, liberating insight! A huge lightbulb went off. Why had she not told me this!? All this money and time spent on therapy and she could have said it years ago.

This was a 180 shift from the “old” psychology, of going into the past, or analyzing relationships, or trying to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. If thought creates feeling, then happiness is as close as one thought away.

All of this put the lie to the idea that depression was a chemical imbalance in origin (You’ll need to take Prozac or some other SSRI or anti-depressant the rest of your life, just as diabetics do, because you have a medical condition), or determined through time, since I released myself from it.

In 1997, after all this psychology work, and endless study of psychology, philosophy, brain science, techniques, self-help, and on and on, I was still not very happy with my relationship, my work, or my life. And I was working very hard thinking about myself, and analyzing. One morning I had a remarkable dream. I awoke feeling a peace I hadn’t ever remembered feeling.

Here is my journal entry:

8-25-97
The simplicity, clarity, and naturalness of this dream are difficult to convey.
Had a dream where [in the dream] I wrote this in a journal about my dream, made a page in the page:
Sept. 23, 1997 6AM
The purpose of life is enjoyment, (pleasure, fun), happiness.
Amazing that that’s such a radical thing. But it’s true, and it’s crystal clear, and it’s beneficial to others, so much so, to be happy around them, an inspiration.

8-26-97
And in another segment of the dream, this kid was shown or told about his mother having surgery – some scary picture – and then he became all worried and obsessed. So I took this little boy aside, and started asking him in a gentle, happy, excited way, not letting myself get involved in the fear, “Remember that big submarine in the movie and that part where…” and the kid’s mind goes to his imagination of something that he liked that was neat and fascinating, and leaves the morbid, frightening thoughts behind) they had this big room where they were projecting images onto a big screen, and they got all these pictures of all these orange things they could think of – fires and oranges and flowers and…”

So the was dream about our innate peace of mind, and that happiness is the birthright, and the means, rather than a by-product of achievement, and how it’s only our imaginations that scare us away from this peaceful state (“thinking” in Three Principles parlance). Shortly after this event, I happened to glance over and see Richard Carlson’s book You Can Be Happy No Matter What in a New Thought church bookstore. It jumped out at me somehow from a bookshelf: I had a feeling “Yes! this is it.”. I read it eagerly.

Carlson’s book was good, but seemed a little watered down, gave me a slight headache (what is he trying to get at?); however I wanted to know what was behind it: he was obviously onto “It”, the key I that had revealed itself in the dream. I found a footnote in the back about Roger Mills’ book (Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense: The Groundbreaking New Approach to Happiness by Dr. Rick Suarez, Dr. Roger C. Mills and Darlene Stewart. Fawcett, Columbine, 1987). With some effort, I was able to get copies of this from a university library. That led me to the Health Realization Institute, getting Sydney Banks tapes from the Psychology of Mind Center and Allan Flood, going to a Psychology of Mind conference in 1998, meeting Roger Mills, Amie Mills, George Pransky, and then taking a program with Elsie Spittle in 1999. The rest is history as they say… There’s much more to the story but I’ll put it in a longer article perhaps.

In one sense it doesn’t really matter how anyone comes across “the principles”. It only matter how good or deep their understanding is Now. Their “pedigree” is their humanness, as George Pransky so beautifully put it. It could be out another way too: your understanding is measured by the peace, love and happiness.

The Paradoxes Along the Path

(Click here to jump down to the list of paradoxes)

There are many paradoxes one encounters, or should I say can “glimpse”, along the path towards knowing one’s true nature. As you notice how your experience is formed and get clues it’s not just given by outside events, you start to detect that there’s something rather subtle and and amazing going on behind it all: like getting a glimpse behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Or the physicist trying to pin down a particle with his instruments, and the particle not behaving as a particle or a wave, but both, depending on how he looks at it.

Unlike the Wizard of Oz situation however — instead of finding out it’s all just a show run by a particular showman — it’s a show run by… something rather hard to define: Some show-making source we could call “Consciousness” or the formless. That reality, whatever it is, that is reading these words right now. The perceiver of perceptions. The Perceiver-in-Chief as it were.

In these intimations of reality behind and beyond perceptions, to the source and ultimate substance that is not a substance but the formless, we start to see many paradoxes: seeming contradictions that belie an underlying unity.

The word “paradox” comes from the roots “para” meaning “around”, “outside”, “along”, or “outside of”, and “dox” meaning “belief” or “opinion”.

A paradox is understood to be two things that are seemingly contradictory yet at another level actually being both true at the same time.

Why are there so many seeming paradoxes in spiritual truths?

The short answer is, Reality is One, but the mind deals in duality.

The longer answer is, Reality, in order to see itself, creates a not-self. Sort of like an invisible magician of infinite power existing in a universe of pure potential of it’s own making, gets bored and decides to see if he can see what he looks like. So beings come into existence, but for something to appear as if it’s separate, there has to be distance, thus space, and that implies time to traverse space if you are a aprt of it and not the whole thing.

Reality, that absolute one-ness, in order play the game of life, that is, have an apparent universe, time and space, an apparent separate self, and therefore a non-self, and endless objects of consciousness, must have duality for there to appear to be anything. So a point of view arises we call ourselves. It seems to have some kind of linear existence, and makes language to help put thoughts in forms for seeming others. So of course language is linear, but nonetheless can evoke the nonlinear. (That’s why we have poets and artists: the perfume of the absolute, if you will: truth love and beauty are qualities of what Is).

Remember the very first stanza of the Tao Te Ching (one of the greatest, most timeless wisdom teachings in existence):

One

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

(Source: The Complete Tao Te Ching
Translated by Gia-Fu Feng (馮家福 Feng Jia-fu, 1919–1985) and Jane English (1942–)
Vintage Books, 1989)

Like subatomic particles springing forth as opposites from nothing (which has been observed by physicists: it’s called Quantum Vacuum Energy), the play of opposites is what at every moment is creating an apparent world. To go from nonlinear, unchanging reality to linear appearances, you need differences, measurements, change, up and down, light and dark, negative and positive, near and far. Movement.

Love has no opposite, but in world there appears love and hate. In the world there is flux and the rising and falling of all things.

A sage knows there are no-things and that he or she is no-thing.

At moments an ordinary mortal can get a glimpse that unifies the opposite: a sense of something insensible and invisible, that shows truths that transcend opposites. But since these glimpses are timeless, and the mind deals in time, it cannot hold on to them, except as images, sounds, or feelings in consciousness.

A Side Note on the Paradoxes of Liberation, Self-Realization, Freedom, the Direct Path:

Yes, it’s all very paradoxical. To the mind. Because what we are dealing with is doing something that can’t be done, with a person that is not a person, wanting a state that isn’t a state, wanting something for a being that has it all because they are it all, loving when there is not a lover and a loved but only one love, desiring a thing when there are no things, seeking when you are the sought… shall I go on? How about:
Feeling a failure at something that takes one beyond success and failure, making so many mistakes when there are no mistakes, feeling flawed and wrong for feeling flawed and wrong, wanting to use the head to get out of the head.
Does the universe have self-esteem problem? The artist wants beauty and perfection, but physical life comes up short.
Going beyond the body, realizing one is not a body, (seemingly) via the body.

Yet we are all, at the same time, unique expressions of what is ultimately just One, appearing as infinite variety and diversity. Difference in unity.

In any case, I thought it would be interesting to start listing (I like lists) some of the paradoxes my mind spit out along the “pathless path” (the direct path).

From the perspective of a self, or a person, a seeming psychological entity, one may notice these paradoxes of unfoldment into truth:

A Growing List of Paradoxes


Trying to Relax; Trying to be Yourself; The Seeker is the Sought

• You’ve probably laughed at this paradox: “trying” to relax.
• And the mental state of meditation offers another seeming paradox: Don’t focus or make an effort – just relax the attention to allow a de-focused state. This state is natural and pre-existing.
• And the likewise funny paradox of the time it takes, or rather think it takes, assume it takes, believes it takes, to realize one’s true nature: if you go to enough retreats, meditate long enough, spend enough time and effort in practice and seeking, through time you will realize the timelessness of yourself (what is). It was all a charade. You can throw away the scaffolding you needed to get where you already are.
• Causeless happiness will be caused by doing stuff (such as meditation, loving your guru…).
• Seeking is what is keeping you from finding what you are seeking. Your best, truest, highest self is when you stop stop seeking your best, truest, highest self (so don’t hold on to anything, and surrender what didn’t exist in the first place to God).
• By losing yourself you find yourself.
• All the effort it takes to realize effortlessness – effortless awareness, effortless doing, effortless manifesting and effortless enjoying… how exhausting!

Change & The Timeless
Your evolution and change are grounded in the timeless and unchanging.

In Realizing Your Subjectivity You Become More Objective
It points to the most subjective thing – the self-created nature of our experience – yet allows you to be more objective.

Effortless Learning and Creativity
It’s easier to grasp or learn if you don’t try too hard. When you relax, you can get an “Aha!” moment, and see a self-evident truth in an instant.

Change & Acceptance
To change something about yourself, you have to stop trying to change it. This is called acceptance.
The only way to change anyone around you is to realize it doesn’t matter if they change or not. This is called acceptance of others.

Results from Detachment
The less results matter to us, the more likely we are to live in the present and create them. This is called detachment.

The Unknown is Pointed to With The Known
Talking about the Unknown can only happen via the known. At the highest level, this is called mysticism.

To Give is to Receive
The more we give up the more we get. The more we give the more we receive. You are giving to your Self (there are no others).

The Vehicle is not the Journey
You are ultimately responsible for your thinking but not Thought itself. This is called the personal and the Impersonal.

Your self is and is not the Self
You find yourself when you no longer know who you are. This is called the True Self.

Suffering is Voluntary (if you only Knew It) – We Don’t Want What We Want
To try and end your suffering, don’t try and end suffering. Don’t give it a Second thought. This is called Letting Go.

Real Illusion
Thought is not Reality. Yet it is the only reality most of us know. This is called the Great Illusion: everything is made of Conscisouness (or Mind if you like), so even illusion has reality. Our experience is a real illusion.

Free Will is Fate
An act of free will is fated. It is fate for you to have free will. Get over it.

Perfect Imperfection
Even in the seeming imperfection of life and ourselves, there is the grand play of the whole, which is perfect, infinite, and complete. This experience is called being human.

An enlightened person knows there are no enlightened persons
(That is enlightenment! Even though there is no such thing, HAHAHAHAHA…).

Paradoxes are not until they are
The paradox about paradoxes is that they aren’t paradoxes until they are: unless one is seeing from a perspective that shows how a particular paradox is a paradox, it doesn’t appear to be a paradox, it just sounds like a contradiction. So a paradox is both paradoxical and not paradoxical at the same time.

There are many, many more… these were just what I thought of when I wrote this.

The great Western philosopher Immanual Kant presented what be termed “Antinomies”: timeless opposites that can’t be avoided when trying to understand the absolute in terms of the relative, time in terms of the timeless, etc.
“Immanuel Kant’s Antinomies, from the Critique of Pure Reason, are contradictions which he believed follow necessarily from our attempts to conceive the nature of transcendent reality.” (Wikipedia)