36: Career Magic

36: Career Magic

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Career Magic

More men are killed by overwork than the importance of this world justifies.

~Rudyard Kipling

The gift I’d been striving for — working day and night to achieve — had finally arrived in the form of a phone call. My heart raced as I listened to the words I’d been waiting to hear: “We’d like to offer you the position of District Conservationist in Mifflin County.”

I accepted my first supervisory role, determined to take on any new challenge life threw my way. Already blessed with a position as a trainee in resource protection, the promotion was a real honor. I reported to my new office in Lewistown, Pennsylvania with eagerness and resolve. Ready to save the world!

Applying for the job in Mifflin County took a pole vault of faith. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, far from the rural countryside where my career had now taken me. The differences in culture and surroundings were astonishing. I soon realized a major traffic jam in Mifflin County consisted of being the third car behind an Amish buggy.

The shopping centers and subdivisions of my old world were replaced by flourishing farm fields, stretching from forested ridge to forested ridge. It felt like I’d found heaven on earth. The community welcomed me with open hearts and genuine delight. Smiles and joy proved to be the norm, beaming from every corner of the county. Living in this tranquil paradise was beyond my wildest dreams and life seemed to be filled with limitless opportunities.

I decided to be the best District Conservationist in the history of the world. No demand too great. No obstacle insurmountable. With a new staff, my major duty was to be a great supervisor. So, even though fieldwork was the responsibility of the staff, I figured the best way to be that great supervisor was to engage in as much of it as possible. I wanted to prove to them I didn’t expect them to do anything I wouldn’t.

I raced out of the starting blocks and sprinted towards a mountain of new goals. A mountain which grew higher and higher, while I took on more and more projects.

Meanwhile, while I was out in the field doing their work, the staff spent their days lounging in the air-conditioned office complaining about life. Worse, the paperwork involved with being a supervisor continued to pile up.

And on top of my mounting tasks, I wanted to learn all there was to know about farming and conservation. Using every moment I could spare, I devoured textbooks to learn about crops, cows, and everything rural.

Pretty soon life became a tornado, spinning wildly out of control. I was doing fieldwork during the day and working late into the evening trying to catch up on my paperwork.

In a crushing moment, it hit me: this wasn’t the way I pictured my dream job.

My stress snowballed. Life’s balance disappeared. No matter how hard I worked, I slipped further and further behind. The dreams of grandeur I had when I took the position dwindled… fading into oblivion.

Time off, even on weekends, became a pipe dream. I lost sleep worrying about the work accumulating on my desk and the countless unfinished tasks cluttering my mind.

Finally, after eight months in the position, I requested a meeting with my supervisor, George. Making the call to him consumed me with dread. It was the ultimate admission of defeat. But I realized it was time to fess up and let him know how far behind I was.

I felt dejected, burned out, and exasperated.

On the drive to George’s office a week later, my mind played movies of George’s rage and anger. I could already hear his disappointment. My pride would be bruised, my honor tarnished — even destroyed. I readied myself for the bitter pill I was about to swallow.

When I arrived, I feigned a smile at his assistant, and entered his office. I took a seat across from George and exhaled.

“I’m sorry George. I’ve worked so hard and poured my heart and soul into my job. But I’m feeling like a miserable failure. The more hours I put in, the more I get behind. I need help.” I could barely look him in the eyes when I added, “I’m truly sorry to disappoint you.”

The tourniquet in my stomach tightened as I readied myself for the worst. Then, to my surprise, George smiled.

He kicked back in his chair and said, “Relax. Enjoy yourself. Life’s too short to waste with worry. There’s one little word you need to learn. That word is no. You don’t need to take on every project. You don’t need to juggle every ball. You don’t need to waste time with worry. You need to enjoy life and focus on all the good. You’ll be far more productive with far less anguish.”

At that moment, it felt like a two-ton weight was lifted from my shoulders. Then George reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. He handed it to me.

With a relaxed smile, George said, “Read this and learn to love your life.”

I studied the book in my hands, feeling as if I’d been given a gift from heaven.

George continued, “Larry you are a darn good employee and supervisor. You make me proud. Keep up the great work and dedicated spirit and enjoy every moment.”

The remaining weight on my shoulders lifted. A smile drifted back to my face and into my soul. I knew I’d just been handed one of those rare change-your-life-forever moments.

And then George dispensed some advice I’ll never forget. He said, “A supervisor is someone who you look up to and respect, who wants the best for his people, and who guides with kindness. Be a fabulous supervisor and lead with a loving heart.”

What a revelation! And delivered by one of the most amazing supervisors I’ve ever had.

I left the office a new man. I devoured the book. The words empowered me with a whole new perspective and respect for the rare gift of living a happy and fulfilled life.

From that day forward, when my mind would clutter with negative thoughts of worry and lead me down the path to despair, I became aware how hopelessness crowded out all the good. But positive thoughts made room for creativity, productivity, love, and happiness.

Now, after nearly thirty years, thanks to one man’s wisdom and encouragement, there’s an opening in my life for everything that is good and magnificent in this world. It’s a treasure I cherish every day as I celebrate the magic in every moment!

~Larry Schardt

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