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Excerpted from Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt. Copyright © 1999 by Laurence Boldt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"If it's truly creative, the direction of your life's work is 'from the inside out.'"

Laurence Boldt,  
Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Part 3

Your life’s work does not exist "out there" in a world apart. You can't order up the perfect career or set of careers the way you might order a lawn mower from the Sears catalogue. Being too concerned with what is "out there" before you know what you want "in here" puts you in a position of powerlessness. We encourage you to begin by identifying the results you want, and then to move confidently and deliberately in that direction, no matter how small your steps may seem. In this way, you move from strength and remain in creative control.

If it's truly creative, the direction of your life's work is "from the inside out." We will provide tools you can use in this process – tools to help you tap the creative vision and power within – and tools to help you better understand what's "out there" and how you can make it work for you. Traditional career models tend to view your creativity, energy, and zest for life as rough edges that must be shaved off to effectuate a better fit with what is "out there." Exactly what doesn't fit (the rough edges of the old model) is what will drive the process of creating a life's work-your creativity, energy, and zest for life.

We have been told that we must face the facts of life; but we must also, if we are really going to live, face the spirit and the emotional power of life. To describe Michelangelo's David as a marble statue of a Hebrew king in his youth gives you the facts but none of the spirit or emotional power of the work. To say that Don Quixote is the story of a madman wandering about in hallucination strips it of the power, spirit, and art of its message. It is no less ridiculous to reduce your life to a set of facts. You are not your place of birth, your height, weight, or degrees, your resume, or credit history. You are a being of spirit, emotional power, and intelligence.

Traditional career models are only interested in the facts of your life, for example, your education, skills, training, and experience. We will consider the facts but also the all-important creative intangibles. From the perspective of life as art, the facts of your life are the media with which you will create. Color is not painting. Notes are not music. Words are not poetry. For color to become painting; notes, music; or words, poetry, there must be knowledge of technique, emotional power, and the radiance of spirit. To view your life as art is likewise to recognize that the facts only become significant, and really interesting, through the application of technique, emotional power; and the radiance of the spirit. We are not negating the importance of facts. You require technical skill and knowledge of the marketplace the way a painter requires color – these are essential. But remember, as the French painter Chardin said, "One uses color, but paints with feeling." (Emphasis added.)

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