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Build a life you don’t need to escape from

The other day a client told me she was depressed because she found out she had to work 8 more years to get her retirement pension. And I can’t help but think what she meant to say was “if I want to retire comfortably, I have to sacrifice my happiness doing a job I don’t like…

The other day a client told me she was depressed because she found out she had to work 8 more years to get her retirement pension.

And I can’t help but think what she meant to say was “if I want to retire comfortably, I have to sacrifice my happiness doing a job I don’t like for longer than I want”.

How many times have you heard that? Or said to yourself: I can’t wait to be done school… to quit this job… to be let go… to retire?

Sixteen thousand former Sears employees are fighting for their pensions. People who showed up at their jobs, who traded in their best years in hopes of a good future. Believing that if they did what they were told, everything would be okay.

What these people are realizing, and what we’re all realizing is that no, everything won’t be okay. None of us are guaranteed to see our retirement. Period.

We’ve all been persuaded to believe we have to slug away doing work we’re not always proud to do, and wait to enjoy our lives on weekends, summer holidays and when we turn 65.

The industrial economy demanded us to think this way for a really long time. But here’s the thing: people work their whole lives, doing jobs they don’t like for a future they might get to enjoy living – and then they die. Or they become paralyzed. Or demented, or sick.

That’s the deal.

I think that’s really sad.

When I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, what bothered me wasn’t dying per se, but that I might die before I’ve lived my life. At 29, I had just spent 25 years in school, wasting so much time doing work that didn’t matter.

That’s what got me.

The scariest thing is that no doctor can reassure me that I’ll be fine. They can’t, and that’s okay. Because that lack of reassurance has freed me up to do meaningful work and create a life that I don’t feel the need to escape from.

If I die tomorrow, or next week – I’ll know that I’ve left my mark on the world.

Don’t count on false reassurances and promises for a future you might get to have. Instead, try creating a life you don’t need to escape from.

Start living your life with the end in mind by doing work that matters.

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Don’t wait for someone to pick you

I started volunteering in a local nursing home when I was 12 years old. I had barely stepped foot inside a nursing home before. And yet somehow I understood that the residents and staff needed my help. By the time I was 16, I launched a youth-led home care company called The Senioritas. Companionship, cooking, grocery…

I started volunteering in a local nursing home when I was 12 years old. I had barely stepped foot inside a nursing home before. And yet somehow I understood that the residents and staff needed my help.

By the time I was 16, I launched a youth-led home care company called The Senioritas. Companionship, cooking, grocery shopping and setting perms were popular requests. But I’ll never forget providing overnight respite care for a few elderly clients who were dying at home.

As a teenager, I had no authority to be doing that kind of work. But I saw it as an opportunity to take responsibility and help people in need.

What I learned from these early experiences was that I could make a difference by simply picking myself. I didn’t have to wait for someone to tell me what to do. I could decide.

It’s been seventeen years since my first taste of entrepreneurship and I’m finally realizing that the days of having a steady job, a job where you can just show up and do what your told, are over.

Thanks to the Internet and it’s marvellous tools, every single market is in chaos.

How we shop, where we eat, how we listen to music, where we access health care, how we travel, how we connect, how we work, and where we learn – it’s all changing. 

Technology is replacing the middlemen jobs faster than we realize. And it’s happening in health care too.

It makes no sense anymore to stick with a job you don’t like, to get paid to change who you are when there’s so much opportunity available to you.

Why bother applying to graduate or medical school and hope to be picked out of thousands of people, if all you want to do is learn how to help people?

If you want to start your own health care company, go ahead.

If you want to create a service, build it.

If you want to write a book, publish it yourself.

If you want to teach, you can teach.

If you want to improve health care, organize a group of people who want the same thing.

If you have a computer and access to the Internet, you own the means to learn and produce anything you want.

We don’t need directors, bosses, employers, managers, or publishers to make a living any more. Now is the easiest time in the history of humankind to go directly to the people you wish to serve.

Figure out what you love doing, what you’re good at and what the world needs – and go do that. There are so many problems that need fixing.

But first, pick yourself.

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The better way to make change

What do nurses do? Besides doing assessments, giving out medications and consulting with colleagues, have you ever thought about what nurses do every day, regardless of where we work? We try to make something or someone change. Many of us work towards educating people and helping them to make better decisions about their health. Some…

What do nurses do?

Besides doing assessments, giving out medications and consulting with colleagues, have you ever thought about what nurses do every day, regardless of where we work?

We try to make something or someone change.

Many of us work towards educating people and helping them to make better decisions about their health. Some of us work at influencing health care policy-makers and legislation. And there are some of us who work at improving access and reducing health care inequalities.

Seth Godin argues that,

for most of us, our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.

We just don’t think about nursing this way.

Making change begins with realizing that culture influences everything we do. That the ways in which people think and act aren’t actually decisions at all. They’re cultural. A part of who people are.

The reason why people sometimes feel disrespected by us has nothing to do with our ‘nursing skills’, and everything to do with our cultural sensitivity.

Which means that anytime we want to help change something or someone for the better, we need to begin by understanding and shifting culture.

Most of us are used to teaching, helping or influencing one person at a time. In hospitals, clinics and legislative buildings, we meet with the people we seek to impact one by one, behind closed doors. Because this is the way it’s always been done.

But in the long run, this approach isn’t nearly as effective or efficient as organizing groups of people who want to change together.

When groups of people come together for a common purpose, with a committed leader and a way to communicate, they’re far more likely to reach their goals.

The most influential organizations make change not by influencing one person at a time, but by connecting, organizing and leading groups of people who want the same thing.

If you want to change the status quo, to help a population of clients improve their health, to improve the quality of care in your organization or to make your workplace a better place to be, start by finding and forming a small group of people who want to change.

You don’t need everyone. You just need a few committed people who share the same goals.

The hard part is to stop trying to change people who don’t want to hear from you.

Making change is much easier when you create a culture of people who believe what you believe, and want what you want.

Never underestimate the power of groups. They can change everything. Groups of families, clients, colleagues, businesses and lawmakers always have, and always will.

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