Yellow brick roadFollow the glow originally appeared on the old website of bestselling author Rick Smith. Rick is a seasoned entrepreneur who wrote The Leap: How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great. Rick has made great leaps himself, including founding World 50, one of the world’s most influential senior executive networking companies that includes members and contributors such as Bono, Francis Ford Coppola and Jon Stewart. What I found fascinating during my read of The Leap was Rick’s honesty and accessibility as an author. Given Rick’s credentials, he could have touted genius as the foundation for his success. Instead, Rick describes how many people who have accomplished great things, including himself, were not much different from the rest of us. They simply made small changes that made big differences. One of those small changes is simply finding work that fits with who you are as a person. Always great advice, but sometimes hard to know how to execute. Rick’s book The Leap can show you how.

So check out Rick’s book The Leap after Follow the Glow.

I have a question for you. In life, are you thriving or merely surviving? If you truly listen to your inner voice without distractions, perhaps during the precious few moments you get alone on a Sunday evening when the light fades outside and another workweek looms, which one is it?

The answer is not always apparent. Society lulls many to believe we thrive when we don’t. We may find ourselves the owner of a successful career—at least by society’s standards—or owner of a successful business, but are we the owner of a successful life? Does the future energize you or do you wither in a job your mind quit long ago while your body still shows up every week to claim a paycheck?

It’s okay to be honest. You’re not the only one. Ten years ago, I was an executive vice president and partner in a software consulting firm. We grew from almost nothing to 65 people in three years. Society patted us on the back for our accomplishment, yet a gnawing voice nipped at me from within. Something wasn’t right. Yet I had no idea what to do about it.

Early in 2001, I volunteered as a school lunch buddy to a 10-year-old boy from an underprivileged family. Every Wednesday we’d slip from the cafeteria and amble out to sun drenched picnic tables under spring skies where he and I discussed whether football or baseball was the better sport, and why kids sat in classrooms all day when a vast and wonderful world—the very one they studied—beckoned from the outside. We never came up with good answers to either question.

At the end of the school year, a group of us gathered in the library for a recognition luncheon and watched as a man received the Volunteer of the Year Award. After thanking the presenter, the man grew quiet for a moment while he studied the trophy in his hand. He started to speak in a soft voice:

“Several months ago a transfer truck doing seventy totaled my Mercedes with me in it. I was bruised and sore and shaken up, but I walked away.”

He paused and looked over our small group.

“For two weeks afterward, I could see a glow around everything important in my life: my family, my church, the field where my kids played ball… and this school,” he said, motioning to the book-lined walls.

I was mesmerized. Blown away. But even though I recognized I’d heard something profound, I didn’t know what to do with the knowledge. So I did what lots of us do when something moves us. I let the next day’s tornado of responsibilities sideswipe it from my mind.

Five months later, as I watched a jet pierce the World Trade Center, his words about the glow came back. For days and weeks afterward, I couldn’t help but think of all the individuals who had wobbled out of bed and not known it was for the last time. All those people who showered, skipped breakfast, rushed goodbye kisses, unaware they’d never do those things again. All those hopes and dreams and anticipation of future events—a bundle of deferred living—that would never arrive. Had these people found what glowed for them? Had they even sought it out? Another question I didn’t have a good answer to. But I did know this: when it came to my life’s work, I hadn’t found what glowed for me. The time had come to start looking.

But where to start? How does a person find what glows? Through much trial and error, many starts and stops, here’s what I’ve learned.

Begin by looking around you. What energizes you? What feels right? What makes you feel alive? Those things or activities glow for you. Your past holds clues as well. What were things or activities you once loved, but they fell to the wayside as you grew older and more practical, as you became more responsible at society’s urging? Reexamine those items.  Hold them up to the light. Combine them. Often, when we combine passions, innovation emerges. For me, I discovered my old dreams were just as radiant once I dusted them off. Their luster had never faded, only been obscured by distractions.

I’d always dreamt of flying. So I finally learned. No more deferred living for me. I’d also enjoyed writing when younger. I reclaimed those skills and begin to improve them. Merging those passions led me to write and place my first article, a piece where I chronicled learning to fly for an aviation magazine. Now, years later, I’m working full-time on my first novel about a man who discovers his glow while learning to fly.

So what glows for you? Finding that glow is the easy part. Having faith the glow will lead you to the person you are meant to be is what’s difficult. But you must have faith, must trust the process. There is no other way. Ask yourself constantly when making decisions—large and small—does this energize me? Does it feel right? Does it make me feel alive?

Does it glow?

Move toward what glows. Steer clear of whatever doesn’t. If you feel locked into a career or job that drains you, summon that glow into your personal life with full force. Embracing what glows in your off time will expose escape routes. Passions drawn into personal lives become platforms we can leap from into new, fulfilling careers. It happens all the time. It may take a while, but know that period of time will pass no matter what you do. When it comes to a career, I can’t imagine anything scarier than waking up after 10 years have passed to find yourself in the exact spot you never wanted to be in the first place.

Following what glows takes courage. It’s not a popular choice with some. People may discourage you. Ignore them. Think for yourself. Let them follow their own advice while you follow the glow. The world needs you to do what you are meant to do. When we follow the glow, we are happier, more productive. We radiate a peace that places others at ease. When we follow the glow, we inspire. We motivate. Following our glow encourages sideline observers to seek their own glow, to discover a personal elixir similar to what we’ve unearthed. Following the glow spurs positive change in others and the world. I’ve witnessed it first hand. We need a world where eyes sparkle with the reflection of the light we all pursue.

I received a tremendous gift that day in the small school library. Now, on every step of my journey through life, as I encounter forks in my path, as society whispers in my ear that it knows what’s best for me, I ask myself only one question:

Does it glow?

I can’t afford to spend time on anything that isn’t glowing in my life. The remaining question is, can you?

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