Category Archives: My Quest

7 Tips for Finding Your Calling

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s some wisdom originally posted at a great site called the daily zen. There’s so much here that’s consistent not only with my quest to make passion-driven living viable, but also with the Sudbury schooling that is my own professional passion.

7 Tips for Finding Your ‘Calling’

The idea of the ‘calling’ is cliched and abstracted by now, but it still exists. Many of us do indeed have a true purpose in life, and to put at least a little bit of effort towards discovering it is one of the most worthwhile things we can do for ourselves in the long-run. These are just a few tips… Continue reading

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$15,000 and 12

Time for another check-in post, I think: mostly to clarify my own position, but also to see whether any of you have any suggestions on how to best get where I’m going.

As many of you know, about fifteen months ago I left full-time Sudbury staffing to focus on CASE, my Sudbury support nonprofit. However, even after minimizing expenses and scrounging paid work here and there, I haven’t broken even once in any month since I last worked full-time at a school. To some extent, this was part of the plan: I knew it would take time for CASE to generate even minimal income, and I’d built up perhaps two years’ worth of savings.

From the start, living mostly off savings went sharply against the grain of a lifetime’s conditioning. Now that I’m in the second year of this adventure, my lack of progress is escalating from moderately uncomfortable to deeply disconcerting. My bare-bones budget is hardly what one could reasonably consider viable, and I’m not even covering that.

Numerically speaking, I could break even on about $15,000 per year right now, and at this rate I have about twelve months until my savings will reach a point where I’ll have to start covering my expenses from current income, whether or not that includes passion-driven work, work I believe in.

The news is not all grim. Continue reading

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Hacking at the Root

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Blogging often seems to me the height of hubris or faith. What a series of assumptions are required to continue this silly activity, flinging words at the digital void: the belief that I have something worth saying; that my words will find an audience; that I might somehow parlay my ramblings into sustainable work.

Yet I persist because some part of me knows, deeper than knowing, that if there is such a thing as a calling or vocation, mine lies in the direction of word-driven windmill-tilting, an adolescent’s passionate idealism persisting into middle age. As you know (if know me at all), my primary professional passion is Sudbury schooling, a way of revolutionizing and humanizing education to become truly empowering and aligned with how people learn.

Even so, I sometimes wonder whether I’m tilting at the right windmills. As deeply as I believe in Sudbury, would my energies be better directed at something like climate change? After all, if we no longer have a planet (or one on which life as we know it is sustainable), what will it matter how our children are educated? What about political issues like campaign finance reform? (If the system is broken, how can anyone advancing real reform hope to succeed on a broad scale?) Poverty, violence, disease, overpopulation…there’s no shortage of potential windmills, worthy causes greatly in need of support.

In my more mindful moments, I realize that what’s more pressing than any particular issue is the overall level of consciousness in the population at large. In other words, the fundamental problem is not this or that issue, but the fact that far too many of us are either oblivious to real suffering or believe there’s nothing much we can do about it. This is one reason Zen holds so much appeal for me, as a means of developing mindfulness and compassion. This is why I often wonder whether I should give up what I’m doing and immerse myself in efforts to wake myself and others.

But regardless of whether I pursue Zen, or education reform, or political or ecological activism (or some combination of these causes), the real question—the ongoing thorn in my side, a relentless source of confusion and anxiety—remains how to make this work Continue reading

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Can’t Find a Dream Job? Create Your Own.

The following gem was originally posted by new favorite blogger, Leo Babauta, at It speaks so directly to my own quest, I had to repost it here.

Can’t Find a Dream Job? Create Your Own

by  Leo Babauta


I was once unemployed, and I know the debilitating depression and the feelings of frustration and helplessness that can come with that. I’ve been stuck in a job I hate, and I felt imprisoned, trapped doing work that bored me while following orders of others and helping them achieve their goals.

Those times were … less than ideal. In fact, those were some of the worst periods in the story of my life.

Luckily I rose above those traps, but I have to admit it wasn’t easy. The solution has been one of the most liberating, empowering, joyous things in my life.

I wanted to share that little secret with those of you who are having a hard time finding a job, or who feel trapped in a job you hate:

Create your own dream job. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you. Don’t hope that you’ll win the lottery. Don’t give up and consign yourself to a fate of misery and (worse) dullness.

Create your job! It might sound far-fetched for some of you (while others have already done it) but it’s very possible. Not easy, mind you: it takes hard work and smarts and passion and a crap-ton of learning and a willingness to take risks and make mistakes. If that sounds like you, read on. If not, stop reading.

Your Big Idea

You might already know this but if you haven’t given it much thought, start to consider: what do you truly love doing? What are you passionate about? If you’re lucky you’ll have multiple answers. If you have no answers, it’s time to start finding things to be passionate about. Read more: The Short But Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion.

If you have multiple answers, just choose one. Or find ways to combine two of them (if you love sewing and Star Wars, sew Star Wars costumes and put them on Etsy). Don’t be paralyzed by this choice: if it turns out this isn’t what you want then you can always start another business later. You learn by doing and making mistakes, not by analyzing every possible outcome and factor.

This passion will become your dream job.

This is how I did it. Continue reading

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Sayanora, Summer

As surely as the temperatures have dropped, it’s time for another check-in (or would that be check-up?) regarding my quest to combine passion-driven work and a sustainable income.

In a nutshell, here’s my news: lots of movement, little progress.

Since moving back to Colorado over Memorial Day weekend, I have found and left a resume-writing job, then taken a few, halting steps toward a freelance writing business of my own. I applied for a part-time position as editor of a science education journal. I’ve contracted for some social commenting work with Alpine Valley School, where I also volunteer twelve hours per week. (By “social commenting,” I mean looking for local online articles where I can join comment threads and mention the school.)

More recently, I made a great connection with James Marcus Bach, author of Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar, about which I blogged a couple weeks ago. And I just created a new Google group to solicit input, feedback, and overall brainstorming help for taking my  ideas for CASE off the drawing board and into the real (or at least, the virtual) world.

On the personal front, I’ve found a good rhythm with school days and work-from-home days. I’m very glad to be singing with Ars Nova once again, and I love running along the Clear Creek greenbelt three or four days a week. Although I’ve yet to find a new sangha, I’ve been sitting zazen on my own nearly every day. And, wonder of wonders, there’s even been amazing progress on the relationship front these past few weeks.

So things aren’t bad at all…except for my cash flow, which remains decidedly negative. Continue reading

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Fire and Ice

fire&iceIn yesterday’s post I rather leadingly asked whether I should pursue my passions first, rather than limiting that pursuit for whatever time remains after I’ve covered my expenses. I say “leadingly” because it’s quite clear which direction I’m leaning. Not surprisingly, discovering this has sparked a decidedly split reaction.

On the positive side, I observe the tell-tale excitement that indicates I’m headed toward something I truly want. Frankly, I’m sick of not looking forward to my life, to each coming day, with great eagerness. Sometimes I think I’d rather starve than not spend the bulk of my time doing things I thoroughly enjoy—and by “enjoy,” I don’t mean unrelenting fun or ease, but rather meaningfulness, something to which I’m thrilled to be giving my all. Basically, I want to be driven by fire, not force. I want my days saturated in gratitude and significance, not merely survived.

This is what I wrote about in my post The Fire Inside, about how passion is the driving force in learning at Sudbury schools (indeed, wherever natural curiosity isn’t inhibited). I’ll know I have the right sort of work when I can’t wait to get at it each day, when I’m always coming up with new things to experiment with or do. When the frustration as well as the joys are engaging, when I don’t have to struggle to be present, to stay with the work.

It’s gratifying to be reminded that I haven’t entirely lost touch with my intuition, that I can still navigate by my inner voice. Yet of course, the ghosts and demons of my conditioning aren’t about to give up so easily. Continue reading

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Squish Like Grape

Long time, no blog, I know.

Let me explain.

In addition to the expected headaches and distractions of settling into a new place, I’ve been fighting more literal headaches lately, having spent the past two weeks rather ill. More serious than this, however, was the nagging case of learning-curvitis I contracted. In my last post I mentioned the joys of tracking down freelance writing jobs. Well, as I’ve learned once again, sometimes getting a job is just the beginning of the fun.

Resume-writing isn’t bad work, I have to admit: for all the silliness of self-promotional writing, I appreciate the wordsmithing challenge; I take pride in my work and enjoy thinking it’s helping people find better employment. Problem is, this current gig is currently paying less than I’d get at McDonald’s or Wal Mart.

This is due primarily to the fact that the pay is per finished product, and nine resumes into the job, I can’t seem to get my speed up. I don’t want to think perfectionism is holding me back—frankly, I don’t want to spend any more time on each resume than I have to. No, this isn’t perfectionism but professionalism: even minimally satisfying work simply takes a while, especially when I have to find the right buzzwords for a given industry and use them convincingly.

It doesn’t help that this is contract work, meaning all the taxes fall on me, or that I discovered my gross pay turns out to be as little as 20 percent of what the company’s clients are paying. Granted, I don’t have to advertise or go looking for customers, but the reality that this isn’t passion-based employment is trumped by its apparent inability even to cover my minimal expenses.

So my immediate dilemma is how much more time to give this business: how long I should wait too see how much faster I might get at cranking out resumes. At the same time, there is a larger underlying question, and that’s the main reason I’m airing my dirty freelancing laundry in public today. Continue reading


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