Seek the Joy of Life

Joy: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” It means being happy and unburdened.

That feeling you get on Sunday night when you think about work the next day—that’s not “joy.”

That feeling you get when your boss calls you to his or her office, and it’s not bonus season, that’s not “joy.”

And, that feeling you get when they tell you you’re fired. That’s not “joy.” That’s anti-joy. That’s “joy-killer.” That’s the death of “joy.”

But, does it have to be?

As anyone who’s been fired knows, getting fired is gut-wrenching. It feels like the oxygen has been sucked from the room and from your body. It feels like a tragedy akin to losing a loved one.

But, here’s a question: was your job bringing you joy?

It was bringing you money, sure. And, benefits. And, a certain sense of purpose. But do those things really add up to joy? Do they really give you “happiness” and lightness of being? Do they make you smile? Do they make you feel carefree?

My guess is, no they do not. All they make you feel is fairly, though not completely confident, that you can afford to pay your mortgage or your rent and all your other various and sundry other bills.

Is that enough? Is it enough to feel like you have the monthly bills more or less covered? What if covering the bills means having to kowtow to a boss you hate in a job you can’t stand? And, if it’s not enough, will you turn your back on it and walk away?

Most people won’t or feel like they can’t.

You’ll notice I wrote “feel like they can’t” and not “they can’t.” I did this purposefully. Because the great thing about today’s world is that we don’t allow slavery. As much as you may feel like an indentured servant or a slave, you are not. You have freedom to walk away from something that doesn’t bring you joy to something that does.

Problem with that is leaving “comfortable” and “the known” and “salary plus benefits” behind. Leaving that behind is scary, and, some would say, tantamount to insanity.

So, most people do not leave that behind. They stay where they are. Clocking in every morning and clocking out every night. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Doing what they’re told, keeping their heads down and never once standing up like Peter Finch in Network and saying “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

I don’t blame them. Things being what they are these days, leaving behind a salary and benefits does seem crazy, even if keeping the salary and benefits means being mildly dissatisfied to downright unhappy.

But, what if you’re fired. What if the salary and benefits and all the other trappings of a secure job are taken from you, ripped away, even after years of clocking in and clocking out?

Can you find “joy” then?

For some, the answer is “no.” For these people the state of being fired is so scary, so traumatic, so overwhelming, that all they can do is panic and flail around to find another job, more or less like the old one, so that they can go back to clocking in and clocking out and paying their bills on the appointed days each month.

I don’t blame them. The World is a scary place, and having a steady paycheck to pay your bills is comforting, even if it means behind supremely uncomfortable 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 2000 hours a year (assuming that you work in a place that doesn’t demand that you work more than 8 hours a day).

But, let me suggest something else. Let me suggest an alternative. Let me suggest that being fired can be a beginning. It is to be sure, one door closing. But, let me suggest that it can mark the opening of another door. And, not just another door. A big door. A door bigger than one you’ve ever seen. And, on the other side of that door lies not just another job, doing exactly what you were doing to earn a living, just in another office, in another cubicle, with another boss, and another parking space or another subway ride. No, on the other side of this door is not just another job, there is EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.

Yes, this is a dramatic statement. Yes, it is grandiose. Yes, it is so sweeping as to be almost without meaning. But, you’re a lawyer. You know what I mean when I write these words. You know that the practice of law — with its focus on rules and regulations and minutiae — is a very limiting thing. It makes you train your eyes on every dot of an “i” and cross of a “t.” It asks you to specialize in arcane and narrow disciplines. It demands much of your time, so you cannot pursue outside interests the way in which you could. Do all this for long enough, and soon you find that you have little idea of what goes on outside the four walls of your office.

But, if you’ve been fired, you’re now outside those four walls. Yes, you don’t ask to be ejected. And, being expelled sucks. But, there’s no going back.

So, the question is now what?

Let me make a suggestion. Be bold. Be daring. Be unafraid.

Think of the things that bring you joy. Real joy. Unmitigated joy.

Those are the things you should consider doing going forward.

I realize this is asking a lot of you. I realize it’s scary. I realize that no one ever told you that you had permission to seek joy.

I’m giving it to you now.

Who am I to be so presumptuous? Who the hell do I think I am?

I’m the guy who’s been fired from four different law firms and each time went back for more, hat in hand, tail between his legs, groveling on his knees, begging for more of the same.

And, then, finally, I woke up one day, and said “enough. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m doing something new. I’m doing something different. I’m doing something fun. I’m going for the joy.”

That’s who I am. I’m that guy.

I’m the lawyer who got fired four times and then, and only then, became a comic.

And, guess what, I’ve never been happier. I’ve never had more joy in my life.

So do it. Go for the joy.

And, if you need any more inspiration, take a listen to this. Maybe it’ll give you some motivation:

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/2804476998/)

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  • I will be the first to admit that I found this article moving. If I had not quit my firm job and started my own practice 18 months ago, I can’t even imagine how much MORE moving it might have been!

    • Troy: Thank you so much for writing in and sharing how much this article resonated with you. I’m so glad to hear that. I’m also so very glad to hear of your great success in starting your own practice! I hope it is thriving, and I wish you much continued happiness and JOY!