“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck.” -Rumi
A few weeks ago, a dear friend (let's call him "David") called. What he told me changed the way I see myself, my power and my path. Bottom line: I am enough.
Here's what happened: David had been looking for a job in a new region for almost a year. I knew how determined but frustrated he was (I know that harrowing balance well). The marketplace was unforgiving and to make matters worse, his past performance on the job was at best, average. His achievements certainly didn’t match the performances of his borderline maniacal colleagues. And so, he assumed he could only find a job by activating his external network of friends and family; which to be fair, was an impressive group of achievers all around the country (David knows everyone!).
After dutifully reaching out to colleagues, a job opportunity arose as expected. He excelled during the lengthy interview process, moving from conversation to conversation flawlessly. During the final interview, for some reason, the interviewer was visibly unmoved by his charisma, education, skill and clear fit with the company. Unlike everyone who came before her, she was simply unimpressed. She made the decision not to hire him. To David and the personnel who so badly wanted him on board, it was a serious blow. He was flattened morally and emotionally, confused, disoriented, and unsure of where to go, who to turn to and what to do.
But then something happened. Apparently, somewhere along the way (read: along a sound path built on a fundamentally unsound premise), he had turned some heads. A woman from the company who David barely remembered meeting called. They’d met during one of the general greeting sessions. There was no pretense, no fluff, no frills. All she knew was that she liked his honesty, his style and how he carried himself. When she found out David had been snubbed by the final interviewer, she called to offer him an opportunity with a different company far better than the job he’d “lost.” The benefits were beyond what he could have ever imagined. As he recounted the story to me, there was a slight waver in his voice when he said, “Yets, I thought I could only get a job using my network… In the end, I got it just being myself.”
The premise of the first journey, while logical, was unsound. It started with the belief that David was unqualified and thus needed extensive external support, bolsters and connections in order to find what he was looking for. It started with the belief that his mediocre track record plus his innate abilities plus God’s grace simply weren’t enough ammunition to fight the battle ahead – and to fight it well. The premise of that journey was all together wrong: it presumed that he wasn't enough. Almost as if to make the point as strongly as possible, life (read: God, the Universe, if you like) brought him to the very end of the road only to completely flatten him with deep disappointment. Amazingly, and perhaps because all things really do work together for our good, it was that same flawed path that enabled a tangential path to be illuminated – a path that by design, was a direct branch off of the previous one. The tangent path was narrower, far less familiar, unexpected and definitely risky; but the premise of that journey was all together right: that David alone, sans pretense and stripped of social trappings, was enough to secure an opportunity and a life in which he would be happy.
We are all, always, enough. The way we learn that lesson is so often painful – and maybe that’s by design. If our tendency is to secretly, desperately cling to the idea that we “need” him or her, them or that, approval, endorsement, and applause – something outside of ourselves, to be happy, to shine as brilliantly as we were created to shine, then maybe him and her, them and that need to be cut away (sometimes dramatically, painfully) before we can truly see how much we are worth in our own right.
I think it happens in different ways, this funny stripping away process. Sometimes we suffer some kind of public embarrassment (for me, that happened when I graduated from medical school and didn't land a residency position right away like my classmates did). Or we fail at something we thought we'd mastered (David's final interview). Or friends betray our trust. This stripping away process can happen again and again in our lives, and it reminds us each time that our certainty, confidence, and clarity about who we are need to be anchored at an internal dock, not an external one. The truth is, our inner voice tells us everything we need to know and do. No social network, no relationship, no accolade, no supplement, no institution, is more valuable or more critically necessary than our own quiet instincts, in the process of realizing true joy.
As competition season has set in (I've competed in 4 meets to date and counting), I am realizing this more and more. I am enough. No fancy coach or designer sneaker, no top-notch training gear or packed-to-the-gills grandstand needed. My training, my love for this sport, the joy I find in effort and my intention to perform high in my potential; that is enough for me to enjoy this work.
You are enough. Three words. Sometimes the most hard-fought lessons we learn during this great education called life, are the simplest.