“When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going, or at least the general direction in which you are moving. But don’t forget — the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”

It’s a passage from spiritualist Eckhart Tolle’s masterful bestseller, “The Power of Now,” a collection of questions and his responses, compiled from countless talks he’d given both here and abroad. To this day, I feel, they carry as much weight as they did back when I first came across them, nearly thirty years ago while in the midst of a major career transition.

Not unlike many others, I was at a stage in my life where I no longer wanted to “play the game,” as I’d done for so many years. The corporate landscape at that time was changing rapidly, with enormous, multi-national entities gobbling up much smaller full-service firms, which were the backbone of the marketing/advertising research industry. I guess an apropos analogy would be the advent of “big box” locations like the Home Depot and Lowes, which would ultimately spell the demise of local hardware stores and other small businesses. 

In my particular case, the writing was on the proverbial wall that major consolidations were about to take place within the company that I’d been dedicated to for nearly ten years. As the department head, I wanted nothing to do with firing my fellow colleagues, due to no fault of their own. To this day, I can still recall the phrase I kept asking myself over and over again prior to making the jump: “If not now, then when?”

Could I have stayed there and ridden out the storm? Sure, but why subject myself to such a chaotic, transitional environment that would subsequently lead to a departure not too far down the line. In many ways, I’ve always felt that “forced” situations — be they employment-related, relationships or an unexpected diagnosis, tend to light a fire under us. We’d otherwise not be motivated enough to make a change. 

No doubt, more recently, many were confronted with a similar situation, as the harsh reality of mass layoffs became the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Literally, one day, folks had what they thought was a secure, reliable position at their workplace, and a week or so later, they didn’t. That’s how quickly management reacted to a crisis where no immediate resolution was within sight. 

Ironically, with so many offices shuttered, it presented an unexpected window of opportunity to explore avenues that had only been seen as hobbies or side-hustles up to that point. Lots of new, innovative businesses soon emerged, which would serve various needs and utilize non-traditional methods of delivery. Today, with much of the economy now restored to its pre-pandemic levels, a significant number of workers haven’t returned to their former employers (some 47 million, according to government statistics), and for those who had, as a recent poll conducted by Stanford University indicated, they’ve shown a great reluctance to give up the comfort of their completely remote or hybrid working status.

One might say that this global incident was a breakthrough of sorts in that it was the first time in which workers appeared to dictate the terms and conditions of their employment, rather than management calling all the shots. Even now, with the number of openings outpacing that of qualified applicants, it’s rather interesting to see the lengths to which companies are willing to go, offering incentive packages and signing bonuses in order to entice prospective employees.

Does choosing to put something into motion (be it large or small), and doing so in the present moment, as opposed to delaying it while waiting for the right circumstances to reveal themselves, take a fair amount of courage? Sure, it does. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that one should just drop everything without having some sort of action plan (especially if it involves others who would be greatly impacted), but I do feel that it first requires a willingness to embrace change. That’s completely up to us.

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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