career

What no one can tell you.

People want clarity and they ask for answers. I'm getting this a lot lately, especially since declaring how important "getting clear" is in my recent TEDx talk.

I'm noticing more and more people asking me for ideas, advice and solutions to areas where they feel stuck in their lives. I mean, I get it. I'm a coach. I help people get unstuck. It's what I do.

So it makes sense that they would come to me seeking help in the form of answers. 

And then some people become incredibly frustrated with me. They realize I don't give answers. Especially to the biggest questions in life:

-how do I quit my job for the dream I have?

-what is my true sexuality and what happens if I express it?

-should I be a vegan or Paleo?

-what kind of exercise is best for me and my body?

I have no clue, I tell them. That's something no one can tell you. For as much as I'd love to market myself as this know-it-all guru-type being who has all the answers (because trust me, that's easy to sell) my integrity won't let me do it. I can't sell some bullshit "four-step formula" to follow or pretend like I'm going to fix your life. 

I have a pretty decent track record of solving my own shit and have inspired some incredible transformations in the lives of my clients who sometimes tell other people about me. That's all I need. 

But my style isn't for everyone and like I said, some people become incredibly frustrated with me when they realize I'm not in the business of selling answers. It happened recently, in fact. I was asked to share some nutrition information and I showed up and did my usual spiel about us all being incredibly different with different resources available to us and how there's no one right way to do anything.

The folks seemed frustrated, maybe even a little annoyed or disappointed. I know why--and it's because most people are used to being told what to do. It makes it easier in a way, right? It takes the risk of failure and rejection out the picture---or at least supports that delusion. If someone tells us what to do, what steps to take, how to be/act/dress/walk/talk/live--basically how to be who we are--we can blame them when something doesn't work, right? YES! Then we don't have to be responsible for our lives!

And that's how most people live. They live in these "life boxes" that are really uncomfortable but safe because someone else is in charge.

Someone else is accountable.

Someone else pays our check or gives us orders/directives or manages us in some or many ways. 

And then we spend our miserable lives complaining about all of this. We limit ourselves and then cry disempowerment, victim and resignation.

I experienced this intimately this past year when, after spending many months extracting myself from a few situations that weren't right for me, I found myself completely and utterly disoriented. My internal compass was toast---broken and in dire need of recalibration.

"Let me ask these 'experts'", I said to myself. These marketing professionals who will tell me who I should be and how I should brand myself. I was struggling with something for which there was no paved path: I'm a health coach who happens to be transgender and I have little to no interest in being a poster child for the current "LGBTQ issues" bandwagon of political activism. Nope, not my chosen career. I am a health coach. And I thought I needed help to figure this out. 

All I have for you right here is a big huge L-O-fucking-L.

I ended up paying close to $1000 in consult fees (worth the investment if you get your damn ROI) to arrive at this answer: no one could tell me. I was looking for permission that I didn't need from people who had no capacity (or right) to provide it.

Seriously. They meant well, and gave it their best. But I was left with the irony or silliness of asking two straight, cisgender strangers to tell ME, a transgender health coach, how to brand and market myself. 

Yeah, I know. This is what WE DO! We ask other people who barely have the ability to get their own lives on track. Why do we think people know better than us? Because we don't trust ourselves. We don't listen to the truth and INTELLIGENCE that lives in us all.

Does this mean conversations, consults and even counsel aren't helpful? I'm not saying that. I have accountability coaches, a therapist and other colleagues who I pay, often, to listen to me think my shit out.

But I don't ask them what I should do. And you shouldn't either. Because no one can tell you.

You want to create something--a life of your dreams in some form or fashion. A relationship. A career. An identity you feel is integrated. Something else maybe? And that involves creating it.

Creativity is the result of destruction, chaos and construction. And it happens over and over. 

You can't create something or build something that is YOU by asking someone else how to do it. You can't cherrypick your beautiful, unique self into existence. Stop trying to do that, please.

Who are you? What do you want? What do you need to thrive and feel fully awake and GRATEFUL to open your eyes each day?

I don't know these answers. You do. Or start figuring them out. It's what no one can tell you.

So are you ready to stop asking?


You'll win some. You'll lose some.

That's part of being your authentic self in work and in life.

I was reminded of this, yet again, the other day. I walked out of my workshop for perinatal health providers at a conference where I'd been invited back three years in a row. Three years in a row! That's pretty impressive considering the first year I ended up there practically by accident.

One of the committee members, who hadn't met me or seen my presentation before yesterday said to me, "Dillan, that was wonderful. You are changing the world 25 people at a time."

She was referring to my workshop titled, Safe Spaces: Five Ways to Provide Welcoming Care for LGBTQ Individuals. It's a workshop I created largely from my own experiences navigating the health sector as a transgender/queer person. I also include stories I hear from my friends in the LGBTQIA communities and the little research that exists about health disparities.

My workshop was the only one of its kind on the roster at this event celebrating its 26th year. It gave me great pleasure to have been invited back for the third year in a row and to be told by the committee organizers that my workshop is a crowd favorite.

It was particularly meaningful because, as I sat down to rest after my presentation, I received an email rejecting my application to be a teacher this summer. Despite my fear of rejection based on my identity as a trans* person, I had applied anyway. My experience as a certified teacher and youth programs director made me well-qualified for the position; it matched all my skills and areas of expertise. I was excited to get back into teaching and working with youth again, having done it for 15 years of my life. And, to be true to myself and walk my own talk, I openly shared my identity as a transgender person as a possible asset to the community. As I sat down and read the email saying I wasn't offered the position, I was struck the irony of the moment. I had just walked out of an incredibly successful professional moment being fully out and proud about who I am, and here I was experiencing the other end of the spectrum.

Do I know for a fact it was due to my trans* identity? No, I don't. But my gut told me it might happen long before I received the email. I had considered who or what I would lose when I decided to transition, including professional opportunities, so it really came as no surprise. I know some people aren't ready to accept and embrace a transgender person and all it entails. I know some people don't like me or value me, both personally or professionally.  

 

But life is like that, right? You win some, you lose some.

 

The sting of the email lasted mere hours due, in part, to the Buddhist retreat I attended this past weekend in the wilds of Vermont. Coming off that experience, I just wasn't able to hold onto the suffering of that rejection for very long because I know it is there to teach me a lesson about attachment. When we attach to how things "should" be or how we "want" them to be, we suffer. When we surrender to the reality of what "is", we experience freedom in our hearts, minds and spirits.

I have two choices in life. We all do. We can hold tight to our version of things, in this case the injustice inherent in being rejected based on my identity, or we can accept the NOW. The "now" of this experience revealed that some people are ready, willing and able to embrace learning about LGBTQ people from a member of those communities. Some people are not. Some things will be available to us when we share who we really are, and some will not. 

 In that moment, I became so clear about how much time I've spent suffering over people or opportunities or experiences never meant for me. I've spent precious moments agonizing over why I wasn't good enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough. I've spent minutes and hours and days and weeks being a victim and complaining about things over which I have no control. We do this when we fix our focus on outcomes or results based on our short-sighted view of right and wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair. We do this when we get really attached to something or, as Pema Chodron said this past weekend, "when we get attached to a different "NOW".

 

The truth is, we will win some and lose some. We can't make everyone like us or want us or need us or value us. We can't control every outcome. When we focus on the wrong ones, the ones who don't choose us, we waste precious time. When we focus on the right ones, the ones who easily see our value and worth, we free up energy for where it is most needed and appreciated.

 

The email I received came at exactly the precise moment I was celebrating another success for myself as an out transgender professional. I thought of it later, as I sat doing the coaching work I LOVE for a company and with other people I greatly admire and respect. I've worked very long and very hard to seek out opportunities where I can be my most authentic self to do work I am exceptionally good at, because I truly love it. My life is so fulfilling, that I don't have time to spend worked up over people or opportunities that pass me up. I believe I will experience more success like this, in my career and in my personal life, as long as I remember that I will win some and I will lose some. It's all part of life.

We will lose or miss out on things. People will fear what we represent or who we are. People will reject us for too many reasons to count. We will not be able to reach everyone.

But you don't need them all. You just need the right ones.