What do you really, really want to change?

Whatever that is, it’s what marketing coach Suzanne Evans (www.helpmorepeople.com) calls your “movement”.

You can also figure out your movement by asking who the people you want to help are. Once you know that, you know enough to start something, working for yourself.

Not hard for me to answer. Knowing that a day, a month, a year, a decade–once gone–is gone forever, I would have people understand that they need to work at what matters most to them. I get more satisfaction helping other people shine by learning who they were meant to be and how to take action on it, than I do in making myself shine.

In the summer of ’10, I got a lesson about fellow workers who might like to know how to work at something that matters to them personally. And some who didn’t.

I needed cash, and showed up for this valley’s fruit and berry harvest, along with hundreds of other local and not-so-local people.

None of us had the status or benefits of employees. We were casual laborers. We either “took” conditions (read “egos”) as we found them or “left” them. Showing up implied we “took”.

The only attraction was getting paid. There is nothing fun about laboring under scorching sun or getting bitten and stung.

It wasn’t hard to do the math–the longer and faster you worked, the more you got paid.

Nine-year-olds got it. Entirely money.

You could not count on any particular daily wage, though. A blueberry picker has no control over how many berries there are, how spaced out they are (huge clusters of fully ripe berries are a picker’s dream and it seldom happens that way) or what overnight weather does to picking time.

Whether the berries are “good” or “bad”, as the workers say, you have to put in as much time as it takes to get your flat picked. How many flats you pick is up to you, but most people want to earn as much as possible.

You pick a flat, receive a ticket from a supervisor on the back of a truck, and cash it in at the pay office on your way out.

From the perspective of the field owners, they are going to get a flat picked by you, however long it takes, and they are going to pay exactly the same for a flat that takes two or even three hours to pick, as for a flat that takes an hour or less. They are going to make the same profit from a flat, but you are going to pay for it with longer hours of work. The owners know full well they can count on people showing up summer after summer, eventually coming back with their children and grand-children.

They don’t have to advertise.

They don’t even bother competing with the higher pay at a smaller operation,  knowing it doesn’t have enough berries to steal their workers away.  (The smaller farm enjoys many a private chuckle about the bigger, yet the reality is they load their berries on the back of the bigger farm’s trucks when it comes time to  head to market.)

The larger farm pays $5.50 a flat. That doesn’t change from year to year.  Pickers groan sometimes that they’re actually making $2.25 an hour or less and then counter that complaint with the local attitude that it’s $2.25 they otherwise wouldn’t have. Those who come to pick know the pay works out well below minimum wage, but they show up anyway.

Some pickers have jobs, some are retired, some unemployed. This last category is literally picking for what they can earn to buy supper that night. I fell in that category last summer, picking up supper on the way home.

One loud-mouth who showed up daily, used anyone in earshot as his “stage”. His theme, “my wife–she doesn’t understand me, she’s trying to break us up,” broadcast out over the rows, was a popular form of entertainment among a certain crowd.

“I gotta get me some candy! I’m talking about C-A-N-D-Y!” he would sing out. “I don’t K-N-O-O-O-W what YOU guys are talking about! You guys are perverts!” (Guffaws from his supporters, both genders, who seemed to have little conversation of their own.)

One of them, a woman who said she was a member of a local evangelical church and a federal employee, declared she wouldn’t miss a day in the fields because neither her job nor home-life compared to the fun of being around **Tommy (**not his real name) and his gang.

One retired male picking near me called out, “Hey, Tommy! I’m on a chocolate diet now! The only thing I can eat is chocolate!” Most people understood he was a white man married to a dark-skinned woman, and if they didn’t already know it, they were informed by the senior himself.

It didn’t bother him a ten-year-old picking by himself, the next row over, was close enough get every word.

Tommy would answer back, and on it went–stimulus and response. According to Tommy, people compared him to a horse in a certain activity. Snorts, giggles. Tommy was the Man!

When I protested by yelling back, “Excuse me, there are children present,” Tommy began calling from row to row, certain people would co-operate by getting my name for him.

I squelched it with an immediate “none of his business”.

I took my protests to my immediate supervisor. She sounded shocked and said she would take it to the field manager.

Instead she went on vacation.

After several weeks of Tommy and his single theme, I took my own objections to the field manager. He had been there the whole time. Either he had his ear buds in all the time or he heard what went on.

I guess I was thinking he would be ashamed and apologetic that such language dominated a workplace he was responsible for, especially considering there were children working. That he had been merely distracted, up till now, and would speak to Tommy. The tone of conversation would be cleaned up, and maybe–hope, hope–Tommy would be sent packing.

Sometimes I can be so naive.

“This field is like a court of law, ” he snarled, pointing a finger at my chest. “What you’re saying is hearsay. I was here and I say it never happened.” With that, he ordered me to leave the field and not return.

A man who travels from several provinces over to pick in Nova Scotia’s blueberry harvest saw me leaving and asked what happened. I told him I had been “fired” (if you can be fired as a non-employee) for speaking up about Tommy and his gang.

“I know. Those guys should have their mouths washed out with soap,” he fumed.

I said if he spoke up, it would be a second voice, and then maybe others would speak up. And just maybe the field manager would be outnumbered and think better of comparing a berry field to a court of law. If enough pickers said “we’re mad as anything and not taking it anymore,” maybe the owners would find the field manager not the right person to supervise their harvest after all.

He said, “I’m sorry,” put his head down, and went back to work.

I, too, am sorry.

Sorry that good people are so beaten down that they allow themselves to get caught up in improving someone else’s bottom line for low wages and bad conditions. They could be having the richly rewarding experience of figuring out how to help other people based on what matters to them. Of getting paid for it, probably much better than berry wages.

Whatever makes their heart sing is what they should be doing. What makes them jump out of bed in the morning, eager to find out what the new day will bring.

Seems to me years of being conditioned to “get a job” and “put up or shut up” in order to keep it have left many dulled to the possibilities. Left them forgetting that before 1900 and the machine age, virtually everybody worked for themselves. It’s not a crazy new idea.

At the very least, it has a lot more to recommend it than being told reality is whatever a field manager says it is and having your pay depend on it.

The good news, says the marketing coach I was referring to–Suzanne Evans–anybody, (even field managers) can break the work-for-someone-else habit, though, simply by identifying what’s important to them. So also says Barbara Winter, author of Making A Living Without a Job (www.barbarawinter.com) And Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was (www.barbarasher.com). And caring passionate people who will coach you on that, like Bonnie Pond, the Relaunch-Your-Life Coach (www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com).

Your starting point might be some tough times you have lived through. If so, people will be helped and inspired by how you’ve already worked through it with tips to share. Your difficult story sets your clients free to work on their tough situation.

For the most part, except in certain fields like brain surgery, people do not so much care about whether or not you are a certified “expert”as that they can know, like, and trust you to help them through their situation, says Suzanne.

Or perhaps you have acquired a lot of information in a certain area, like a hobby or travel you are extremely passionate about. There are people who want that information. Their lives are busy, and they are happy to pay you for your expertise.

This is not called the information age for nothing. People need what you’ve got, and will pay you for it. Your”job” is to quit feeding someone else’s bottom line and start feeding your own with what you think about all the time and would rather be doing.

If picking berries doesn’t do it, figure out what does. Think about what excites you. Watch the level of involvement in your own life story rise as you set about making your contribution to the world from that.

My guess is that Tommy and people like him are really also searching for what makes their hearts sing. He might be settling for the pleasure of being center stage with a few who are easily impressed, when he ought to upgrade his entertainment skills to performing on a real stage. He might have to work at it, but he might enjoy the new identity more than that of sexually mature loudmouth berry picker working for teensy tiny wages.

When you make your decisions based solely on how much money you can get by working for someone else, you are removing your uniqueness from the equation.

“Surely one of the tragedies of our time is that a highly industrialized and urbanized society has robbed millions of deep vocational satisfaction…When we mistakenly put the cart before the horse and pick our jobs primarily for the material rewards, something devastating happens. Some shining quality goes out of work. Then we wonder why life holds so little excitement and why the things that we buy give us limited satisfaction,” writes Catherine Marshall (Moments That Matter: Inspirational Thoughts For Each Day of the Year).

Just trying to blend in with the others who think life is about being earners so they can be consumers isn’t a goal to challenge, inspire, or encourage personal growth. It is merely trading away valuable life’s hours for dollars. It becomes a vicious cycle. Work-eat-sleep-get paid-work (eat-sleep-get-paid). Isn’t life more precious than that?

Easy for you to say, Hannah, you may be thinking.

Not really. I scare myself regularly with my ambitions. I have as many fears and anxieties as the next person.

Then of course there’s Bonnie, to nag, inspire, and otherwise hold me to them. She browbeat me into doing this blog. Okay, strongly suggested! 🙂 She’s my accountability.

I put in plenty of time on bad work, is all, well before the berry experience. And I am willing to do something about changing that possibility for others, scared and all.

Yes, I lost pay the day I walked out of the field. All I know is, it would cost me far more to do nothing about the things I care about than it would to see what I can change and whom I can help.

I can speak up about “good work” and how to create it, joining my voice with those working to inspire people to want more, need more, expect more. To not settle.

As I see it, Suzanne, my movement is finding people who could be encouraged to create a better way of life, who really would like to know how. People who want to spend their time making a life, not merely a living.

Those people would not be interested in trying to squeeze themselves into someone else’s mold for a pay check, once they knew how to replace it with something more unique and inspired. Something entirely of them.

And I am reminded of what Jim Cockrum keeps saying, which is, “people with skills work for people with ideas”. If you’re an out-of-work computer programmer, it would be better to be the guy or the gal with ideas other people implement. I think our society struggles with knowing that each of us is important because we are so accustomed to being a cog in someone else’s wheel. And advertising works hard to keep us all the same person so it will be easier to sell us consumer goods.

We really have to work at being hard to convince, not blending in, not going along, not accepting bad situations that could be changed. It means knowing what we believe and having the courage of our convictions. It means not being shaped by the agendas of loud-mouthed workers, corporations, bosses, and maybe even politicians. It means finding out who we are and knowing that’s far more important then feeding someone else’s bottom line.

Now that the internet has exploded, making it possible to have customers or clients all over the world, the time is ripe for the people with the ideas. You’ve seen the news photos–highly-skilled people willing to work for food. Be the ideas person, you eat more regularly.

Won’t be long, berry pickers will figure it out, too. Their goodwill towards field supervisors who make up their own reality will evaporate. Skinflint farm owners will to have to look far and wide for workers so desperate as to accept their bad work and poverty wages.

People want to engage in activities that provoke, challenge, engage, and inspire. They want to make a difference with their time in this world. They dream about it, thrill to a movie that represents it, talk about it over a meal out with friends, and they are going to start settling for nothing less.

There is too much helpful information around, too many passions- into-profits coaches for people not to find out how.

It’s easy to get informed. Everybody knows, you type your question into Google’s search box and see what comes up.

What’s YOUR movement? Just know that the world is waiting.

Get a team for support and accountability.

If you’re looking for a coach, an excellent place to start is www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com. That’s Bonnie! I know she cares that you get going on your best life for 2011 and has some tools to help you get there!


About upfromheresite

Committed to helping people move forward on practical dreams by giving them tools and techniques to work at what they love. Live in Nova Scotia in a beautiful agricultural valley. Dream about creating a beautiful conference center, music hall, and dining hall (along with cabin for Wynnie and me) on North Mountain. Owned by a cat named Wynnie.
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