Ordinary Self is Enough
by Carol Orsborn
following is an excerpt from Carol Orsborn's book Inner
Excellence at Work: The Path to Meaning. Spirit and
Success. This updated and expanded version of
Carol Orsborn's classic 1991 work, is published by
AMACOM, the publishing arm of the American Management
tell the story of the disciples of two masters who live
across the river from one another. One day, the
disciples happen upon each other. The first shouts
across the river bank.
teacher can manifest jewels in the palms of his bare
hands. He can stand on this bank of the river and paint
a canvas on the other side with the image of his choice.
He can levitate and he can change himself into a tiger.
What miraculous things can your teacher do?"
this," said the second. "When he's hungry, he
eats. When he's tired, he sleeps."
When you are living life fully, you
are not doing things you think of as great. You merely
do what's next. You are not pushed at a self-destructive
pace by fear. Turning a deaf ear to the sirens of false
promise, you no longer work so intensely that you
sacrifice your long-term well-being. You set your pace
by monitoring your vitality.You know
you are pushing too hard if you start to burn out; if
you get bored, you aren't stretching enough.
There are many
times when you are confused about what is next for you
to do. Should you leave your safe, stale job to take the
risk of changing positions? Should you live off your
life savings for a year to get an advanced degree?
Should you pass up the promotion because you want to
protect the time you have to spend with your family?
Should you do this or do that?
have not considered the possibility that what is next
for you is to sit in confusion for awhile. When you are
clear about what is next, answer the call. When you
aren't, pause. Sometimes you will be inspired, sometimes
you will feel lost. You will make mistakes along the way
and you will learn from your mistakes. Even this you
won't do perfectly.
Over the years,
I have monitored the progress of one of my friends, one
of the Bay Area's premiere bakers. When I first met
Elliot, he was working in a jewelry factory -- a
dead-end job that was burning him out and wasting his
talents. What Elliot loved to do was bake. I first
sampled Elliot's passion -- a rich cheesecake based on
his family's recipe -- at a potluck party. I'm sure I
was one of the many people who said to him, "You
really should do something with this."
Elliot was able to raise seed money to open a little
bakery. Sometimes as a friend and patron -- sometimes as
his bakery's public relations agent -- I watched Elliot
progress as I munched more samples of various new
flavors of cheesecake than I care to confess. Of course
Elliot wanted to make money. But it was critical to him
how and why he went about achieving his goals. For
Elliot, the most important thing was that this
cheesecake -- and any other bakery goods he added to his
line of offerings -- stay true to his family's high
phenomenal, and soon Elliot's one little bakery grew
into a regional chain of bakeries, not only selling
retail to happy customers but to restaurants and gourmet
shops throughout California. As the chain grew,
management problems crept in. He sought out consultants
who guided him to experiment with various management
styles and formats. New cakes made bold debuts then
quietly slipped away into oblivion. Some bakery
locations worked. Some didn't. The corporation's numbers
slipped, slid and soared depending on the season, the
personnel and a thousand other factors. But through it
all, Elliot stayed true to his original vision. Above
all, he wanted to share his family's cheesecake with
others. His chain of bakeries and wholesale operation
are now a multimillion dollar empire, as well known for
its generous contributions to the community and for its
proud employees as it is for its delicious cheesecake.
that his greatest success would come not despite the
nurturing of his highest aspirations -- but because of
it. Here's another example of someone for whom spirit
and character come first -- one you may never read about
in "Fortune" or "Forbes." On one of
my media tours, I was met at the airport by Delores, one
of the producers of a national cable television program,
operating outside of Washington D.C. I was struck by the
serenity of my hostess. My awe increased as she told me
that she had just recently discovered that the funding
for the program had fallen short and that she was on the
final day of her job with no new opportunity yet in
came here several years ago, I wanted to break into
broadcast more than anything in the world. I loaded all
my belongings into my VW and pulled into town. I put in
my application and called every day. I was down to my
last dollar, but I trusted that something would happen
got the job offer within days. Now, several years later,
Delores was dropping me off at the studio -- her last
task before going home to pack her bags. "How can
you be so composed at a time like this'?" I asked.
"Simple. When I first heard about problems here, I
started praying. I let God know that my preference --
given my limited perspective -- was to stay in this job.
But I also asked that if this were not what I am meant
to do any more, that this door be closed."
explained to me that in her life, every time a door
closed, sooner or later, another door opened. Sometimes,
even by her own admission, the timing of doors slamming
shut and others cracking open was less than ideal. She
felt that it was in those difficult transitional periods
that she did the most growing.
Even as I
listened, I tempered my awe of Delores with the quiet
suspicion that her faith may have been derived from an
insufficient database. As the older, more experienced
woman I imagined myself to be at the time, I came away
wondering if the key to her serenity was that she was
young and privileged enough to not have had to
experience real pain yet. While I aspired to the sweet
simplicity of her faith, I have personally not been able
to solve the riddle of how to be more fully conscious
without also acknowledging the presence of fear.
following the principles of inner excellence, I have
more readily come face to face with feelings and
emotions that I was once able to avoid through external
diversion. Haven't you noticed how many highly ambitious
people become uncomfortable when things get too quiet
around them? How many fast-track people do you know who
routinely avoid laid-back vacations, such as sitting
with a good book on a peaceful beach, in favor of
attending a competitive tennis camp or hitting ten
European cities in twelve days?
Many people say
they don't have an inner voice of wisdom, or that they
don't know which voice is the "real" one. The
truth is that many of us know exactly what would be
right or best for us to do. We simply don't want to
admit it because we are so afraid of what our inner
voice will tell us to do. What if your inner voice is
telling you to do something to shake up the comfort of
the status quo -- take a risk to serve a higher purpose
in your life? Rectify a wrong?
Or what if your
inner voice is telling you that you can't have what you
think you want; or that you don't really want what you
have worked so hard to achieve?
We think we are
clever at avoiding our internal moment of reckoning, but
the truth is, if we don't allow our inner voices to rise
to consciousness they will make themselves known to us
in the form of problems. Even if it's painful to tune
into what your heart is telling you, wouldn't you rather
know what you are dealing with in your life earlier on,
when you will be more likely to do something about it,
than to be overtaken again and again by "bad
luck" and unwelcome surprises?
This does not,
however, mean that when you practice inner excellence,
you find the way to eradicate fear. Who among us,
awakened from the once comforting illusions that no
longer suffice, would not feel trepidation? I have
learned that we cannot always count on the serenity of
faith to save us from our fears. Perhaps the best we can
hope for is to be able to name our terror and be willing
to rise to the occasion. The real challenge, in fact,
may be not to avoid fear, but rather to extend
acceptance to ourselves when we are afraid.
me, exposed in the bright light of day, my fears are
more apparent to me now than ever before. But they drive
(c) Carol M. Orsborn. All rights reserved. Used with
permission of AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association
International, New York, NY. www.amacombooks.org.
To order a copy, please contact AMACOM at 800-714-6395.
Carol Orsborn is a leading writer and spokesperson on the subject of success and spirit. For over a decade Carol's enlightened approach to career and life
management has pioneered the radical notion that there need be no
discrepancy between deeply-held principles and success.
Her eight books have been featured on "Oprah", "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News," among others, and have been translated into 10 languages.
Orsborn, who has her Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University, was recently named a finalist in the 1998 National Jewish Book Awards.
You can email Carol at
email@example.com and visit her website at
of Carol's Books: