Working 'clean'

In the end, the people who do what they believe in, who have something to believe in... in the end, they last longer.—Hugh MacLeod

Hugh MacLeod posts a little story today about a smart guy who lost his job for the right reason: he stayed true to his beliefs rather than the party line. The details of the story, and of Hugh's post, have to do with marketing and PR and the future of both; that's nominally what Hugh's about, and he's much better at defining his niche and sticking to it than I am (unless you can call "crazy generalist" a niche, in which case I'm on target 100% of the time).

But the nugget, the juice, the moral of the story is universal: in the end, the people who stay in touch with their own truth and make sure what they're doing aligns with that truth... in the end, hell, in the beginning and middle, too, although it may not seem so by traditional markers, they win. Maybe not at a particular job or relationship or pursuit, but in the über-sense: at work, at love, at life.

I talk a lot about how much I hated being in advertising; even more often, I club myself over the head about all those wasted years writing copy and sitting in stoopit meetings. But the truth is, up until my last few months as an employee, I always believed fervently in some aspect of what I was doing. (What can I say? I'm a dazzling mix of optimist and asshole.) And so really, on some level, I was right to stay; there was something still to be gained from the experience. (I am also a dazzling mix of 'slow' and 'learner'.)

To keep myself honest about where things sit on my own appropriateness spectrum for dharmic happiness, I've adopted a mantra that's also a helpful metaphor: work clean.

In the world of contamination control, "working clean" is methodology for keeping product or results pure; in the world of the communicatrix, it's about shining the cold, hard light of truth on anything and everything, then following through with the appropriate action in a timely fashion. (In the world of standup comedy, it's about making the joke safe for Christians and network television, but I'm strictly an agnostic, cable-viewing type.)

Once I'd put the idea of "working clean" in my head, it became harder to ignore the insalubrious and simpler figuring out what to do about it. Not easier, but simpler. (More pain and confusion has resulted from people confusing those two words than any other pair, with the possible exception of "love" and "lust".) Admitting that Being An Actress is no longer fulfilling the way it was 10 years ago has not been easy, but the truth of it is (painfully) clear and defining future actions much, much simpler and even, lord help me, kind of fun. Ending my last two relationships wasn't exactly what I'd characterize as "easy" (or fun, while we're at it), but man oh man, the swiftness and precision with which I was able to do it not only was humane, but downright elegant. You gotta love that.

Especially when you compare it to the exquisite misery I managed to make last for months or even years at a time in my younger, cloudier days. I don't know who I thought I was doing a favor by ignoring the gigantic elephant crapping in the corner, but it wasn't me. And given the volume and potency of elephant crap, it probably wasn't anyone else in the room with me, either.

Of course, this is all a work in progress. Learning where the light switch is (or, in the case of elephant crap, the push-broom and the Lysol) is only half of the equation. And I'd be a big, fat, un-clean-working liar if I said my life was the streamlined, aerodynamic model of zen efficiency I long for it to be. Working clean is a tool, but it's not a magic wand that's changed my life.

It has, however, made me much happier living it, dirt, elephant crap and all.

xxx c

UPDATE: David Parmet, the subject of Hugh's post, found this little entry via gapingvoid and posted a lovely comment below. What a man of grace! And smarts, too!

Anyone reading this who's in a position to help David out, either with leads or a big fat juicy PR/marketing job please do yourself a favor and jump on it. Let us create beautiful blog symmetry: fired for blog, rewarded tenfold by blog.

You can find David via his (non-marketing) blog here, or via email at david - at - parmet - dot - net. Merci!