How about a Good Enough Mother greeting to Michael Shaw! I haven’t met Michael in person but he reached out to me after reading about my reinvention in the March issue of More Magazine (you can see the article here). The piece really resonated with Michael as he too, is in the process of rebuilding. I love his answers and I think you will too; you can almost HEAR the positivity leaping off the page. So sit back and read more about what keeps Michael going and remember, we’d love to hear from you too. If you want to be the subject of Life Lessons, drop us a line; we’ll get the questions right out to you!
Are you happy at the moment?
I am committed to achieving happiness. Therefore, I am allowed only one answer: YES!
If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?
I would say, “Michael, no matter how powerless you may feel at times, each day is an opportunity to cultivate your talents and abilities and to help others.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
Keep going. No matter how difficult the road ahead, each positive action propels me forward. I was laid off from my job at age 50, and now I work at rebuilding my career and life one step at a time. The early steps were blind and stumbling but this year I see how my step-by-step approach moves me forward.
What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
The Internet and social media are creating unprecedented opportunities for people to do creative work; it is the wild west of creativity. I want to take advantage of these opportunities. Outside of my day job, I write a community blog for the town in Pennsylvania where I live, a town called Skippack. I want to see my blog grow into a full-fledged website, get more followers on Facebook, start posting videos, start selling ads and write brilliant stuff.
What’s your secret to happiness?
Make a commitment to be happy. Pursue happiness as an end in itself. Be happy because you are alive, because you are a thinking being, because the sun shines. Work at making happiness an inner quality independent of outside factors such as having money, being successful, achieving goals, gaining approval from others, or getting what you want. Taking joy in helping others is also a great way to become happy.
What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
A ritual that goes back to the creation of the universe. Every week starting Friday evening my wife and I shut everything down; we shut off the computer, turn off the television, stop working, and desist from the pursuit of material goods. For 24 hours, we enjoy each other and just being alive. In religious terms, this is called observing the Sabbath, but it is a practice anyone can implement to rest and recharge their batteries.
What’s your biggest regret?
When I was young, I was depressed and had a negative outlook on life. I think I would have achieved more if I had developed a positive approach to life at a younger age. I think also that I have paid a high price for listening to other people’s opinions and doing what others expected rather than figuring out what I wanted out of life and pursuing it.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?
My wife and I aren’t blessed with children, but my observation is that children learn by example, not from advice or lectures. My parents always treat each other with love and respect, and from this, I learned to be a good husband. They value learning and creativity and this lesson has stayed with me as well, making my life richer and more productive. I want to live a positive life so that perhaps I may become a positive influence on someone else, even if it is not my own child.
What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
I am very sensitive and have a bad temper, which is a dangerous combination. It doesn’t take much to push me to the edge. Controlling my temper, especially at home, is my biggest challenge.
Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?
My community blog, called I Love Skippack. Until I started my blog last year, virtually all my energy had gone into projects I implemented as an employee for one company or another, which means that for a quarter century, my creativity was limited by the requirements of a particular project or job. I worried that so many years working as a corporate employee had snuffed out my flair for creative self-expression. I was happy to discover through my blog that the fire is still in me.
When were you happiest?
My wedding day. My wife and I married late in life. Neither of us had been married before. My wife wanted a full-scale wedding, which by our age we had to arrange and pay for ourselves. I was not enthusiastic about the idea but went along to make her happy. I disliked all the planning and dealing with vendors for flowers, catering, and so forth. However, when the day came and I put on the rented tuxedo, saw my wife-to-be looking beautiful in her wedding dress, and looked up and saw so many friends and family in one room, man, it made me happy.
What ten words best describe you?
Creative, humane, emotional, giving, sensitive, temperamental, open, friendly, spiritual, resilient.
Michael Shaw is a web content manager for a leading provider of higher education programs for working adults. He found his current job after being laid off at age 50 from a corporate position he held for ten years. He is happy to report that his new work is meaningful and fulfilling. He lives in Skippack, a wonderful but little-known historic town in Pennsylvania, with his wife Debby and blogs about it at I Love Skippack. Debby showed him an article about Rene Syler in More Magazine, which inspired him to write to Rene, and led to the opportunity to write for Good Enough Mother.