Got a Pick?

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    A professor in grad school used to take pride in humiliating students, presumably to teach the students how to handle tough questions they may be asked about their research. It was a brutal process to watch. Perhaps you work with bosses or co-workers who do this. We run into various sharp objects in our work and life. I recently ran across Rumi’s poem, The Pickaxe*. It provides a re-framing for sharp barbs or blows to our ego self.

    Rumi speaks of demolishing the house of our false self to find the real jewels hidden below. Often to find our more authentic self, our Divine Essence, we must take out the floor boards that are warped, moldy, not serving us any longer. You may have recently found your foundation shattered or your sense of self-worth demolished. If you have recently lost your job, you may be in such a state, not sure how to pick up the pieces or where to rebuild your foundation.

    I once knew a guy who lost his lucrative bank job in a merger and after some time landed another job with less pay and that was less interesting. He felt desperate so he took the job. After he was in his new job a couple years he noticed some shady accounting and brought it to the attention of the General Manager. Instead of getting support for finding the questionable accounting, he was terminated. Turns out a partner was embezzling and somehow managed to make it look like someone else was at fault.

    At first the accountant was shaken pretty hard- down to his foundation. With a couple kids in high school, it was tough going, both for his ego and his personal finances. However, a few months later I talked to him and he said it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He realized how much he resented having to play bad cop. He took the opportunity to switch careers and follow his passion for business ethics. He found his jewel in a new career as professor helping students enter the business world with a solid grounding in ethics so they are prepared when faced with tough business situations.

    How have you handled the pickaxes you’ve encountered? Have you taken the time to re-build your foundation or have you merely patched up the hole with plaster, not clearing out the rubble underneath?

    Rumi reminds us that our house is only leased, we don’t own the deed. Look for the Owner, whose jewels lay waiting to sparkle, buried beneath your foundation, if only you will search for them. Tear open your house, board by board, and be sure you have a solid foundation to support your work.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


    Linda is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant. Go to her website to read more about her work, view video clips of her talks, and find out more about her book “Path for Greatness: Spirituality at Work” available on Amazon.

    * The Pickaxe (from Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, pg 113-114)