In her book Yes, Please Amy Poehler shares witty and insightful advice about life, love and success. She claims that the key to success is treating your career like a bad boyfriend. While it sounds silly, this advice rings true:
You can be the best at making contacts and going after jobs, but then suddenly you want it too much. Suddenly everybody feels how bad you want it and they don’t want to give it to you. Even at six years old, Archie (her son) is learning to stop paying attention to the toy he wants. He knows that if he lets on how bad he wants it, his four-year-old brother will snatch the shizz up in a hot second. Pretending to not want something can work. Really not caring if you get it takes a lifetime of practice. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend.
Amy argues that ambivalence is key and the ideal is to strike a balance between caring about your work but not about the result.
She also shares:
You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, ‘I made it!’ You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. Our ego is a monster that loves to sit at the head of the table, and I have learned that my ego is just as rude and loud and hungry as everyone else’s. It doesn’t matter how much you get; you are left wanting more. Success is filled with MSG. Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. Your career will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you.
Amy goes on to explain the distinction between career and creativity, saying;
Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, ‘I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.’ That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug.
Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t.
Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later.
While Amy’s personal experience is in the entertainment industry, her advice about cultivating healthy detachment can benefit anyone — entrepreneurs in particular. When you’re running your own business, it’s natural to feel incredibly invested in it. The highs are very high, and the lows can be very low. If you’re hoping to attract a new customer for your product, and that single customer can make or break your fiscal quarter, can you really just let go of the end result? It’s very difficult to not feel attached to the outcome, but it is also the key to maintaining your sanity as an entrepreneur.
One technique that Amy recommends in her book is to practice meditation. Here is a free 30 Day Meditation Challenge that is just five minutes a day. This idea of detachment as the release from desire and consequently from suffering is an important principle of Buddhism. According to the Buddhists, attachment is one of the primary obstacles that prevents people from having a serene and fulfilled life.
So the next time you interview for a new job or a potential new customer, simply focus on doing the best job possible and see if you can let go of the end result…or at least pretend like you don’t care whether they say yes. If you’re lucky, Amy’s advice will ring true and they will want you even more because of your indifference, just like a bad boyfriend.
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