When Karyn Ruth White was a little girl she discovered that she could diffuse her father’s anger—and subsequent punishment—if she could make him laugh. Her father gave her plenty of opportunities to practice and she honed her comedic skills early in life. Somewhere along the way she decided that she wanted to spend her life making as many people laugh as she possibly could.

Karyn left her New England home after college and headed to Los Angeles to build a career as a stand-up comedian. After seven years of performing in nightclubs, she realized she wasn’t happy and it terrified her. She says, “I was afraid to stop because it was my dream and I thought if my dream isn’t making me happy, what’s going to become of me?”

Finally, she did walk away and gave herself time out. She worked at a number of mundane jobs while trying to figure out the next step. 

And figure it out, she did.

Today she continues to keep people laughing, but she’s reinvented herself as a speaker. Some of her stand-up material still finds its way into corporate presentations. 

Karyn hardly took a straight path—even in her current incarnation. Five years into building her speaking business, she felt burned out. Again, she gave herself permission to walk away, but then had an insight that changed everything.

 “I realized that it’s not the dream that’s the problem. It was the way I was doing the dream,” she says. “I was doing everything myself and I just couldn’t keep up.”

She let the dream get bigger and gathered a team that included a personal assistant, an accountant and a Web designer. She says she learned to set boundaries and reminds herself that the essence, not the form of her business, is what matters. 

Karyn describes the essence as, “To follow my soul and use my gifts for the greater good.” If the form that takes changes, she’s fine with it as long as the essence remains intact.

Making a commitment to the essence of your business is quite different than getting stuck in the form.

In their book Creating Money, Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer explain, “The essence of something is the function you want this item to perform, the purposes you will use it for, or what you think it will give you. Many things other than what you picture might give you the essence of what you want, so be open to letting what you want come in whatever way, size, shape or form is most appropriate.” 

Clarifying the essence of what you want in your life is also a way of gaining overall clarity and peace. It takes both time and practice to create while focusing on the essence of what you’re doing or what you want to have. 

Commitment  is a lot like love. It grows and strengthens over time when we’re truly committed to something that we care deeply about. 

We don’t always know at the outset what  will become commitment-worthy. What may begin as a simple flirtation, becomes more compelling as we learn more, increase our exposure and devote our energy to it. 

For many of us, we’ve tried to make commitments to things and people and ideas that we really weren’t that crazy about. As the poet  David Whyte warns, “Anyone or anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”

No wonder the word commitment elicits feelings of dread and drudgery. And if we’re only willing to commit where the outcome fits our preconceived notions, we’re doomed to a life of commitment avoidance.

Perhaps commitment needs a new press agent to remind us that building commitment happens one day at a time.

And it’s built on innumerable days of recommitting ourselves for as long as it brings us joy, peace, growth and the essence of our best possible life.

6 Responses to “Truly, Madly, Deeply”

  1. LynnH

    I have a history of not giving up when a change makes more sense. I stayed a music major too long. It would have qualified me to teach elem. school music and the classes required did not click for me.

    30 years later, I sing for groups at restaurants, theaters, dinner parties, nursing homes. We sing for groups of 10 to 450. I find I sing early 1920’s jazz best, and the Italian arias I barely pulled off were not a failure, they were a mismatch. I have a sweet, lovely voice, not a powerful one.

    Have stuck to both jobs and men too long, also. My day job changes but for decades it has involved at least a little bit of explaining/teaching/training. I might teach computers, art, knitting, history. I once did in-store product demos and loved that also.

    So I say I’m a “Professional Explainer.” Currently I happen to mostly teach about knitting (socks being a specialty). The subject may change but I was born to help folks understand.

    Thanks for the column.

  2. Nancee McPherson

    This is going in my favorites as well. Thanks for the reminder! Lynn, I love Professional Explainer – that’s what I am too.

  3. Lisa Allen

    One of the details that I love best about this story is that Karyn recognized the value in allowing herself to coast while she figured out the next evolution of her comedic passion. Holding on tightly to something that no long flows and/or works can function as avoidance and is a rut that is too easy in which to get stuck. Karyn’s story is an inspiration. Thank you, Barbara!

  4. Rasheed Hooda

    Thank you for the wonderful post as usual.

    The quote by David Whyte has me pondering my current situation. I am content and coasting, but definitely lacking the aliveness.

    Time to rejuvenate the project or look for something else. I know, it is going to be a rejuvenation. I enjoy what I am doing, and I have been putting off going in the direction I wanted to for a while now.


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