One of the people I admire deeply both for his work and for embodying a positive approach to work/life travails is Barry Johnson. Barry worked in the music industry as an executive, did international business development in President Barack Obama’s administration, and now is in the private sector and runs a nonprofit. He grew up in the 1960s in Birmingham, Alabama, a deeply segregated city where in 1963 four little girls were murdered when racial segregationists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church during Sunday services. His family was middle class, but circumstances still could have limited his opportunities. Yet he kept growing through adversity. As one of his friends put it, “You were pushed into mud and came up dipped in chocolate.” That resilience is key to succeeding—and finding happiness—in today’s economy.
Barry uses a daily practice to keep himself focused and his career growing. Every single day, he writes down on a note card a vision of what his life will be like in the near future. Then he sets it aside with other cards in a dedicated space in his home. “There’s something profound when you put it on paper, and it gives you something to interact with outside of your own head on a daily basis,” he says. “I write in the present tense. It’s short, but I actually describe the details of the scene—like reading from a script.” He paraphrases: “ ‘I’m working in this space. There are many people around me. They’re thrilled about working on the projects around us.’
“Sometimes I will put a date by something,” he continues. “I wrote: ‘I work for President Obama in this kind of role . . . I start no later than October 19.’ I wrote that on August 9. I started work on October 13.”