The deeper root

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It is 3am and you wake up suddenly, hearing the beating of your heart echoing in your ears. The clock ticks slowly by your bed, and darkness blankets your windows.

“How am I going to do this?” you say to yourself.

Finding a way to make your mortgage payment, living through a tense day at the office with an unreasonable  manager or hitting the pavement  to look for clients feels like too much.

Your stomach tightens. The air thickens in your lungs as you feel pressure on your chest like a slow vise.

Thoughts quickly turn into poison, and they flood your body with fear.

After a fitful attempt to go back to sleep, you wake up, go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. Bad television or cute YouTube videos take the edge off of your anxiety. You are thankful for your Facebook friend in London who is awake and willing to banter with you.

As the house wakes up, your anxiety eases and you fall into a familiar routine.

Coffee. Teeth brushing. Lunch packing. Mascara.

You look in the eyes of your beloved, or your children, and you get motivated to go out the door one more day and make it happen.

“It is important to take care of these people,” you say. ” I love my life. I adore the paint color on my walls. I want to feed my dogs. I want to go to the grocery store without worrying if my debit card will work.”

The need to provide is a strong and noble reason to work.

And, it is not enough.

If you are trying to get your motivation just from the need to survive financially, you will feel emotionally anemic.

You need a deeper root of meaning to fuel your career or business.

Why are you doing this (business) (parenting) (difficult project) (job)?

What will happen if you succeed?

Will it be worth it even if you fail?

Why does it matter?

What will you regret not doing?

What will you rejoice leaving as a legacy?

My martial art teacher Kelly Fiori makes a good living teaching small children, teens and adults at East West Mixed Martial Arts. He is skilled at teaching kicks and punches and knows how to quiet a room full of squealing kids in an instant. But if you ask him what is at the root of his work, his passion becomes visible on his face, and resonates in his voice. “I don’t want any child, anywhere, to suffer from bullying.”

Amanda Wang thinks it is cool to train for the Golden Gloves. She also realizes that it is a fight for her life. As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she knows that her root is not only to get through the day with a positive mindset, but to equip other BPD patients and their families with “The courage to lead. The strength to endure.”

Erik Proulx is inspired by the city of Detroit, and likes to make films. But his root is seeing the force that creativity plays in remaking difficult, even impossible situations. Watching Lemonade Detroit, you understand that the city is a giant metaphor for the rebirth of anything we have written off, ignored or feared.

Carlos Aceituno loved Brazilian culture and music. He was a skilled music and martial arts teacher. He could dance. But his root was using music to uplift, to heal, to strengthen and to inspire. Kids who learned with him felt love and family through his teaching. Adults found their life force, and spirit. He is dearly missed, but the roots of his work continue to grow through the kids he taught.

My Dad started the first curbside recycling program in Marin County, California in 1971. He spent thirteen years as a volunteer, recycling aluminum, glass and paper for his town of Port Costa (alongside my Bonus Mom Dee). He tore a rotator cuff lifting a garbage can over his head. You might say he has a thing for trash. But his root is much, much deeper than that. His root is believing that individuals, and communities, can be transformed by service. He knows that steps we take today to care for the health of the earth will reverberate for generations. I knew his root was growing when my 4-year old daughter got incensed by trash left on a street corner near my house. “Don’t they know that this hurts Mother Earth?!?” she said with extreme seriousness.

Know your root.

If you don’t know it, search for it.

The power, strength and creativity that comes from it will blow your mind.

Coincidentally, my friend Chris Guillebeau released an ebook today about legacy. Love the synchronicity. Get it here. It is free.×5/the-tower/

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33 Responses to “The deeper root”

  1. Find a Job says:

    […] or recognize, or accept, your deeper root.  Read this post to understand what I’m talking about: deeper root.  Pam is an expert at helping people “escape from cubicle nation,” and she ends the […]

  2. […] Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, articulates what Your ROOT is in this blog post […]

  3. […] kicked off our first session with a talk about the importance of having a strong root in your business, knowing the WHY behind you do what you […]

  4. […] Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, articulates what Your ROOT is in this blog post […]

  5. […] or recognize, or accept, your deeper root.  Read this post to understand what I’m talking about: deeper root.  Pam is an expert at helping people “escape from cubicle nation,” and she ends the […]

  6. […] I really liked this post by Pam Slim: The Deeper Root. She asks: Why are you doing this (business) (parenting) (difficult project) […]

  7. […] a bigger reason.  As Pam Slim calls it, some of you will have found, or recognize, or accept, your deeper root.  Read this post to understand what I’m talking about: The deeper root.  Pam is an expert […]

  8. Great post Pam! And I loved reading about other people’s roots–the ones you listed and the ones people commented. I especially love your martial arts teacher’s root. That is very very powerful. I love how the roots are all so personal. I appreciate your root very much and from reading it realize why I keep coming back to your blog—my root is in the same direction, although it has a much different manifestation—my root is a very strong belief that you can create your own life, with a strong emphasis on “create” (I’m an artist). Thanks for this post and all of your great work!

  9. Enjoyed this post Pam. Also, what a beautiful painting at the top of the post!

  10. […] What story do you want to share with the world? Related reading: The deeper root by Pam Slim […]

  11. Extreme John says:

    You’ve got such a very interesting post here. The deeper root tackles about life and the people dealing with it. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful thoughts. Reading this made me realize a lot of things in life and in my career.

  12. Mazarine says:

    Dear Pam,

    THank you for writing about the root. I’ve seen people with it, and I’ve seen people without it, and I really love when people can articulate why they are here, and what they have left to do.

    A friend of mine killed himself in October of this year, and I felt like it had been coming for a long time. He had no interest in a legacy. He had no story arc to complete. He was wasting each day.

    Another woman I knew had overcome colon cancer. I rented a room in her house for a couple of months and I saw her playing solitaire on her computer all day, over and over, even though she was now cancer free and could do anything. It seemed like she didn’t have a reason to go on, and then, I heard, 1 year later, she died and I wasn’t really surprised. There was no legacy she felt compelled to leave other than what she had already done.

    What you’re articulating about “the root” is something that is so important to nurture in people, to help them understand and UNEARTH in themselves.

    My root is to help people overcome oppression in all forms, whether workplace bullying or societal oppression. That’s why I wrote my book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising in 2010, to help people understand how to raise money to make the world better. That’s why I started my blog. That’s why I teach fundraising/career webinars, and that’s why I’m writing my next book. The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media. I think we all can leave a legacy, if we find our root.

    Thank you for writing this piece.


    The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising

  13. Phranc Lamm says:

    Hi Pam, I hit your site through Chris’s Art of Non-Conformity and your point of view hit a note with me. I have one week left in Cubicle Nation after which I begin a major phase change in my life.

    I feel like I know the roots in my life but somehow that hasn’t been enough. I have achieved most of the goals I have set for myself but suddenly find myself with my own “mid-life crisis” and the desire to do something big or different…. so how to stay centered on my “root”? I think maybe for guys its partly an age thing.

  14. […] They listen with their ear to the ground to what’s happening within their community; they stay rooted in their purpose. They carefully study the patterns of movement in their tribe, and they don’t just create […]

  15. Annika says:

    Pam, I really needed to read this today. Really.

    Thank you for those 6 powerful questions. I paused and stared out at the mahogany tree in my front yard as I answered them out loud.

    And yes, I’m teary. I guess that’s what happens when we get down to the root.

    Thank you.

  16. Maira says:

    Pam! Oh geez! Loved this post and it was such a timely read considering that I’ve spent the morning doing some strategic planning for 2012.

    My root is about personal empowerment and healing, about transforming pain, trauma, and one’s negative stories into compost for a rich and fertile life. Even just writing it I feel tearful, this truth is the river that runs deep and clear for me.

    Thank you for being a teacher, mentor and Wise Mother in my life.

  17. Shann says:

    Beautiful. We are root sisters! My root is liberation and transformation. Coaching, Yoga and the Martial Arts helped me light the way. It’s never too soon, nor too late to discover your root and follow your passion. Thanks for all you do.

  18. Sarah Yost says:

    Live this, Pam. It’s so interesting to read other people’s roots and see how that fuels their individual work. Mine is to help people uncover the truth about themselves.

  19. sudan gautam says:

    Hi Pam!

    You really gave us (at least me)a post which WOWed me. Sometimes, i too feel what should i do waking this early in the morning. But i then remember my Prime Minister saying, When you wake up early in the morning and see every one sleeping remind yourself that it’s the time to work hard and provide them something before those people wake up to welcome their day.
    I think you need to write a follow up post on this.

  20. As I read this I heard on the TV in the background: “The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.” – Marley’s ghost.

  21. David Bourne says:


    The tap root, the one that digs deepest to get the best drink of water. To also best stabilize the tree.

    When I was ten a man asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said, “have a job that pays me enough that I can do what I want.”

    He then said, “you should find a job that you love so much you don’t want to do anything else.”

    I’ve been blessed to have meaningful work, but my root’s still digging.

    Thanks for the reminder and encouragement to keep plugging.



  22. Wow Pam, great post.
    Rippling, bubbling, boiling revolution!
    It is a common uprising of never before seen power and potential. It will succeed if we can all find our true roots.

    And you are a significant leader in this process. Keep writing and keep naming what is true and real on behalf of us all.

    I have some thought on how people can find their roots too in a free ebook called “Beyond Busy”.
    Our time is now!

  23. Laurie Foley says:

    This one rocked me, Pam. Love it.

    My root is literally in my roots. I come from a long line of women entrepreneurs (I’m 5th gen!), and that has given me an irrepressible belief in the power of women to create anything they set their minds to.

    When women birth and build businesses, they change the world. Being their midwife is my root.

    • Pamela says:

      Bless your heart Laurie Foley, I sure do love you! How powerful, I got chills when I read about your root.

      I come from a long line of farmers and teachers. Must be why I like to get up early and always whine about how no one respects hard work these days. 🙂

      • Laurie Foley says:

        Oh ha! And look at what you have grown through how you teach others.

        I always think of you as an archetypal Liberator, too, Pam. It resonates from every fiber of you.

  24. Mike Tefft says:

    Thank you again for your words of wisdom…I felt like you were writing about me…I’m struggling to find my root..I’m trying to find my root but so far, it’s been a garden full of stone. I’m hoping that you’ll identify some tools that can help.
    Thanks again.

  25. Max says:

    Beautiful post and thank you for the important reminder.

    If I may, can I ask what you believe to be or feel is your root Pam?

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Max!

      My root is about freedom and transformation. Everything I have ever done (community development, martial arts, coaching, facilitation, biz development) is about helping people feel more free, and in turn allowing them to transform into the person they are meant to be.

      • Max says:

        Thats an amazing root, and from what I have been able to observe you truly do live according to that. Thank you for being such a positive influence and example of true purpose in action!

        As I come to consider what my root is, I see it being about living to ones full potential (or an abundant-full life as I like to see it). However its still a work in progress for me to fully realize.

        Also, freedom has been a major theme for me – especially in these recent moments. I look forward to the transformation I will now be even more able to experience through feeling more free!