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|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)|
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They had been friends since boyhood, and now the four of them were becoming young men. As a matter of fact, this morning they had taken part in an ancient rite of passage: their futures had been decided. This is how it had always been in their culture.
Their parents had actually done this deciding and, as luck would have it, came to the same conclusion. The four young men would be astronomers, a respected and noble profession. Aaron, Bahram, Gage, and Cyrus would soon know of this fateful decision.
The ceremony that was essential to this rite of passage — where futures were decided and announced — took place late in the afternoon. The boys had dressed in their best robes, washed their feet, wiped off their sandals, and headed for the palace. They entered a large courtyard where parents, teenagers, and other family members had gathered. Each took a seat on the stone floor and looked to the specially built platform where announcements would be made.
Cyrus was expecting to hear that he would be an innkeeper since his father, Alborz, had long been in the hotel business. Surely, he, and later his brother and sister, would join him there. But unknown to Cyrus, Alborz had another plan.
Looking back, Alborz appreciated that his own father had chosen well for him when the decision was announced that he would continue the family business of innkeeper. Indeed, Alborz had taken naturally to this path and had invested in inns across the empire. Though he was proud to have done well, his success and masterful abilities meant that he could choose a higher status for his son Cyrus. And what could be higher than the study of the stars?
For Alborz, therefore, the decision was firm: this son would not follow in his footsteps but would raise their family name in a position in the palace as chief astronomer. He stood to the side of the platform, moments away from delivering this good news to his son, and he was ready. According to tradition, future astronomers were given white shirts as part of this public pronouncement. Alborz kept his son's shirt tightly folded and hidden in his robe as he waited for his time to speak.
"Alborz," the king's chancellor finally called. Alborz stepped onto the platform with pride and purpose.
Within the gathering, Cyrus heard Alborz call his name. He stood and nervously tugged on his robe. The walk to his father seemed very long, though it was only a dozen paces. The distance seemed even longer when Cyrus almost tripped as a sandal got caught in a rock. Did my father see that? he wondered, embarrassed. Cyrus hoped the stumble had gone undetected, for he knew his father would not be pleased to see a mistake in such a public place. Steadying his balance and trying his best to mimic his father's confident gait, Cyrus stepped onto the ceremonial stage.
He was very curious to hear what his father would say. But Alborz was careful to keep the white shirt hidden and gave no hint of his decision until he made this pronouncement. "Cyrus, my son, I have chosen for you to become an astronomer."
The crowd cheered with approval even as Cyrus recovered from his own surprise. He had heard his father's voice shape his future through the utterance of this unexpected word. Then he saw the white shirt come quickly from out of his father's robe and felt its weight drape around his shoulders.
Now it was known. An astronomer he would be.
Cyrus did not question the decision. Who was he to know of such important matters? But he did reflect on the appropriateness of the choice as the ceremony continued. He wanted to please his father and to represent his family well, yet he was unsure.
Cyrus's mind was put somewhat at ease when he heard what futures lay ahead for his three closest friends. As their own fathers called their names, he heard the same future: astronomer, astronomer, and astronomer.
"Four boyhood friends become four astronomers," he mused to himself. "I can see how this would be a good thing for our village and our families." Indeed, the heavens were aligned, and their roles were ready and waiting.
For all the boys, the news was somewhat of a surprise. Aaron had been working part-time in his father's construction and engineering company, and he thought his dad would want him to take over the business one day. Similarly, Gage had spent the summers working in his father's bookkeeping business. As for Bahram, his dad was in chariot sales, having worked with several companies in the region as opportunities arose. Bahram had not spent much time in his dad's workplaces, but his mother was a seamstress of some renown. Though Bahram knew little of making clothes on his own, he knew very well how to persuade others of the impressive quality and great value of her fine clothes and robes.
Cyrus surmised that all of that was just kid stuff. Now that they were becoming adults, the boys would all pursue a new path and do so together.
But first — they were still boys, after all, and they wanted to take time to play.
They met that night in front of a campfire. Aaron built it before anyone else arrived, and he directed the others on how to keep it burning. "Aaron is so good at making things happen," Cyrus reasoned. "You can put him in charge of anything and know that it will get done — even better than you thought it could. He will make a fine astronomer."
There was Bahram, too. He's the reason Cyrus was persuaded to join them that night. The truth is, Cyrus had tried to beg off from this little gathering. He had wanted to stay home and write his thoughts in his scroll. But Bahram said, "You have to come. It will be fun with all of us there. Without you, it won't be fun at all." Bahram winked as he persisted. "Now, would you ask us to spend this special night having no fun at all?"
"It's a tradition," Gage offered. "We always get together to celebrate big events. It's important to stick to tradition." Then he added, "You must remember we may not have much time together once our studies begin. I have been looking at the schedule, and it will be quite rigorous. We'll have to apply ourselves to get the learning we need."
Cyrus relented and came to enjoy the fire Aaron had built and listen to the stories Bahram told. They studied the stars and imagined the futures that lay ahead. As they compared white shirts, Aaron said, "Through the four of us, we will build a name for our village that will be known from here to the heavens."
Bahram added, "This is such a wonderful night. Our futures will be as our pasts — together, as friends, as brothers, as family."
All the while, Cyrus admired their certainty while he hid his uncertainty.
When the evening was done, Gage put out the fire and said, "We should go home. Tomorrow will be here very soon." As Cyrus left the gathering, he reflected on the enthusiasm that his friends had expressed. At the same time, he sensed the uneasiness growing inside him.CHAPTER 2
The king was a good man and wise leader, but his overseer, Gaul, was not. Gaul was in charge of all the workers and apprentices in the palace. He was a hard taskmaster with a short temper and controlling mind. He did not like the new astronomers or the young people who came to work in the palace. To his mind, they thought too much of themselves, were hard to manage, and most of all, were not respectful of their elders as he was taught to be. Though others knew Gaul to be a mean and jealous man, the king believed him to be a loyal man, and he trusted him completely.
For Cyrus, staying out of Gaul's way became his main goal. Cyrus tried very hard to fit into the rigorous schedule that was required of him to become an astronomer and counselor to the king. It's not that he disliked the work. He just felt something was missing. He didn't like the structure. He felt he was being squeezed into a place where he should belong, but the fit was uncomfortable.
He did make a new friend, though, and he found some solace talking with her. He'd met Hester in the classrooms and could tell she was brilliant. Organized and efficient, she led the study groups. Her leadership skills were so strong, in fact, even Gaul seemed to like her.
Just recently, Hester had said to him, "Isn't it amazing that we have a chance to study these wonderful subjects and gain such knowledge about our universe? I feel as if I was born to do this work. I am so lucky to be here."
Cyrus had smiled and agreed. What else could he do? Hester's joy also made him wistful. He wondered, What would it be like to know that you're right where you need to be, pursuing the career that you're meant to pursue?
Cyrus was intimidated by Hester but also reassured by her wisdom and helpful nature. He almost felt that he could talk to her. But there were some concerns he just couldn't admit to having. Indeed, the uneasiness he had felt on that first night had grown into a discomfort that permeated all he did. Even as he studied, he grew numb. He could feel it. He began to procrastinate in his tasks. He just couldn't bring himself to act on simple things. Whenever he saw Gaul, he always expected — and usually received — criticism that made him feel worse.
The more disconnected Cyrus felt from what he was supposed to be doing, the less he wanted to be around his old friends. Preferring to keep to himself, he stopped spending as much time with Aaron, Bahram, and Gage. But from what he could tell, they were doing well. They were following the course that had been laid out for them and were proceeding through their education and apprenticeship. There was no doubt in his mind that his friends would achieve prominence and importance, and family and friends from home would be proud of their successes.
Feeling alone in his struggle, Cyrus knew he couldn't tell Hester of the plans he was making, and he was uncertain if he should tell Aaron, Bahram, and Gage. He felt a sense of shame that he wasn't going to be the man his father wanted him to be. He felt shame too that others were finding this place of status much easier to claim.
But his heart was clear. Something had to change. Cyrus could see as clearly as the stars in the night sky that he wasn't cut out for being an astronomer.
That evening, Cyrus joined Aaron, Bahram, and Gage at their dinner table. The young men talked amiably about old times, but as they finished their meal, Cyrus couldn't hold in his feelings any longer. Dejected by his failure, he admitted to his friends that he was not happy and wished to leave palace service.
"Not here," Gage cautioned. They all knew better than to speak at the table. Aaron motioned to an official, signaling a request to be excused that was granted with an approving nod. The four young men left the dining room and retreated to a dark corner of the courtyard.
Bahram had held his tongue long enough. "Why leave now?" he asked as he began persuading Cyrus to stay. "You'll get prestige and a lot of gold, and you've got us. You'll be lonely without us, and we'll miss you terribly. Stay, my friend."
Aaron said, "Your place is already decided. There is no need to go off when there is plenty to do and plenty of reward right here. Besides, you'll starve if you leave. Life will be a struggle, and you will be unhappy. This path is a certain one. As an astronomer, you can build a family, and you can build a good treasury for this family. I want you to stay."
Gage weighed in as well. "You've spent many months of study already. If you leave when you're halfway through, you'll lose all the time you spent. You'll have to start over as a lowly apprentice in another place. The path is very clear here. Finish what you've begun."
Cyrus knew his friends meant well, and he thanked them for their encouragement. As they parted, the others were convinced they had talked their friend out of his foolishness. Cyrus, however, held on to the rest of the truth. As he looked ahead to his future, he could not see himself as an astronomer. He would indeed make other plans.
But when? Almost as soon as Cyrus reached his room in the palace, his feelings began to overwhelm him and doubt set in. Sitting on his bed, he began to consider the possibility that he should stay in the program for a few more months until he knew what he wanted to do. Then he could make his move. As he debated with himself, he unbuttoned and removed his white shirt, and held it in his hands. His finger traced the white trim and white ivory buttons as he remembered his father's voice and the touch of his arms coming around him to drape the shirt on his shoulders.
Cyrus thought longingly of his father. Alborz certainly wasn't royalty, yet in some ways the king's confident demeanor reminded Cyrus of his father. He had heard that the king was an understanding leader, and he had wanted to talk with the king about his struggle. Yet when he mentioned this possibility to Gaul a little while back, he was quickly shot down.
"The king is too busy," Gaul had said dismissively. "Get back to your stargazing."
With no one to talk to about what he should do, Cyrus had come to the only conclusion he could: the white shirt just didn't work for him. He was still convinced of this truth. However, his internal debate was dragging him into hesitation. He should sleep on it, he decided. Then the reasoned voice of his father came back to mind.
Cyrus remembered during those days as an early teenager how hard it was for him to get out of bed in the mornings — especially when it was so easy to roll over and sleep for a little longer. Alborz used to scold him especially about this habit of staying in bed till mid-day on the weekend. "You're missing too much of the good part of your life," his father said with dismay. "You won't ever get these years back. Are you going to spend them rolling over, as you say, for just a few more minutes?"
Cyrus had learned a hard lesson on one of those sleepy mornings when he missed his chance to join his friends on an excursion into the neighboring kingdom. Plans had been made for weeks, and when it was time for two large caravans to leave on their journey, the earlier group assumed Cyrus would be coming with the later caravan, while the later group assumed he'd already gone ahead with the first. So, when Cyrus rolled over that one last time and saw through the window the position of the sun in the sky, he felt in the pit of his stomach that he had missed his chance to enjoy something he had planned for a long time. Still, he gave it a shot, jumping out of bed immediately, rushing as fast he could across town. But no luck, the caravans were gone.
Heartsick and back at home, Cyrus sought out his father to sort through his feelings. After all, Alborz would have never had something like this happen to him. "Father, is there something wrong with me?" Cyrus asked with a heavy sigh. "I mean, how do you achieve so much and have the drive to get so much done ... when I'm ..." Cyrus couldn't finish the statement and meant to let his father fill in the blank with the criticism he deserved. But Alborz, recognizing his son's suffering, took the teaching route.
"You're normal is what you are," Alborz responded. "Many times I don't feel like taking an action even though I know I need to and want to. When this happens, I remember my days as a boy when I would run in the city races, and the official would say 'Ready, Set, Go,' and everyone jumped forward off the starting line. When I'm lying in bed and want to go back to sleep and put off the things I need to do, I say to myself, 'Ready, Set, Go!' And I take an action. I get up. Then when I take that first action, I feel like doing more.
"So now, when great ideas for my business pop into my head, instead of thinking too much about them, I say, 'Ready, Set, Go' and take an action towards that idea. Sometimes the ideas prove to not be so great, but quite a few do, as you see from my success. Many people sit in their homes or at the city gate all day and talk about their grand ideas. They say I am lucky, but I have found the more actions I take, the luckier I get. Mind you, the low achievers aren't lazy. They just allow their feelings to rule their decisions and behaviors, like they have seen most other people do. They have never been taught otherwise. Successful people have decided that life doesn't work that way. Take an action, then feelings follow and lead to more action."
"You make it sound so easy," Cyrus said with admiration but also uncertainty. "I'm just not sure I could do that."
"Well, did you see how fast you moved this morning once you got up?"
"Yeah," Cyrus said wistfully.
"So you know that taking a quick action can be done?"
"Yes, I do."
This conversation replayed in his head as Cyrus's attention returned to his room in the palace. He lay the white shirt aside, then he took a quick breath and said, "Ready, Set, Go." He stood up, pulled on a fresh shirt, grabbed his satchel and began packing his belongings. As he turned to go, he lingered just long enough to stare at the white shirt one last time.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The White Shirt"
Copyright © 2019 Michael Alan Tate.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART I The White Shirt Story,
PART II The White Shirt Strategy Guide,
A Step-by-Step Guide to Build Your One-Page Personal Career Strategy in One Week with a Dialogue Partner,
The 5 Second Rule – How to Stay Motivated and Find the Career You Want,
And Now: How Do I Find It?,
About the Author,
Michael Alan Tate,