Archives – September, 2009
The following is a post that I contributed to the Pink Magazine blog about how setbacks in this economy may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
For many, there comes a point in our life when we stop in our tracks and ask ourselves, “What is the meaning of the work we’re doing?” It might be because we’re feeling unchallenged, unfulfilled or unmotivated. Or it might be because external events—like losing a job—force us to rethink our options. Rather than look at such a circumstance as a challenge, you can see it as a golden opportunity to reintroduce joy and creativity into your professional life.
Years ago, I became fascinated by the idea that, for each and every one of us, there is a “career we were born for.” Only a small percentage of us manage to find it, and oftentimes our discovery only comes after some period of disappointment or disenchantment. I experienced this personally when I became increasingly dissatisfied with my 9-to-5 life as leader of an advertising agency. Looking around me, I saw dissatisfaction as an epidemic, and it prompted me to write the book, Professional Destiny.
During my research, I questioned people to see if I could find common traits among those who displayed a real passion for their work. I discovered that the most highly motivated and fulfilled really did have something in common—their profession allowed them to make full use of their natural gifts. For these people, work isn’t about money or title—it’s about satisfaction, empowerment, feeling energetic about what they do, making an impact, fully exercising a talent and inspiring others.
As I wrote in Professional Destiny: “A job is something we do to earn a living. Oftentimes it is too small for our spirit. Our life’s work is a mighty undertaking that challenges us, taps into our creative energy and reawakens our spirit. It is our work with a capital W. Once we start on the path, the urgency of this work is bigger than us. Our passion and creativity are ignited.”
Given the current economy, this may be the perfect time to assess the gifts you were born with and rethink your goals. You may well see an opportunity to pursue a different career, one that will make you feel energized and alive. A time of uncertainty can become our time of greatest opportunity. This is when new doors and new possibilities are open, and we have that added incentive to venture out and try something new. You can emerge from this on a path headed for true happiness and satisfaction for the rest of your professional life. Seize the moment and get clear on what you really want to do—you’ll likely look back at it as one of the most satisfying decisions you’ve ever made.
September 25, 2009
There’s a belief that artists have to starve, that suffering is the price for following your passion. But, who says it has to be this way? Who says you can’t thrive? There’s plenty of evidence all around that you can. Sure, you might face hardship when you do what you love. But everywhere you look there are stories of those who pursue their dreams and make it—some make it big.
In this blog, there are stories (and trust me, they were not hard to find) of people who achieve great success in this pursuit. Scroll down and see for yourself… Julia Child became a world-renowned chef after deciding to follow her passion of eating great French food and teaching others how to cook it. Julie Powell combined her passions of writing and cooking, and now has a book and a major motion picture out that tells her story. And two examples closer to home, Shelley Seale and Marcie Finney, transitioned into writing and jewelry design respectively—both tapping into the joy of creating from their gifts. Success stories such as these are everywhere we turn.
It’s time to debunk the myth and realize it is possible to thrive doing what you love. As I mention in Professional Destiny, believing is key. Start with a clear vision of what you want to do, set commitments and then get serious about the discipline it takes to get there. And you’ll need discipline, because although the journey may be joyful, you are almost guaranteed to face some obstacles.
It may take a little time to build yourself and your business. Expect an incubation period. During this time, you’re at a crucial (sometimes fragile) point and it’s important to surround yourself with people who support your vision. Believe in yourself enough and believe in the possibilities. Don’t fixate only on what is right now, but envision what might be.
Next, be willing to invest in yourself. Maybe you’ll need to keep a side job to pay the bills while you transition. Maybe you’ll need to cut costs to fund your new venture. For example, when I transitioned from advertising exec. to author and coach, I called this period of cutting costs to invest in the future, my “freedom plan.” I was willing to cut back to fund the freedom to do what I love. Instead of viewing it as a step backward, view it as a step toward forward.
If you face hardship, keenly notice the difference between a constant, unrelenting struggle vs. hitting a few roadblocks, while still experiencing joy along the way. If it’s the former, you may need to morph your strategy (we don’t always get it right the first time out of the chute). If it’s the latter, persevere. Obstacles are to be expected. Stay determined to overcome them and look for people who can help you.
If you have the inclination to pursue your passion, do what you believe you can do, even if people say you can’t. Be the rogue, the artist, the entrepreneur. Follow the recipe of vision, commitment, faith, perseverance and discipline—and then put your starving artist sign away.
September 21, 2009
This is the story of Marcie Finney—a former ad designer turned entrepreneur of Seeds for Goodness, a fast-growing, eco-fashion brand that creates stylish, earth-friendly jewelry and adornments. It’s an inspiring Professional Destiny story of her choice to thrive, and make a difference.
“My entrepreneurial spirit started eight years ago. I had been working in an advertising agency, but knew it was time for me to go out on my own as a freelance designer. I loved my client interactions and wasn’t getting enough if it in the agency, so I struck out on my own. I do love design and it’s a gift. In particular, I love seeing an idea come to life. Yet, I always knew I’d do some-thing else, but I didn’t quite know what.
A clue was that when I was young, my friend and I teamed up in school and made necklaces. I even sold enough pieces to buy a pair of rollerblades! I always loved to make my own funky pieces, but that’s as far as it went.
Over and over again, people told me that they loved my usage of color. All of my work is colorful. In fact, if you don’t like color, you’re not going to come to me. I like vibrancy! My gift in the design sense is that I’m meant to bring color into whatever form I create.
Every year I take a trip to reflect. It’s a quiet time for me to ask myself: ‘What do I want? Where am I going?’ It’s necessary for me to pause and just get quiet. I went to Cabo and during that time, felt my life was going to shift. I knew it, but didn’t know what it was shifting to.
Unlike most people, I always wear my jewelry when I practice yoga. After Cabo, for two months straight, people would comment on a piece I was wearing. It was every day, everywhere I went—at yoga, at grocery stores, you name it. They’d say: ‘can I buy your jewelry online? Will you sell me the piece you’re wearing?’ I asked myself – ‘do I need to do anything with this?’
A month later my friend Tony called me and asked me what I was doing besides design. He told me ‘you need to pursue it, it’ll be huge… bigger than you think.’
Some of the best things come when you least expect it. I was going about my day and I suddenly got an intuitive message loud and clear. It was ‘you need to work with seeds.’ I didn’t really know what it meant, but I started to do research about seeds and I was blown away. The colors, the texture were unbelievable – and so me! The trumpets started playing!
I said ‘I’ll do it’ and the universal doors flew open. It’s been a little over a year journey now. Aveda became interested in my line and has become a large client. There are several retail locations where my jewelry is placed in Austin, and it’s expanding into Dallas. I can see the momentum – everything I stock in a store will sell out. I feel like it has a life of its own, and it’s a lot of work, but totally fulfilling.
Most exciting is that the name for my line literally came to me—“Seeds for Goodness.” I chose that name because in this world, we can get hardened—we may not recognize the goodness in our lives. I wanted to remind people. All good things start from something small and it was perfect that I was working with seeds. You have to nurture them; you have to let them grow. You can’t just walk away. You need to expect the goodness that lies inherent in the seed to grow. This is a greater symbol of who we are. We all are these amazing seeds that have so much potential within us, and we need to nurture that potential. For example, if we’re doing something we don’t really love—if we’re doing something just to exist—we’re not to thriving. Seeds are meant to thrive. So are we.”
September 14, 2009
As I wrote in the first post of the “Business Best Practices” series, a person’s gift may be “spiky.” Meaning they are incredibly good at one, two or three things as opposed to being well-rounded in many things. What exactly does this mean?
Well, there may be someone who is brilliant in one specific area, let’s say marketing, and that’s exactly what they want to do. It’s their passion. Now suppose this person works for a typical, large organization—it’s quite possible that he or she may skyrocket up the corporate ladder for a period of time. Then comes the danger point—the potential homogenization. This person’s boss may recognize the incredible talent and put them on a leadership fast-track. To do this, the misguided leader may insist that the world-class marketer become well rounded (uh oh!) and highly develop other skills, say operational expertise and management expertise. In many cases, but not all, becoming well-rounded is quite uninteresting to the marketer and their unbelievable gift becomes marginalized. They spend their time on things like reciting operational statistics and creating PowerPoint presentations and pretty soon 60% of their time is spent outside their brilliant gift of marketing.
This concept of spiky skills applies outside of the corporate world and is quite noticeable in sports. For example, no one would ever think of telling Tom Brady or Peyton Manning (and I’m not even a football fan!) to play a defense position and develop more well-rounded skills. The key is to encourage them do what they do best and build a team around them.
My argument is if someone is spiky, and wants to stay spiky, let them. Be glad for the gift they have and value it. Help develop their skills in other areas just enough to keep them “in the game” and let their brilliance flourish. Build an organization of people who are the very best at what they do. If you are a world-class leader, your gift will be innovative organizational thinking and knowing how to maximize the talent you have. Just one warning… it may require new, non-homogenized job descriptions!
September 8, 2009
I just saw the movie Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep, who plays the famed chef Julia Child, and Amy Adams, who portrays the present-day author, Julie Powell. It’s a captivating movie in its own right, but it’s particularly appropriate for this discussion — because it’s the story of two people and their intersecting paths to careers they love.
The movie begins when Julia’s husband is stationed in Paris right after World War II. Julia, who moves with him, decides she must find something challenging to fill her days. When asked what she enjoys doing the most, she replies with a laugh, “I love to EAT!” What do you do with that?! Scene after scene she’s shown savoring French food and soon she enrolls in a prestigious French culinary school and learns to master French cooking. Her vision is to make gourmet French food accessible to Americans—and enjoy it all along the way!
This soon leads Julia to publish her cookbook, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking,” and star in the “French Chef” series on American Public Television. The rest is history!
Then, comes the story of Julie Powell… in 2002, she is a New York office worker frustrated by her job. Her dream is to become an author, but after an unsuccessful attempt at submitting her manuscript for publishing, she settles for an office job instead. Julie complains to her husband that she’s never successfully finished anything and has a mini-meltdown. They come up with a plan to give her something to look forward to, by combining one thing she loves—cooking—with the other thing she loves—writing. This gives her something to look forward to after day-after-day in the grind. Knowing that she wouldn’t finish without a deadline, Julie challenges herself to cook her way through all of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook—within 365 days—and blog about it.
Julie’s blog started in a humble way—with no readers except, of course, her mother. Within the allotted year though, she picked up more and more readers and finally the attention of the NY Times. This led to offers to publish her book, and this very movie that is now in theatres.
The Julie/Julia story is a perfect example of self-awareness, conviction and following your bliss. For both women, their choices became life-changing experiences. Starting from humble beginnings, they each translated their passion for food into professions that brought them great joy… and success. Each chose to do what they loved. And, each ultimately ended up living their Professional Destiny.
September 2, 2009