Archives – June, 2010
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
—Henry David Thoreau
What happens when you reach a point in your career when you’re no longer fulfilled by what you do? The moment might come when you find yourself in a role that once challenged you and stoked your fire—so to speak—but now is no longer interesting. You realize that you’re merely going through the motions to collect a paycheck. Or it could be that you’re suffering from Career Dissonance and you actually still enjoy your craft—you just don’t like the environment you’re practicing it in. For whatever reason, the fulfillment you once felt is gone and instead of a thrill—it’s become a drill.
People who allow themselves to become complacent may enjoy tangible benefits such as bringing home a steady paycheck, saving for the future, possibly having prestige and power (and these are very real, positive, essential things) but they may be lacking a sense of purpose. And this can cause a persistent, nagging feeling of dissatisfaction.
It’s difficult to have a sense of purpose when you sacrifice your deepest yearnings, unexpressed creativity and natural talents because you’re afraid to take a risk or are constantly worried about the future. As Thoreau says, if you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams—and the key word is confidently—you will have success. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, but do expect it to happen. I remember reading the incredible book Three Cups of Tea and marveling that it took Greg Mortenson ten years to start having substantial support for building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1993, Mortenson was a self-described bumbling, failed K2 mountain climber who wanted to build a school for the people who helped him in Pakistan. He started with very humble beginnings by writing mostly unanswered fundraising letters on a typewriter, going on wild goose chases to meet unlikely donors and giving talks to audiences of only 1-2 people in REI. Now his organization has built over 130 schools serving 58,000 students, Three Cups of Tea is a multi-million copy bestseller and his talks attract thousands of people at a time. Most of all, Mortenson is achieving his mission of building schools for children (mostly girls) and helping them to better their lives. He has a satisfying sense of purpose.
Would you and I have that kind of perseverance, stamina, faith and incredible drive to keep going for ten years before we achieved significant signs of momentum? The answer is—No—if we weren’t filled with passion for what we were doing. And—Yes—if our inner sense of purpose energized us and gave us the fortitude to take the next step.
Success is defined in many ways. It can bring a great deal of money as you pursue something you love and you’re good at, but it might also bring other benefits such as more freedom, more time with your family and most of all—a wonderful feeling of fulfillment.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The path might have obstacles, road blocks and dead-ends, but to give up means that you are marching to the drill of life (1-2-3-4!), not experiencing the thrill of life. Everyone wants to feel significant, important and unique. We want to feel like we have accomplished something that matters—even if it’s only to us. We want to feel challenged and to re-ignite our passion and creativity. That is the true difference between a job and our Professional Destiny.
June 29, 2010
Last week I gave a talk at the AMD Women’s Forum about Professional Destiny in Business and igniting passion in the workplace. How is this done–especially in larger organizations? The answer is that great productivity and passion at work always starts with people. Always. It begins with identifying your gifts. And if you’re a leader, it also begins with identifying the gifts of others and putting them to good use.
In the first installments of this “Homogenization” series, I’ve written about the problems of marginalizing vs. empowering people and the difference between “spiky” and well-rounded skills. Let’s go a step further and discuss why matching people to their unique talents is so important.
Studies have shown that up to 80% of workers feel that they are not being allowed to use their strengths on a daily basis at work. Why is that? In my experience, I’ve found that there are usually three main reasons:
- Many employees are not aware of their natural gifts or strengths. They are not clear on what sets them apart from others and consequently they are unaware of the types of work that fits them best.
- Organizations don’t pay enough attention to the difference between natural gifts and acquired skills and experience. They pay too much attention to credentials (resumes and fancy degrees), which are a good indicator of intelligence, but not a great indicator of a natural gift (such as seeing new opportunities or building customer trust).
- Many leaders do not have the insight or inclination to identify and match people with their greatest strengths. This is especially true if the strength is not immediately identified as part of the established job description.
In Professional Destiny, I give an example of a helpful exercise to help you identify your gifts. It involves getting crystal clear on the things you love to do, the things you’re naturally good at (sometimes these are the same, sometimes they’re not) and the things you loathe to do, and should avoid altogether. Once you’re clear, initiate conversations with manager and see how you can maximize your time doing what you do best. If you’re a leader, do this exercise with your team.
In essence, many managers homogenize remarkable people because they fundamentally believe that employees are interchangeable parts. They believe that skills and credentials are more important than natural gifts and that with the right training or attitude almost any person can be adapted to any position. The mistake in this logic is that it leaves out the passion factor and employees eventually begin to disengage. Their attitude can change to the “I’m just doing my job” factor. When people are passionate about their work, they are more loyal, innovative and driven to achieve remarkable things. Companies sometimes forget that it’s the people who first and foremost determine whether an organization is great or not. Not the other way around.
June 22, 2010
What would you do if
you weren’t afraid?
Who Moved My Cheese?
In any undertaking of substance, you can’t expect yourself to be fearless—we all have fear. The secret is to be courageous and not let your fear win over. Having courage is not the absence of fear but the drive and the strength to keep going in spite of it. Ultimately, your desire and belief in your vision must be stronger. That’s what you lean on.
The following is an excerpt from Professional Destiny about the difference between faith and fear:
“Fear shows itself all along our journey. The more important our purpose is and the more remarkable we are called to be, the more we can expect to encounter fear. Anyone who is remarkable has overcome great difficulty and fear. If this weren’t the case there would be more remarkable people—those who stand out as truly extraordinary. Most people choose to be ordinary. They play it safe and do just enough to get by.
What separates the extraordinary from the ordinary are those people who choose faith over fear and practice discipline every day in achieving their purpose. Faith, in this sense, means a passionate, unbending belief in your vision. Here are some things to know about faith:
- Faith is believing in success. It’s believing in a friendly creative force bigger than yourself, a force that will help you. Fear is inverted faith—it’s believing in failure.
- Faith looks forward. It’s believing in your vision even when there’s no proof. You may not know all the answers, but you know you will take the next step.
- Faith is the tool to overcome fear. Truly remarkable people call on it every day and guide their lives with it.
- With faith, you don’t get to know how it gets done. You don’t get to know what is going to happen either. “How” or “what” are not the questions—you just need to know that you are going to do it.
- Faith and commitment get you there. If you falter on either, the journey will take longer.
Expect that the process of moving along your path will throw challenges at you. It’s part of the package. It’s the hand you are dealt. When you think of it this way, you won’t get mired in pessimism or misery. Or if you feel it, which is natural, you won’t stay there for long. You know it’s just something you need to get through. And you will.”
June 14, 2010
With my Editor, Ken Segall, and the Book of the Year Finalist at BookExpo in NY
Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled: ‘Vanity’ Press Goes Digital, and I thought it represented such a landmark for self-publishing that it was worth deviating off of my favorite topic of discovering the career you were born for—at least for a few days!
I can assure you that an article like this simply did not exist when I first published Professional Destiny last summer. If it had, I would have bookmarked it and highlighted the whole thing! The book self-publishing industry is growing and changing so fast that the options are expanding every day. As I wrote in an early blog post, Five Reasons Why I Chose to Self-Publish My Book, I was inspired by rapid changes in the self-publishing industry then—and that was even before iPad…
So now that I’m a self-published “veteran,” I can share with you the top three things I’ve learned:
- You need a great editor and cover designer.
Michael Rylander's 'other' work
Coming from the advertising industry, I was blessed with the best: Ken Segall (aka legendary creative director/copywriter for the Apple Think Different campaign) and Michael Rylander (aka award-winning designer extraordinaire). The WSJ article points out that a common downfall for self-published books according to big publishers is, that “most disappear, in part because they may be poorly edited [and designed] and are almost never reviewed.” Yet, many online self-publishing companies like CreateSpace are now offering full publishing services, or you can hire a great freelance editor and designer for yourself.
- It’s all about building communities and getting the word out. Once you have a great book, you can build a dialog with your readers through blogging and social media (FaceBook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube). It’s such an amazing and rewarding change from just a few years ago. Traditional media (radio talk shows, television and print) and public appearances/talks are still key as well and the more you get out there, the better. If you’re not comfortable with marketing, you can hire your own publicist and online marketing specialist—and in my opinion, this is one of the most important places to invest.
- The distribution channel challenge is rapidly changing. Getting your book stocked in bookstores across the country can be an enormous and discouraging feat if you’re representing yourself. But Amazon, other online bookstores and the rapidly-growing e-book options are quickly leveling the distribution channel playing field—I wouldn’t be surprised to see more changes here in the very near future.
Overall, the book publishing ground is shifting as we speak and it’s an exciting time to be an author. If you have a great idea and story to tell (that is… if it’s your Professional Destiny!) now more than ever, you are incredibly empowered to share it with others.
June 8, 2010
This post is inspired by Dan Karslake, my friend and documentary filmmaker who I visited during last week’s trip to New York. Dan is following his Professional Destiny. He is making a film called Every Three Seconds about ending world hunger. And during an interview I had with him he explained:
“There are two kinds of hunger—the hunger for food and the hunger for more. This film is really about us—it’s about me—and our own lack of relationship with enough. I’ve been taught to look past what I have to what I don’t have. I have a car but I’m always noticing the car I’d rather have. I have 12 shirts, but I’m always noticing the 13th shirt that I want to buy. We have no relationship with enough. We are about what we don’t have.”
How does this concept relate to your Professional Destiny?
Having enough financially enables us to be less distracted. If we are constantly struggling to make ends meet, we have less time, money and resources to help others and we might not get the luxury of pursuing our Professional Destiny right away. We often ignore our yearnings and choose practicality instead.
Yet, as I’ve written in my book:
“A trap that we are all susceptible to, especially in the Western world, is that we overlook the concept of having enough. We come to never fully enjoy what we have because we are always thinking about what we don’t yet have (a nicer home or car, more possessions, a bigger company, more money, finer art). This sense of wanting more is an insatiable hunger. It is poison to our soul and kills new, creative possibilities because it locks us into a pattern. It might make our life more comfortable but it doesn’t bring us true fulfillment, which only comes when we feel like we are making a difference in a genuine, meaningful way.
You can be financially successful, a respected leader in your profession, be admired for your status, have beautiful possessions and a lovely family—but still feel a nagging sense of emptiness.
I find that most people who have made it in their career and have achieved success have just about everything they want materially, but do not feel fulfilled. They want to venture out and make a difference, but are immobilized by fear and the need to have a familiar sense of security, stability and enough…
Security often means that they do not take risks or allow themselves to be open to new possibilities. Many have lost the concept of having ‘enough’ and cannot accept the idea of making less money for a while, even if it makes them happier. They cannot escape the money trap and therefore are not free. Because of the overwhelming need for survival, even beyond the point of enough, we ignore our deepest yearnings and continue in a job that is not fulfilling—or even worse, a job that is sapping our lifeblood and essence. We think we are making a living, but in reality our spirit is slowly dying.”
So recognize when enough is enough and get a grip on that insatiable hunger for more—you just may be surprised to discover a whole new richness in your life.
June 2, 2010