“What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” —Napolean Hill
JK Rowling is one of my all-time favorites. I find her to be very down-to-earth and inspirational, and have written about her before in Failing Your Way to Success. Just recently, I was watching her interview with Oprah and was struck by a comment she made about when she was writing the first Harry Potter book. The conversation went like this:
Rowling: [After writing The Sorcerer's Stone] I had this moment where I suddenly thought – It was like another voice speaking to me and the voice said “the difficult thing is going to get published. If it gets published it will be huge.”
Rowling: And that is exactly what it was.
Winfrey: So there was some hint that – the voice had said to you –
Rowling: Well, the thing is you’ve got to believe, haven’t you?
Rowling: You know – I was not the world’s most secure person. I wasn’t someone with an enormous amount of – in fact, I’d say I was someone with not much self-belief at all and yet in this one thing in my life I believed. That was the one thing in my life. I felt ‘I can tell a story’.
In Professional Destiny, I’ve written about the importance of having a vision and about having “fearless faith.” Another way of saying this is that in order to achieve you must have 1) a burning desire, and 2) 100% belief that you can do, or have, what you desire. Belief is where many of us fall short. Usually it’s why things don’t happen, even when we want them. We have to believe that it will happen even if we don’t see the evidence right in front of us. At any given point, we only see a fraction of the possibilities, but there can be something great looming just off our radar screen. In fact, most great things come as surprises. As I wrote in my book, “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.”
Rowling said that story telling was the one thing she absolutely believed she could do and look what happened… she became the first self-made billionaire author with over 450 million copies of her books sold. It’s a great reminder that the combination of conceiving and believing truly leads to achieving.
To watch the full 40 minute JK Rowling interview with Oprah, click here.
Professional Destiny is about finding purpose and meaning in our profession. It’s about realizing a deeper level of satisfaction in what we do. It’s about not accepting status quo, or allowing ourselves to become complacent.
In other words, we don’t get to numb out.
Just recently I saw this TEDx talk by Brene Brown about the importance of vulnerability and its link to connection, purpose and meaning. I found it fascinating. And although we come at it from different angles, I saw the similarities between the quest to become whole-hearted as she discusses, and the quest to discover purpose and meaning in what we do.
In my book Professional Destiny, I wrote: ”Many people confide in me that at some point in their careers, they feel as if they’ve come to a fork in the road. They have reached a level of success and confidence and now they need to make a choice between pursuing an unknown road toward fulfillment, or choosing the familiar path that feels secure. One client so aptly put it, ‘I know I can go work for company XYZ and make six figures if I want a mind-numbing job, but I don’t. Now what do I do?’ It’s a challenging choice. On the one hand, if you decide to bite the bullet and pursue a deep yearning that you have, you are often venturing into the unknown—especially if it’s very different from the career you’ve known. You are venturing into unfamiliar territory and you can expect to feel significant anxiety over this. If, on the other hand, you settle and choose not to take that next step forward, you can expect to feel a deep-seated sense of disappointment followed by a sense of lethargy and possibly a low-level or high-level depression. Many people try to mask these feelings by keeping themselves ‘numbed’ through alcohol, prescription drugs or anything that takes their focus away from the fact that they are ignoring a message from their soul. Others simply try to keep frantically busy and convince themselves that they are so important, that they don’t have time to notice the uneasiness from within.”
Brene adds another twist from her research and perspective on those who live whole-heartedly. She says in this excerpt from her talk: “We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability. I think there’s evidence—and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause—we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is—and I learned this from the research—that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment, I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these… you can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”
So you can’t choose to numb the hard stuff—the uncertainty, the fear, the risks, the vulnerability—and expect to find a deep level of satisfaction and true creative expression in your life. In other words you’re not living your Professional Destiny and you’re not living wholeheartedly. Thanks Brene Brown for adding this perspective.
One of the great things about social networking is that it spurs interesting dialog. My last blog post, Do You Know How to Grant Greatness generated a lively and fascinating discussion in the Sales and Marketing group on LinkedIn. The question posed by group member Daniel Surman inspired the title of this post: What makes an exceptional manager in today’s business world? Read on… and see if you’ve experienced leadership that rises above the fray.
Here is a segment of the dialog between two members, Daniel Surman and Dave Eisley (posted here with their permission). I’d be hard pressed to describe it better…
Dave Eisley: “From my own personal experience, great managers surround themselves with talented people and give them the space to do what they do best. That’s not to say they don’t train and problem solve, but most of all they provide business strategy and organization. They were great coaches. The BEST managers I have worked for taught me about “macro” business views, to help me better understand the business environment and all the factors that came into play–then they trained me how to get better. However, MOST of the people I have worked for have engaged in power struggles, offered vague, inconsistent direction and spent most of their time “protecting” their place in the hierarchy. None of those particular businesses ever grew.
This is the best outline of a leadership role I have ever seen:
Provide an inspiring vision and strategic alignment, launch a crusade
Help people connect their personal goals to business goals
Make relentless innovation a religion
Encourage entrepreneurial creativity and experimentation
Involve everyone, empower and trust employees
Coach and train your people to greatness
Build teams and promote teamwork, leverage diversity
Motivate, inspire and energize people, recognize achievements
Encourage risk taking
Make business fun
…I have been in the workforce for over 15 years in sales, management, and training roles and have experienced exactly ONE senior executive or manager that even came close to this ideal. Do you think this is unrealistic?”
Daniel Surman: “In my 15+ years of backend marketing and now sales I have only had no more than two managers that possessed these traits.”
Wow. Sadly these are not great odds.
As I have mentioned before, a truly great leader is rare and, by example, begins to stand out from the crowd. It’s not how polished or “alpha” you are, it’s how you lead and inspire your team. So, an interesting question to follow up with is…
Professional Destiny® is about finding the career you were born for. I've created this site to help you in your pursuit. Here, you'll find excerpts from my book, as well as new ideas and stories to help you make the most of your natural gifts. We're a community, so please join the conversation!