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Put Horse before Cart

In matters of career, I suggest we start by listening to our heart–an ancient discipline that has fallen into disuse due to the primary place of logic and reason in our culture. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using our heads, but it’s a little like trying to put the cart in front of the horse.

When explaining this principle to clients, I often draw a picture of a cart in front of a horse. It looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? This person is not going to get far. And yet, this is exactly where many of us end up in our careers when we learn early in life to adapt to the expectations of others.

Our social conditioning starts very early in life, as we learn to please significant others in our lives, such as parents, teachers, peers, coaches, and so on. There’s tremendous pressure on each of us to make career decisions based on certain social values and priorities—such as measuring our success according to the power, prestige and material wealth we accumulate.

Many individuals are channeled down a certain professional path using ‘can do’ skills long before they’ve had a chance to discover and nurture their natural talents and motivations.

So, many of us go to college because that is the expected thing to do. We select a major because we have to select something. In the process, we fill up our cart with what we told are the essential tools of success: education, qualifications, credentials, skills, knowledge, contacts, relevant experiences, awards, recognition, and so on. Then we look for and land a particular job for all sorts of reasons, most of them related to pre-conditioned notions of money, prestige, power and status.

What is true for college is true for trade school, the family business or the army. From grade school through high school and college and on into our careers, we strive to become somebody, some ideal. Inevitably, that somebody is different from who we are already. This is the result of developing only our social self at the expense of our authentic self.

I’ll never forget Ken, a second generation Canadian I met at university in Vancouver. He had just graduated with a BSc, and was enrolled in a Master’s program for Pestology. British Columbia is full of bugs threatening various kinds of natural resources, and Ken was going to specialize in destroying those bugs. However, he was first going to treat himself.

As a dutiful son of Asian parents, Ken was brought up to respect and obey his elders. Family honor is a primary value among Asian communities, so Ken had dutifully taken math and sciences through high school and university. But he harbored a secret passion for art. Growing up near Commercial Drive in Vancouver’s Chinatown, his home had been situated next to a sign shop where Ken spent many happy hours of his youth helping the proprietor draw and paint signs with vivid and wonderful colors. Although he found some opportunities to draw, this artistic side of Ken was neglected as he nurtured the social side of his self and worked hard to meet the expectations of his parents and community.

But, after entering grad school, Ken decided he was entitled to finally indulge his strong desire to learn more about art, and so he took an evening art class. That was it! He was hooked. He dropped his Pestology program, and focused on art. Finally, he was working with passion using his natural talents and motivations. He completed a BGS in Arts & Culture and went on to become an internationally-renowned artist, and teach art full-time at university.

His story is particularly poignant to me not only because I knew him way back when but because I’ll never forget the double-take I did when I saw four large billboard banners hanging on the outside wall of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in 2002. His exhibition paired life-size studio portraits of individuals and families of various ethnic backgrounds with bold-coloured, corporate style logos of their names on enamel and Plexiglass. They appeared as huge signs!

And, the text with the photos raised questions of identity, gender, race and class. They took me right back to the long and heated discussions I often heard at university on those issues. A review in The Ottawa Citizen at the time slammed the exhibit for its “politically correct tone.”

But Ken succeeded in doing what artists are suppose to do—get the public talking and debating about what is often taken for granted in everyday discourse and behavior. Art is suppose to foster strong opinions on both sides of a question! I can just imagine how pleased and happy he would’ve been to see his ideas bandied about in a nationally recognized newspaper.

The point is that Ken had traded in his ‘can do’ skills for his passion. And he was making his mark. For me, to see his art hanging on huge signs on the outside walls of a national gallery was like a loud shout of joy declaring Ken’s love of life! It was a validation of his passion and purpose. What I saw was a triumph of natural talents and significance over the safety Ken could’ve had by sticking to a career as a pestologist using his ‘can do’ skills.

That is not to say he may not have destroyed bugs in B.C. that deserved it, and gone on to make a contribution of significant economic impact, using his ‘can do’ skills. But I can’t help but think that the world would now be a poorer place if Ken had not honored his authentic self and nurtured his talents and motivations through his passion for art.

I encourage individuals to discover and develop their passion into work that will sustain them for a lifetime of employment and enjoyment. The key to self-fulfillment is to enjoy what you do day-in and day-out. Why would you stop doing something you love?

She Left a Toxic Workplace with her Dignity Intact

There is a turning point in every career transition, and that is the time when an individual stops identifying with their fears—both rational and irrational—and chooses to identify more with their hopes.

I love this story because it is real and true and typical in so many ways. For the past year, I assisted a professional woman through a career transition. Bright and talented with two university degrees, she was stuck in a toxic work environment, but couldn’t let go.

This client had already made one career change in life, moving from the health sector to the financial sector. She was a rising star, often winning performance awards, and was being groomed for senior management. But she hated going to work each day.
In our initial session, she outlined the overwhelming pace and stress of the job in general. In workplaces organized around targets and quotas, there is a lot of pressure to make sacrifices for the team and do whatever it takes to succeed.

She also complained about abusive behavior from bosses and co-workers. For example, if she asked for an explanation, she was publicly yelled at and told to just do it without any explanation. In team meetings, she was afraid to raise some issues for fear of being censored by the rest of the team. This from a woman who was not timid, nor did she lack confidence or communications skills.

In addition, my client alluded to pressure from her family—some of whom also worked in the financial sector–to continue earning the same high income and enjoying the status that came with being an up-and-comer. These were direct messages from people she loved and respected about what she needed to do to be smart in this situation.

On the one hand, she would tearfully admit that she had lost her self in this job, that she had sold her soul in order to meet the corporation’s goals. She felt empty inside, more dead than alive. On the other hand, walking away from this career, even one she knew deep inside was all wrong for her, meant risking the esteem of those who loved her most.

There were other practical considerations too, of course, such as meeting her financial obligations, and exploring a tough job market. She had the same fear we all have, the fear of negative consequences, i.e. if I change my life, it will get worse not better. Better to stick with this pain than risk even more!

We don’t like reality because it often includes unpleasant things. She described a toxic workplace but for months she questioned her perceptions, and wondered if the problem was her, not the abusive behavior.

Why, she asked, am I falling to pieces, while everyone else seems okay? Everyone pays a price for tolerating pain. What was yours, I asked? She outlined sleeplessness, anxiety, smoking, drinking, and other ‘coping’ behaviours. Common behaviors shared by most of her colleagues, I’m sure.

Insisting that things are not what they are doesn’t make them change. So, we either use drugs and other strategies to deal with pain, or we remove ourselves—-physically or mentally–from the circumstances causing the pain.

Then she reached a point where she was truly tired of coping—It’s killing me!–and was ready to re-claim her life. She did my JobJoy exercise and wrote out her life story, which helped her to see her natural talents and motivations, and the different points in her life where her choices honored those strengths, and points where she disregarded them in favor of pleasing others or reacting to fear.

More importantly, this accurate and reliable picture of her in action, gave her hope. We reframed her career experience, so that she could see that there were many good options for her to move forward as a professional.

She set out to explore other career options, even as she continued to struggle with her toxic job. She stopped smoking. She took small steps to let go of “some things” in her life to create enough space to explore something new. She applied to another graduate program but decided not to proceed after visiting the campus. She looked at buying an existing business, as well as a franchise, but after crunching the numbers of both opportunities, she decided against it. She investigated an offer to cross the street and provide as an indepedent the same service she did for her institutional employer.

In the meantime, the abusive behavior in her workplace continued. It takes time and discipline to learn to see reality as it is. It takes skill, because we have been trained to think accordng to concepts, theories, speculations, beliefs, ideas, and so on. Much of our thinking has been reinforced by past experiences that we presume to be the same as what is going on in the present. In order to really see reality, we have to unlearn then relearn.

As my client explored other career options and met with other professionals, she was looking and observing reality in a new way, one that was not influenced by her experiences in her toxic workplace. However, observing reality is not the same thing as changing our reality.

Taking action requires some tolerance of uncertainty. There are no guarantees in life. But our minds hate not knowing the future, not knowing outcomes…and so, when we don’t actually know something, instead of looking to find out, our minds wants to fill the space with answers that pretend to know what we don’t know!

This is where are preconceived notions of reality sweep in—notions based on previous or current life expericnes : it’s hopeless; it’s never work; I can’t do it; there are no jobs; you’re throwing your life away; and so on.

If you are serious about change, about moving out of your pain into a better jobfit, then you must appreciate NOT knowing something until you find out. In other words, you need to acquire a taste for reality, and prefer it to the pain you know so well.

When my client got to this point, two strange but predictable phenomena occured. I had even warned her that it would happen because I’ve seen it happen almost every time a client makes a transition from one kind of work to another.

One,following my advice, she approached a previous business contact—a CEO of a mid-sized company–to outline the kind of work that she was looking for, and this person offered her a job on the spot, a job in which she had no direct experience. But the CEO knew a good and talented person when he saw one, a person who could add a lot of value to his company.

Two, she handed in her notice with her toxic employer, who immediately offered her a promotion and a significant raise. She thought about it, and realized that the offer was really an acknowledgement of how much pain she was willing to put up with for her previous salary, and now they were offering her more money to put up with more pain!

She admits, it wasn’t easy, but she declined that offer. In doing so, she took back the power over her life. She felt free! She still harbored doubts about her new job—what if it didn’t work out? What if the people there turned on her? What if she can’t do the job? Reality being what it is, not perfect, crap does happen. And she can’t know everything before she starts.

But she did start her new job, and sent me a hopeful message : Wow, what a different experience I am having – amazing – just in terms of a whole new focus on learning and development versus how to cope with stress and negativity.

She is free to choose what she wants. She has the power to decide what is best for her. She is choosing hope over fear!

Your Story, My Passion

Story has the power to heal and to build you up to work with passion.

We are born, live, and die. This is our basic life story. We can’t do much about our beginnings or endings, but we have a lot of choice about how we live.

Stories can help us do life better. I have always believed this to be true. In a world made up of atoms and stories, I was always more fascinated by story. I very much appreciate and enjoy what scientists, engineers, tradesman, medical professionals and others do with atoms, but it’s not my thing. When it comes to discovering and developing your right work, it is always best I believe to stick to your thing.

We are the only species on this planet that constructs a story for ourselves to follow on a daily basis. We all have a fundamental choice : what story will I live?

However, most of us do not choose; instead, we adopt stories and live out of them unconsciously, e.g. reacting to circumstances we grew up in, rather than creating what really matters to us.

Usually, there are two stories being constructed throughout our lives. One story is about our social self, trying to please others and fitting in; the other is a story about our authentic self, trying to follow the desires of our hearts in a society that is often encouraging us to be something else. We sometimes get lost, or confused, in trying to resolve tension between the two.

Choosing a path is not easy, and the hard rock of reality trips us, so we stumble or fall. We may find ourselves terrifyingly alone, psychologically or physically broken, or simply bored, cynical, or stoic.

Fortunately, stories have the power to heal and build up. If life is a mystery, or a haphazard and random collection of events, then story helps to find patterns and plots. Story gives meaning to life.
Microsoft PowerPoint - REVISED LOGO GRAPHICS 13.02.09

I am a personal story analyst committed to you reclaim your authentic self and write a life story that brings out your best so that you can give that to others through your work, job, and career.

This is important for you but it matters for the rest of us too. When a person loses their way in terms of work, the rest of us are deprived of their unique and wonderful contribution to life!

I stand in awe of your talents and motivations. People are incredibly gifted! I get very excited when I read about the activities and events that make up your life—during childhood, teen years, and in each decade of adulthood. These are stories about times in your life that were particularly enjoyable or consistently satisfying, because they energized rather than drained you.

I give you a simple format around which to organize your stories so that they can be easily analyzed for your key success factors. What I do is a little like mining for gold, separating ore from precious metal. I never get tired of mining for the gold that runs through your stories!

I bring my talents and passion for story analysis and writing to this process by preparing a detailed report. This is not a generic report that puts you into categories and boxes. You are more complex than simple labels that cannot capture the complexities, nuances, and subtleties of a life. What matters in determining your right work is your motivational pattern as a whole, not the individual variables.

I love to communicate your uniqueness in clear and precise terms with a map, or Individual Passion Pattern, then match it to specific jobs in specific work settings. After all, there are over 60,000 job titles operating in our world of work, with new ones being created daily. We are truly fortunate to live in a part of the world that offers so much opportunity.

I strive to give you a clear route to a new destination of employment, or self-employment, or business building.

My goal is to provide you with a vocabulary to communicate with clarity and confidence to others along the way. My commitment is to keep the information grounded in what is practical and realistic with an Action Plan and ongoing assistance to implement your transition.

The result? Your career decisions are made easier. The journey becomes the adventure it is meant to be. Life is sweet. And the world becomes a better place.

Using the flip side of life to find your right work

How to use negative life experiences to uncover the truth of your right work

Why does autobiographical writing help you discover and develop your right work? Writing stories from your life helps you understand your own life in terms of the forces that have defined and changed you over the years. The facts, people, and events of your life have formed a seamless web of meaning that help you answer the questions : Who am I? What am I trying to accomplish with my life?

I know it sounds strange but even negative life experiences help us uncover the truth of our right work. For example, I am particularly ashamed of a shoplifting episode during my teens. I got caught. However, I really enjoyed playing a different character in order to avoid incarceration.

I have a gift for story-telling. Sitting in a police station, I walked out without charges by weaving an elaborate lie a la Frank Abagnale Jr., played by Leonardo Dicaprio, in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Unlike him, the person I impersonated found me out and turned me in. I was charged and put on probation.

This was morally reprehensible, I agree, but when we are looking for clues to our right work, we should not neglect those negative experiences. Every event has a flip side. We need to strip away the moral fabric of these events because we often “sin out of our strengths.”

The examined life lets you see patterns of behavior. It lets you see lessons learned the hard way. You learn the value of failure, and the value of accomplishments. Your life is your stock in trade. Even if you think your life has been unimportant to the world, it’s important to you, and that’s what counts!

One of the Success Stories on my website features a natural promoter who has a knack for getting things started. As a college student, he jerry-rigged a payphone in his dorm to permit free long distance phone calls. It wasn’t legal, but it was enterprising.

He was always starting money-saving, or money-making ventures. But he lost interest once the crank was turning and required daily attention to details to keep things running smoothly. He was criticized his whole life for his very strength. The people around him who had a knack for managing had no talent for getting things started; but once a venture was started, they criticized him for not having their talent for managing. Those criticisms cut deeply into his self esteem until he understood the value of his talent.

The key here is to identify our natural skills and abilities. How we use those talents is another issue. We choose virtue or vice; we use our gifts in the service of good or bad. It is, of course, difficult to write about emotional events in our lives, especially painful ones. But when you are writing your autobiography, try to portray the events of your life with accurate and honest descriptions. Leave out the moral judgments.

Try it. Pick one negative event from your life, and write about it according to the following format :

1. A clear statement of the activity (in one sentence)

2. What caused you to get started in the activity?

3. Write a detailed story of what you did, how you did it, where, when, and with whom. Stick to the facts. Focus on the how not the why.

4. What parts gave you the most sense of satisfaction and fulfillment?

5. Was there some significant reason you stopped the activity?

In my book JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work through the Power of Your Personal Story, I provide a format for charting and writing your stories quickly and easily.

From your stories, I generate a JobJoy Report. This report gets to the essence of who and what you are in terms of work. Career decision-making becomes easy. It taps into the motivations of each individual.

I analyze your stories and prepare a comprehensive detailed report that will identify and define your Key Success Factors. This report answers the questions: What are the natural talents you use and consistently bring satisfaction to you when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well? What is the subject matter that you gravitate to without even trying? What circumstances or conditions have to exist in the job environment to bring out the best in you? How do you naturally build relationships with others?

From this analysis we can generate an Ideal Job Description and match it with specific opportunities in the real world of work.

How to Write Your Way into Your Right Work

do-kids-write-autobiography-themselves-120X120Do you think about changing jobs? The power to do so is right under your nose…well, behind your nose actually! Stored in your brain are memories about events and activities you truly enjoyed in life since childhood. Here are some tips for analyzing your life history for key success factors that reveal work that is personally and financially rewarding.

Do a quick inventory from your childhood years (ages 6-12), then your teen years (ages 13-19), then your young adult years (ages 20-29), then your thirties, then forties, and so on. In each period, there are specific examples. You can even create a shortlist of your top 10 most enjoyable events.

The power of your stories is in the facts, people, and events of your life. These stories are like veins of gold that run through your life. Mining gold, however, involves moving a lot of ore with tools and equipment to get at that precious metal.

Similarly, mining the veins of gold in your life is easier when you use the tool of writing. Write about what is important to you, not what you did to please others. Identify those activities that gave you an intrinsic sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

Above all, be brutally honest about what is you truly enjoyed, as opposed to what you are proud. You may be proud of a certain accomplishment but there is no real innate pleasure from the activity itself. For example, many people get high grades in school in order to please their parents, not because they truly love math, or history, or truly enjoy studying and doing homework.

It actually makes it easier to tell the story if you stick to a proven format, like the one I provide in my book JobJoy. You may want to analyze or evaluate your stories for an accurate and reliable picture of your motivational pattern. Or, you may want to turn the exercise over to a personal story analyst to really nail down the essence of who and what you are in terms of work when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well.

For example, your stories can be analyzed to identify and define your Key Success Factors. Please understand that the factors critical to success are very different than personality traits, or the results you get from Myers-Briggs and other personality assessments you may have done.

A personal story assessment can answer in very clear, concise and meaningful terms the questions: What are the natural talents you use and consistently bring satisfaction to you when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well? What is the subject matter that you gravitate to without even trying? What circumstances or conditions have to exist in the job environment to bring out the best in you? How do you naturally build relationships with others? How do these success factors combine to create an essential motivation; that is, the thing you are best at and best suited for in terms of work?

This accurate and reliable picture of your right work can be developed into an Ideal Job Description and matched to specific opportunities in the world of work.

Brain Food for Job Change

Science has learned a lot about how the brain works during the past 50 years. For example, the physical brain, made up of brain matter, blood vessels, nerves, neurons, and so on, can be repaired, even rewired, and circuits regenerated. The brain is capable of creating new structures that can make it more effective—an awesome wonder indeed!

The mind is our intellectual ability to use our physical brain. Yet, often the mind holds back the brain because it gets stuck in certain patterns that it likes to repeat over and over, repeating so often that the pattern becomes a structure or habit we cannot break.

For example, you enter an elevator with Muzak playing one of those 70s songs from the Carpenters, like “I’m on the Top of the World” for a dozen bars, before you exit. The next thing you know that song is humming in your mind for the rest of the day. You didn’t choose to get hooked on that song; you just kind of fell into it with no conscious choice on your part.

Your mind was exposed to what in music is called “the hook.” A hook is a musical phrase that is structured in such a way, that as it begins to end, it throws itself back to the beginning, and begins all over again.

After hearing a dozen bars of “I’m on the Top of the World”, your mind is trying to resolve the unfinished bars, the ones you didn’t hear. That’s why you can’t get it out of your head, unless you consciously play the song, or sing the song, and finish it so that the tension is resolved, allowing your mind to move onto something else.

Similarly, our minds can get stuck with a belief, or attitude, or habit related to our work. If you hate your job, and want to quit or change careers, your mind will focus on that tension.

If a hook is constructed in your mind in the following manner: I hate my job but if I quit I will become poor, or lose my pension, or lose face with family and friends–then your mind will get stuck on that one track.

The hook is a fear of negative consequences. Your mind plays that tune over and over in your mind and all you can hear are the negative consequences that might result from quitting your job.

While your physical brain is ready, willing, and able to add new and better wiring, your mind wants to play the same old song: “I hate my job but I fear poverty.” This is the tape that plays over and over again in your mind.

The key is to give your mind different material to focus on. It’s the only way to break the endless loop. Most people don’t realize that their mind works as a simple tension-resolution system. It’s always looking for a tension to resolve.

That’s why we are susceptible to Muzak. Trapped in an elevator, most of us are exposed to the musical hook and we exit the elevator before our minds have time to resolve the tension.

If you give our mind junk food to work with, then the outcome will be junk: the “garbage in, garbage out” feedback loop.

The mind will work to resolve any tension that it considers. Be kind to your mind. Give it some stimulating tension to resolve. Whatever you focus on is what it will try to resolve.

Instead of focusing on negative consequences that might happen if you quit or lost your job, which plays like an endless loop in your mind—trust the fact, that your brain is wired to find a new and better structure for you.

Your brain is an awesome wonder. Give it good material to work with. Develop a vision of what you really want in terms of work. Then focus on that.

Think about your current reality; not the negative stuff that is holding you back but the stuff you already have that supports you attaining your vision, such as relevant experience, training, contacts, collateral, and so on.

In your mind, think of an elastic band and stretch it out. Now picture your current reality at one end of that elastic band, and the kind of work you want at the other end. Then let your mind do what it wants to do anyway, which is to resolve that tension.

This is the beginning of a successful career transition.

Of course, there are actions to take, strategies to employ, tactics to use, but now your mind is working with you instead of against you.

Beating the Peter Principle

If you watch the popular TV comedy The Office, you may find it hard to believe that Michael Scott–branch manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA–was ever competent at anything!  He appears to have no talent whatsoever for managing others.

He is the embodiment of the Peter Principle, first formulated in a 1969 book of the same name,  by Dr. Laurence Peter, who famously said: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”  Employees will be promoted so long as they work competently; until they reach a position where they are no longer competent; and, there they stay, stuck, unable to earn further promotions.  Hello, Michael Scott!

In the real world of work, individuals are usually promoted because they are competent, and they are competent because they have a particular flair, or talent, or strength for performing certain job duties.  Their work is valued enough by their employers that they are often rewarded with a promotion to supervisory positions.

The Peter Principle then becomes active when a managerial position requires a set of skills that do not come easily or naturally to the person who has been promoted into it.

For example, I have worked with a good number of engineers who excelled at troubleshooting technical problems, especially when they were left alone to work in their own way at their own speed to analyze a particular problem and design a solution, often building the solution with special tools & equipment.

They are masters of the physical world of structures, machinery, and processes.  Then they are promoted into a managerial position where they are required to collaborate with others on committees and make decisions through long discussions at meetings that must be submitted up the hierarchy for approvals, involving frequent delays, postponements, or rejections.

In the meantime, they must resolve disputes between employees who disagree on how to proceed; or,  plan years in advance for potential scenarios; or, compete with their colleagues for scarce organizational resources; or, fight about money and budgets—none of which they have a genuine interest in or a knack for dealing with.

Why do they put up with it?  Perhaps, for the sake of a better compensation package, or the admiration of their peers, or the expectations of power, prestige, and status for someone their age; or, because, they don’t know what else to do.

What is true for engineers promoted to managers, is also true for front-line social service workers promoted to policy positions; or customer service reps promoted to supervisors; or teachers promoted to principals, and so on.  Often, I will hear from such people a desperate confession.  “I feel like an Impostor at work, pretending that I know what I’m doing.  I keep wondering when they’ll find out.  In the meantime, I try to fake it ‘til I make it, but I just dread Monday morning. “

This is a short term coping strategy that may backfire in the long term.  If someone is not motivated by their core job duties, their performance will degrade, so that when the inevitable downturns of an economy occur, they may be laid off when their performance is compared to others who are suited to managerial duties and feel motivated by their work.  Or, their level of job dissatisfaction fosters dis-ease that leads to physical illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of stress-related disorders.

Sure, we can learn managerial skills by taking courses; but, just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean we will do it.  For example, we can learn how to do conflict resolution because our job requires it. But if are natural inclination is to avoid conflicting situations or highly charged emotional encounters in favour of working alone on a task in a concentrated manner, then we will develop coping mechanisms to avoid using our newly acquired conflict resolution skills unless forced to do so.  Motivation is the key to performance on the job, whether we are managers, supervisors, or subordinates.

You don’t have live like an Impostor, pretending you are something you are not.  You can get a clear picture of your natural talents and motivations and learn how to leverage them into your career plans in a way that will recognize and reward you for what you do naturally and effortlessly, rather than for what you have to do in a job misfit.

Here at JobJoy, we are in the business of mapping your motivational pattern and matching it with the work you are best suited to do so that you can excel in your right work.

Do our brains want to work or win lotteries?

Do you work hard for your money?  If, yes, then you get more satisfaction from your cash than Paris Hilton!

I know it’s hard to believe but researchers who study the pleasure center of the brain say that lottery winners, trust-fund babies like Paris, and others who get their money without working for it, do not get as much satisfaction from their cash as those who earn it.

Other studies have shown that people who win the lottery are not happier a year after they win the lottery. And the number of winners who keep their jobs is growing (and so is the number of academics studying lottery winners).

Psychological and behavioral scientists have clearly shown that people get a great deal of satisfaction out of the work they do. The brains of those who work for their money are more stimulated.  Ray Crist is living proof!

I’ll never forget the radio story I heard a few years ago about Crist, a chemist who finally stopped working at age 104.  (The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t even collect data on workers older than 90!)

Why would you stop doing something you love? For the last two decades of his life, Crist went to work 5 days a week from 8am to 5pm in a research laboratory where he worked on experiments to use plants to remove toxic metals from water, a labor of love that resulted in 20+ published articles.  He didn’t do it for the money (in fact, he donated his salary).

“I’m just a working laboratory person. And I don’t exactly call it work because I’m just living,” said Crist.

His story and the studies both suggest that the brain is wired this way by nature.  Our brains did not evolve in order to sit on the couch and have things fall in our laps.

We are wired for work, that is to expend effort to pursue worthy goals. Crist did not save the world from toxic chemicals; few scientists see the full realization of their goals during their lifetimes.

What keeps them going, what gives them the drive and passion to get up every day and go to the lab is not money but the vision they have in mind.  They can see their destination.  It is a goal worthy of the deepest values and highest aspirations.

It is good to have an end to the journey but, as Crist’s life and work clearly demonstrates, it is the journey that matters most.

While money is necessary for the journey, it is not the purpose of the journey.

Ray Crist retired at age 104.  He died not long after retirement.  He was 105 years, 4 months and 15 days old.

When Job Change is not like a Diet

I recently lost 16 lbs in the space of 6 weeks. We live in a sit down culture
and much of my work is performed in a chair in front of clients and computers.

The middle-age pot belly is an inevitable result for many modern workers.
Because I am not an exercise machine or gym membership or fad diet kind of guy,
I looked for over a year before I finally found a belly fat burning program I
could live with.

I was conscious of the fact that most weight loss programs result in failure,
with a majority of individuals putting the weight back on and then some within
12 months!

I believe this happens because most people approach weight loss as a problem to
be solved : `I want to lose weight but I don’t want to change my lifestyle
habits.’

I meet many individuals who approach their career issues with the same
problem-solving attitude : `I’ve got a job I hate but it pays my bills and
provides a good salary and benefits, so how do I replace my income and benefits
if I quit my job?’

I’ve lost weight and I’ve changed careers, so I can speak personally to both
problems. Like most people, I try to solve a problem in order to avoid negative
consequences. So, when I read recently how excessive belly fat contributes to a
wide range of health issues during middle age and beyond, I decided to lose
weight in order to avoid those problems.

Similarly, many people come to me for career advice on how to avoid the negative
consequences of a bad jobfit. Often, they feel drained by their job, and want
to avoid the inevitable burnout or depression (now the #1 workplace
disability). Or, they have read the economic tea leaves and anticipate a
forthcoming layoff. Or, new technology being introduced into their workplace is
going to change their job duties in a negative way. Or, they don’t like their
boss or the people they work with. Or, their life situation has changed and
they need to move on.

Naturally, negative job conditions foster bad feelings, even intense emotional
conflict . Just by taking the action to visit with me and talk about these
issues can reduce the emotional conflict they feel. In the same way, once
people see they can lose weight by taking some kind of effective action, it
reduces the emotional conflict they feel about their weight issues.

To start the process of losing weight, we can join a gym, or buy a food portion
meal replacement program, or start a diet. Similarly, we can change careers by
going back to school, reconnecting with our LinkedIn network, or writing a
business plan.

However, we are all human beings, and once we experience relief from bad
feelings, our motivation to change weakens and we feel less need to act.

It is very easy to backslide then into old eating habits. Or, it is easier to
go back to the same job or something similar thinking that something fundamental
has changed.

But it hasn’t. If we keep eating the way we have always eaten, we put the
weight back on. If we go back to a job misfit, it’s only a matter of time
before the same issues rear their ugly heads once again.

To keep the weight off, we need to make some real lifestyle changes. To really
change careers, we have to make some hard choices and trade-offs for a new
career.

When tougher choices are needed, when actions get harder to take, we think we
can make things happen by exerting self-control. We try to manipulate the
conflict to go away–with self-imposed incentives, rewards, punishments. If I
lose 5 lbs this week, I’ll go shopping for a new outfit. If I send out 3
resumes this week, I’ll buy a flat screen tv to force myself to send out another
3 next week because I’m going to need a new job to make the payments on my
credit card.

Studies clearly show that this strategy of conflict manipulation does not
deliver long term success. When are motivation is driven by solving intense
emotional conflict, the relief is always temporary.

Emotional conflict leads us to act. Because we’ve acted, we feel better–even
if the situation hasn’t changed very much. Feeling better takes the pressure
off, which in turn reduces the emotional pressure we feel. Less emotional
conflict means there is less motivation to continue doing the things that
reduced the conflict in the first place. Since we feel better, there is no
pressing need to follow through with more actions. And the original behavior
returns.

This is why as many as 95% of dieters have put the weight back on within 12
months. And, while 95% of workers think about changing careers at least once a
week, only 5% ever act on that thought.

The only way off this merry-go-round of problem solving and conflict
manipulation is to create a clear picture–a vision if you will–for the outcome
you truly desire.

What I say to my clients is : Instead of trying to fix your bad job situation
(a problem orientation), let’s shift your focus to creating job joy (an outcome
orientation).

Yes, it is important is to find a short term solution to a problem but
understand that nothing really changes…until it actually does. Lasting change
is the result of effective and efficient actions organized around what really
matters to you over the long term.

You can make the best short term choices in the world but if your motivation is
to fix a career problem you have now or might have in the near future, you’ll be
back to your old tricks within a few years.

No wonder so many people give up on losing weight or changing careers! They
don’t know why they can’t pull it off. They’re sincere about it. They know the
stakes are high. But each time they try, their short term success is scuttled
by circumstances beyond their control…or so it seems.

I’ve reached a plateau in my weight loss. To reach my ideal weight, I need to
make more changes in my eating and exercise habits. What motivates me to do so
is the picture I carry in my head of things I will do with my optimal health.
What really matters to me is being very healthy as I move through middle age.
Weight loss is just one part of that bigger vision.

Similarly, I carry around a written Vision statement of my career 20 years or so
down the road. What keeps me going today–taking what are often small, mundane,
routine actions–is focusing on what really, really matters to me further down
the career path.

That is why I wrote my new eBook, JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work Through the
Power of Your Personal Story. You already have everything you need to get out
of yhour career trap and into a better jobfit, one that combines vitality and
security for a better life.

It’s not rocket science. But it does take time, energy and money. However, the
Return on that Investment is priceless! Get started today!

dieting0130

Blow Your Horn

Job search studies regularly show that it is not the best qualified candidate who gets the job most of the time. Instead, it is the strongest communicator. Why?

We live in a storytelling culture. We learn about each other and the world around us through story. Think of all the time you spend reading newspapers, magazine, blogs, or watching tv, DVDs, movies, or listening to radio, audiobooks, or podcasts. We are immersed in story.

A resume, a job search, an interview, a negotiation are each just another narrative, a chance to tell your story. Strong communicators have a gift for storytelling. Who is the most popular person at a party, wedding, dinner, or special event.? The one who tells the best jokes, the most interesting stories, the fascinating anecdotes. We are storytellers and listeners first and foremost.

A successful career transition or a job search requires some storytelling competence, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the listener, i.e. your next employer or client. A story does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a social or cultural context. Here is how story fits into your job search.

Every organization has goals and objectives. They hire managers to achieve those goals. Managers, in turn, hire staff to do the work under their direction and guidance. These managers have the power to hire (and fire) individuals. In fact, over 40% of jobs are created for individuals who meet face-to-face with a manager outside of a formal job interview process. When you understand why, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting job offers.

Does the universe line up to facilitate the achievement of those organizational goals quickly and easily? Not likely. We live in a world of adversity. Defensemen seemed to be strategically positioned to knock down our best efforts to score a goal. In the world of work, these defensemen often show up as serious problems, formidable challenges, impact issues, pressure points, and a range of other social and economic variables difficult to control.

Just when a manager thinks they have everything stabilized and under control, life throws another spanner into the works. For example, employees die, retire, go on stress leave, go back to school, go on the mommy track, go to court, or go to another part of the country. There is a regular churn rate among staff in every organization. That is why there are always jobs; any good manager is always looking for good people because they always need new employees to cover the regular turnover of about 25% per year.

The key is to listen first to a manager, listen for the problems, challenges, and other obstacles getting in the way of their organization’s goals and objectives. Understanding their story is the first step to telling your own story with power and purpose. As every good storyteller knows, first know your audience.

If you take the time to listen, then orient your story for the needs of your audience, you will build rapport and establish top of the mind awareness in the manager. He or she will not soon forget you. And, when they need you, they will hire you.

Let me illustrate with a story about Tony. I helped him transition from a hi-tech career as a product manager to a new career working with NGOs. As part of his transition, he visited different organizations and spoke with managers, including the CEO at the Digital Opportunity Trust. They had a good discussion but she did not respond to a follow up. Tony moved on with further education and landed a job with another NGO.

As a result of some volunteer work, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with that CEO, and mentioned Tony’s achievements. The CEO remembered their previous meeting, and requested another. They met again and had an engaging discussion about international development. There was no job opportunities at the time with DOT but Tony asked her to keep him in mind if things should change.

Well, a few years later, things did change, as the Trust grew and expanded its core executive team. They called Tony, he applied, was interviewed, and hired into his “dream job“ as Senior Director, Global Operations.

One of the reasons I put so much emphasis on having my clients write out their stories about enjoyable events and achievements is to help them build a vocabulary of success, a portfolio of stories. Communicating your stories with clarity and confidence is one of the best things you can do in a job search situation.

Tony changed his career by revisiting his personal story, mining it for his authentic talents and motivations, so that he had a new story to tell, one that communicated a new message.

He did not blow his horn in a loud or obnoxious fashion to gain attention; he listened to the music playing around him and added his own voice to the melody. Now, he will travel the world with job joy, doing what he loves and matters most to him.