Dry Your Eyes

A client walked into my office recently saying that she needed a new career because her current one was making her sick; so sick, in fact, that she could not hold back the tears.

In this case, as in so many others, she got stuck in a toxic work environment with an abusive boss and/or co-workers.

Often a bad situation is made worse by a number of stressful factors, such as unreasonable workloads; or the prospect of an impending layoff due to a change in the economy; or the expectation that they be available 24/7; or a change of job conditions from flex-time at home to face-time in the office; or the fear of being squeezed out of competitive due to lack of educational credentials; or the unspoken pressure from family to maintain a high income at any price.

Whatever the circumstances, my client feels an overwhelming need to get out of her current job. Her short term goal is to avoid the pain. The long term goal is to find a better jobfit…if she only knew what it was! In the meantime, her priority is to maintain or improve her compensation package.

So, in fact, there are two contradictory goals at work here: my client wants a new job that will giver her more vitality and joy, but she also wants to avoid financial insecurity.

In order to avoid a future that might be financially insecure, she can’t take action to move out of her current job field because she doesn’t know what else to do; therefore, to move now means she might end up financially insecure. Damned if she does take action, damned if she doesn’t–this is the essence of being stuck.

She is likely to remain stuck for as long as she seeks a long term solution to a short term problem. What do I mean by that?

A career transition is not the solution to a short term problem. A transition takes time. It is best undertook during a period of stability without overwhelming financial or psychological pressures. A transition is oriented around creating the kind of life you want; it is not oriented around problem solving.

In order to solve her current problem, my client is learning to separate her contradictory goals. Her toxic work environment is a short term problem requiring a short term solution.

As distasteful as it is for her, she realizes that her best chance of getting out of her toxic environment, while maintaining her current pay check, is to do the same thing for another org; or, cross the street, and purchase the services (that she is now selling) for large orgs. Or, she can repackage her skills and market them for a related but different job target.

Sure, her current job is something she no longer wants to do. But she is not stuck there forever (it just feels like that right now). Feelings come and go: sometimes we are in love, sometimes not.

Most of us get angry, fearful, joyful, anxious, happy, sad, and so on, at different times in different circumstances. Why should feelings govern our commitment to taking actions to achieve our goals?

Some days I don’t feel like writing, or seeing my clients, or cooking dinner but I do them anyways, not because I have to but because these actions help me create what really matters to me. Feelings are temporary.

My client has dried her tears and realizes that the first thing she needs to do is take care of herself by getting out of her toxic environment. She needs to get into another job for the SHORT term in order to build up the capacity to make a transition over the LONG term.

Making progress towards a long term goal is about building the life you want. My client now understands that her long term goal to have a career that fits her deepest values and top priorities is possible but takes time and energy, two things that are in short supply when she is in crisis.

First, get out of the crisis, then take the time to transition.

Like the song says, ‘Dry your eyes and take your song out, it’s a newborn afternoon.’

Dry Your Eyes, Neil Diamond & The Band
(From my all time favorite concert movie The Last Waltz)

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.

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.

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.

Get Off the Bus and onto the Right Road for You

I have worked one-on-one with over 3000 individuals during the past 15 years.. And each one has their own story with unique elements. However, there are common themes too.

For example, many people end up in a misfit or in career pain because they get on the wrong bus. They realize the bus is headed somewhere they don’t want to go. The journey they are taking is not one they would have chosen if, when they got on the bus, they knew where they wanted to go.

Here are 5 kinds of bus rides I often see. Perhaps you’re riding one of these buses right now:

1. You hopped on the first bus that came along. You needed a job early in life to pay the bills, to establish independence, to get you started in life but you never got off. Now, you feel stuck. Your career has hit the glass ceiling. There is nowhere else to go with this job, this company, this profession. Or, you’re struggling with work-life balance, struggling with childcare or eldercare. Or, you feel constant pressure to upgrade your skills. Or, you are suffering burnout. Perhaps it’s time to get off the bus and find your own set of wheels before the bus crashes!

2. You followed the herd. Everyone in your family was taking this bus—military, business, medicine, teaching—so you jumped on board. Or, maybe your high school friends all went off to university, so you tagged along. Or, jobs opened up in a booming oil sector, or IT, or construction, so you stepped into this space because that’s where the jobs were. You took this bus because everyone else was doing it and you had no clear idea of what else to do. Now you’re tired of playing follow the leader. You want to find your own road, perhaps a road less traveled. You’re ready to explore other routes, or find a safe exit.

3. You bought a ticket in order to buy a job. This bus is going to Vegas. You’re on the road to riches. Your job sucks the life out of you but it pays a lot of money. But high-paying drudgery is still drudgery. Someday you’ll quit and get a job with meaning, with purpose, one that inspires and energizes you. Why not start now?

4. The bus you first took was the right one when you started out in your career. You learned certain skills, grew professionally and personally, paid off some debts and acquired some assets. You ponder the gap between your youthful ideals and your current realities. You wonder why you never transferred to another bus. So now you find yourself looking out the window and daydreaming . . . where do all those other roads go? What lies beyond those hills? It’s okay to dream again, to explore new options. Stay with the daydream…see where it takes you.

5. You’re up and out of your seat, time to get off the bus. Stop this thing and let me off! You live for the weekends and only come alive during a long vacation. You’re past the stimulation of the learning phase, you’ve mastered the ins and outs of the job, you have a financial cushion. Now you’re bored – painfully bored, and you watch the clock like a timekeeper at a sporting event. You’re ready to build your own business, ready to serve others, ready to find a more interesting job, ready to take the wheel and started driving your own dreams.

Life is way too short to spend riding around in circles on a bus going nowhere. What is needed is some clarity about WHERE to work and WHAT to do in terms of a job. Getting answers to these questions gives some direction on what to do next.

If you’re ready to make a plan to doing work you love in a very real way then start focusing on those times in your life when you were doing what you enjoyed most, when you got lost in it when you were truly absorbed by it, when an intensity came over you.

Then bring those events or activities to a session with me for analysis to see how they connect in very practical and real ways to answering WHERE and WHAT do I do next?