Labor of Love

It’s Labor Day weekend in the United States: A celebration of work and workers; an opportunity to honor labor; the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of our effort.

Or perhaps, more realistically, an escape from tedium; a long weekend away from the insanity of the office; with a beer… or two; and burgers and dogs on the grill.

Because, you see, nearly 80% of folks are unfulfilled in their work. (More than 90% among my lawyer colleagues.) Employee engagement worldwide, that is a worker’s investment in his or her employer’s vision and mission, stands at 13%, meaning 87% of folks couldn’t really give a damn about what their company is trying to achieve. (And, by the way, employers beware: engagement is correlated directly with your bottom line.)

Which is terrible: Because our work is the highest expression of who we are in the world. Our work is the opportunity to serve in the world; to share with the world those gifts and talents that are uniquely ours to share.

Our work takes up the majority of our waking hours. It takes us away from our homes and our families. It requires our attentions and focus; our blood, sweat and tears. And at the end of the day, if it is devoid of meaning, we are left empty and depleted and despairing.

Our work is not the entirety of our being; and yet it is a huge part of who we are. Screenshot 2014-08-26 09.51.30

“Isn’t work supposed to be a grind?” my young career-coaching client asked.

“No!” I yelled into the phone. “It’s not.”

It’s supposed to be rich and full and joyous. Not without stress or worry; not without effort. But filled with meaning and purpose and deep satisfaction.

Your work should be fun; your work should make you happy.

Steve Jobs said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… .”

If you find yourself filled with dread on Sunday night, then what you’re doing isn’t working. If you’re not waking up most days excited and on fire about your work, then you need to do something different.

Because when you’re in the flow, when you lose track of time, when your Monday feels as awesome as your Friday… that’s when you know you have the work and life you love. You deserve that; the world deserves that.

Because your work should be a Labor of Love.

Happy Labor Day.

The Epic Ravage of CPAD

It was one of those rare summer mornings. Crystal clear; crisp, cool air; soft, gentle light.

My run had been magnificent through the woods and along our meandering river. I luxuriated in the experience of being in my body as it flowed over the ground surrounded by such beauty.

Along the way, I passed a man in his mid-forties walking two substantial dogs. I said, “Good morning.” His head was down. There was no response. Screenshot 2014-08-18 14.13.01

I looked over my shoulder as I passed. He was transfixed.

By his iPhone.

A sufferer of Continuous Partial Attention Disorder. CPAD.

He is not alone. I’ve had bouts with it myself.

And it has become epidemic.

There are studies that suggest that some folks check their smartphones as many as 900 times a day. We get email alerts and text message alerts and LinkedIn alerts and Facebook alerts and CNBC alerts and weather alerts. Dinging and pinging and competing for our precious, narrow, limited bandwidth.

Folks complain that they don’t have enough time. The truth is that we have all the time in the world. We have the same amount as presidents and kings. We have all the time that there is.

It’s just that we’re not terribly good stewards of it.

CPAD is one of the greatest challenges of our age. It dilutes our focus, degrades our productivity, and damages our relationships.

It causes accidents and mistakes.

More important, it is a thief. It robs us of the only real asset we have, the only time there is: The here and the now.

It steals from us our ability to fully experience the wonder and the beauty of this – this precious moment. Instead, we allow ourselves to stay in a constant state of distractedness and overwhelm.

There are lots of simple ways to treat CPAD. I teach them to our coaching clients. Here are just a few:

• Turn off all of your alerts
• Close your door; silence your phone; create distraction-free space
• Work in blocks of time on just one thing
Pay attention to just one task, one project, one conversation at a time
Don’t multi-task; it can’t be done
Don’t take your smartphone to bed
Don’t check you email first thing in the morning

Most important, give yourself the space the time to breath each and every day; time to rest, reflect and re-create.

Pay attention, not to what was, not to what might be, but to what is.

Experience the present moment.

CPAD can be eradicated in our lifetimes. But it will take a concerted effort by all of us to make that happen.

What’s Your Destination?

Where are you going? And why?

What is your destination? Will you know it when you get there?

Do you know? Do you remember?

A common question that we ask little kids when we first meet them is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

And they know! Teachers, fire fighters, astronauts, doctors, secret agents… they know.

When we’re growing up, we have these grand visions for our lives: what we want to do, where we want to live, how we want to travel, who we want to do it with. They are exciting, compelling visions filled with joy and adventure.

Then one day, we wake up, driving a nice care from the nice suburbs where we live in a nice house with a nice partner to nice work that more or less pays for our nice lifestyles. One day melds into the next, one day the same as the last, over and over again. Until we have forgotten what it was we really wanted in the first place. We lose sight of the horizon. We lose sight of ourselves.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

Without a vision, the people will perish, Proverbs says. Without a vision, you will perish.

At the very least, you certainly won’t thrive.

You cannot hit a target you can’t see.

  • Business growth stagnates unless you know exactly what value you’re bringing to the market place; exactly what problem you’re solving; and exactly who you’re solving it for.
  • A career change or job search will most certainly derail unless you know exactly what you want to do, who you want to do it for, and why.
  • Your productivity will drop and your stress will skyrocket unless you know exactly what it is that you want to achieve, and why.

When you know your destination,

  • Your marketing becomes simpler and far less expensive.
  • Your job search will become laser focused
  • You’ll get a lot more done in a lot less time

Knowing your outcome – your precise outcome – is key to your success. In everything: Health, wealth, relationships and careers.

I just consulted with a brilliant young professional with an impressive resume who couldn’t seem to get a job to save his life. When I asked him what he really wanted to do, he hemmed and hawed and bobbed and weaved and hedged. He was sending out resumes into the universe without any clear notion of what it was he really wanted to do. The result was that his energy signature was muddled and confused… and potential employers could smell that like rotting leftovers.

As soon as he got clear – as soon as he reclaimed the vision of what it was he really wanted – he found the job he loved.

An entrepreneur I work with has an exciting new business model for delivering professional services. He hasn’t gotten any traction yet because he doesn’t yet know who his ideal client it. As soon as he does, he’ll be unstoppable. Screenshot 2014-08-11 19.49.59

If you don’t have a plan, any plan will do. And that’s the fast track to nowhere in particular.

With a clear vision, you can go anywhere. And life becomes exciting and joy-filled again.

The GPS in your car will take you to within 30 feet of your destination so long as you’ve locked in your coordinates.

Lock in yours today.

Time For A New Map

I was carried away by the sound. Beautiful beyond words. Beautiful beyond anything I had ever heard.

Each note, each passage, more glorious, more magnificent than the last

A soaring concerto.

A virtuoso violinist.

I was the commencement speaker at a high school music academy. And this – this masterpiece – was the evening’s prelude… played by a graduating senior.

I leaned over in my chair on the stage and whispered to the assistant director sitting next to me. “What music school is he going to?”

She frowned and rolled her eyes. “He’s not. His parents want him to study economics.”

I was stunned. And sad.

What the world would never hear.

Even more, I knew how the story would unfold.

You see, many of my clients seek me out for career coaching. Quite a few of them are in their 30’s although some are in their 40’s or 50’s. They’ve gone to great colleges, graduating at the top of their classes (and have a lot of debt). They’ve gone on to graduate school, business school or professional school… and excelled. They’ve landed the plum job with a great salary… and a lot of prestige.

And they’re miserable. They hate their lives. They don’t know how they got to where they are. They can’t figure out how to break free.

They don’t have a clue as to where they lost the path, where they lost their way. photo(2)

For the young violinist, it was the moment he walked off the stage.

Because he had the wrong map.

In a recent article, Dick Bolles, career guru and author of the ten million copy best seller What Color Is Your Parachute says that following your dreams still matters; love still matters; love of what you do.

Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago studied 120 athletes, artists and scholars in order to determine the ingredients of greatness. He controlled for intelligence and family background and all sorts of variables… and what he discovered was that there was only one common denominator for greatness: extraordinary drive.

Extraordinary drive fueled by passion.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself,” said Abraham Maslow.

I asked a coaching client today how he ended up a lawyer rather then pursuing the graduate studies in philosophy that he so loved.

“People told me that I needed to be realistic,” he said.

Too many parents, following a well-worn map and pressured by cultural expectations, push their young adults into a college paradigm that is economically broken, into hollow, empty fields that masquerade as ‘real’ jobs , only to end up seeing them unemployed, in debt and living in their basements. Or worse, to see them on my doorstep – after the years have dulled their eyes and sucked their souls – empty, sad and lifeless.

Despite our best intentions, it is a map that leads to nowhere good.

Those who read me often know that I am passionate about life-long learning and about success.

But if you’re going to climb that ladder of success, you better make pretty damn sure it’s against the right wall.

And the only way to do that is to start from a place of love.

Deep love.