“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson, 28th American president
If we’re going to be an effective energy leader, then our work can’t be work. We need a job that isn’t a job, it’s a joy. When I love what I’m doing, I never have to go to work again. If I didn’t love the personal and organization improvement field, I wouldn’t study, note, and file hundreds of books and magazines each year. I wouldn’t produce the dozens of columns and articles I’ve written. If it were truly work, you couldn’t pay me enough to disrupt our family life and invest the huge amount of time and fussy detailed work involved in writing books. If I didn’t love designing and delivering improvement workshops or speaking at meetings and conventions, traveling to and standing in front of yet another group would be true drudgery.
I am often asked how I develop the discipline to research, prepare, write, etc. What discipline? That’s assuming I have to force myself to do this work. On the contrary, my problem is disciplining myself to not let my work completely take over my life. That’s because my work is highly aligned with my life purpose, vision, and values. So I am not working today, I am using this day to move one step closer to fulfilling a major part of why I exist.
We need to either find the work we love, or learn to love the work we have. Get passionate or get out. This is where some people succumb to the Victimitis Virus. “How can I do my life’s work when I am working flat out just to pay the bills now?” they ask. Well, if my current work isn’t energizing me so I can energize and lead others, I have four choices: (1) Do nothing but wish for my “fairy job mother” to magically appear and straighten out my life, (2) Get out of management so I stop dragging others down to my low energy level, (3) Figure out what my personal vision, values, and purpose are and transform my current job into my life’s work, (4) Figure out what my ideal job is and go find or create it.
The good news is we can find or create our ideal job. Career counsellor, Dick Bolles’ multi-million copy bestseller, What Color Is Your Parachute? has been edited and updated every year since it was first published in 1970. I have found it very helpful in clarifying my life’s work and identifying my ideal job. In another of his excellent career management books, The Three Boxes of Life, Bolles reports on his ongoing and extensive career research: “In the National Career Development Project, we have amassed a lot of evidence that. . . people of every imaginable background, age, sex, race, education, and skills can deliberately set about to find a job that gives them a sense of meaning and mission in life.”
The bad news is, if we haven’t done much thinking in this area already, it takes a lot of hard, agonizing work to figure out where we want to go and why. Then the real time consuming and most difficult effort is transforming ourselves into that person, developing the skills we need, capitalizing on and creating our opportunities to move forward.
I decided in 1976 that I wanted to be a professional speaker. I gave my first paid presentation (after hundreds of unpaid ones) in 1985 (I felt I had to earn the right to give advice to others and learn how to deliver it effectively first). With my first book, it took four years and about 1,400 hours of part-time evening and weekend work to go from concept to holding the completed book in my hands.