I recently re-discovered the song "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac. Although this song is about personal relationships, there's one line that resonates with me because it also can relate to our careers: "Can I handle the seasons of my life?".
Our professional lives go through seasons that don't necessarily correlate with seasons of the year. Unfortunately, we often get fixated on the sexy side of Spring and Summer and dread the slower times of Fall and Winter. Can you handle those slower seasons of your professional life?
I was recently chatting with a friend about her business. She mentioned that she was really busy now after somewhat of a dryspell. I mentioned that there is a feast or famine side to being in business for yourself and that the famine part is no fun.
It's true. I am guilty of feeling that way as well sometimes.
If you've read my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably noticed that I like finding spiritual messages in everyday places. Sometimes I'm watching a sitcom or reality show when someone's comment peaks my interest.
Earlier this year, I started designated certain celebrities and other public figures as honorary Spirit Drivers. These are people who have demonstrated the principles from my book, Driving to Success: Let Your Spirit Take the Wheel in their professional and personal lives.
So far, I have bestowed the Spirit Driver designation on the following individuals. They received a personal letter (an excerpt is included in the linked blog post) and an autographed copy of my book.
- U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin
- Baja Fresh CEO, David Kim
- Actor, Singer, Producer, Donnie Wahlberg
Since I let my Spirit guide me on when to make these Spirit Driver designations, I don't have a particular number that I'm giving out in a month or a year. Also, I don't take recommendations from others (sorry!). Instead, I just allow the messages to find me. Since the media often focuses on the crazy mishaps of celebrities and other public figures, I thought I would focus on putting some positive energy out there.
So, what exactly is a Spirit Driver? It is someone who meets many, if not all, of these criteria:
- You're authentic to who you are instead of living someone else's dream.
- You keep an eye on your GPS and enjoy the journey on the road of your professional life.
- You understand that Money is just one of your possible Success Drivers.
- You believe that you have a Destination (Mission) to reach through your professional life.
- You regularly Turn on Your Signals to recognize your role in the Universe.
- You shift Gears, when appropriate, based on the Signs you receive from the Universe.
- You aren't afraid of making occasional U-Turns.
It's always a pleasant surprise to receive an acknowledgement, but that isn't the point of this exercise. It's just a fun way to reach out to others and let them know that their efforts aren't going unnoticed.
Also, please know that I'm not saying that these individuals are perfect. That isn't what being a Spirit Driver is about. Instead, it means that a significant event in their past or something about the way they live their lives now continues to meets the above criteria.
With the passing of Steve Jobs this week, I felt compelled to write about the legacy he has left behind. After hearing about it yesterday I wondered if there has been any other individual or company who has directly, and often indirectly, affected so many lives in our generation. My first computer was an Apple IIc. Back in the 80's I wouldn't have recognized Steve Jobs' name, but already his vision had an effect on my life. It sparked my lifelong love of computers and all technology.
Obviously the "little" reference in the title of this post does not refer to Steve Jobs in anyway. He left a huge legacy that will forever change the way we interact with each other and the rest of the world. I don't know how many of us will be able to leave such a large legacy. And that's OK, because I don't think that is the point.
When thinking about our Mission in life, we often feel that we have to do something big in order for it to be meaningful. You'll remember my prior post about Career Advancement Option #3 which allows you to Drive with Purpose: find a career that is meaningful and make changes as needed to fit your changing personal, professional, and spiritual goals in life. I also discussed A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment that helps us to see if our career is meeting our needs.
One of the questions from that Hierarchy related to changing the world for the better. It's easy to get stuck on this question. Sometimes I look at what I do and wonder if it is making a difference. Does making a Web site for a nonprofit or small business really help anyone in the grand scheme of things? What I've realized is that we are here to serve others in some way and the work we do can make a difference even if it is in a small way. So much of the work that my company does involves creating the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that helps our wonderful clients do their work.
Here are just a few of the items from my list over the years:
- Connecting individuals to locations where they can donate goods for cancer patients
- Providing access to downloadable voter resources to promote democracy in underserved populations
- Creating a hub for disabled workers to find work and support
- Showcasing events and resources for healthcare professionals working in developing countries
- Helping low-income parents find clothing for their children
When I look at it this way it brings a tear to my eye and gives me a renewed passion for my work. Sure, I'm not saving lives or winning Nobel Prizes, but my work is helping someone somewhere every minute of everyday. And that's enough for me.
Thanks to Steve Jobs for inspiring an industry and multiple generations of individuals and businesses!
When it comes to your career, it's easy to take one of two Career Advancement Options:
- Go through your career blindly, taking whatever comes your way
- Overanalyze your career until you find the perfect fit
Career Advancement Option #1 means that you fly by the seat of your pants. While this can be freeing, it means that you aren't in the driver's seat taking control of your career.
Career Advancement Option #2 means that you are working so hard to find the right career, you aren't trusting that the Universe will present you with appropriate career options.
The most difficult one is the yet-to-be-mentioned Career Advancement Option #3. It is a middle-of-the-road and often underused option. Option #3 allows you to Drive with Purpose: find a career that is meaningful and make changes as needed to fit your changing personal, professional, and spiritual goals in life.
After going through a few different careers myself (biomedical sciences, high finance, insurance, and now information technology), I know what I'm talking about when it comes to those three options. I have adopted (and continue to adopt) all three at different points in my life.
- I fall into Career Advancement Option #1 when I am fed up with what is going on and think that my efforts won't make a difference.
- Career Advancement Option #2 becomes a reality if I feel absolutely certain of what I should be doing and want to orchestrate it for myself.
- Career Advancement Option #3, although requiring more effort, brings the most career fulfillment for me and does the best job of meeting my personal, professional, and spiritual needs.
Our human needs can best be described via Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The lower level needs are the more basic ones that need to be satisfied first:
- Physiological Needs
- Security Needs
- Social Needs
- Esteem Needs
- Self-actualizing Needs
Career advancement would most likely fall in Level 4 or 5. In a nutshell, if you haven't eaten, you aren't too worried about personal growth activities!
Until now, I hadn't seen a similar model for assessing our career needs. I came across an article called "Beyond Wall Street and Sand Hill Road: Career Fulfillment for Bright Young Things" by Don Fornes, Founder & CEO, Software Advice. He has a nice breakdown called "A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment". The article is geared toward young adults entering high finance. I encourage you to read it even if you're in a different industry since it contains some key insights on why we do the work that we do (i.e. it isn't (and shouldn't be) just about money.)
Are you able to answer "yes" to all of these questions about your career? If not, which ones are a "no" for you? Are there other questions that you would include? Or maybe you would place the questions in a different order.
Remember that you won't always be able to answer "yes" to all of these questions. Even if you have a "dream job", there will be days when you wonder what you got yourself into! That isn't always a reason to bail, however. Look at your current situation as a whole. Only you can decide what you need to feel fulfilled.
Try using this model to make it easier to adopt Career Advancement Option #3 allowing you to Drive with Purpose and find a career that is meaningful.
On this 10th anniversary of September 11th, I am struck by many things. Today I'll talk about my personal reflections. I can't believe what a different life I lead now. And I can't believe how that event indirectly shaped my career path and personal life.
Please know that I always feel weird telling this story because it seems trivial in light of the tragedies that happened. Yet, it is something that I feel compelled to share. I hope this inspires you to find the many more powerful, inspirational stories that can help you make sense of the day.
A little over ten years ago, I was working at a mutual fund company in Denver whose headquarters was in the World Trade Center. I worked for the quality assurance team in their call center. I wasn't entirely happy with my job and wanted something different. After researching the different opportunities that were available in the company, I settled on applying to become a call center trainer. It looked like a fun job to me and I knew I had the qualifications.
On that Monday, September 10th, I turned in my job application to the local Human Resources Department and felt confident about the possibilities. Then, Tuesday rolled around. Of course, the office was chaotic. We were preparing for an onslaught of phone calls from shareholders wondering what was happening with their money. Instead, the call center was eerily silent. We were all glued to the televisions as we wondered what was happening to our fellow employees in the North Tower. Somehow all of our co-workers made it out of the building before it fell. Our bosses told our department to stay home the rest of the week because there really wasn't anything for us to do.
So, there I was at home staying glued to the television with my fear of leaving the house increasing every minute. My boyfriend at the time used to travel around the country as a corporate trainer for a different company. He was supposed to fly out to St. Louis on September 11th. But the training class was changed, so he flew out the day before. Since air traffic was grounded for over a week, he wasn't able to fly home as planned at the end of that week. It was strange being at home by myself all that time without being able to share this experience with him. That weekend, he rented a car and drove over 12 hours to make it home.
Things at work somewhat settled down after several weeks. It was around that time that I saw an announcement about the new trainers that were selected for the call center trainer positions. My name was not on the list. Being the overachiever that I am, I decided to check in with HR to find out why I wasn't selected and why I didn't even get the chance to interview. The HR associate looked through her paperwork and found that she didn't even have my job application on file. She asked when I turned it in. I told her it was on September 10th. She paused and then apologized saying that it must have gotten lost in all of the chaos.
I was upset, but after reflecting on things, I realized that this must have happened for a reason. It was also at that time that my boyfriend and I felt like we shouldn't waste time in our lives. We had been talking about getting married. Once he got back that weekend, our talks started to become more of a reality. We were married the following year and are still going strong. We also talked about what we really wanted to do career-wise and began to take steps toward becoming entrepreneurs. That became a reality in 2003.
On this anniversary, I was glued to the TV again, but this time watching the memorial events. As I listened to the stories of families and friends affected by the tragedies, I am reminded of many things:
The "stresses" in my life that really aren't that stressful
How quickly your life and the world can change
How important it is not to waste time on trivial things, but focus on your dreams and how you can achieve them
The importance of family and friends during the happy and sad times
I hope that my story can help you find a glimmer of hope and positivity today to help you move forward in your life.
Those of you who know me personally know what a huge New Kids on the Block fan I am. I follow them all on Twitter to keep track of any upcoming appearances. Imagine my surprise when I noticed all of the positive and spiritually-focused tweets coming from one of the members of the group, Donnie Wahlberg.
Here's the letter that I enclosed with my autographed book in August 2011 (around his birthday):
First, I want to wish you a belated Happy Birthday. I have been an NKOTB fan since the late 80's. I was interested in writing to you now after reading all of your positive tweets.
As an author, speaker, trainer, and entrepreneur, I understand what it means to work hard and strive toward my dreams. In today's world, it's common for many people to avoid hard work and focus on having an easy, cushy lifestyle. You've proven to me that “rising and grinding” is a way of life.
Please accept my book as a gift to you. You are the type of person that I am writing about. Someone who is passionate about his work and even sees adversity as a blessing. Someone who knows that the Universe has something in store for him and shares his gifts with the world. Someone who has fun with life and encourages others to do the same. It's no wonder that you had such an outpouring of gifts and good wishes for you on your birthday.
Thanks again for all that you do. I wish you the best in all of your personal and professional endeavors. I will definitely continue to follow you on Twitter as it brings a smile to my face everyday!
In April 2011, I was watching an episode of "Undercover Boss" where the CEO of Baja Fresh, David Kim, went undercover to work alongside his employees. I really enjoyed watching how the experience of going undercover transformed the way Mr. Kim interacted with his employees and his family.
Here's the letter that I enclosed with my autographed book:
I enjoyed watching your episode of “Undercover Boss” yesterday. It is by far one of my favorite shows on television today. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy seeing the story behind the leadership of well-known companies.
I was especially touched by what you said about success. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget about what is really important – relationships with parents, your family, and your overall experiences in life. Whenever I find myself focusing on material things, I take a step back to think about what is really important.
Since you are a religious and spiritual person, I wanted to give you this gift of my book, Driving to Success: Let Your Spirit Take the Wheel. You embody a lot of the principles that I discuss. You demonstrated how you recognize the Spirit of the people that work for Baja Fresh®. You understand that many of them have dreams and want to go further in their lives. I also liked the way that you asked about their personal lives and realized how much of an effect that can have on how they perform professionally. The gifts that you gave to your employees were invaluable. I'm sure that you made an impression on them that they will never forget.
Thank you for being a good example of the moral and caring CEOs in this world. I wish you continued success in your personal and professional life.
Since my business is focused on Web design and development, I have seen a barrage of posts about the recent GoDaddy CEO elephant hunting video. For those that don't know, GoDaddy is well-known for their risque commercials to help promote, of all things, Web site hosting. They are also a VERY popular provider of many services related to the Web.
I have to admit that I do see both sides of the story. He was participating in the hunt as a part of a normal ritual to get rid of problem elephants and provide food for others. However, the video was quite graphic and involved hunting an endangered animal that many of us don't think of as a choice for providing sustenance. I'm not here to judge either side's motives.
Instead, I wanted to focus on the underlying message. PETA is encouraging people to move their Web sites away from GoDaddy. And Change.org has a petition that has been signed by over 3,500 people at the time of this blog post. There are many companies offering discounts and specials to GoDaddy customers that want to move their accounts. (Full disclosure: My company also jumped on the bandwagon with an offer to donate some of our hosting fees to PETA.)
I found these "urgings to move" to be interesting for several reasons:
- CEOs that are well-known (almost celebrities) will be under more scrutiny when it comes to their personal lives.
- Things that business owners do that are unrelated to their business have an effect on what their customers think of their business.
- Even though we may not word it this way, we do care about the Spirit of the company and that of the person who is running it.
Bottom line, as business owners we all have to be on our p's and q's. The Internet makes it easy for people to watch your every move. My Spirit Driving Institute blog provides an outlet for me to voice my opinions on issues like this. I know how important it is to act with integrity because I never know who is watching. The same is true for my primary business.
What do you think? How much does a CEO's personal actions weigh on your opinion of the company?