I coached a client last week who was stuck. She'd recently been notified that her job was being dissolved and she was struggling to figure out her next step.
In the course of talking with her, she made two common statements that, if she's not careful, will completely undermine her career decision-making process:
1. "My mentor thinks I should go into X job and I just wonder if I should do that because that's the path I've been on?"
2. "I just don't think I want to live in that state because my family is all there and I don't know that I can handle the relational dynamics."
What's the danger?
1. This first statement uses a simple, yet ugly little word -- "should." When we make decisions based on "shoulds," we are making decisions based on extrinsic factors -- peer pressure, parental expectations, money, or some other element. The danger of extrinsic motivators is that they will always disappoint in the long term. If you get a job because your mentor thinks you should, they will go on with their life and you'll wake up stuck in a job you hate. "Should" begs the question "according to whom?" In other words, what or who is the standard you are trying to live up to, not disappoint, or satisfy?
2. This second statement is an example of foreclosing an entire geographic location, industry, or career path because of an isolated experience. "I once had a bad experience with a friend in Seattle so I really don't want to live in Washington." Or, "I get that I'm a good listener but I don't want to be a counselor because I don't want to listen to people's problems all day." As if there is only one kind of counselor, and it's the kind that listens to problems all day. Not all counselors deal with drama, not all lawyers do try cases, not all bankers are on Wall Street, and not all teachers work with kindergartners. When you foreclose an entire field because of a bad experience, you miss out on potentially congruent options that would otherwise provide immense satisfaction.
So do these factors not matter at all?
As I told this client, let those be factors, but not drivers in the decision-making process.
Consider them, but don't put them in position 1, 2, or 3.
What should be in the first positions when making a career decision? In my opinion:
1. Talents. Will I get to do what I do best every day and get paid to do it? If so, you could take a job in Antarctica and learn to love it, because you are getting paid money to do what you do best!
2. Values. Does the organization share my core beliefs? Does the manager as well? If so, you will avoid values conflict, which is at the root of most discontent in career.
3. Environment. Do I like the culture? The location? And is it in a place I want to live? If yes, then don't hesitate to take the job.
Then and only then should you look at salary, geography, proximity to your ex, or any other factor. Again, these things matter, but not in the first position (or second or third).
...gets you into the circus, but doesn't guarantee you a seat."
I love this statement from a client I recently coached. His career path was all over the map, quite literally. He lived in 5 states, worked all kinds of jobs from a winery to a chemical company, and still felt totally lost.
We talked about his degree, and why he had originally picked the major he chose. As is common, it was somewhat arbitrary, based on a gut feel and his parent's influence.
He was feeling a bit of remorse that he didn't end up in a career path that aligned with his studies, but his statement above is the key: your degree simply adds credibility, and sometimes nothing more.
And guess what? That's ok.
Ideally, your college major would prepare you for a long and happy life as a X in X industry. Then again, most of us are choosing our majors when we have no clue what to choose or how to even go about making that decision.
If you're like my client, or like a friend I coached years ago who got his MBA "for nothing," fear not -- the degree is valuable in that it gets you into the door.
What matters once you're "in the circus?" Your talents. Talents that will take you from here to there.
People hire people who are specialists -- highly-skilled in specific areas. If you want to guarantee yourself a good seat, get clear about what you do best and do more of that.
Where should you start to figure this out? Finish these statements, then look for the common themes about what you do best:
Recently my wife and I came to grips with the fact that neither of us has an eye for interior design. Our house is a random mishmash of patterns, designs, fabrics, and styles.
So we got a recommendation from a friend for a local interior designer.
Our process for vetting the designer was telling. First, my wife logged onto Facebook and looked her up. "She looks cute," she said, "and she's got style."
"Oh! That's good!" I said, hovering over her shoulder.
Next, we logged onto her website and looked through her portfolio, which had four samples.
"Seems legit," I said.
"Yeah, I like her designs," my wife said.
Finally, we looked at her "About" section on her website, where she proclaimed herself "a well-rounded student of Art History and Interior Design." (Note: she proclaimed herself.)
"Great! Let's give her a call and set up an appointment to learn more!" I said.
Now, this may say more about us and our superficial vetting process than it does about her, but I don't think so. In reality, I don't actually care if she's got the degree, a long track record, or a beefy portfolio.
I care that she came recommended from a friend, she's done it before, and she doesn't look or seem crazy.
Think about it: when you hired a mechanic, did you ask for their degree? Track record? Probably not. You probably looked at their testimonials.
How about your dentist? Did you ask how many patients they've served in the past 5 years? Did you ask to see before and after shots of past work? Probably not.
Legitimacy is an interesting thing. It's actually relatively easy to establish. Serve a customer, get a testimonial, show a passion for what you do, and publicize that passion. Don't be crazy, serve people to the best of your ability, and offer an outstanding product at a great price.
You don't have to have a degree, a long track record, and a published book to be credible.
See, credibility is more about you than it is about us.
We -- the people you serve -- don't need it as much as you think we do.
Credibility is the reason people will pursue additional degrees, certifications, etc. Every MBA I've ever coached is really getting their MBA for credibility, not for the interesting content.
Interestingly, we pursue these things more to convince OURSELVES that we're legit than to convince others...as usual, we are our own worst enemies...
To be clear, I'm not antagonistic against furthering your education or getting certified, but I think it's more for you than for us. That's ok. Do whatever you need to in order to feel legit, but don't delay offering what you have to the world until you feel legit.
Paradoxically, legitimacy comes from offering what you have to the world in spite of feeling like you lack credibility. Your offering makes you credible, not your dossier.
Two years ago my close friend came to me to figure out his career path.
“What do you really want to do?” I asked.
“I want to be the trusted advisor that helps people make good financial decisions,” he said.
We brainstormed some ways to do that, including networking with people, launching a few projects, and building a client base.
Over the past two years I’ve watched him chip away at this plan from different angles…a lunch meeting here, a project pitch there. Nothing seemed to be gaining traction.
Then, last week he told me that he was gaining significant traction and things were about ready to take off. I was thrilled for him, and he was ecstatic that it was happening.
During a pause in the conversation, I asked him what had changed. “What shifted to make this happen? What did you do to go from ‘stuck’ to ‘all in’ and making it happen?”
I fully expected him to say something like “it just took the right deal coming along” or “it’s all about patience” but he caught me off guard.
“It was a fear thing,” he said.
“Fear? Fear of what?!” I asked.
He said he had to overcome this internal resistance — this fear — that he lacked credibility, that no one would listen because he didn’t have a long track record, and that he wasn’t a legitimate contender in his space.
"Really? That’s what was holding you back?” I asked.
“Yep. Do I really know enough? Am I going to lose people’s money? Do I belong?"
He’s an interesting case study because his experience is like almost every other entrepreneur I coach. When you launch out on your own, your knowledge, skills, and content don’t seem all that unique. Sometimes this is because you developed your expertise alongside many others who have the same or better knowledge, skills, or content. But when you take what you know and do well to the people, you eventually learn the old maxim is true, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” When you were among other one-eyed men, you weren’t so unique. But what you have to offer the blind is what makes all the difference.
So how do you break through this type of fear, this credibility trap?
In talking with my friend, the secret was small wins. Small victories that built his confidence and helped him feel like he belonged. I can relate. When I started Proof, a small contract here and a gig there gave me hope that this business could work out. I did anything I could to legitimize myself as a contender. Even publishing RESET was a way to show that I belonged, to build credibility, and to build my brand.
If you feel stuck or find yourself asking “who am I to do this?” then find a way to build your momentum and confidence through a series of small wins — a conversation here, a project there. Do anything you can to establish a track record and catalyze opportunity.
And remember: you don’t have to know it all. You simply need to know more than the audience you aim to serve.
In fact, the ones who make it seem to take upon themselves a mantle of credibility that is mostly self-created.
I got an email this week from my friend, John, who is in the midst of a career RESET. He forwarded along a picture his dad had sent him that shows a Venn diagram based on a Japanese concept I had never heard of call "Ikigai." I don't know who created the chart, although there's a small citation in the bottom corner. I've discussed something similar in the past, but this chart adds a new dimension:
So how did I use it just now? As a reflection tool. Take anything you spend your time doing. For me, I used "leadership curriculum development" as my first "filter." My answers are in bold. Now ask yourself the following questions:
Sure enough, developing leadership curriculum is a comfortable activity that can leave me with a feeling of emptiness. I'm ok with that, because it financially fuels other ventures that are much more Ikigai.
Another way I used the chart was to take something I spend time doing and figure out which of the five "feelings" it leaves me with. For this one, I took "career/life coaching."
Give it a go. Pick something you do, anything you spend time on, and use it as your filter. After figuring out which circle it belongs in, ask yourself the following:
Finally, if you need help identifying your Ikigai, hit me up! It's my Ikigai.
Recently I was interviewing candidates on behalf of a client and I ended each interview with this question:
"If you had to state your life purpose in 7 words or less, what would it be?”
Candidates were overwhelmed. They hemmed and hawed and stalled for time. I would then bail them out, admit that it was a difficult question and encourage them to just take their best stab at it. Don’t overthink it — just state it.
Thing is, they nailed it every time.
That last one broke the 7-word rule, but it’s powerful regardless.
They spoke from their heart, and there was almost no redundancy. Each person had a unique purpose. More importantly, their purpose is what motivated them to apply.
These purpose statements hold power and one thing I’ve learned in helping clients define their core purpose is that it pulls them. Purpose pulls you through difficulty, doubt, and rejection. It makes you more resilient, confident, and motivated. When you don’t know what to do, work toward your purpose.
So what is purpose?
Purpose is simply your intention to contribute, your desire to add value to the world. It’s the “why” for your existence and the motivating force that moves you forward.
Purpose (or lack thereof) is the reason you sometimes feel flat. When you are misaligned with your purpose or are ignoring it altogether, you feel disconnected. It’s also the force that keeps you moving when you feel fear.
How do you find your purpose?
Chances are you probably already know it. A few things that it is, and one thing that it’s not:
What’s YOUR purpose?
(Hint: it’s unique, but not unique only to you. For example, I exist to maximize human potential. I’m sure others do as well, but no one does it in the way I do it. And I don’t do what they do. It will take many people making inputs into that purpose to bring it to fruition. That’s ok!)
I have a client who is good at math. Always has been. As far back as she can remember she’s done well in math classes. But she was puzzled when I asked her, “Yeah, but do you enjoy it?”
She thought about it for a moment, then asked, “Do people always enjoy what they’re good at?”
No, people don’t always enjoy what they’re good at. You could excel at writing, speaking, organizing, calculating, analyzing, or any other skill but dread it, loathe doing it, and feel exhausted once it’s complete.
This is one of the great traps of career — people get hired, paid, and even promoted for being great at something they don’t enjoy. They feel that just because they have aptitude in something they should pursue it and make it 80% of what they do.
I’m not interested in spending my days getting paid to do something that drains me.
What I’m looking for when I coach clients is talent, which is defined as something that makes you feel strong. I’m seeking those innate abilities that release energy, motivate you, make you feel fluid and powerful, and keep you coming back time and again. I’m interested in those natural aptitudes that you do better than most other people and that set you apart from the general populous.
Talents are the foundation of a satisfying career.
Can you spend all of your time in your talent? No. Every job has aspects you will love and loathe. But the goal should be to spend the majority of your time — if not 80% of it — living in your strength.
Do people always enjoy what they’re good at? No. But all people are hard-wired with things they’re good at that they also enjoy, and those things are the key to getting paid and loving what you do.
If you subscribe to the blog, you’ve noticed a famine in the land of career posts over the past four weeks.
I took a break.
Breaks are an interesting way to test a passion. If you take a break from thinking about or working on your passion for two weeks or more, but find that you actually can’t stop thinking about it or wanting to work on it then it must be a true passion. True passions never go away. Our drive for them may ebb and flow, but they never depart. It’s like they are woven into our being, constantly wanting attention and find their way to the forefront of our minds.
If you’re not sure if you are really passionate, take a break from it. Did it go away? If not, it’s a true passion.
This also means you’ve got to do something about it.
If, on the other hand, you take a break from it for some time and either a) never pick it back up or b) feel relieved to not be working on it, it’s likely not a passion. It may be a hobby, interest or — worse yet — an obligation or something you feel duty-driven to do.
There’s a place for those things in our lives, but they shouldn’t be the core of our work. I’m not passionate about running or swimming or exercising, but I know it helps me. I’m not passionate about reading, but it’s beneficial to my growth.
I am, however, passionate about helping people figure out what to do with their lives and go do it. I’m constantly thinking about the system to figure it out and I’m hyperaware of extrinsic forces that pull people away from their intrinsic motives. I listen for it conversations, subscribe to podcasts that teach it, and think about it a lot.
Not sure if you’ve found a passion?
Take a break from it and see what happens.
A few weeks back I was preparing for a team retreat I was leading when I came across a power question that caused me to stop and think:
If you had your work life to live over, at what point would you have chosen a different path that would have led you to more success and happiness?
Has that point come for you? Are you at it now? What's stopping you from pursuing more success and happiness today?
…anymore than the key to getting out of debt is to sell your house and everything you own to pay off credit cards.
You’d never do the latter, so don’t leap right to the former when things feel rough at work.
First, figure out why you're stuck.
I had a client call me in a flurry this past week.
“I feel stuck,” she said.
I understand. I’ve been there. I started to poke and prod, trying to identify the core issue.
"What caused the stuckness?” I asked.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m calling you.”
"When did you start feeling it?” I asked.
“It’s always been there, I think.”
"Ok, let’s try this: what things have you enjoyed doing in the past few weeks and which ones have drained your energy?” I asked.
“I don’t know how to answer that. I go back and forth constantly.”
"Hmm. Ok. Let’s go deeper. Are you in the right arena? (see here.)" I asked.
“I’m not sure. Sometimes I see big problems I want to solve that have nothing to do with my industry, like making a more well-designed women’s high heel.”
At this point, I was feeling stuck. She was stuck and so was I. Then it dawned on me.
"Have you looked at your Profile of Self?” I asked.
“What’s that?” she replied.
I reminded her that the Profile is a one-page document, a snapshot of who she is when she’s at her best. It’s her North Star. And if she’s feeling incongruent, it’s likely because she’s drifted from her best self. Role creep is a real thing, meaning we inch away from what we were hired to do and toward something totally different.
I sent her the Profile we created for her during a moment of clarity more than a year ago and she responded back, “That’s exactly what I needed. Thank you.”
The Profile is the key. When you're feeling stuck, get clear about why by reviewing your Profile of Self and identifying whether it's a values, talents, or environments thing, then address the core issue.
If it's values, you're not likely to shift the values of your manager or organization and it may be time to start searching.
If it's talents, figure out what you like to do and do more of it. Also, figure out where you feel blocked and address it.
If it's environments, what's out of whack and how can you change it? By the way, environments are the easiest to change or alter. If you like dynamic work, get out of the office more. If you need more light, sit by a window. If you love to collaborate, find a thought partner.
Don't jump right to "I quit" when things feel flat. Analyze why, diagnose the core issue, then make the change!
A few weeks back I attended a Sunday School class where the teacher cited a YouTube video he’d seen of an interview with a billionaire. He didn’t say who it was, but the name was less important than the principle he taught.
The interviewer asked the billionaire a question like “what makes you different? Why are you a billionaire when others aren’t?”
The billionaire replied simply, “One thing all billionaires have in common is that when they hear an idea they act.”
For most of us, when we have an idea or hear about an opportunity we reflect, deliberate, consult our friends and family, make a list of pros and cons, reflect some more, address our fears and anxieties, wonder if it will work, and maybe eventually act. Although more often than not we don’t act.
The key to generating more momentum and experiencing more success in your work and your life is to reduce the space between hearing and acting, or between having an idea and doing something about it.
Now, with this newfound “bias for action” you may also experience more failure and disappointment. Things might not work out. You may give it a go and try your best only to have it fall flat, blow up in your face, or never gain traction.
But there is great comfort and a sense of closure in having tried and failed, rather than having never tried at all.
So what ideas do you have? What recurring thoughts have inspired you to try something new, do something different, or create something from nothing?
And what are you waiting for?
Actually, don’t answer that...
Just go and do.
The first step to narrowing down the millions of careers you could pursue is to pick the right arena.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve had three career coaching clients come to me feeling stuck. I’ve used the following admittedly rudimentary and incomplete analogy to help them sort it through.
Think of career options as two arenas across the street from one another — the human-oriented arena and the thing-oriented arena. These arenas are huge. Massive. And they can seat millions of people.
The Human-Oriented Arena
Each arena is focused on something different. You walk into one arena and it’s all human-oriented fields — think social work, counseling, training, coaching, teaching, customer service, etc. Inside that arena there are floor seats, mid-level seats, and box seats. Those on the floor are doing direct-impact, human work. Think counseling a client. Higher up are those who do both theoretical and applied work. These are social scientists who also get their hands dirty by interacting with and helping people directly. In the box seats are the theoretical minds who study and research to mine out the knowledge the people on the floor use to help humans.
The Thing-Oriented Arena
Walk across the street and that arena is full of technical experts, such as accountants, engineers, architects, designers — people who have been trained in a specific technical craft. These are people who are influencing systems and arranging “things” to make them more efficient. They create stuff, design things, and build objects. They explore why things work the way they do and the constructs behind them. These might also include supply-chain people, consultants, biologists, pathologists, mathematicians, and investment bankers. Once again, on the floor are those who work directly with the things. They create systems and organize them. They do graphic design, build buildings, and put blood samples on slides and look at them through microscopes. Higher up are those who create the theories that help the people on the floor do their work. They study, theorize, and identify the why, what, and how behind the systems.
Which one is more interesting to you? Which arena lights your fire? Are you more people-directed or object-directed?
Now, in fairness, all of these industries affect people. I get it. But in reality, some are more direct impact. Like, a teacher’s job is humans. An architects job is buildings that humans use. One is people-facing, the other is thing-facing with a net benefit for people.
Walk in the arena that interests you more.
Now look at the seats. Are you more driven to be in on the action? On the floor? Do you want to get in there and sweat and get your hands dirty alongside the subject of your work? No judgment here, by the way. Or are you more interested in a seat higher up where you have a larger, meta view. You can see the patterns, name them, debate them, and write about them?
Pick a seat. Try it out. Then, if you want to change seats, change seats! The best part about this arena is that you can move around and sit anywhere you want. You’re not confined to the seat you initially chose. That said, some seats might require more or different training than others. But you decide where you want to sit.
Not sure where to start? Just pick a seat. Try it out. If you’ve got a more theoretical mind or a knack for pattern-recognition, you’ll know it fairly quickly. If you’d rather be on the ground creating, you’ll know it.
All this said, the key here is to pick the right arena from the outset.
Too many people pick the wrong arena from the outset, then spend their career changing seats looking for something that doesn’t exist. These are the accountant who would rather teach or the customer service rep who loves biology. They walked into the wrong arena altogether.
If you’re in the wrong arena, is there hope? Of course. Always. That’s why I wrote RESET.
But if you choose the right arena from the beginning, you’ll save yourself the hassle of leaving the arena, finding a new parking spot across the street, buying a ticket and finding your seat.
Choose your arena.
I was talking with my Dad this past weekend about entrepreneurship and what it takes to build a business. He said the great appeal of any business is to be great at two of the following three attributes:
The general thinking is that you can’t do all three. That said, he has sustained his graphic design business doing all three – providing high quality design, always meeting or beating deadlines, and at a competitive price. He may not come in cheapest, but he’ll always be competitive.
I tend to strive for the same – providing high quality leadership training and career coaching on deadline and at a competitive -- if not under -- market price.
What's your focus? Do you know? Get clear about it yourself. then put it front and center. Let your customers know the value you bring.
What would you be doing if there was no such thing as fear?
I posed that question to my friend recently, then turned it on myself.
The answer was scary.
Not because I would be doing something horrible, but because the gap between what I’m doing and what I would be doing was still there. And it was larger than I’m comfortable to admit.
Why is that? Why does a gap exist for most people between what they do for work and what they’d like to be doing, or wish they could do, or would be doing if money were no object?
Some of the more skeptical people I know would say, “Because what we would like to be doing isn’t realistic!”
That’s small thinking. I don’t buy it. I think that’s the easy way out. And I’ve debunked that myth in RESET already so I’m not going to spend my time addressing it here.
Rather, I think the answer is self-sabotage.
It’s easier to say “it won’t work” or “the numbers don’t add up” or “how would I even do it” than it is to be vulnerable, raise your hand, and say, “I can do that.”
It’s easier to get all logical about it and question it to death, then go back to working that mediocre job.
I’m an expert in self-sabotage, by the way.
For 7 years I didn’t publish RESET because “who would read it?” or “what if it’s not that good?” or “who would publish it?
Then I published it. And sold 1,200 copies in the first year. And coached more than 200 people as a result. And brought in an income to support my work. And built influence in the area.
When I tell that story, people look confused and say, “So why didn’t you publish it 7 years ago?!” Because 7 years ago there was no certainty. In fact, the day I published it there was no certainty. Isn’t that what stops all of us? No guarantee that it will work?
The better question is “what aren’t YOU doing that you could be doing?”
And what’s stopping you?
Call it what you will, the answer is probably fear, which is a hallmark of self-sabotage.
Trust me, I know. I’m in the same boat.
The way out? Don’t think so much. Just take action. Then iterate. Then act. Then iterate. Then act.
Just. Do. The. Thing.
Yes, but not if you show up every day and execute a job description.
There is no inherent satisfaction in doing the bullet points of your job. Satisfaction is derived from bringing your best self to the bullet points and doing them in your unique way.
For example, I have a good friend who is a dentist. His job description may read like this:
He doesn't inherently love cleaning teeth or doing a root canal. But he does love this:
He would tell you that he didn't love dentistry, but he's grown to love being a dentist. How?
He applied his uniqueness to the job at hand.
He connects with his patients, teaches his hygienists, motivates and inspires his team, and gives advice and counsel as asked. He prepares himself to do so everyday by meditating, studying, and serving people. And this method has sustained him in a career he doesn't inherently love for more than 20 years.
So, before you leap from your current job in search of more fulfillment, check yourself against these questions:
Note that my dentist friend didn't change the nature of the work to find satisfaction. Cleaning teeth still happened. Root canals still occurred.
And neither should you.
You shouldn't have to stop lesson planning or filing people's taxes or creating law briefs or conducting geological surveys to love your work. But you may need to start bringing more of yourself to your work. And that requires self awareness. So get clear about this:
…is every person you meet.
I can trace virtually all of the 150+ people I’ve coached in the past year and 45+ clients back to approximately 10 people.
Like the Kevin Bacon game, the degrees of separation are small between the clients who have supported my business and allowed me to continue to grow and a core group of friends and past colleagues. These were early followers, believers, supporters, and advocates.
Here’s the catch: I didn’t build a relationship with any of the "core ten" expecting to tap that relationship for future opportunity.
I built a relationship with them because I cared, I liked them and I wanted to add whatever value I could.
Years later, when I launched Proof Leadership, I turned to this core group for feedback, ideas, and support. I didn’t even ask for business. And yet, they gave me business, referred me, and fueled my growth.
I shudder to think where my business would be today had I shunned those opportunities to build relationships or said to myself “what’s the point of meeting up — there’s no immediate payoff.” What if I had stayed in my office, kept those relationships superficial, or not explored them at all?
Over the past two days, I’ve had several meetings that have no direct connection to future earnings. At least that I can see. But I know better now…every interaction is an opportunity for connection and trust. And when you add value to other peoples’ lives with no expectation of return, the law of reciprocity kicks in and balance is restored in the universe.
A simple contact today could mean a huge opportunity in the future.
Who have you had a meaningful connection with this week? What value have you added?
About a year ago I went to Chick-fil-A with my family for an early dinner and ordered the usual — spicy chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and drink. The order came and we dove into our food. As I opened my sandwich to layer on some of that delicious and unnaturally-colored yellow sauce my worst nightmare came true — a hair on the bun.
There is literally nothing worse than hair in your food, in spite of the fact that statistically speaking we probably unknowingly devour a whole bushel of hair every year in the food that we eat.
The Chick-fil-A sauce lady walked by handing out sauces and I pointed out the hair. She was very apologetic and offered a new sandwich, but at that point I couldn’t bear the thought. I declined and she offered a refund instead, which I agreed to. Three minutes later she returned with the cash for my meal and handed it to me and my nightmare continued — a hair stuck to dollar bill she handed me.
I kid you not.
I pointed out the hair and asked if she could refund the refund. At that point, it didn’t matter and we both laughed it off. After all, I had no intention of eating the dollar.
Here’s the real kicker. I kept going to Chick-fil-A.
In fact, just recently I had a Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken sandwich for lunch, which was delicious as usual. In spite of the hair incident, I didn’t forsake Chick-fil-A once and for all.
Customer service. When customer service is on point, it covers a multitude of mistakes. I’m more likely to be forgiving to an organization that tries hard. And the same is true for your business.
As a counter point, about six months ago I started exercising again. Horrible idea, I know. My wife motivated me to do it. We joined the Crossfit craze and my body had been in a constant state of soreness ever since.
As a gift of relief, my wife did something for me that I would never do for myself — she lined up a therapeutic massage appointment for me. I’m not a real fan of strangers putting their hands on me, so I don’t often do this. She told me all I had to do was show up at 4pm and it was all set up.
I left a little early and arrived 15 minutes before my appointment. I walked up to the front desk to check in and the lady behind the desk instantly seemed frazzled.
“I’m here for the 4pm with so-and-so,” I said.
She looked at me blankly, stared down at her scheduled, then swore under her breath. She started to panic and talk to herself and say things like “oh no, not again” and “he’s going to be ticked (her boss).” She said apologetically that she’d “screwed up again” and double-booked the masseuse at 4pm and stared at me with that “bail me out” look so I said, “no problem…I can come back another time.”
"Great. Thanks." she said. And that was it.
Was it a problem? Yes.
Did I want to come back another time? No.
And I haven’t.
And, as I left that day, my only perception of that business was “disorganized, untrained, and unprofessional.”
Perhaps it was a one-off event, and the likelihood of that business truly being the embodiment of “disorganized” is likely slim, but perception is reality.
Let me say that again:
Perception is Reality.
What does that mean? It means that one person’s perception of your company is their reality, regardless what you think you are.
This also means that the more touchpoints someone has had with your company — in the form of different people they’ve worked with in your company or different locations — the more realistic their reality may be.
Your company is the sum total of your customer’s touchpoints.
This also means that each employee — each team member — IS the company. They may be the only touchpoint a customer ever has with your organization.
What message are they sending?
In 10 years of career coaching, I’ve learned one simple truth that can change your whole world: it’s not your job, or your company, or your boss — it’s you.
You control your happiness.
Now before you close this down disgusted, hear me out.
I talked the other day about job descriptions being static and humans being dynamic and that the greatest thing you can do is to be dynamic in a static job. Let me add to that:
Satisfaction at work comes from congruence and the resulting energy — when you do what you do best you feel energy from doing it and, thus, satisfied. Congruence comes from authenticity — or being more of who you are and less of who you aren’t — and authenticity comes from self-knowledge. And who controls self-knowledge? You.
“But my job doesn’t align with my strengths!” Of course it doesn’t — it wasn’t written for your strengths. It was written for a nameless, faceless, generic individual and you chose the job. It’s now on you to bring yourself to it and make it great.
“But my boss doesn’t get me and micromanages.” Nine times out of 10 your boss doesn’t get you because you don’t even get you. You don’t know you well enough to help them see you in a different way. They micromanage because either 1) they don’t know what you do well and what you don’t and, therefore, how to manage you, 2) they don’t know themselves as a leader and so they lean on industrial-era management or techniques learned from a TV show, or 3) they don’t see you doing your job (which you aren’t doing because you don’t enjoy it because you aren’t bringing your whole self to it) and so they don’t know what else to do. Or all three.
You have the power to change it. And the key is:
1) get clear about who you are and what you do best
2) get clear about the outcomes or expectations in your job, and…
3) figure out how to get those outcomes by doing what you do best.
Number 3 is the tough part, but you can do it. Trust me. It takes some creativity, human ingenuity, reflection, and effort but if you really want to figure out how to do more of what you love in a finite structure you can do it.
Oh, but one word of caution: As with most things that matter, the payoff is gradual over time. You might feel an immediate reward in the form of a boost of energy but “they” might not see it and reward you immediately. See, change is tough. Even good change. So be patient, do what you do, and if it doesn’t improve then get out and try something new.
Twice in the past two weeks I’ve had clients ask me how to make a decision about their next step.
"How do I make sure I’m making the right choice?”
In both instances, each client identified the pros of the positions -- the salary, benefits, people, culture, location, etc. I call these “extrinsic” factors, meaning factors outside of yourself.
The trick with extrinsic factors is that they cease to provide satisfaction the moment they are fulfilled; meaning that if you choose a job because you want to make six figures then the moment you make six figures it ceases to be motivating.
Extrinsic factors are important, but should never be in the first position.
On the other hand, intrinsic factors have a slow burn rate. Choosing something based on internal alignment generates energy and satisfaction.
Based on this, let me share the clearest question I’ve found for making a decision about your next career move:
Does that move get you closer to, or further from, your authentic self?
In other words, by taking that role, do you move from a “70% me” job to an “80% me” job?
If you’ll be less authentic more of the time, don’t take it.
In both instances, the clients I was working with said, "No, I will not become more authentic."
I coached a friend yesterday who initially came to me because he couldn’t take another day of being a dentist and wanted to be a park ranger instead.
We took a few weeks to work through his Profile of Self, analyze career options that might fit, and do some informational interviews with folks in the fields he was interested in.
He came to me yesterday a new man.
He was bright, happy, and energized. He’d discovered through his process that he wanted to be a professor of dentistry. He didn’t enjoy fixing molars and extracting teeth but he does love to teach, mentor, coach, empathize and help people work through the struggles of being a dentist as they learn the craft.
The most interesting statement he made was this:
“This had crossed my mind for the past five years that maybe I’d do better teaching.”
"Why didn’t you ever pursue it then?!” I asked (already knowing the answer, because I’d had the same thought about publishing RESET for 7 years).
“The bitterness of dentistry,” he said.
He was so de-energized and dissatisfied with his experience as a dentist that he had shut down the whole industry. He couldn’t even see clearly the auxiliary options that existed in dentistry.
And yet, the answer was right in front of him all along.
Industries are more dynamic than we sometimes recognize, meaning that Accounting is about more than numbers, Law isn’t just standing in a courtroom, and Psychology doesn’t entail only ink blots, couches and therapists.
Every business needs a salesperson, a marketer, a finance person, someone focused on technology, and leader or manager, etc.
Don’t foreclose an option because of one bad experience.
Fight the instinct to generalize your experience across an entire industry.
Look to the branches of the tree for your next RESET before jumping to a whole new tree.
I work with people all the time to RESET their careers, and what I’ve found is those people fall somewhere along the continuum above. Take a look at the descriptions and plot yourself along the line. The further to the right, the more likely your efforts will result in actual change. Stuck on the left? Keep reading books and articles, talking with your friends, and gearing up for the day when you’re really ready to RESET.
Where are you?
NOTE: The most common factor separating the first four types from the All-In Resetter is fear. At some level, fear works in the life of the first four types, causing a lack of action.
Lots of intent, no real impact.
It’s not that the All-In Resetter doesn’t experience fear, it’s that they’ve chosen to acknowledge it, punch fear in the gut, and move anyway.
The only antidote for fear is action.
I learned from my buddy who was in the Air Force that if you throw up in the jet while flying, you’re sent to the “office chair.”
The office chair is quite literally a rolling office chair with a metal bar around it. It’s the Air Force remedy for overcoming motion sickness and nausea when flying. You sit in the chair, arms resting on the metal bar, and a fellow pilot spins you around as fast as they can until you vomit.
Then you do it again.
If, after that, you still have problems in flight, they put you back in the office chair and you spin around until you vomit.
Turns out the remedy for motion sickness is motion.
Guess what the remedy for figuring out your career is?
That’s right, motion. As in, action.
Some folks who I coach do one or maybe two informational interviews and say, “I did it. Why don’t I have a job yet?”
To which my new answer is, “Because you didn’t spin in the chair until you vomited.” Get back in the chair and spin. Over and over and over again until you create enough momentum for the universe to reward your efforts with an opportunity.
Have you created your Profile of Self? Congrats. You’ve done the Inner Work. Now do the Outer Work — get out there and spin!
The only remedy is motion.
Last week, I launched a webinar and had my friend, Tom, on to talk through his RESET. A question came up during the session: “How much time per week did you spend working on your RESET?”
Twenty hours per week.
That’s pretty significant, especially if you have a full-time job as well. In fact, I think that shocked some folks.
And yet, that’s what it takes. That’s the price tag for loving what you do and getting paid to do it.
What else might it cost? Below is another example to demonstrate:
I was talking with my Mom over Thanksgiving about her RESET. At 44, she finished her bachelor’s at a local community college and wasn’t sure in which direction to head so she did what many of us have done: she took a career test. It pointed her in three directions: education, library services or social work.
Not knowing what social work was all about, she started to pay the price:
In the process, she discovered she didn't enjoy “fixing” people. Instead, she’s all about transition, as in helping people transition from one situation to another. She also realized she needed something aligned with her spiritual beliefs. And she's a good listener. So she landed in hospice work, helping people who are at the end of their life transition and helping their families in the process.
In other words, her RESET took proactivity, lots of strategic use of her free time, research, action, and reflection.
This is what it takes! There is no way around it. You have to pay the price. The price is the awkwardness of informational interviews. Or using your free time in a different way. Or having to do stuff even when you’re tired, and do it for free.
Doing what you love and getting paid to do it long-term.
Take action. Do something. Make progress. Don't wait for a perfect opportunity or ideal product. Just take action and see what happens and how you feel as you start moving.
Whether you're launching a business or resetting your career, the key is to keep moving forward. I've worked with folks who want to fine-tune a product to death or overanalyze a career move but the answer is really fairly simple. Make a choice, take a step, and see what happens.
To this end, I've felt stuck for some time on some survey data I got from readers almost a year ago.
They said this:
Not knowing what to do, I did nothing. Then, three weeks ago, I decided to put something together. It's not perfect or polished, but it's something. I'm giving it everything I've got and hoping it adds value.
This Wednesday, November 30 at 8pm CST I'll be convening a one-hour webinar to talk through the RESET process. Free. For as many people as want to join. We're calling it "New Year, New Career." Sign up is below.
More than anything, though, I hope you take away from this post this truth:
Nothing happens unless you move. So take action and move.
I have a friend who started his first job out of college three months ago and I can tell it’s sucking his soul.
I saw him recently and he had that look: tired, de-energized, disengaged…generally unenthused about work.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily.
Soul-sucking jobs play an important role — they motivate us. In fact, I think everyone should have at least one for a short time.
My advice to him — and you — would be the same…stick it out long enough to feel the burning desire to do something else, then make the leap.
Until you feel that desire, you’ll leap half-heartedly and be at risk to bail when the leaping gets tough.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
I post here once a week on Tuesdays, every week, at 4:59am. You can also sign up below to have these posts magically air-dropped straight to your inbox.