Dream, drudgery or destiny?
A young man dreamed of becoming a basketball player. He went for the varsity team selection, but did not make the final cut. He asked the coach if he could ride with the team just to watch the game. The coach agreed on the condition that he helped to carry jerseys. His parents attended the game too; only to realise that their son was not part of the team. Their disappointment was more than he could bear.
Another young man was born into a poor and unhappy childhood. During birth, an accident with the forceps damaged his facial nerve and left part of his lip, tongue and chin paralysed. His parents were divorced. He did poorly in school and was expelled many times. He looked for relief by fantasising about becoming famous and successful.
Finally, another man—this time not so young—had a strong character and achieved considerable success at his senior-level job. However, he had one weakness—the inability to be submissive to his bosses, and was thus fired when he was fifty years old.
Do you know who they are? The first is Michael Jordan, the second Sylvester Stallone and the third, Lee Iacocca.
Did the three of them get their ideal career? No, not initially.
But they became champions. Some folks get their dreams, some get deals, while others get a great deal more than expected. Could it be chance, choice or commitment?
By design or default
Careers can happen by design or by default, or through a combination of both. Our ambitions, aspirations and fantasies are typically shaped and influenced by our childhood experiences.
Neil Armstrong—the first man to walk on the moon—had a fascination for aeronautics since he was six and got his flying licence at 16.
We all have had our share of aspirations from childhood. For some, these dreams, passions and desires change. For others, it evolves or remains etched in our hearts as an unsettling and unfulfilled desire, be it in politics like Mahatma Gandhi, missionary work like Mother Teresa or civil-rights activism like Martin Luther King Jr.
These desires shape our future choices consciously or subconsciously. For some, like Armstrong, it can be the result of a passionate hobby or obsession, but for others it can be caused by a defining moment at some point in their lives.
Do the job right or do the right job
If you have just started your first job, or are thinking of making a mid-career move, there are a number of strategies that can give you a fulfilling career.
Let’s use a romantic analogy to illustrate this, such as marriage. Before marriage and engagement, there is usually a period of courting. It can be by arrangement or by attraction. Two parties become endearingly acquainted with one another and if suitability and eligibility are non-issues, these mutual feelings will lead to commitment and covenant, and eventually a happy relationship.
The engagement is usually an intense period of excitement, anticipation and discovery. It is a time of possibilities and intense energy, and barriers—if there are any—are quickly broken.
Time and distance—similar to working late with commitment—are no issue. There is freshness and fascination. Now, could this be a picture of employee engagement in the corporate context where work is concerned? Good chemistry between an organisation and the individual can lead to an idyllic union.
In fact, looking for a job has common threads with marriage, in terms of commitment, hope, love, ownership and enjoyment (CHLOE). When the organisation or business provides a job, opportunity for expression fulfils a yearning (JOEY).
When CHLOE meets JOEY, we find the right synergy between employee and employer.
Back to work
We are all looking for the ideal job to contribute and create meaning. Work is an expression of creative energy. When not properly utilised, it can become destructive energy through drama, gossip or politics.
Everything in the world is energy, latent or dynamic. It is no surprise that the word talent and latent share the same letters. When there is compatibility between employer and employee in terms of talent, values, and desire, empowerment is the natural result.
Similarly, employees and organisations that practise common values grow into each other and create what we call a high-performing culture. Sadly, the opposite can also happen—when energy is not properly engaged, the result will be a high-poisoning culture.
Companies pursue synergy, defined as total output being more than the sum of its parts—one plus one is more than two. World-class companies have always pursued synergy while married couples do this naturally, and all of us are the result of this synergistic union.
When an individual finds an organisation that shares similar dreams, values and purpose, an enduring love affair will ensue, possibly blooming into an endearing relationship. Therefore, the ultimate career choice lies in looking for what you can be committed to, in meeting your yearnings and earnings.
Xavier Johnson is the managing consultant of Waterhouse Consult Think, a strategy and organisation development firm that turns resistance into commitment in tandem with developing desirable business models using design thinking. He is a faculty of Leaderonomics. To engage with Xavier for your organisation, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more How To articles, click here.