So says Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind (yes, I know I’m behind, it’s not his most recent).
This resonates with me. Are we substituting the belief that money will make us happy with the belief that meaning, and purpose and mission will do the same?
If you’re a career changer or dissatisfied with your life as it stands, a lot of coaches will take you through a process to ‘discover’ your passion (another of those proxies for purpose). For some, this is a useful and valuable process. For others, and I count myself among them, it can help to clarify values and what we don’t want. Yet the mission part remains elusive.
It’s a very seductive idea but I prefer to let go of the search for the bigger purpose and to accept there may not be one. I like the manageable, the concrete and the practical. What’s my next action? Am I moving in a direction that feels good? It keeps me more solidly grounded in the present.
And I’m going to borrow from the wonderful Daniel Pink and his recent summary of the 6 essential lessons of a satisfying, productive career per Johnny Bunko:
1. There is no plan.
Make decisions for fundamental, not instrumental, reasons.
2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
What do you consistently do well? What gives you energy rather than drains it?
3. It’s not about you.
The most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.
4. Persistence trumps talent.
There are massive returns to doggedness.
5. Make excellent mistakes.
Commit errors from which the benefits of what you’ve learned exceed the costs of the screw-up.
6. Leave an imprint.
Recognize that your life isn’t infinite and that you should use your limited time here to do something that matters.
When I was 11 I went to boarding school and in my first year there I bullied another girl. I was caught and very publicly punished. It’s an experience that has haunted me ever since. I would forget about it for large chunks of time and then be on the tube and suddenly think, “What will I do if I bump into X?”.
Recently I connected with a school friend on Facebook. She is someone I’d liked and got on with while at school. Her parents invited me to their home at weekends and always made me feel very welcome. This was bliss for someone whose parents lived thousands of miles away.
In that idle way you look at FB posts, I noticed one day a post by X on this friend’s page. At least I thought it was X. The surname was different but the face looked awfully familiar. What to do? I didn’t want to open old wounds. I did want to apologise. Was this for me or for her? Was it a selfish act? Was I unburdening my guilt or offering something useful?
Another friend whose daughter had been bullied at school advised me to go ahead. And so I sent a message of apology. I received one back that was wise, fair, considered and most amazing of all, offered forgiveness.
I’m grateful to social media for enabling this process. Say what you like about Facebook, this electronic exchange brought closure to a wound that was 39 years old.
Well, yes. But listen…
I’m freelancing at the moment so have removed myself from having to deal with buying into or challenging the values systems of organisations I work for. To some degree I can choose who I work with and not being a employee gives me the autonomy and distance I like.
There’s a lot of talk in organisations about named core values and often another set of values which represent the underlying values and beliefs of, typically, those with power and those with less. At one level the open discussion of values is healthy and useful. At another it can feel like an intrusion into our personal lives.
I’m heartily sick of old style capitalism, interested in new models of working and am in the middle of reading Will McInnes’ Culture Shock. Here’s a little section on Zappos. Zappos sell shoes and are often held up as a model for the brave new way of working. One of Zappos ten Family Core Values is ‘Create Fun and A Little Weirdness’. McInnes goes on to say “What could be further from conventional brainwashing about how people should behave at work? We don’t want you to be ‘professional’, we want you to be WEIRD”. He presents this as a good thing.
I used to be in his camp. I loved Daniel Pink’s Drive and was thrilled when companies I worked for started talking about values. Now, I’m troubled by it. I couldn’t work for Zappos. You’re telling me if I’m not weird in that special Zappos way, I can’t work for you? I think it’s telling that McInnes uses the word brainwashing. Are we replacing the old version with a new shiny version of what amounts to the same thing? Only smilier?
Obviously I don’t have the answer. As it the way with cynics, I’m a romantic at heart and will keep looking. And reading the rest of the book. We live in interesting times.
There’s nothing like a bit of perspective to restore sanity. I’d got quite caught up in a mini drama of my own making. Part of living an open hearted life means taking risks and going for what I want. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work out and when it’s to do with that tender spot in the heart it can be painful. I allowed myself to get caught up in a cycle of hoping, wishing and projecting and it just wound me up and tired me out. I didn’t handle it particularly well but nobody died and a good bawl and night’s sleep seems to have done the trick. In the colder light of day I can see it was my attachment to the desired outcome that caused me the pain. Letting go of that attachment and allowing whatever happens next to just happen as it will is the healthy way to go. Everything passes.
What could be better than breaking bread with strangers and talking? Being curious and interested and seeing what third thing comes out of my views and your views.
Our next event is a conversation dinner where we’ll do just that. Inspired by Theodore Zeldin’s ideas on conversation as a transforming practice and fun to boot.
There’s nothing to prepare. Just turn up, order your food and settle in for an evening of conversation. There will be a conversation menu to guide us and we’ll be switching conversation partners a couple of times during the evening.
If you’d like to join us, please do. RSVP here (if you’re not a Meetup member, it’s easy and free to join). As an aside, Meetup was set up in the wake of 9/11 in New York to capture and continue the spirit of strangers banding together and connecting after that day.
Dan Pink has a new book out (To Sell Is Human). I like Dan Pink and started reading his ideas on motivation when I was unhappily striving in an insurance company. I liked the ideas so much I sent the RSA Drive talk around the management team (to a resounding silence). Things have moved on a bit since then and a better understanding of employee motivation and engagement is now more obvious, if not always acted upon.
Dan was on Radio 4 this week and had all of 3 minutes to talk to Evan Davies. He’s good at the soundbite and talks fast. This part made me laugh out loud. He was talking about how to succeed in an encounter, whether this was a business meeting or a date. I expect I’m misquoting slightly but here is the jist:
“Don’t bathe in a warm bath of positive affirmations. Ask yourself ‘Can I do it?’. Answer that, then ask ‘How can I do it?’”.
I really like this. It’s concrete, practical and ultimately more likely to get the result you want. I may even buy the book.
Not F**k Off. F**k It. A short hand way to let go of what’s not useful, what causes us suffering. A Western approach to the Buddhist idea of non attachment.
Our brains get a small burst of instant relief when we swear. It’s why women turn the air blue in delivery rooms. Sadly it doesn’t work so well for habitual swearers. There has to be something a bit taboo about the swear words used.
But back to F**k It. I’ve just spent the weekend on a F**k It course with John Parkin and Gaia Pollini who run courses at The Hill That Breathes retreat centre in Italy & other places. We spent a lot of time relaxing, breathing, chi gung-ing and doing exercises on letting go and doing what we love. I’d done most of the career change execises before. I didn’t really get into the free form movement to trance music. What I did get out of it was finally a bit of understanding about letting go, allowing things to be easy and learning how to slowly, step by step, start listening to my body.
So here’s my F**k It list:
Fuck It to – sadness, purpose, money, security and being liked.
Try it. It’s fun.
I’m squeamish about love.
Twice I’ve asked a speaker I trust to talk on a topic of their choice for Fresh Air. Both times they’ve wanted to talk about love and my initial reaction has been to inwardly groan and curl my toes with embarrassment. Not enough to talk them out of it (though once I did slightly fudge the talk title) but enough to notice my discomfort.
Why? What could be more important than love? Knowing how to really give and receive it.
So, roll on Feb 11th and Sam’s workshop on Love.
Leave jobs when you know they’re wrong for you.
Break unhealthy friendships.
Ask for what you want.
If you don’t know what you want, keep exploring.
Expect the best.
Give and receive.
Live with uncertainty.
Be scared and do it anyway.
Invest in yourself.