As children, we think we can do anything. Our guiding light was this: “Do whatever makes you happy.” When I was a boy, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot. That thought made me happy. At 11, my mother even brought me to get my eyes tested. Turns out I was partially colour-blind. Even if my eyes weren’t the problem, I grew to a good 1.85m tall and also to a relatively big sized. That made for a bad fit (quite literally) in a fighter jet’s cockpit.
As life always does, it started getting in the way. My dreams were peeled away. I focused on things, things like money, title, business class travel, the size of the team I manage. I was led by this notion of measuring these so-called tangibles. They are, after all, what others view as signs that we have “made it.”
I was tapped on the shoulder for my first full time job, and moonlighted as a university student in any free moment I had. By the time I was 23, I had slipped into the golden handcuffs of a good paying job. I was ecstatic but also realised I had missed out on the great Kiwi overseas experience – a.k.a. working in a bar in London, as many of my friends had done. And by the time I was in my mid-30s, I had grown from holding local to regional to global roles.
We pick our jobs for the wrong reasons and then we settle with them. We begin to accept that it’s not realistic to do something we truly love for a living. I have since changed the course of my direction, even though it wasn’t an easy route.
The measures of success: Purpose
Instead of looking at the traditional measures of success, ask yourself this hypothetical question: Let’s say you reached the top, and you’ve acquired millions in your bank account, is your work still meaningful to you?
Put simply—the pursuit of money can, at best, mitigate the frustrations in your career. More money is not going to make you love your job more, it just makes you hate it less. That is, if you don’t have a purpose.
The 3 signs of a purpose-driven individual
A purpose-driven individual has some key traits:
- They have a vision or an aspiration of the work that they love. They can talk about the impact they want to create, bigger than themselves.
- They’re competent and they have stories to back them up. It may have been a smooth success or more likely, a lot of failures that led to success.
- They tend to be humble about their achievements, and let their work do the talking. They know their strengths and weaknesses, but they will speak their minds and define their path, even if they aren’t conventional.
I’m reminded by Steve Jobs’ famous commencement address at Stanford in 2005, where he said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
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About Roger Grant, CEO of PERSONNA
Roger helps organisations turn ideas into real business impact. The change comes from the inside out.
He has more than 20 years of experience leading large diverse teams to create innovative customer-centric technology services, including the launch of Nokia’s first enterprise mobile device support service.