I don’t know what they do with their lives.
Bob Dylan sang these words in his quiet masterpiece, Tangled Up in Blue.
How do people end up with the careers they have?.
A Fairy Tale
As I entered the workforce – when we still had rotary phones, full-service gas stations and black and white TV – it was possible join a company, work hard and ultimately retire from it. Absent the social safety net in the EU and some Asian countries, that was considered a good deal.
That model’s dead.
Post 1980 companies in the US shifted fundamentally and forever away from a long-term employment model. And employees who couldn’t adapt were left standing by the side of the road just like the author in Dylan’s self-portrait.
Over the last 30 years we’ve struggled for new understanding and satisfaction with work life much like trying to build a relationship with someone really beautiful yet volatile. It can be a fun yet harrowing ride.
So what then are some of the keys to meaningful career given unforeseeable variables? Here are common elements I’ve seen work for many.
- Be Passionate – Today some argue passion and work don’t mix: bullshit. Find your passions and follow them. These passions might include tasks like building the best spreadsheets in the world, writing really elegant code or running a meeting that actually works, or maybe a calling like teaching children or leading an NGO. But don’t kid yourself: life without passion is not life. Its existence
- Be Honest – We have a shortage of honesty. With ourselves. Nothing is sadder than sharing hard truths with people in denial. Be honest with yourself. Get feedback from multiple sources including mentors and peers unbiased by friendship.. Unless you know the real perceptions of your contribution at work, you can’t assess what change you may need to make. “Change” might be how you work – or who you work for
- Be Open – Life throws us lots of curveballs: learn how to hit them. As companies and clients’ demands change some of us resist adapting to meet those changes. That is ego. Stop ego. Dive right in, learn what you can and stay open to possibility. Don’t hang back with the people complaining about getting washed away by the waves of change – go get a surfboard and ride those waves. Yes, you’ll fall and get wet and swallow some salt. Then you’ll get up and do it again and hang ten this time. Be open
- Be Here – Ram Dass was right. Its important to have dreams and desires of a future. Its also important to be plugged in giving all you can today. This is your life now: its not a try-out for tomorrow. With work, your family, your friends, your lover – be here now. Live the life you have in full color as you build the one you want and a funny thing happens – they merge into one. Be here in all its aspects and watch your life bloom
Life really isn’t about having all the answers. Its about asking meaningful questions the whole way through.
Whether employee or freelancer you can enjoy career knowing that its what matters to you that counts, and what you make of it that matters.