Mandates For a Fulfilling Career

In our recent book, Ignite the Extraordinary, co-author Tom and I wrote about various phases people pass through during their careers. The first phase we titled Finding the Light and the second was Learning to Fly. We suggest you pay close attention to them in assessing your own career progress right now. And for those of you who are parents with college-aged kids, you will find this information quite valuable as well.

As a reminder, Finding the Light is about discovering that purpose or mission that really inspires you. It is that Eureka moment when it dawns on you that what you are doing (or want to do) is clearly what you were put on this planet to do. Every future fork in the road has a clear path to take.

For those who have discovered the light, it is very liberating. It by no means assures one of a mistake-free or easy road ahead. But it continues to provide confidence and energy to keep moving forward on something that is without a doubt, truly meaningful.

Learning to Fly is absolutely vital to anyone’s career. This is the phase where one commits to investing the time and effort to hone skills – skills necessary to overcome inevitable challenges and accomplish great things. Listen closely to the number of Olympic athletes with ear-to-ear smiles gushing about how much they love swimming, vaulting, running, or whatever their specialty might be. They have to love it. Otherwise, how could they possible be in a pool or at a gym every morning at 5 am ready to put in hours of work, fighting through the soreness and fatigue. And they do this for years!

There are an endless number of ways to be world-class other than athletics. You can be top in the field of word processing or spreadsheets, public speaking or one-on-one listening, idea generation or problem solving, or perhaps simply being a trusted helping hand for one in need. The question – are you willing to put in the time and effort to get there?

Learning to fly requires practice, making mistakes, practice, continuous homework, practice, stretching yourself, practice, and well… you get the idea. It takes years of devoted effort. That is why it is necessary to have a strong purpose – which helps to pull you through all the hard work.

Too often, we have come across those who simply want to survive the day. The view homework as a lousy part of school and practice something necessary during the school sports season or childhood music lessons. And for them, work has become known as the daily grind. Funny how a number of these folks seem to believe that they vastly underpaid, and will let you know on every occasion how bad they are getting screwed by their companies.

Work without purpose is just a job. Work with purpose is a calling. Achieving, accomplishing, making a difference, whatever you call it, takes a lot of energy and persistence. It is flat out hard work. You cannot count the number of oversized boulders you will have to push off the road to keep moving ahead toward greatness. Purpose provides that strong will and extra muscle you need to keep pushing. Without it, many ultimately let the boulders win, and decide it is simply best to accept complacency. However, years later they often look back at the empty places in their lives and lament how they wish they would have pushed a little harder.

There is that ages-old question, “what is the purpose of life?” One of my favorite answers is to discover what you are here to do and then do it fully, in the very best way you can. I encourage you to keep exploring until you find your answer to that question, and then do the hard work necessary to bring it to life. And know that although it will not be easy, it will certainly be worth it.

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