STOP! Don’t do a career!

In the newspaper of last weekend was an interesting cartoon – the hierarchy of needs by Maslow reframed for a classical consulting career. It named this order from bottom upwards:

  1. Finalize high class MBA
  2. Buy a Porsche
  3. Become shareholder of the consulting company
  4. Become naming partner of your company
  5. Hike Camino de Santiago (and find yourself)

If you know some consultants you might find a person for each stage. Because there is some truth in it: Some are doing the career for money and status. They are good in what they do, get rewarded and walk on. Only when the reward is so high that it is hardly possible to increase it any further – but the emptiness inwardly stays the same – people start changing their paths to look for fulfillment in a different area of life.

But what happened to people who have searched for fulfillment in that different style? People who have eaten, prayed and loved. People who were gone for a while to hike the Camino de Santiago. People who sold their ferraris. All of them found new aspects in life, increased inner peace and got deeper insights. But basically they had the same 24 hours on a daily basis as everyone else. They needed to make a living, too. Although they had a special time dedicated for special actions, they all came back to a regular life – some with different jobs but at least with some sort of work that paid the bills. So in consequence, it seems that it is less about the lifestyle but rather about the mindset of a person.

So why do people hit No. 5 in the named hierarchy of needs?

People need to have an answer to their “WHY”. Why are you doing what you are doing? As long as you are running an imaginary path that you didn’t even choose nor created you will hit a point in which you wonder: why?

Why the stress? Why the hustle? Why the long hours?

In the beginning of your career you are certain that the answer will come along the way. Thoughts like “when I reach x amount of salary …” or “if I become partner …” postpone the essential question of “Why are you getting up in the morning?”. You just assume that the answer will be behind the next promotion.

Spoiler: You will not find the answer to your “WHY” along your career path.

Therefore it does make sense to invest some severe thinking and time of reflection right now – and create that new mindset. Who are you? What do you like? Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates you?

When you found your answers, you can still be successful in your career – but you probably have stopped to do a career only to chase for an answer you assume coming with the next promotion. You are having fun in doing what you are doing – and if that happens to be a highly paid job it’s totally cool.

What is the benefit when you do what you love?

You become more resilient towards setbacks. Because you are not working for a future result, the dependency of the targeted reward decreases. If you get that promotion: Awesome! Celebrate! If you don’t get that promotion: you still liked every day of your work because you know why you got up in the morning.

Your colleagues and friends will like to be with you, because everyone will sense that you like what you do. You will be more at ease with yourself and therefore more likeable for all around you.

All of this starts with a bold answer to the little question: Why are you doing what you are doing?

Walking with purpose

The other night I was having dinner in a fine argentinian restaurant in the middle of Milan chatting with some colleagues. The internationality of the group, the fine Malbec wine and good company inspired us to share our envisioning of good vacation.

One colleague admitted that he and his wife cannot find a suitable vacation solution together – so basically she was getting her beach-resort-experience whilst he was looking for a comfy chair with seaview and getting drunk on fine spirits.

In retrospective I am not sure whether I reacted suitable. Actually, what is suitable in the pure presence of this devastating truth!?

The absence of purpose and vision within this very successful men’s life struck me. Don’t get me wrong – there doesn’t need to be a purpose on every step you take. But if you are living a purposeful life I suspect you might use your days off as recreation time, load yourself with power, joy and inspiration for the next episode of crazy work ahead.

In Milan, I actually also met another man. He first seemed quiet, distinguished and quite old – to be honest. But when he started to speak in the meeting, his eyes beamed, every word well chosen, addressing precisely the topic why he had attended the gathering. You could sense that he knew who he was, what he was here for and what he wanted to achieve.

He talked with purpose.

Both men had a great career, earned a lot of money – even worked in the same company. Still, the huge difference between them was obvious.

I believe, the latter man had an answer to his “why?”. He knew his purpose in life – and drawn from there his purpose for the meeting he was attending.

Do you?