When we are faced with upheaval in our lives, both emotional and financial, it’s easy to get lost in self doubt and a desperate desire to grasp at straws in our struggle to find the path ahead.
I remember a time of career transition in my own life. When I was going through a similar turmoil, a wise mentor said, “Follow the Gold, money will come.” The “Gold” he was referring to was not monetary riches but the “heart’s desire”. He was telling me that if I looked for what I intrinsically valued and was passionate about, the money would take care of itself. If my goal was simply outward riches, money and recognition; however, I would be selling out my deepest desires and would never be fulfilled and happy even if I attained riches.
I have to admit, I did not completely understand him at the time, but a faint voice inside encouraged me to persist in seeking a path that appealed to my inner needs and not just the external desires alone.
It wasn’t easy. My mind was like a war zone. My default mindset continually compared me to those around me and I felt like a failure. I had a quasi-vision of what I wanted to do but it wasn’t tangible enough. I wanted assurances that this path would be better and more successful than the past but life has no such guarantees. I felt like a cornered cat growling loudly at all kinds of imagined fearful scenarios, most of which never happened. Somehow I had to learn to work with the fears and doubts instead of being worked up by them if I was ever to move ahead with my dreams.
Recently, while reading the book ‘Discover Your True North’ by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronics, and a Professor in the Harvard Business School, I came across the similar advice: “Discover Your True North (passion/heart’s desire) and money will take care of itself.”
George had interviewed many leaders who had turned down higher-paying jobs to pursue roles they were passionate about. It took time but in the end, they came out ahead, both in job satisfaction and compensation, because they were successful in doing what they loved.
Time Inc. CEO, Ann Moore, had a dozen job offers when she graduated from business school. She took the lowest paying one with Time magazine. “I had student loans hanging over my head, but I took the job because I loved magazines. At the time, nobody in my class understood why I made that choice but, at our twenty-fifth reunion, they understood completely.”
Ann Fudge, former CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands, also took the lowest-paying offer she received out of business school. She explained, “You can’t make career decisions just based on money. I hoped the money would come, and it did. If I had made my career decision based on the money, I would have been on a totally different career path.”
Jean-Pierre Rosso, Chairman of the World Economic Forum USA, recalled, “I always focused on being happy in what I was doing. If I was motivated and did my job well, I knew the money would follow.”
Dave Cox, former CEO of Cowles Media, recalls a Stanford Business School student saying to him, “Maybe I have to get my satisfaction someplace else and just do the business part to make money.”
Cox raised his eyebrows quizzically and demanded, “Why would you want to spend your time doing work you don’t enjoy? These should be the best years of your life. There is so much energy that results from feeling valued and connecting with your passions – that’s when you add the greatest value.”
Too many leaders learn the hard way that external recognition from chasing, money, success and fame in careers for which they have no long-term interest makes a fickle lover. George states that when things start to go wrong, the external sources of gratification disappear as do the superficial colleagues who were more interested in being associated with their success than their friendship.
This does not mean to ignore your outer needs for financial reward, recognition – there is still rent to pay and a family to support – rather have a balance between your outer needs of living a life and the inner needs.
Be in the life, not from the life, as a mentor used to say. Discover and offer your unique gifts to the world and the rewards will follow.
Some Tips to Help You Unearth Your Gold
1. Resolve to bring more of yourself to work. Be present, mindful, alive and alert. What roles, assignments, projects, initiatives or tasks fill you with energy, vigour, vitality and motivation? In the moments when the time stops or goes by so quickly that you forget about yourself: What skills are you using? Who are you with? What topics are being discussed? The answers are there – but are you fully present to see them?
2. Create your personal brand or Career Vision for the next 3-5 years to create more clarity around your career path (your are not looking for exact details here).
3. Take formal self-assessment tests or read books with useful self-reflective practices to help mine for values, interests and skills.
4. Welcome feedback from those who know you well and you trust. Compare their feedback about when they see you most passionate at work/life with your own findings. Any similarity or patterns emerging? Somethings you did not think of?
5. Identify and research the organizations you might be interested in, do you fit their culture and resonate with their values? Do they fit your interests and skills?
6. If possible at all pair up with someone else or create a small group to do this work together and to share the wins and challenges.
7. Take up regular physical exercise, it can help you maintain a steady energy, clear up stress hormones and build much needed resiliency as you go through this process.
8. You may choose to work with an experienced coach. It can save you much time, effort and energy.
9. Most importantly, develop Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to work with the inevitable emotional ups and downs inherent in following the Gold. This is absolutely fundamental and an indispensable ally. It will help to transmute the challenges to learnings while reclaiming their energy to fuel progress. Most often we give up not because we are not serious or don’t have a vision, but rather because we don’t know how to work with mind-blocks, misperceptions and strong emotions that overwhelm us. Another reason why working with emotions is important is because as emotions quiet down you may literally have inner insights and intuitions about what matters most. This has certainly been true for myself and many clients.
Finally, be gentle and kind with yourself. Be a source of encouragement rather than self-criticism. Remember, unearthing and sharing your Gold may just be the single most important thing you ever do for your happiness, your health, relationships, your community and the whole world. J. Campbell wrote about it as a Hero/Heroines’ Journey. It is a heroic journey.
Kamran is an International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited experienced Professional Certified Coach (PCC). He focuses on executive coaching and leadership development coaching assignments. He leads a highly engaging and practical Workshop Series on EQ & Self-Reflective Practices for professionals in Dubai, UAE.