So maybe you’re reading this article because you’ve been “impacted.” A number of months ago when companies were beginning to cut back on their workforces, no one wanted to use the word “layoff,” so we created a new use for the word impacted to describe the process of someone losing his job. I don’t know about you, but the first thought that came up for me when I heard that a friend had been impacted was the extraction of wisdom teeth. I envisioned being strapped down in the putty colored chair in my dentist’s office while my gums were being cut open and my teeth (supposedly a sign of gaining wisdom) were removed from my mouth.
Actually, a tooth extraction probably resembles the feeling you have when
the boss sits you down in the office and you just know by the look on
his or her face and that feeling in the pit of your stomach that this
spontaneous meeting is not about giving you a raise. Oh sure, the rumblings
had been shaking the foundation of the office for months. Memo after memo
pleaded for better management of expenses as you watched the sales forecast
become less and less attainable. Then came the announcement of the change
in location of the annual sales meeting from Aruba to Detroit, MI, and
then it was cancelled.
All these cutbacks were discussed around the Starbucks coffee bar that
they constructed when times were good. Now Starbucks has been replaced
with—can you say Superior coffee? Or maybe your office used the Kirkland
brand from Costco before the Starbucks upgrade. Where else can you buy
a 135-pound can of coffee for $15? OK, so you have to call maintenance
to bring in the forklift and hoist the drum into position to make a pot
of coffee, but at least you have large doses of caffeine to jolt you into
productivity. After all, how can anybody expect you to be productive in
this type of environment?
If you have been impacted, can we be really honest here for just a second?
You probably didn’t like that last job anyway. You weren’t doing
what you love to do. In fact, you might be more afraid of finding another
job just like the last one. How much time did you spend at your last job
wishing you were doing something else in some other place? How many times
did you know at a gut level that you were created and designed to do something
much greater, much bigger in the world?
WHOLE NEW BALLGAME
Whether you have been impacted or are still employed, how do you stay
focused, motivated and inspired? How do you attack that monster.com job
board instead of sitting in your jammies and waiting for the phone to
ring hoping a prospective employer will call and beg you to come to work
for him? How do you muster up enough self-esteem to go out and look for
a new job after you’ve just left the unemployment office where you
stood in line for three hours to fill out 27 pages of forms?
If you are one of the lucky ones who still have a job, how do you stay
up when you look at the empty rows of cubicles that were once filled with
your friends and coworkers?
How does management deal with motivating and drawing the best from their
remaining employees? The sad thing is that some companies may use this
time to regress to the management-by-fear method of motivation. Why? Because
it’s just plain easier. A manager isn’t as concerned about keeping
you happy when he knows you’re scared to death about losing your
job. Some companies will use this time to their advantage simply because
they can, others because it is what they know.
When the economy was rolling along, most companies did not have to work
that hard to make ends meet. You simply had to show up in the marketplace
and you would succeed. A strong market can hide poor management skills
and less than average sales people. It’s a different ballgame today,
and there is no such thing as job security for any individual who is not
at their best.
THE YOU IN UP
Robert Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can
ever achieve greatly.” Maybe you’re feeling like a failure because
things haven’t turned out quite as you planned. You thought that
was the last place you would ever have to work. You only needed two more
years until retirement. I want to remind you of one thing that you may
have forgotten: You are unique.
I know what you’re thinking, “Here comes the rah-rah-shish-boom-bah
speech. After all, the guy writing this article is a motivational speaker.”
As a speaker, I get this question all the time, “Hey, can you come
in and motivate my sales team, my employees . . . better yet, can you
motivate my husband, my wife, my kid, my secretary?” Millions of
people don’t understand that unlocking the key to motivation is doing
what you love to do, what comes naturally, what you were designed to do.
Let me repeat that: You are unique! There is not, and never will be, another
person like you. You are made up of a unique set of complex variables
that have never existed or taken up space in any place or time in the
history of the universe. You have your own unique design, made up of your
natural genius, talents and gifts. Moreover, you were born with it. Your
uniqueness and what makes up your very existence has been showing up in
this world since you came out of the womb.
If you have children, you can attest to this fact. The first son is nothing
like the second. The first son is quiet, obedient and always focused.
His room is always clean and he will not let one food group touch the
other on his dinner plate. The other son is all about casseroles. He is
always mixing things up whether it is his food or his homework. He is
the last person you would ask to straighten anything. The first son is
standoffish and does not want to be hugged. The second son cannot get
enough touching. He will do anything to be with his friends while the
first son only wants to be alone. You ask yourself, how can they be so
The truth of the matter is that we should ask ourselves the same question.
Why am I so different? How am I so different? Yet, we spend so much time
trying to be like everyone else. We want to dress like Mike, be like Mike,
swing like Tiger and sing like Celine. We spend more time and energy trying
to be more like someone else than we do trying to find out who we are
and how special we are.
There is a battle raging within us. On one hand, we try to be like what
we see on the outside of others. We do this to belong, to be accepted,
to feel significant and to get approval. On the other hand, we struggle
with being who we really are on the inside, who we were designed to be.
What if we are ourselves and we aren’t accepted?
Attempting to be someone we are not is like taking a tree and completely
wrapping it in duct tape. The new growth will strain and push to break
through, in some remote places it may find its way through. Nevertheless,
eventually over time, day-by-day, month-by-month the tree begins to die.
It doesn’t die immediately. It dies eventually.
Of course, it doesn’t have to happen this way. You can start unwrapping
the gifts that lie within you today. Begin the process this moment by
looking at yourself and realizing what is different, what is special about
you. You are one of a kind. Look back on your life and begin thinking
about the things that you used to love doing. Think back to when you were
a kid. What did you spend hours doing? Were you alone? Were you with friends?
What activities could you not tear yourself away from? Most importantly,
what came naturally to you? What did you love to do that did not require
an extraordinary amount of effort; you just did it because you loved it?
Lastly, what was the payoff for you? How did you feel when you finished
the task? Discover and honor your uniqueness and you have taken the first
step to a life of significance and purpose.
THE PURPOSE IN UP
I’ve talked to thousands of people who are lost, searching for their
purpose and seeking to find what is missing from their lives that will
ignite their fire and passion. They desperately seek the answer to the
question: “Why am I here?” A number of months ago USA Today
conducted a survey and asked people this question: “What is the number
one question you would like to have answered?” Hands down, the number
one question was: “Why am I here?”
Not surprisingly, the events of September 11 have forced many people to
look at that very question and ask themselves, “What is really important
to me?” I doubt that anyone was thinking about his or her accumulation
of wealth on that day. I don’t know about you, but I found myself
holding my fiancé as tightly as I could as she cried for the children
whose parents weren’t coming home that evening. I called my parents
three times just to see how they were and kept in close contact with several
friends throughout the day and well into the night. Why does it take a
tragedy for we human beings to remember what it is that we truly value?
A week after the tragedy of September 11, I was having a conversation
with a prospective client. We were discussing how we could improve the
work environment by helping his employees to work more like a team and
to improve communication between the various departments. His biggest
concern was the breakdown between the office staff and the plant. I was
explaining how employees have a basic human need and desire to belong
to, to be a part of, something greater then themselves. He felt that to
some degree most workers at a certain level on the corporate ladder simply
wanted more money.
I could feel my face turning red and attempted to restrain myself as best
as I could. Three days earlier I watched an interview of a sanitation
worker in New York City with tears in his eyes as he described how he
stood on a pile of rubble at Ground Zero searching for some miniscule
breath of life and he wasn’t being paid a dime, so please don’t
tell me it is always about the money!
Was their something inside of you that was stirred up when you read or
heard about volunteers who risked their lives for a purpose greater than
themselves? Did you find yourself thinking about driving to New York to
help in some way, or what you would have done had you been on one of those
When we have a purpose, when we have a cause or believe we are here to
do something greater, we will put our lives or livelihoods on the line
for that cause no matter how big or how small it may seem.
Maybe you have been recently impacted and you are having a hard time with
this whole idea of finding what you love to do because you need to feed
your family. That is your immediate purpose, to provide for your family,
and you will do whatever it takes to accomplish that purpose. I understand.
However, whether you are currently employed or are looking for work and
are willing to get clear about what you love, you may want to consider
doing the following:
• Sit down and write about five accomplishments from any time in
your life—five incidents, projects or things that leave you feeling
extremely proud. Go back as far as you can remember.
• Look for similarities or recurring themes within each situation.
Notice where you come alive and get excited when you think or talk about
a particular incident or action.
• Sit down with your spouse or some of your closest friends and ask
them what they see when they read your stories. Chances are, recurring
patterns will surface that can help you to unlock the door to your purpose
and what it is you were created and designed to do.
Don’t waste your money on personality profiles or career tests to
see how you compare to everyone else in some database. Remember, you are
Hire a coach who can help you to uncover your uniqueness and gifts. Be
careful when selecting a coach. You can spend a lot of time and waste
a lot of money with someone who is not a trained professional. The International
Coaches Federation (ICF) is one place to start your search. You can find
a coach at its Web site (www.coachesfederation.org). Click on the Find
a Coach button to begin the process.
One of the greatest coaching tools I know to help you discover what you
do and love to do is a tool called Mind Maps™ by Life Skills Inc.
It is a program customized specifically to the individual. For more information
regarding this process and how it works call (877) 97-ALIVE.
Focus your job search in areas that fire you up or get you excited. For
example, if you find that you love to accomplish the impossible, what
no one else was able to do, or maybe you naturally have a gift to bring
organization to chaos, search out an employment opportunity that models
your motivation patterns. During the interview, speak to your prospective
employer from a place of knowing what you do well and what motivates you.
When they ask you, “So tell me about yourself,” leave the canned
answer from the last How-to Interview book where it belongs, in the can.
You will interview from a much more powerful place when you discuss what
naturally gets you excited and the interviewer will pick up on your excitement
not because it is a façade, but because it is genuine.
As I end this article, I am struck by the idea that I am doing what I
love to do: to write and to speak to others about discovering what it
is inside of themselves that creates that spirit of aliveness and purpose.
However great or small that may seem to anyone else is not of any significance
to me. What matters most is that I know it is what I was created and designed
to do. I can tell by how alive I feel when I am writing an article or
speaking to 400 people.
As I glance up at my computer screen I see my personal life mission statement
taped to the bottom of my monitor. It reads: “I am the explosion
that ignites the soul to catch fire.” It sits between two pictures
of Terry Fox, the young man from Canada who, after losing most of his
right leg to cancer, decided to run cross-country to raise awareness and
money for cancer research. His goal was to raise $1 for every Canadian
citizen, $24.1 million dollars to be exact. He ran 26 miles a day for
143 days when, after 3,339 miles, he could no longer go on because the
cancer had spread to his lungs. His purpose, I believe, was to give hope
to millions of people around the world, to beat the odds and to battle
the disease that took his life on June 28, 1981, at the age of 22. I believe
he knew he had no choice, he knew it was his destiny.
So, what’s your destiny? You need to know that you are one in a million—a
unique custom design. What is your purpose that no one else in this world
can fulfill? Please don’t cheat yourself and the world out of your
gifts. Neither the world nor you can afford that loss. Maybe, your purpose
isn’t as grand as Terry Fox’s, maybe it is not your destiny
to become a national hero in your country— then again, maybe it is.
Joe Contrera is a motivational speaker and a personal
and professional coach. He runs a company called alive @ work LLC in Hawthorn
Woods, IL. He works with people who want to be alive in the workplace and
business executives who want to create environments for people to flourish.
For more information please contact (877) 97-ALIVE.