In December of 1913, Henry Ford built the world’s first assembly line, reducing the time required to build a car from twelve hours to just ninety-three minutes. The assembly line era had arrived, and work was revolutionized.
Today, in the post-pandemic world of 2022, an equally seismic shift has occurred with the dawn of hybrid work. In this era of information abundance, where we are producing, exchanging, and consuming information on a scale unprecedented in human history, you must maximize your focus.
In this article, I will share three “musts” to finding greater meaning and fulfillment in the new way to work. To do so, I will reference my book, “The Lighthouse Keeper: A Story of Mind Mastery.”
The premise behind the book is simple and was born out of my experiences as a yoga instructor: your mind is an ocean full of all your memories and everyone you’ve ever met. Your awareness, or where you place your focus, is the lighthouse. Today, many people create habits and routines in their lives; the “pattern” their lighthouse spotlight is consistent day after day. The underlying message to the reader is to control your awareness and design your life.
In the story, Sam, the protagonist, goes on a journey in his mind and, after discovering something he has been searching for his entire life, must find his way back to the lighthouse. In this sense, the lighthouse also represents something beyond just awareness. It represents the “true north” by which Sam is guided.
As a veteran of the Marine Corps and as someone who grew up with a military father, the idea that I could design my life, career, and relationships was a foreign concept for me. In the military, you’re only partly responsible for your career. By that, I mean the military will send you where it needs you, and the basis of your “job” is the protection and service of others. You learn to put others before yourself through training, discipline, and integrity.
I was introduced to yoga immediately after leaving active duty and quickly fell in love with it. Within a year of my first class, I became a yoga instructor. Within a few years, I owned a yoga studio. While working a corporate job for a Fortune 500 company, I suddenly began to see that the design of my life was up to me.
That was exciting and a little nerve-wracking. After more than thirty-five years of moving at the discretion of the Marines, I now found myself living in one place. Yoga helped reignite in me a passion I’d shelved while serving in the military: I would be an author. I loved English when I was young, received national recognition for a short story I wrote in high school, and won awards for my poetry.
When I joined the Marines, I set my writing aside, dismissing it as a leftover dream from childhood.
I wrote hundreds of pages of material for eleven years after leaving active duty. I wanted to write horror stories. Every few years, I would have a great idea for a story. I would write over a hundred pages each time, and then the story would unravel. It was so frustrating.
Then, in early 2017, I read Napoleon Hill’s “Think and GrowRich.” Early in the book, Hill asks the reader their life purpose. I was blown away. Do you mean my life has a purpose?
At that moment, I tore open a notebook, grabbed a pen, and wrote my first-ever life purpose statement. I was going to help people find their purpose in life. And with that, I found a moment of clarity; I was going to set aside my aspirations of being a horror writer and focus my efforts on serving others with my writing. My first book, Whiskey, and Yoga, ten months later, became a #1 international bestseller.
Writing my first book was an adventure. Not only was I not focused on horror as my genre, something I’d been fixated on for more than a decade; now, I was sharing a part of myself that I never thought to share.
Additionally, after failing to complete any of the previous four stories I’d started, every day was a challenge. Could I finally finish a manuscript? I talked with other writers. I read more books about the art and practice of writing. I did everything I could to overcome the mental barrier I’d faced, and that was when I realized something.
I needed to write those hundreds of pages of horror stories. They weren’t failures. They were lessons. When I viewed them through that lens, my entire approach to writing shifted.
With that background, here are the three absolute musts needed to navigate the post-pandemic world.
Get Clear on Your Destination
Work isn’t where you go. It’s how you contribute.
Spending more than eight hours a day, five days a week, at a job that’s only a means to an end is the recipe for an unfulfilling life. People plan their vacations, improvements they want to make to their home, or what their retirement will look like. Your career demands just as much planning, if not more. Getting clear as a modern professional means understanding what experiences you’re seeking, not just from your current role but the role after that.
Today, more than ever, employee experience matters. That reality contributes to the Great Resignation that saw more than 28% of the total US workforce voluntarily leave their jobs in 2021. That is more than 47 million people. Some people left because they wanted to try their hand at being an entrepreneur. Others left for better pay. But many of those people left because, once offices started opening, employers demanded their employees come back into the office.
During the pandemic, smart employers realized that, in some cases, work isn’t where you go. It’s how you contribute. Said differently, working from home became an attractive perk for employees who had grown accustomed to the work/life integration it afforded.
With the increased focus in recent years on customer experience, those same employers latched onto a second truth: employees who genuinely enjoyed their jobs and felt like they were utilizing their strengths in doing them, enhanced the overall quality of the customer experience. Now, more so than at any other point in history, employees can design their careers. It’s just a matter of getting clear on what you’re after.
Sam isn’t alone on his journey through the story; you shouldn’t be either. While some see mentoring as a networking tool, its primary function is to enhance the mentee’s understanding of the business while providing access to someone with a particular skill or experience. In all cases, mentoring gives the mentee access to a view of the business they don’t normally see. A great mentoring experience informs both parties; for the mentor, it provides exposure to someone at a different phase of their career and, through the relationship, helps them identify real growth areas for the mentee as well as providing an assessment of future potential.
For the mentee, get access to someone who (presumably) is higher up in the organization, has more experience in a particular field, and may be an enabler for landing their next opportunity.
The keys to an effective mentoring relationship are easy:
Know what you want to gain from the relationship;
Set a cadence around how often you’ll meet; and
Determine the duration for how long the mentorship will last.
Make Your Career an Adventure
Life is full of twists and turns. Sam’s journey back to the lighthouse starts easily enough, but he soon finds himself in troubled waters. He knows where he is headed; he just needs to adjust his plans.
Things aren’t always going to go as planned. That’s okay. What’s your outcome? What are you trying to achieve? If you’re frustrated by a misstep, then either a) your outcome is too small or b) you’re still viewing failure as a setback. Instead, look at it as a door you never have to go through again.
If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that change is constant. He doesn’t give up because Sam gets blown off course during his adventures. The dream he’s pursuing is big enough; he’ll do whatever it takes to make it come true.
To make a meaningful career means giving something of ourselves to our endeavors. The more we give, the more we realize…we define ourselves through our impact on others. That’s where the adventure is.
The assembly lines envisioned by Henry Ford accelerated the concept of the repeatable process. Today, the process isn’t as important as the outcome.
As a modern professional, there is a lighthouse somewhere on your horizon. So, make the destination worth the journey.