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I am on a wonderful adventure at work; one which is sometimes exciting, sometimes frustrating, and immensely rewarding.
I frequently meet new people, and am lucky enough to gain inspiration from many of them. These individuals are everywhere, in every culture, in different countries and in different walks of life. They are successful individuals who are passionate about what they do. This is the key to finding fulfillment in your work. If you know what you are doing, know what it will achieve, and you believe in the outcome and the goal, you will care.
How do you do that? How do you make it matter? I thought I’d share some of the lessons I have learnt these past months and I hope it moves you to care — just a bit more than you already do.
I recently met a judge in one of my trips to a neighboring country. I was meeting him to understand how he conducted legal research. It was late in the evening, and we had already been waiting for an hour outside his chambers. There was a party of lawyers and a couple who couldn’t stop arguing. They were in a custody battle for their eight year-old. The child was in the judge’s chambers and she had been there for a while. When she finally came out, she was holding a fistful of candy and she had a big smile on her face. I thought, “Shouldn’t she be more depressed or afraid? She just spent an hour with a complete stranger in such an intimidating setting!” I entered his chambers and saw a bowl of candy and a coloring book on his desk. This judge wanted to know how the child really felt and fared. He wanted to know what the child really thought and he took pains to ensure that the interview setting was anything but intimidating.
When we embarked on our conversation, he said “it is easy to just quote the law, but someone needs to care about the child”. He obviously cared, and by doing so would have done a much better job at what he was tasked with. He made an impact on the child, made an impact on me, and perhaps gained a sense of fulfillment with what he did on that day. He made it matter.
We spend a significant amount of our time on tasks, duties and responsibilities. Often, we are overwhelmed by the immediate tasks at hand and we lose sight of the goal. We end up thinking about the specific functions which we need to perform and it becomes a routine. We execute these functions perfunctorily and think no more about it.
When this happens, we don’t excel. We don’t take the extra leap of creativity and innovation. We forget that these tasks can be fun and rewarding. We tick them off like we would do check-boxes.
Take a step further and dig a little deeper. When you embark on a project, a task or job, find out what you are working towards. Take the opportunity to learn. You may not always get a natural teacher as your boss or superior. This doesn’t mean that you stop learning. It merely means that you need to seek answers. Ask the right questions. If you don’t know how, do some reading and research, and then come back empowered with more knowledge so that you can ask intelligent questions.
Find out what the ultimate goal is and understand it. Once you do, you will go beyond merely performing tasks but will think of more creative ways to achieve that goal. Your boss will appreciate it, take notice and seek your opinion because you care and that shows.
Think beyond your role at work and think beyond your immediate responsibilities. If something needs to be done and you are best positioned to do it, make it known that you are willing to take on something new. This makes your job much more exciting and fun. It takes you away from the routine at work and presents you with opportunities to learn. Focus not on what you are told to do, but what you can do to achieve that ultimate goal. Make it matter.
Many candidates I interview ask me, “How often do you send your employees for training?” I guess my company provides an adequate training program for employees so I do usually have an answer for them. However, I strongly believe that there are learning opportunities in any job and any career, and they present themselves every day. You just need to find them. You need to care that what you are doing will make an impact. You need to understand what that means. Once you do, you are part of a larger picture and you become more important.
When you have an idea and an opinion, present it. Be confident, not arrogant.
Seek answers and inspiration outside your comfort zone. I was thrown into many new situations this year and many of them made me uncomfortable. The discomfort stemmed from a lack of knowledge and as a result, there were times when I was unsure of myself. I asked the people I met and sought inspiration from them. Many of them are friends, most of them were strangers. I learnt something new at every encounter. These gave me ideas, fresh perspectives and I forgot that I had these challenges. It made the problems inconsequential, because they became possibilities.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you, and people with a positive mindset. It is easy to say that we need to think positive and look at challenges in a different light. It is harder to actually live it.
However, when you are surrounded by people who exude positive energy, and you are constantly in the thick of conversations which revolve around possibilities, your mindset changes for the better. You won’t sweat the small stuff; instead, you will find it easier to focus on what matters.
It is not rocket science, and I highly recommend this state of mind. Try it, and you will see that it works. Then, share it and celebrate it. Make it matter.
First published on www.loyarburok.com on July 18th, 2012.
It may be a little uncomfortable to address your opinions in a crowd, but you can always talk on a one-on-one basis with your superiors about it. Present the idea, who knows, it may be useful to the firm!