Real Leaders

How to Know Who You Should Work For

Last week I received many responses to my blog, “Why You’re Stuck in a Job that’s Killing You.”Virtually all of them confirmed that my description of investor-owned companies systematically overworking their employees in order to make short-term profits was right on the money! What this sparked in me was the vivid difference between people who work for ‘The MAN’ and people who work for their dreams.

Spending your life trying to achieve other peoples’ goals will ultimately frustrate your soul. This is not a trivial problem. Bad systems nearly always corrupt good people. Our Wall Street driven Frankenstein version of capitalism is a bad system. It’s bad for innovation. It’s bad for consumers. It’s bad for employees. It’s bad for the unemployed. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for you. But what’s really bad is that lots of good, talented people at the leadership level are pressured every day to do bad things in the name of business-as-usual.

By bad things I mean stupid things, exploitative things, or things that are just plain wrong. The General Motors fiasco where dangerous, faulty ignition switches caused GM customers to be killed or injured was enabled by a lot of good competent people ignoring their moral compass because of an organizational system designed to marginalize morality.

Increasingly I am convinced that attempts of well-meaning people to reform the nasty sides of big bad companies are futile.  But it’s not too late to start your own economy. One in which you create a career and a life that you admire… even relish. During my years of research with the American Dream Project I interviewed hundreds of people who are happily living and working on their terms in virtually every community in America.

What’s amazing is that there are virtually no limits to what human ingenuity can create to give you your “Dream-life.”

I discovered ordinary people living on realistic incomes living in the most beautiful and desirable places in the world… places you would naturally think only the very wealthy could afford. I found ordinary people living their lives in a daily rhythm that minimized stress and maximized love. I discovered ordinary people who had invented clever ways to turn their passionate interests into profitable businesses.

I discovered even more people who figured out how to express their best selves doing ordinary work. For these people, their inner confidence and self-awareness elevated regular jobs into huge canvases where they could paint with their passionate personalities every day. From talking to these people… people who have become independent of toxic soul sucking conformity…

I discovered a simple formula for taking your future in your own hands. I call it simply the IDEA model.

It begins by using your most powerful human capability…. your imagination. I=Imagine your future work and life two years from now. Is what you see awesome? Fulfilling? Healthy? Happy? If it is, great… you’re on your right track.  However, if it’s not, what are you willing to   do today that will change your tomorrow.

Now I know that if you feel stuck by the zillion limitations that keep you glued in your status quo, your inner voice may be saying, “I’d like to but I can’t because ____________” (Fill in the blank.) Just stop that voice and consider this. There are people just like you, with similar backgrounds, assets and limitations that are living and working in ways that are absolutely soul satisfying. I can assure you this is factually true.

All of us have two futures.

Our default future is the one in which we do nothing new and we are swamped by the rising tide of forces we do not control. Our best future is the one we create. So just imagine your ideal work and life.  Imagine what a perfect day would be, a perfect week, a perfect year.

That leads to the second step. D=Do, Do something that is relevant to creating the best future you can imagine for yourself.

My experience is that if you start today, you can change nearly every significant thing in your life over the next 24 months.

So if you can imagine a meaningful, fulfilling life as you live in an energizing rhythm of work, love and play, how would you reverse engineer what it would take to create that future? Now just start. Usually the best way to start is with research and since we live in Google-land, research is easier than ever about any job you want to have, any career you want to build, any business you want to start, any place you want to live… everything is research-able. What you’ll find is that there are certain things you need to do to enable you to pursue your new future. That leads to step number three. E=Evolve.  We are growth seeking beings.

Developing our talents, learning new skills, throwing ourselves into relevant and challenging experiences gives us both self-respect and confidence.

Personal evolution takes time and effort. Your normal life will be disrupted. You may have to take classes, go to workshops, get certifications, find mentors, and do internships. Research reveals that many of us actually have the time to do these things if we just cut way back on watching TV or frivolous screen time on the Internet.

It’s true, we are all busy. But research shows that almost half our time is invested in things that we choose to do. After a time our automatic choices seem to take away our appetite to disrupt our routines in favor of our personal evolution. Our first step is having the gumption to say “to hell with my habits” I am going to make something new, something great happen. A=Adapt. Once you start you will need to pivot. The path up an unknown mountain changes as you get higher up. Sometimes you may even have to retrace your steps to find a better route.

As I’ve mentioned before, research from Duke University confirms that the single greatest driver of success is Creative Grit.

This is the powerful combination of unbreakable commitment with an agile mind willing to constantly improvise and innovate in the face of temporary setbacks. I realize that you have heard success formulas for years. In fact you may have heard so many of them that you’re a bit cynical… “yeah, yeah, whatever.” Well, stop it!

Resist that black-hole of cynicism and exercise your positive imagination.

To help you, I recorded a brief video of a true story of a young couple with big student debt and no resources. She wanted to save the world by being a social worker helping women who feel powerless. He wanted to pursue an artistic career and surf every day. They both wanted to live in Hawaii. It kind of sounds ridiculous. But it wasn’t. Today she travels around the world helping nonprofits who serve abused women learn best practices.

He has a thriving career doing unique photography, surfs the best waves in the world, and together they’re raising their two children to be contributors of a better future. Click here to watch video.  Please understand… I am not suggesting everyone needs to quit their job and move to Hawaii. What I’m urging you to do is to think carefully about what your version of a happy successful life is and go for that. Go for that with all that is within you.

Anything is possible… what’s your best future?


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