Career Advice

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Do You Have the Heart For It?

Do you have the heart for it?If you were an artist, which would you choose: To create your own unique and inspired works of art (even if it meant scratching a meager living) or bring others’ inspiration to life as a well-paid, commissioned painter? In world of business, each of us makes this choice. The real question is whether you know it or not.

In high school, I was perfectly prepared to launch into a career as a starving artist. I could weave wonderfully twisted stories through oil pastels and water colors, but sadly discovered the business-side of “starving” wasn’t quite as glamourous as I’d expected. While some aspiring young artists make it in the big city, I had a change of heart. I knew it would be a long road to success (if at all), and most artists who could afford to put food on the table were commissioned. In other words, I’d have to paint others dreams to make a decent living.

While youthfully noble, I quickly inventoried my other skills and determined I would fair better in the world of technology — and actually enjoy it. So I pursued another of my goals in tandem and joined the United States Marine Corps. I became expert at  two things:

  1. Expert Rifleman: I was an expert marksman with an M-16 assault rifle, and could put a bullet in a man-size target 500 yards away in a 30 knot wind 9 out of 10 times. (Thankfully, I never had to use this skill in real life).
  2. Expert Technologist: I became expert with all manner of computer technologies, and got to work in some of the most challenging technology environments on the planet. (Thankfully, I got to use this skill a lot in real life).

Over the years, I’ve made my trade as a commissioned painter of sorts, painting beautifully intricate designs with technology for employers and clients alike. I’m especially proud of some of the things I’ve accomplished individually and as part of a larger team. My heart is always beating, leading me to new adventures.

Are You Lost?

I recently heard a speaker say, “The surest way to attract others is with a smile. Why? Because deep down, that lets others know you are passionate about what you do!”

Neither being your own artist nor being a commissioned painter is wrong. But as I look around, I see a world filled with people who want to be artists but are living off of the commission. They are desperately seeking fulfillment in a mismatched existence, falsely living the life of the other sapping their passion and joy. This ultimately leaves them impotent and dissatisfied.

Which choice have you made? Do you have the heart for it?

Are You the Boss?

Every one of your team members wants do good work. Most may not think of themselves as artists or commissioned painters, but that won’t stop you from seeing them this way. Take some time to look at yourself and your team. Seek out your hidden artists who want to be set free to create beautiful things for you and your customers. You may find that you’ve chained some too tightly, while others have unwittingly allowed themselves to become chained as a commissioned painter.

It takes a confident leader to recognize the signs, but it takes a true visionary to help others see the “right choice” in themselves. Do you have the heart for it?


Do You Hate Where You Work?

Do You Hate Where You Work?Do you hate where you work? Many people would have 1 of 2 sage pieces of wisdom:

1) “Suck it up, cupcake!”

2) “Take this job and shove it!”

Well, those might work. However, many of us don’t have the luxury of these finite options, do we? What about the single mother raising 2 children? What about the sole-source provider, a father with a wife and 3 children?

Economically, many families are in a situation where both family members are required to work simply to exist at a comfortable life style. Not only is this a travesty, but can lead to all sorts of other problems like declining health and souring relationships – all due to increased stress over having to work.

Take Inventory:

My suggestion is fairly straight-forward. You have to look around and assess the situation. Take stock of your assets and liabilities. Generally we find that our education does not permit us to change careers or some obstacle in life attempts to prevent us from reaching our goals.

Obstacles not Barriers:

People face adversity all of the time. Life is hard folks! However, many people allow obstacles to become excuses for “why not”. After you take inventory, you have some choices to make. When I was 21, I was faced with the prospect of doing something I was settling for – living half of a life.

What was my answer to that?

I gave up 4 years of my life and joined the military.

This may not be feasible?

After I left the military, I spent 5 years going to night school to get a degree.

I can’t afford a degree.

Start networking. You may have to take a job making less money, but at least you will be working in the field you enjoy.

The list could go on and on… Don’t allow obstacles to become barriers.

The Merry-Go-Round:

Think about a merry-go-round. As you start it, it takes a good bit of energy. However, as it takes off it requires an ever decreasing amount of energy to propel it faster and faster. And to maintain a speed is even easier.

As we progress in life, if we make choices that move us closer to our dreams we find our life becomes easier and easier. However, the converse is true if we allow ourselves to move farther away from our dreams. The energy to keep the merry-go-round going becomes increasingly harder simply because our other responsibilities take focus away from our original vision of keeping it spinning.

The Bottom Line:

Take your life into your own hands. As we move forward in life, there are a declining number of choices. Don’t bemoan your position in life; believe you can overcome your obstacles.

Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the new Managed Print Services Association, an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son. He is always interested in connecting with you.

Do You Walk the Critical Path?

Do you find yourself often looking for more time in the day to do the things you need to get done? With competing interests and a growing plate of responsibilities, it has become rather difficult to effectively “juggle” your responsibilities. Family, work, honey-do’s, fun stuff, not-so fun stuff that you have to do – it all adds up and begins subtracting your time, your focus, and your energy reserve.

A simple question I have begun to ask myself, “Am I walking my critical path?”

The critical path is not a bad thing; the critical path, or Critical Path Method (CPM), is a project management tool used to define the total time it will take to complete all tasks in a project, as well as whether this project is on target, in jeopardy, or behind schedule. If the project is on-schedule to be completed in the desired time, it is considered to be on the critical path.

CPM has been taught to me time and again in both project management and personnel management. However, applying this to your life can be a real eye opener – IF you allow it to open your eyes.

Let’s say your life is the project. Generally speaking, none of us really know when we are going to die. However, many of us expect to live some period of time before we do, so this is where the Critical Path becomes important.

The key to this exercise is remembering your time is finite.

First, we must choose to do those things that are most important to us first and foremost. For instance, I do have to go to work everyday, but my top priority is to come home and be with my daughter at least 2 nights a week, have a date night with my wife 1 night a week, spend all day on Saturday with my daughter, and spend all day Sunday with my whole family. These are not flexible. If one has to be taken by some work priority, then it is replaced immediately with time from another of “my other days”.

When I ended my tour of duty with the USMC, they offered exit training. This was geared to help Marines, young and old, make the transition into the civilian sector more prepared. I must say, this was some of the best career advice I ever got.

First thing I was asked was to evaluate what was important to me. I thought it was money. So the trainer asked me how far would I ethically go for money? Would I move to the Middle East? Would I live on a submarine for 6 months at a time? Would I leave my family for a year at a time to follow the almighty dollar?

“Well, of course not.” was my reply. He then leaned in a little close so I could smell the coffee on his breath, and whispered, “So money is not what is most important to you then.”

This created the first, recurring task on my critical path – my faith and my family. Next, came my career goals , followed by my other goals such as education and fun.

My critical path became filled with goals that I “backed into”. I knew I wanted to make a certain salary figure before 10 years, I knew I wanted to finish my BS degree in 6 years, I knew I wanted to take a beach trip in 2 years. Those became goals I then turned into sub-projects and established milestones to accomplish – all keeping these in relation to my primary goal.

As I have reached the end of my 10 year goal setting exercise, I have found myself meandering a bit. I have allowed the noise and static to fill my head on more occasions than one, and have now began to reassess my critical path.

Here are some tips I have learned that I wanted to share:

1. Know yourself: Do you know what you want in life and how you are going to get it? Are you a student of life?

2. Know your goals: Which are set in stone and which are flexible?

3. Know how to achieve your goals: This requires integrity, resolution, patience, and empathy for others.

4. At the beginning of your day, write a list of what you have to get accomplished and what can wait if need be.

5. Allot time to put out fires if you know fires will come up. Do not begrudge the fires as they are another method of defining your critical path.

6. Seek out mentors and try to learn as much as you can from their wisdom (remember: mentors can even offer painful lessons of what not to do as well).

7. Seek out colleagues to share ideas and bounce ideas off of.

8. Set aside some self-reflection or meditation time in your daily routine. This will help you stay centered.

9. Find something that you can be the best and and be the best at it, but do not let it consume you.

10. Do not stress about the things you cannot control. Either focus your energy on the things you can affect, or create a resolution to put yourself in a position to affect the situation.

So, the critical path you must find is within you. It does not come in a wave, but in fits and starts at first. Then, like the rising of the tide, your critical path brings you a quiet power that cannot be stopped and a fulfillment no person can take away.