A Tale of Two Stories

A few weeks ago, a former colleague and friend of mine shared a post about passion. At its end, he asked people to share what they are passionate about. I love this question and how he framed it. It was asked in the context of recruiting; it is well known that people who are passionate about their work tend to perform at a higher level. Several people, from varied backgrounds, contributed, sharing the things that get them up in the morning. My contribution was this:

I’m passionate about helping leaders be better leaders and teams be better teams… Helping people break through whatever resistance is holding them back and helping them realize that they CAN. People are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for, I love helping them come to terms and wrestle with that. I am passionate about being a catalyst for the evolution of self.

I love what I do, and through hard work, determination, and a bit of risk taking I have created a life for myself that I genuinely enjoy. Sure, there are parts of running a business that does not happen to be my absolute favorite, but when it comes the work I do every day – it’s good stuff. In part because I created it that way, and in part because I choose it to be that way.

Hung Up

I was surprised to see one comment in the chain of responses so contrary to my way of thinking that I became hung up on it. They commented:

“… this is terrible advice. Don’t make your passion your work. It’s a sure fire way to be disappointed and destroyed. Work is work; if you can work a 9 to 5 and make a living then pursue your passions privately in your own time, you’re more likely to find happiness.”

I found it hard to believe that someone could quickly write off the possibility of finding joy and passion at work. You’re more likely to find happiness if you aren’t passionate about your work? Huh??

Now, I’m not naïve, and I understand there’s a significant percentage of the population that works because they have to and are willing to do anything to support their families, even if they don’t enjoy it. Kudos to them, for doing what it takes to make ends meet and handle their responsibilities. But that’s not what I’m referring to. It’s not so much about the work that you do; it’s about your mindset around that work. But let’s go back to that first one.

Hard Work and Wanting It

We spend 40+ hours a week at work, so if you don’t like the work you do, really don’t like it at all, find something else. Take the time, take the hit, put in the effort to put yourself in a place where you can do the work that you love. I’ve enjoyed every single job that I’ve ever had, but always knew that I was destined to own and operate a thriving employee development firm. For 12 of the 13 years, before I launched this business, I worked two jobs – a full-time role in corporate America, and the part-time gig that eventually became developUs. When asked about the secret to success, I respond with two things, “Hard work, and wanting it.” If you don’t’ like where you are, make it your mission to change it. In the words of Dave Ramsey, you have to be willing to “Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else.” You may sleep less and vacation less while reading more and sacrificing more, but there’s lots to like in this world, and you should spend more than half of your waking hours doing something you enjoy. It’s worth it. YOU are worth it. Make it your mission to do work you love.

Mindset and Mission

Now for the second part, which is more about mindset than it is about the mission. I believe, that if you chose to, you can enjoy, or find joy, in just about anything. I know that being frustrated, angry and complaining doesn’t feel good for me and the people around me, so I chose not to. There are two ways to tell every story, and it’s good practice to look at both sides.

For example, on a recent trip to Mexico City, I could tell you that just about everything went wrong.

  • The flight was delayed
  • We did not have enough course materials printed
  • The facilitator notes and the course materials didn’t match
  • Local hotels were booked necessitating a two-hour commute to and from the training location
  • We stood in line for 4 hours before boarding the red-eye flight home
  • I didn’t speak the language fluently enough to be able to navigate
  • …the list goes on and on

Practice and Choice

One could say it was a very stressful trip. And while all of that is true, it was a fantastic trip. We delivered an amazing course to an engaged group of people all the while getting to work with a partner that I love to facilitate alongside. We partnered flawlessly in the delivery, even with the on-the-fly design changes necessary to pull it off. We enjoyed delicious food (the empanadas were to die for), and I was pleasantly surprised by how much Spanish I remembered and absorbed in those two short days. I gained a tremendous amount of perspective by listening to locals describe their feelings about America, and even with all of the “challenges,” everyone was delightful. There was no complaining, no sour moods, no focus at all on the things that went wrong. How is it that the same story can be told two entirely different ways? Practice and choice. We all have the choice (though many people fail to realize it), but the question is, do you have the practice? I challenge you – the next time something presents itself as a challenge, see if you can tell the story two ways. If you can’t, try harder. And if you still can’t, make a change in your life. Enlist help from a coach who can help. You deserve to have joy, in both your mindset and your mission.

Our Connection

Much of the work we do is in the area of leadership development, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t somehow tie this to our work. The connection, if not already apparent, is easy. How you tell your story determines your focus. Your focus then determines your team’s focus. What’s your challenge and the story around it? Are you stuck with a big problem, or do you have the opportunity to rally and solve something others viewed as impossible? Are you focusing attention and spending time talking about the problem, or its solution?

I’d love to hear your examples of “A Tale of Two Stories.” Like my recent trip to Mexico, what has happened in your world that can be told in a completely different way? Which way did you choose, and how did it make you feel once you told it?

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