As another financial year (in Australia) is coming to a close-a year many hope will not be repeated- and as firms rummage around to put their finishing touches on their 2013/14 financial budgets, I thought it might be worthwhile taking 5 minutes out of your busy professional schedule to read this post by my colleague Ron Baker. I know the 4 themes that Ron mentions below-vocation,intellectual capital, adventure and legacy-will not find a category in any professional firm's targets nor in your own personal KPI's for the next financial year, yet I find it impossible to argue that these themes are not incredibly powerful human traits and goals that goes to the heart of most human endeavour.
As a business when planning for the financial year ahead, it might also just be worth taking a little time out and ask yourself "what is calling me?.
Oh and maybe, just maybe, professional firms would be better off if they did have a category for each of these themes.
What do you think?
You can read the original post on LinkedIn: Class of 2013: What Is Calling You?
Some say the purpose of life is happiness. Happiness is not a frivolous or selfish concern, but rather a serious moral subject, and a noble goal. It is also a uniquely human aim. Aristotle believed the ultimate end of being human was eudaimonia, which is sometimes translated as “happiness,” but is perhaps closer to “fulfillment,” “flourishing,” or “success.”
To contribute to your future eudaimonia, I’m going to focus on four themes: vocation, intellectual capital, adventure, and legacy.
Most of you have career goals. A vocation, however, is something quite different, and is usually not discovered until later in life, after many paths have been followed. Vocation originates from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call.” It literally calls you to contribute your talent, energy, passion, enthusiasm, and desire to work you love and believe in.
Michael Novak wrote in his splendid book, Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life:
Business is a demanding vocation, and one is not good at it just by being in it or even by making piles of money. The bottom line of a calling is measured by pain, learning, and grace. Having a good year in financial terms is hard enough; having a good year in fulfilling one’s calling means passing tests that are a lot more rewarding. The difference is a little like being drafted into the army and, instead, volunteering for the Green Berets. Doing anything as a calling––especially doing something difficult––is a lot more fulfilling than merely drifting."
The history of business is the history of dreamers and entrepreneurs, those rare individuals who cast aside the security of a paycheck, mortgage everything they have, and chase a dream that ends up creating our futures. The factories and technologies of tomorrow––that may be nothing more than a glimmer in the eyes of a garage tinkerer––will at some point rise up and supplant the old order, disrupting the status quo and making a mockery of static income distribution tables.
The tempo of business is not one of stability and order, but rather of disequilibrium and instability. Stability and balance are for ballerinas and tires. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Mike Vance, former Dean of Disney University, tells this story of Walt Disney’s final hours in 1966 in his book, Think Out of the Box:
At Disney studios in Burbank, California, Mike could gaze out of his office window, across Buena Vista Street, to St. Joseph’s Hospital where Walt Disney died. The morning he died, Mike was talking on the telephone when he saw the flag being lowered over at the hospital around 8:20 a.m. His death was preceded by an amazing incident that reportedly took place the night before in Walt’s hospital room.
A journalist, knowing Walt was seriously ill, persisted in getting an interview with Walt and was frustrated on numerous occasions by the hospital staff. When he finally managed to get into the room, Walt couldn’t sit up in bed or talk above a whisper. Walt instructed the reporter to lie down on the bed, next to him, so he could whisper in the reporter’s ear. For the next 30 minutes, Walt and the journalist lay side by side as Walt referred to an imaginary map of Walt Disney World on the ceiling above the bed.
Walt pointed out where he planned to place various attractions and buildings. He talked about transportation, hotels, restaurants and many other parts of his vision for a property that wouldn’t open to the public for another six years.
We told this reporter’s moving experience…the story of how a man who lay dying in the hospital whispered in the reporter’s ear for 30 minutes describing his vision for the future and the role he would play in it for generations to come.
This is the way to live––believing so much in your vision that even when you’re dying, you whisper it into another person’s ear."
Soon after the completion of Walt Disney World, someone said, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” Vance replied, “He did see it––that’s why it’s here.”
Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance, sums it up well: “The fundamental problem with business is that they’re governed by mediocre ideas. Maximizing the return on invested capital is an example of a mediocre idea. Mediocre ideas don’t uplift people. They don’t give them something they can tell their children about. They don’t create much meaning.”
A higher purpose is measured by the renewed energy it gives us, even when it involves drudgery. There is no greater joy than watching someone engage in their true calling with their entire mind, body, spirit, and soul.
Continuously Develop Your Intellectual Capital
Your intellectual capital (IC) is what enables you to create wealth for others, and in turn for yourself. Like any other form of capital, however, IC is subject to obsolescence and must be constantly renewed. Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote:
The illiterate of the 21 century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
The most skilled are continuous students, willing to look at the world in absolute wonder and think about why things are the way they are. Continuing professional education will be one of the major growth industries in the coming decades, since IC is constantly being developed, making it nearly impossible to keep up with in your area of specialty.
Remember, though, that your IC is more than your human and structural capital. It also consists of your social capital, the relationships that will have a profound impact on the rest of your life. If you think the Pareto Principle is true in a business setting—that is, that relatively few control the majority––think about it in terms of your personal life.
Meeting someone and falling in love takes relatively little time but will have a major impact on your future. Or meeting a colleague or mentor who will point you in a totally new direction. You are whom you associate with. Do not pollute your river of social capital with people who have a zero-sum mentality and believe you can only gain if someone else loses.
Profit comes from taking risks since we live in a world of dynamic disequilibrium, where the only equality is in the graveyard, to paraphrase a German proverb. Not content to let the past stand in the way of the future, we all engage in a never-ending cycle of creative destruction. Change is our middle name, and we will continue to embrace and accept it as the progress is represents. We tear down the old order every day in business.
George Gilder, writer, economist, and eclectic thinker, wrote of the ultimate conflict in Wealthand Poverty:
In every economy, as Jane Jacobs has said, there is one crucial and definitive conflict. This is not the split between capitalists and workers, technocrats and humanists, government and business, liberals and conservatives, or rich and poor. All these divisions are partial and distorted reflections of the deeper conflict: the struggle between past and future, between the existing configuration of industries and the industries that will someday replace them. It is a conflict between established factories, technologies, formations of capital, and the ventures that may soon make them worthless––ventures that today may not even exist; that today may flicker only as ideas, or tiny companies, or obscure research projects, or fierce but penniless ambitions; that today are unidentifiable and incalculable from above, but which, in time, in a progressing economy, must rise up if growth is to occur."
In order to try something new, you must stop doing something old. A new idea should terrify us, challenging our worldview, the very core of our beliefs. Those who are most complacent and comfortable with the present––or worse, a nostalgic past––are likely to remain trapped inside it forever. It is the uncomfortable and dissatisfied ones who take the risks and ultimately create our future.
Leaving a Legacy
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lays out the second habit: "Begin with the End in Mind.” He has you imagine being at your own funeral. What would you want people to say about you?
President Calvin Coolidge said,
No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”
If you study business biographies and autobiographies you quickly discover successful cultures have been the result of original thinking. And it is precisely those cultures where original thinking is stimulated and encouraged that leave behind the richest legacies.
Ben Franklin’s epitaph, which he wrote, reads:
B. Franklin, Printer; like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost, For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended By the Author."
What do you want your legacy to be? Wealth is created by intellectual capital, a process of the inexhaustible human mind and spirit. The Mexican author Gabriel Zaid wrote,
Wealth is above all an accumulation of possibilities.”
These possibilities lie hidden in the womb of the future, waiting to be discovered by human imagination, ingenuity, and creativity, manifested in free enterprises dedicated to the service of others. I would not want it any other way.