I was waiting to board the plane back to LA after delivering a keynote speech in Portland. The driver dropped me off about 3 hours before departure. In the guest lounge, I was in-the-deep with writing and editing. Purifying the message happens to be one of my joyful experiences.

The man next to me was also quietly working and drinking coffee.

Suddenly, he turned towards me and said, “You are working so intensely on that document, would it be rude of me to ask what it is?”

I responded,

“I own a business that helps people transform their relationship towards work. One of my colleagues from academia and I are working on a book to help families better prepare their children for the future of work.”

“What’s the premise?”

“Well, change is taking on such gigantic proportions, we need a whole new mindset in how we select work and we need important new life skills to succeed, no matter the profession.”

I could see he was sitting on top of something that was painful. He asked, “How do we select our work?”

“We used to focus all of our energy on meeting 2 basic standards in our work, predictability, and survival. Now that we have lost those standards, which we mediocre, there is an entirely new opportunity to raise the standards of what we choose to do with our lives. Change is uncomfortable. The only reliable fuel we have found that drives personal change and action is loving our work, and doing the work that is meaningful. Otherwise, it is just a job.”

His face turned sheet white.

“I’ve been at war with my daughter for two years.”


“She leaves for college this year and wants to study marine biology.”

“What, on earth, is wrong with that?”

“I believe she can make more money with many other professions.”

“You actually think she will make more money if she doesn’t like the work? Look, no matter how much you try you will not be able to control your daughter. This stand-off that you are having is shielding both of you from meaningful collaboration at a very tender point in your lives.”

There was a period of intense silence. Then, he looked up and I witnessed the surrender as he opened his mouth. He declared, “I’m wrong, aren’t I?”

I responded, “Yes, you are.”

“What shall I do?”

“Go home and tell her you were wrong to imply ‘Don’t be you.’ Tell her that you love what she wants to do with her life because it will be honorable and good. Tell her she is going to become a wonderful marine biologist. Tell her it isn’t your place to tell her what to do with her life but as her father, you will do your very best to help her understand how to succeed.”

At that very moment, the hostess came over and told him his flight was almost done boarding. He turned at the door and looked at me as if he had seen a ghost. For a flash, his eyes welled up. His free hand covered his heart, face flushed, he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

On my plane, there was an older Lesbian couple in the seats ahead of me. They are celebrating retirement with a first-class trip to Costa Rica.

The guy next to me resembled a Shaman.

It was a convivial group but I didn’t want to talk. I sat in the gratitude of doing the work that I love and looked out the window as lakes and rivers sped below us, and the sunset over the Pacific. Tears fell.

I was thinking of her.


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

SOLD OUT! JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Being able to do the job you love or achieving the goal of finding a new job to love, are two highly desirable results for everyone regardless of the type of job, skills, age, because when you manage to bring together the verb working with the verb to love all of life benefits from it in terms of energy, creativity, reliability, quality and ability to face the inevitable difficulties that every job entails.
    However, this is not always possible.
    One of the strongest abilities of happy people, or those who have a more peaceful approach to life, is to be able to appreciate what they have. To achieve this, in many cases they adopt one or more stratagems: they manage to keep the positive aspects distinct from the negative ones; they show sincere gratitude for the positive ones; cultivate alliances with positive people; they try, even gradually, to modify the negative aspects or to reinforce the positive ones; they try not to be prejudiced about the job they do or the context in which they do it and not to take anything personally. Finally, most importantly, they don’t put themselves in a victim position.
    It cannot be said, without experiencing it, that new interests can be discovered that were not previously imagined.

  2. Having a kid who switched majors from Business to Fine Arts when they finally got the message that we didn’t think less of them for following their heart, I can relate, David.
    Unlike this father, we hadn’t pushed for any particular major, but kids pick up what you think is worthy from what is talked about and what is not talked about over the dinner table.

  3. David, that’s such an amazing encounter meant to happen! The way I see it this was not a chance meeting but one pre planned by the divine map of the universe. You just did what you were meant to do and changed someone’s life. In knowing the purpose of this connection, you have been given a sneak preview into part of your destiny and Simone else’s fate. What a wild experience. Id be crying too. I feel so grateful to have read this. It’s so very touching. Celebrate that incredible encounter. You may have helped marine biology with an incredible contribution…and possibly the planet….you never know … the ripple has started. We are all interconnected in this journey called life! Enjoy my friend. Thank you for the share.