IN GETTING prepared for the publication of my new book, The Great Disengagement, I find most of the business world talking about change. The troublesome aspect of change is that many people either believe they cannot change. Or, they are so afraid of changing themselves they won’t take right action. Finally, many people want to change but they don’t know how.
We are recovering from 300 years of conditioning given to us by the Industrial Revolution. In that world, we were promised predictability and survival. The human capital “machine” conditioned us to seek the security of jobs and roles for life. Unsolicited change happened for losers.
I happen to have a unique vantage point that has given me the awareness that all of us can change for the better. All of us have the capacity to transform our lives. This isn’t new age dogma, it comes out of observing thousands of people change in valuable and positive ways.
I began to experience the human capacity for change right after we launched Inspired Work in 1990. In our second month of business, one of the nation’s largest banks became a client.
After years of success and stability, the CEO was looking for ways to manipulate more value into the shareholder’s pockets. That plan backfired and the bank no longer exists. Thousands of their ex-workers came through our programs. Most of these employees had what they believed were “jobs for life.” Some had so thoroughly bought into the promise that many of them came in wearing blue suits and stickpins with the bank’s logo.
Before the participants found new lives and renewed purpose, they had to navigate through the shock of having ten to thirty years of employment come to a swift (and often bitter), end.
Many of our participants got outcomes they never anticipated.
One of them was a young man who had become a senior finance executive. He was the first member of his family to go to college. In fact, he had earned an MBA from an Ivy-league school. He told us of growing up in a family of migrant workers. He did well in school and got a scholarship. But, his passion had never been to climb a corporate ladder and make a great deal of money.
At one point he whispered,
“All I ever wanted to do was to grow things.”
That desire had been smothered because his tribe looked up to a banking executive. But, life isn’t one choice or another. His work in banking, his education and his passion for growing things paved the way for a new life.
Today, he is a wealthy farmer growing premium lettuce for gourmet restaurants across the western seaboard.
Another gentleman had come into the program with his wife. He had been with the bank for almost thirty years. Now in his fifties, he was panicked about finding another job as a middle-aged man. But, on the second day of the program his demeanor had changed so completely that I asked what was going on with him.
“I would like to make an announcement to the room.”
He continued by telling everyone he had always been in love with the world of art and that now, he would “devote the rest of my life to the art community.”
Years later, I would open up a copy of the Los Angeles Times and find his obituary which read, “John Morgan, Leader in the Los Angeles Art Community.” He had gone on to open a charity, bringing art education to inner city schools. He raised millions for art museums and he opened up a successful gallery.
Later, his wife would share that for eighteen years, “He always left for work with a smile on his face.”
My friend, Cathy Sandeen is the Chancellor of University of Wisconsin. She predicts that the average college graduate will change careers 4-6 times. How does that apply to Inspired Work?
When someone has a direct experience of change in 48 hours, they know they can change again and again. This opens us up to take advantage of the enormous amount of information that is now available to us. The experience can drive us to get the most out of each professional step we take. Now, someone who came in the door as an unhappy administrative worker can leap-frog through a variety of growth steps only to become the successful CEO and owner of an international business. The experience empowers parents and “breadwinners” the insight to let go of shackles and design a professional life that is not only more satisfying on a spiritual level, it is surprisingly lucrative.
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