Putting Purpose into Professions
Mastering the Puzzle and The Sprint of Passion, Skills & Value
Cygnus Sprint Thought Leadership Article #5 by Lead Author: Gordon Withrow
There has been a lot of talk about quiet quitting (in fact our Cygnus group just authored a post about it — Thought Leadership Article #3). It has been an interesting couple of years with much learning and rationalizing of our work, and on a global basis. People who used to follow a very predictable pattern have taken this moment to reconsider many aspects of their life.
Knowing we were going to be isolated in a lockdown situation caused us to reconsider a number of things:
- We still have to work, where can we do this?
- We still have to be with my family, where do they need to be? And where are we really needed physically?
- Amazon can ship almost anything in 2 days (except for the temporary supply chain disruption of the pandemic), so we don’t have to be near as much retail,
- By no longer going to concerts and sporting events, et. al, we have learned to embrace other hobbies, interests, and distractions that are travel/geography-neutral.
- There are now fewer geographic limitations on us, so what can we do to maximize that, either for this lock-down period or potentially longer term?
- Why are we where we are (geographically) in this world when we could be almost anywhere?
Under this backdrop, we are reaching conclusions. Are they fully thought-out? Are they lasting? Time will tell. But they are happening in large enough numbers to create a huge trend and expectation that business and individuals must manage.
The implications on elections and government are huge as well. Even if an individual didn’t change much as they came through all of the past few years, they have seen this play out and are trying to make sense of it.
Seeing the Opportunity
This is a once-in-a-generation event (and maybe once in a 300-year period). A review of the World Economic Forum’s website tells the story of how the industrial revolution has impacted poverty for over 300 years. There is still plenty of poverty, but the degrees of poverty are lessened. The creation of exploding markets of commerce around the new technology was a key enabler of the creation of middle classes across the developed world. One could argue that the presence of a middle class defines a developed state or country.
Today’s global transformation has begun. Whether we call it a 4th Industrial Revolution or a new digital era of automation, the opportunity to create value with much less human labor and higher quality has arrived. It will shake every industry and give pause to every individual — how will we survive this?
At the core, the key decision that we must make, is what are we passionate enough about to devote years of our life to learning and sharing in order that I can add value to those around me?
Find Our Meaning
First, even though medical science continues to advance our life expectancies, the mortality rate continues to be 100% for humans. My dad once said to me “Son, life is hard, and then you die”. A real encourager he was… He was having fun, but also making a point — as hard as living is, we need to make the best of it and do our best. He was acknowledging the need we all have: to find the parts of life that give us meaning and purpose and pursue them. The pandemic of 2019–2022 has given us the space and time to reflect on this.
There is also a fundamental need to map what we are passionate about to two other elements:
1. What are we good at that brings value to others?
2. What brings value that is in demand (and will continue to)?
The intersection of these 3 things in a Venn diagram provides a terrific focus for one’s career and business pursuits (the Japanese adds some rings to this life approach and call it ikigai). When we focus on that intersection without distraction, we maximize our life in the world we find ourselves in.
Most of us have made choices and we’ve done the best we can to maximize the circumstances and resources we find ourselves with. But what do we do now?
Leaders help our teams, peers and other leaders (including our bosses and those in the upper levels of organizations) get excited about the time we live in. Remind our teams of the historical accomplishments of our organization — firsts, high profile wins, etc., and inspire them to achieve new highs that folks who follow them will hear about. Lead others in addressing the changes being brought about in our world and finding their own place in these great changes.
While we can sit by and wait to see what happens, potentially becoming a victim to change we didn’t acknowledge and didn’t engage in, the best answer is always to show up, to represent, and to take an active role in the change we want to see. Be a leader and an involved partner in bringing about change, rather than a victim. Own the change for us and our areas of influence so that it is something we did together, rather than something that was done to us.
Own our Future Work-life
Unless we are independently wealthy or want to choose living in poverty, or at the threshold of it by doing the least we can possibly do to get by, we need to have a means to support ourself and that involves work that brings value to others.
What’s been eye opening to me over time is the large number of people I have encountered in my life who don’t actually grasp the basic idea of “my life should (or maybe must) include a mission or purpose that brings value to others”.
Bring Value to Others
As the first world society, do we get an experience morphed so much from the days of common service to others, that we accept a self-first, self-only kind of mentality as a normal behavior? We see it, but should we be accepting of that? A key element of successful work is that the work we do must bring value to others. Valuing others in itself has to occur. Find out “what about others am I passionate about” and make serving those passions part of our mission. When our purpose brings value and our purpose is right we can do meaningful and lasting things in this world.
One of my favorite quotations about passion came from an unlikely character. Karl Wallenda, the patriarch of The Flying Wallendas said “Walking the wire is living, everything else is waiting”. That always floors me when I consider it. I have few work-related activities that I feel that passionately about, yet I use that as an inspiration to avoid doing things I can’t really find passion for.
Sprinting with Purpose
As the famous science writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov said, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”
Living with purpose and bringing that purpose into the world is what Cygnus Sprints is all about. We’re the leading edge part of a guild of 6,000 driven people looking to disrupt, change, and create solutions. That’s not an ad, it’s a way of life that wants to live with purpose. All anyone can do is their little bit to make the world a little better than they found it.
This article is part of an ongoing thought leadership series developed by Cygnus Sprints — On-Demand Solutions for a Complex, Sped Up World and powered by the Grey Swan Guild.
A seasoned veteran who leads businesses from where they are to where they want to be, Gordon moves teams from strategy to action to realize value. He prides himself on a people-first approach to getting things done. Gordon served 25 years as an executive consultant with an international consultancy, and as leader within a Fortune 100 company. He has led organizational change and business transformation with a variety of organizations.
Most recently, Gordon has been leading deep learning artificial intelligence efforts and building expertise as an AI futurist.
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