Accept your circumstances
Accept who you are.
He had accepted that he could not work in another company with his current knowledge and skills. He had also come to terms with his changed role. The one that defined his identity was gone forever. He was no longer a respected manager in his company and he was no longer the breadwinner in his family. Acceptance of the former was much easier than the latter. Once he had moved past this, he felt liberated. He said to me, “ I feel lighter; like a load has been lifted from my shoulders.”
Now, it was time to take the second turn — HIS DASHBOARD. This is where he had to be honest with himself about his relationships, his values and his passion or lack thereof. One of the bedrocks of staying relevant is discovering your passion or having a purpose in life.
“What’s a calling?
It lights you up and it lets you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.” — Oprah Winfrey
That is easier said than done.
Research has shown that 8 out of 10 people don’t have a passion or have too many. Research has also shown that there is a relationship between having a purpose and happiness in life.
The Designing Your Life(DYL) framework is an easy way to discover this. Dave Evans and Bill Burnett from Stanford’s Life Design Lab have made this self discovery process very easy. DYL suggests keeping a log of your daily activities. It is aptly called the Good Time Journal(GTJ). There are some activities in your life which keep you engaged and there are others which energize you or give you joy. Sometimes, time flies by when you are in the zone. It’s like, when you start reading a good book before bedtime and you are so engrossed in it that you lose track of time. When you look up, darkness is giving way to light. Gerard had been recording in the GTJ for two weeks. Some activities were keeping him engaged and energized, while others were draining. We plotted all this on an Energy Map. The energy result from one of the activities surprised him. His pastor has asked him to talk to a troubled youngster. Gerard first talked to him on the phone and then they had a series of meetings. These interactions gave Gerard a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. His recently acquired knowledge of social networks helped him understand the teen. A busy work schedule had prevented him from trying to mentor youngsters earlier. Now he had all the time in the world. He felt energized that he was helping someone. During one of the sessions, Gerard got so involved that he lost sense of time. And there it was — Gerard had discovered his passion and a purpose for the next phase of his life.
He decided that one of his life plans would be to become a mentor to troubled teenagers.
Gerard had taken an inventory of his skills during his six month “de-corporatization” time. He understood that he needed to update his digital literacy and competency. The Skills Future initiative and financial support provided by the Singapore government helped him to enroll for courses that would make him a digital native.
He looked up an online skills assessment framework to understand his current skill set. Some of the skills that showed up in his inventory were:
1. Problem solving — Was a plus. Tracking down discrepancies in the numbers over the years had sharpened this skill.
2. Listening — He was not aware that he was a good listener. So, this came to him as a surprise.
3. Networking — This scored very low in the assessment. He hated the concept of networking. Attending events to hand out business cards was not a pleasant exercise. Gerard didn’t even like attending large family gatherings. Chinese New Year was not his favorite time.
His Dashboard was now almost complete. He knew what his passion was and he also knew what his current skills were and which ones he needed to learn.
We were ready for the next turn on the Flywheel — His Life Plans.
I asked him to sit down with a cup of coffee(he loved his morning kopi, a local Singapore brew) and jot down three Alt Lyf (alternate life) plans for his future. He could write whatever he wanted to do over the next 5 years; realistic, imaginary or downright outrageous. Whilst brain dumping his plans on paper, he realized that he was going to lead a portfolio life. That means he was going to do more than one thing in the future.
The first was — Mentoring troubled youth.
The second was — To monetize his finance skills by offering them to small companies, on a short term or a project basis. He was going to be a gig economy participant.
Another one was — To become an acupuncture practitioner. He thought he could make some money from this as well, but he needed to try it before he could decide whether he liked it.
I introduced him to the concept of the “Growth Mindset”- a term coined by Dr Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford.
It is the power of believing that you can improve.
She sums it up succinctly in a HBR article.
“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.”
The implication of this for Gerard was that he needed to keep learning. Learning through courses or learning by doing — developing a bias to action. The more he tried out new ideas, the more he would learn. This would also build failure immunity, the mental fortitude to keep trying.
So, with this context he decided to prototype his three plans. To do that he first needed to build a community or a team of people who would help him in his life journey. He asked his pastor, his wife and two of his friends to be on his life prototyping team.
He had already prototyped mentoring troubled youth. It had been a success. He told his pastor that he could now devote three days a week to this program.
He wasn’t sure about how to prototype the second idea of monetizing his finance skills or becoming an acupuncturist. One of his friends suggested that he start “networking” to get some help. Gerard’s dislike for networking became an obstacle. As an introvert, it was difficult for him to attend networking events. I suggested to him that he reframe networking to asking for help or asking for directions.
Before Google maps became the “go-to direction finder”, I remember asking strangers for directions. I was never disappointed. There is an innate human need to help directionally challenged souls.
Despite this reframe, it took Gerard a few nudges from his life team to finally send a few Whatsapp messages to a friend of a friend. He discovered an online platform to post his finance skills and credentials. This friend of a friend helped him set up his account and taught him how to use the platform.
Gerard’s pastor helped him fix up a meeting with an acupuncturist to understand “what it is like to be an acupuncture practitioner.”
Gerard was now on the Flywheel to Staying Relevant.
In the last 6 months, Gerard had been on a transformational journey. He had accepted his circumstances and embraced his new identity. He had undertaken a deep dive into understanding himself — discovering his passion and purpose, doing a skill set assessment and completing his dashboard. Using this information, he had developed a set of life plans. To try out these life plans, he had to adopt a new mind-set, the Growth Mindset. It helped him try out new things, fail, try again, adapt and succeed. Over the course of trying out or prototyping life options, he built a failure immunity and became more resilient. He had a supportive community of people to help him take the next steps to his new life. He was physically more active and mentally well balanced. All in all, he was ready to enjoy his 20 year dividend.