A shift in possibilities

This blog, and my life, are about to change. Six years ago, I was told I had to look for a different job. While dealing with the uncertainty of finding a new role, I started writing at work. It began as therapy at the time but it eventually led to a new career, and it taught me the power of making my work visible.

Three years ago, I started writing this blog. That led to a network of thousands of people, a focus on helping others, a book, and more meaning and fulfillment in my work and life. It taught me the power of relationships.

Last week, workingoutloud.com launched amidst working out loud week, and there was a swell of interest and ideas and interaction. In India, for example, peer support groups (working out loud circles) formed during the week, adding to the ones in the US, UK, Spain, and Australia. I applied to deliver a TEDx talk.

Now what? I’m not sure.

Not all those who wander are lost

I do know that, starting this week, I’ll post articles related to working out loud on the new website. If you subscribe to workingoutloud.com, you’ll get an email every Wednesday morning with stories, techniques, and other resources related to building a better career and life.

That will change this blog. I’ll still write every Saturday morning because it’s too big a part of my life to stop. Having the new site frees me up to write about other things here, to explore, discover, and learn. The topics will be more personal and creative.

Your reading, supporting, and connecting has changed my life and helped me discover a purpose I now describe this way:

“To help people find meaning and fulfillment in their work and life.”

Thank you. That’s a purpose I could never have dreamed of until recently. The last six years have taught me that destiny isn’t something that awaits you, it’s something you create with the help and support of others.

Anyone can shift what’s possible for them. What about you?

What relationships will you build? 

What purpose will you discover? 

What destiny will you create?

Discovering your purpose

Looking for a purposeAsk a roomful of people whether they think networking is important and everyone will knowingly nod. Now, ask them for the purpose of their network.

Crickets.

Most will be thinking “Networks have a purpose?” or, worse, “I don’t know, I’m still searching for my purpose.”

Networking needn’t be an aimless collection of contacts. Instead, you can think of building a network as developing relationships towards some end. It's why one of the 5 elements of working out loud is being purposeful. 

Not sure of your purpose? Here’s how to discover it.

The myth of purpose

For most of us, thinking about the One True Purpose of our career or life is daunting, even dispiriting. A career counselor, interviewed in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”, described the pathos of his profession:

”...he remarked that the most common and unhelpful illusion plaguing those who came to see him was the idea that they ought somehow, in the normal course of events, to have intuited - long before they had finished their degrees, started families, bought houses and risen to the top of law firms - what they should properly be doing with their lives. They were tormented by a residual notion of having through some error or stupidity on their part missed out on their true ‘calling.’”

Cal Newport said it even more succinctly: ‘Follow your passion’ might just be terrible advice.” 

When I was 5, I was going to be a paleontologist, digging up dinosaur bones. At 11, I knew I’d be a baseball player. Then, in turn, a psychologist, a reengineering consultant, and a computer scientist modeling how the brain works. None of that happened. Instead, I spent most of my career working on trading floors in big banks. 

The sad part isn’t that I didn’t fulfill my early career aspirations. It’s that I bought into a romantic myth that I had One True Purpose in the first place. 

Learning to explore the possibilities

Fortunately, you don’t need to identify your true calling - astronaut, actor, arctic adventurer - to find fulfillment and meaning at work. You can start with a purpose that's simple and practical. Here, for example, are the most common goals of the people I coach:

  • Find a job in a new company or location
  • Get more recognition at their current job
  • Explore possibilities in a new field
  • Find people with the same interests
  • Get better at what they do

Notice how these goals are more modest, short-term, and practical than you might expect. It’s because in coaching people, I’m not trying to help them find their One True Purpose. Instead, I’m helping them learn how to work in a more open, connected way that helps them build relationships. It’s those skills that will equip them to pursue any goal in the future. And it's those relationships that will shape what their future can be.

A few decades ago, perhaps, we could take a personality test, list our talents, and find a suitable career. Not any more. Today, the world of work has splintered into a infinite set of ever-changing possibilities. So we have to learn to explore and discover our purpose. As Seth Godin wrote (just today, in fact):

“Discovery is what happens when the universe (or an organization, or a friend) helps you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.”

Discovering meaning & fulfillment

Remember the story of Jordi Muñoz, the Mexican kid who grew up to be the CEO of a robotics company specializing in drones? Growing up, he dreamed of being a pilot. But that’s only because he had no idea of all the other possibilities. Jordi’s humble purpose in working out loud was simply to get better at something he loved doing. And that exploration helped him combine several of his interests into a job he could never have imagined otherwise.

For me, even the wisest career counselor couldn’t predict the arc of my career or have foreseen the work I’m doing now. My current job didn’t exist just a few years ago and I’d have never considered coaching and writing a book related to it. It was only through making my work visible and building relationships that I was able to discover possibilities I’d have otherwise missed. 

Do you have a purpose? Start working out loud so you learn how to explore and discover one. Let the universe help you encounter how to make the most of your work and life. 

Discovering your purpose

Looking for a purposeAsk a roomful of people whether they think networking is important and everyone will knowingly nod. Now, ask them for the purpose of their network.

Crickets.

Most will be thinking “Networks have a purpose?” or, worse, “I don’t know, I’m still searching for my purpose.”

Networking needn’t be an aimless collection of contacts. Instead, you can think of building a network as developing relationships towards some end. It's why one of the 5 elements of working out loud is being purposeful. 

Not sure of your purpose? Here’s how to discover it.

The myth of purpose

For most of us, thinking about the One True Purpose of our career or life is daunting, even dispiriting. A career counselor, interviewed in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”, described the pathos of his profession:

”...he remarked that the most common and unhelpful illusion plaguing those who came to see him was the idea that they ought somehow, in the normal course of events, to have intuited - long before they had finished their degrees, started families, bought houses and risen to the top of law firms - what they should properly be doing with their lives. They were tormented by a residual notion of having through some error or stupidity on their part missed out on their true ‘calling.’”

Cal Newport said it even more succinctly: ‘Follow your passion’ might just be terrible advice.” 

When I was 5, I was going to be a paleontologist, digging up dinosaur bones. At 11, I knew I’d be a baseball player. Then, in turn, a psychologist, a reengineering consultant, and a computer scientist modeling how the brain works. None of that happened. Instead, I spent most of my career working on trading floors in big banks. 

The sad part isn’t that I didn’t fulfill my early career aspirations. It’s that I bought into a romantic myth that I had One True Purpose in the first place. 

Learning to explore the possibilities

Fortunately, you don’t need to identify your true calling - astronaut, actor, arctic adventurer - to find fulfillment and meaning at work. You can start with a purpose that's simple and practical. Here, for example, are the most common goals of the people I coach:

  • Find a job in a new company or location
  • Get more recognition at their current job
  • Explore possibilities in a new field
  • Find people with the same interests
  • Get better at what they do

Notice how these goals are more modest, short-term, and practical than you might expect. It’s because in coaching people, I’m not trying to help them find their One True Purpose. Instead, I’m helping them learn how to work in a more open, connected way that helps them build relationships. It’s those skills that will equip them to pursue any goal in the future. And it's those relationships that will shape what their future can be.

A few decades ago, perhaps, we could take a personality test, list our talents, and find a suitable career. Not any more. Today, the world of work has splintered into a infinite set of ever-changing possibilities. So we have to learn to explore and discover our purpose. As Seth Godin wrote (just today, in fact):

“Discovery is what happens when the universe (or an organization, or a friend) helps you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.”

Discovering meaning & fulfillment

Remember the story of Jordi Muñoz, the Mexican kid who grew up to be the CEO of a robotics company specializing in drones? Growing up, he dreamed of being a pilot. But that’s only because he had no idea of all the other possibilities. Jordi’s humble purpose in working out loud was simply to get better at something he loved doing. And that exploration helped him combine several of his interests into a job he could never have imagined otherwise.

For me, even the wisest career counselor couldn’t predict the arc of my career or have foreseen the work I’m doing now. My current job didn’t exist just a few years ago and I’d have never considered coaching and writing a book related to it. It was only through making my work visible and building relationships that I was able to discover possibilities I’d have otherwise missed. 

Do you have a purpose? Start working out loud so you learn how to explore and discover one. Let the universe help you encounter how to make the most of your work and life. 

“Brooklyn Castle”

Justus Williams, chess master & one of the stars of "Brooklyn Castle" I can’t stop thinking about “Brooklyn Castle”.

It’s the story of young kids in a Brooklyn public school who’ve won more chess championships in the last decade than any school in the nation. Watch the movie on Netflix or DVD. You’ll be inspired by the kids’ spirit and accomplishment, by the teachers’ passion and commitment, and by the way they all deal with financial difficulties at home and at school.

Another reason I keep thinking about “Brooklyn Castle”  is because it highlighted how working in an open, connected way can bring about a whole new set of possibilities.

It started when...

The movie was released in 2012, but I first heard about it in last summer. Fred Wilson, my favorite venture capitalist blogger, wrote about it in June of 2013:

“So here's the deal. This chess program at IS 318 takes three big trips a year to state and national tournaments, they have a full time faculty advisor, they study at the Marshall Chess Club, and they have a bunch of training materials they use every year. It's an expensive operation but it produces results. They are the NY Yankees of middle school chess teams. They turn kids from the streets of NYC into chess masters. And I do not think you can put a price on that.

The program was at one time funded by the school system. But budget cuts in the past five years have cut away that funding and the program has been kept alive in recent years by the generosity of a few big donors.

I saw the movie and read about the cuts and thought "this is what crowdfunding was made for"...”

Connecting dots

So I watched the movie and was thrilled. Then I watched it again with friends. I tweeted about it and got this response from the Assistant Principal, John Galvin, whom I genuinely consider a hero for what he does with the kids at I.S. 318:

Fred Wilson wanted to raise $20,000 using donorschoose.org, a crowd-funding platform for public schools that “makes it easy to help classrooms in need.” Fred’s campaign  wound up raising $67,784.99. I signed up and started to contribute to a few things.

And now I could start to see some connections.

I’m using social platforms for work, so crowd-funding is interesting to me. And I’m interested in education, not only because of my 5 kids but because my cousin has long inspired me with the amazing elementary school she founded and continues to run 34 years later. One of the 25 books that changed me was “Whatever It Takes” about Geoffrey Canada's school programs in Harlem.

But so what?

Purposeful discovery & Working Out Loud

Last week, in a post about Working Out Loud, one of the comments was that “the mere notion of putting yourself on an exposed and public pedestal is not for everyone”. She was right, of course. But now, more than ever, you can read, interact, and contribute in all sorts of ways before stepping on that pedestal. And that's a simple and fundamental part of working out loud.

Reading Fred’s blog led me to watching the movie. Tweeting about it connected me to John Galvin. That sense of connection led me to care more about donorschoose.org which led to contributions and discussions with my cousin and other teachers.

What's next? Maybe one day I’ll visit I.S. 318 with my cousin who, it turns out, has just started a chess program at her school.

Or maybe I’ll teach kids how to work out loud and have more control of their careers.

Or maybe all the proceeds from the book I’m writing will go to donorschoose.org so every reader can be a part of making a difference in our public schools.

What's interesting to me is that all of these possibilities are brand new. I'm seeing how, for myself and for the people I coach in a 12-week program, working out loud extends beyond the workplace and careers. It leads to looking at the world in a more open, connected way. It leads to finding miracles like the people and the story in “Brooklyn Castle” and to possibilities that make life richer and more wondrous.