Monday, 25 July 2016

How To Spot A Calling

"Are you 226?" - the piercing bark of a short feisty woman jolted me out of my humdrum wait for the bus. She was so loud that a good portion of the crowded bus stop turned to look.
"N... No" I answered shakily, then continued to introduce myself with a bit more confidence: "I am 227" at which the curious stares became more obvious.
"Well, tell 226 she must come see me first thing in the morning, she left her Erlenmeyer flask at her station. You guys can't be irresponsible with your equipment." Then our fierce analytical chemistry technician disappeared behind the many coats so quickly she missed my timid: "Um... I will."

In an Orwellian kind of way, this episode seemed funny to me the sophomore year of becoming a pharmacist. Little did I know that a quarter of a century would pass before I learned how to handle being assigned and considered a number.

These days floods of articles, TED talks and interviews with new world leaders, business coaches & ultra-successful hipsters point out that the old corporate structure is dead. Truly successful companies have replaced their ivory towers and VP-only perks. Wise executives now share open spaces and open minds with their inspired teams.
The essence of their innovation is that it feels like playing rather than working, all the while achieving remarkable results.

Truth be told, for the last few years of my career I've been immersed in all that stuff.
I dug Simon Sinek. Reread Seth Godin. Adored Shawn Achor. Pondered with Dan Ariely. While driving aimlessly on my tedious Mondays-to-Fridays, Warren Buffet kept me company with his famous address tackling productivity and big life's to-do list published by the Harvard Business Review. I also wholeheartedly "joined the circle" and leaned in as seriously as I knew how. You get the point -- when Netflix already knows I only want the stuff on Musk, Jobs, Gates and even Cuban - I mean business.

The result? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because although the logic is clear, business sense sharp and the stories inspiring, removed by a screen or a print, it failed to sink in. What I realized is that I actually needed someone around me, a warm body I actually would be able to meet and bounce these ideas with - and no, not a bigwig VP on a stage once a year who talks integrity and requests compliance via mandatory signatures on the spread sheet. I wanted a real leader who sticks around but not just at the bar. Who breaths the values herself, then coaches and inspires, unifies teams, solves problems and laughs off obstacles until it does start feeling like play. An intelligent yet fun pastime I'd get to do between 9-5.
Looking at my own professional life these past several months, I'm in awe how things in life work themselves out and not because of meticulous career planning or having a powerful mentor and role model.

So what ended up happening with #227?

Here it is, for the sake of all those currently sporting golden handcuffs afraid or unsure how to make a leap and also those few who have not yet figured out how to troll LinkedIn unnoticed. #hillarious

To start, it's actually enough to know what you don't want - in my case, I could no longer justify to feel like a human equivalent of spam mail. That instead of becoming the prescribed employee of the future, built out of Terminator 2 grade stainless steel, it's OK if you simply keep your own skin albeit at times fragile and sensitive. Anything but thick. In lieu of putting Teflon on to repel the mandatory vermin you put your focus on how you actually want to feel in your professional life. How about empowered and entrepreneurial for a change?
Then you let go. Breathe. Laugh. Train. Travel. All the while keeping focused on your priorities and carefully chosen helpers. Never be afraid to pay for a good advice.

I've been many numbers in my life: The 227 in Analytical Chemistry. The matching 354 around my wrist and my baby's ankle at birth. My immigration file number, I can no longer remember even though it felt seared in my brain at the time. World Wide ID 769 885 007. For some reason I thought that getting the number was a sign of safety. That things would be managed and taken care of because of it, not despite of it.

In truth, there is only one formula to get what you want:
1- Find the cause for which you would gladly volunteer
2 - Form real bonds with real people, including former customers and honorable competitors - these could turn out to be essential 
3 - Never stop learning - stay the course in the chosen field and get to really, really know it. Not for the worthless check mark on the performance review. But to be invited to the big kids' table because of what you know, not who you know.

Then go to work and play. You'll never even think of glancing at the clock. Or loathing when your manager calls. Counting days till your vacation. Or mouth to yourself ever again: "TGIF. TFGIF."

You do deserve better. Much better. When to start? How about right now! 
Or answer Godin's opening question in "The Icarus Deception": How long are you going to wait?

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