Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Secret to a Fulfilling Career

Enjoy your career and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

Well, it finally happened.

My laptop, an IBM ThinkPad, is pushing 3 years old and as you may be aware, 3 years for a laptop is about the equivalent of 100 years in human years.

It’s getting up there and it’s showing signs of old age. The screen is doing random and increasingly long blinks and the keyboard has taken a beating. In fact, the "j" flaps at me regularly, and on occasion it jumps right off the keyboard and performs back flips in the air. And while it hasn’t "blue screened" in a while, I have seen it shut down by itself.

Not a good sign.

So this past week, I went off to one of my favorite toy stores, Microcenter, looking for a suitable backup unit or possible replacement.

On my first trip to Microcenter, I met Raymie in the laptop/desktop bullpen. He introduced himself, and was pleasant enough. So when he asked what I was looking for that day, I hit him with my primary criteria, asking him which machines already had Vista Business loaded.

That narrowed the field considerably. He pointed out 3 of his business class machines. The rest had Vista Home Premium loaded. Those were the big screen devils that doubled as a poor man’s home theater.

I asked Raymie a few more questions, outlined some of my other criteria, and then, as I was in a little bit of a hurry, asked when he was going to be back in the store.

Hey, he did help, only fair to make sure he got his recognition for his part in making the sale.

I was originally planning to be back on Friday, which turned out was his day off.
So instead, I went back the next day. The floor was a little more crowded, but amidst all of the chaos, there was Raymie, enjoying himself. He was helping someone else set up a refurbished unit.

"Raymie. Remember me? I was here yesterday talking with you about that business laptop."

"Yes, I remember you." He said. "Give me one second while I get this guy set up and I’ll be right with you."

Raymie continues to help this guy initialize his refurbished unit while I looked over my "soon to be new toy". I could hear him working with the guy, making jokes and being light about the tasks that this guy faced with his unit.

After about 5 minutes, Raymie was at my side reviewing the specs on the machine.

We talked about the virtues of the machine, how it met all of my requirements and he pointed out some additional things that this machine had and some of the other things it would allow me to do. At one point, I asked him about virus and malware protection, because I saw the infamous Norton Antivirus screen on the machine.

"No, no, this is only a trial version. Most people go with this because it’s easy to upgrade to a full version and it’s already on the system. We typically don’t recommend it because it has a large footprint and it’s heavy, it slows your machine down a lot. Now this is the application we use here. We asked a couple of security consultants to perform some tests and make suggestions and this is what they recommended. This is the stuff that we recommend to our users who want to remove Norton and try something different."

Raymie then went on to explain why this new package was so much better than what was already on the system. He identified some of the things that it had to offer and told me how they were using this package in their home office. It was at that time that we both noticed an older gentleman who had been standing off to the side. I didn’t recognize him, but Raymie did.

He said, "Hold on for a moment, let me take care of this guy…" and then went on to address the older gentleman.

I saw Raymie put on a big smile, approach the gentleman and say, "Is everything ok?"
The man said, "You know that piece of paper with that information you just gave me? Well the wind just took it right out of my hands."

Raymie went over to his console addressing the guy as he went.

"That’s OK." He said. "We can fix you up. In fact, the wind and I have an arrangement. It was supposed to take that information away from you so you could come back and hear that presentation on security software that I was giving that gentleman over there" he said, pointing to me.

The older guy said, "Oh, is that why I needed to come back in?"

"Yes. Now you know that you need security software as well, isn’t that right?"

They both chuckled and as Raymie was pulling up the information for printing out, I heard him say, "I’m just playing with you. You know, we have to have some fun around here."

The older gentleman said, "I know that. And you know what? You’re right!"

You have to have fun!

From the time that I walked into Microcenter to the point I walked out of the building with the laptop. The one thing that I noticed was that Raymie was having fun. He was actually enjoying himself.

I think many of us forget that we need to enjoy ourselves and have fun at work. We get caught up in the concept that work is a four letter word and we shouldn’t enjoy it.

Will there be those tasks that you don’t want to do? Sure.

Will there be those days that nothing goes right? Of course.

Will there be times that you just feel burnt out? Absolutely.

We are human. These things happen and our interests flows to different things at different times.

But work is not a hateful, necessary evil.

Sometimes, in sales, we focus too much on the business and we forget to have fun and enjoy ourselves. We forget to enjoy the process and focus too much on the result, the goal.

Goals are important, but so is the process we take to get to the goal. If you are just going through the motions because some guru said that these are the steps you need to take to be successful, then there is an essential element missing out of the equation; and that element is you.

Here in our call center, our team is on the phone 8 hours a day and they go through some grueling challenges. The CEO of the company, Lance, made it clear that he doesn’t want anyone to turn this into a career stop. He considers our inside sales team to be a small step in a much bigger plan in the development of our people. But it is a step. And Lance is watching to see who is performing, how people are behaving, and who is enjoying themselves.

As such, we do a variety of things to break up the monotony. We have contests, games, training sessions, and fun, lots of fun. If our people were only making calls to hit a number, the job would be boring. And while our team would hit their call numbers, no one would learn anything, no one would make any sales and no one would have fun.

When I was going through my product endorsement, the fourth stage of instructor certification, I spent a lot of the time on edge. I was focused strictly on passing the event and making it to the next level. As I was too focused on the result, I wasn’t spending any "mind awareness" on the process.

At one point during the event, the master instructor pulled me aside and asked me a question. He asked, "Are you enjoying yourself?"

Of course, I replied ‘yes’, although I think we both knew that I was so focused on meeting all of the requirements that I was wound tighter than a cheap mechanical watch. Engineers get that way sometimes.

But he was wise enough to recognize this and told me that I needed to relax, enjoy the process and just not focus on meeting a set of requirements. He told me that if I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, other people would notice that feeling quite easily and they wouldn’t want to be around me. He suggested that I go back read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Then, identify what the worst thing that could possibly happen and accept it. Once I accepted the worst possible situation, I was free to improve my situation and enjoy the process.

Turns out, my best day was the last day of the event, because I was free from stressing out about meeting the requirements and recognized opportunities in other people.

If you are involved in a job where you are too focused meeting a goal or performing a task and you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, it may be time to start looking for something else to do.

Life is too short to spend it in a miserable state of mind.

Do like Raymie and have some fun.

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