Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is the Work That You Do What You Were Born To Do?

Just last week I had a conversation with a new friend. We met in the Twitter world and correspond quite a bit that way but I’m so glad I decided to give a quick call to say hi. That conversation reminded me that life is really beautiful and the connections that we make along the way make the journey even more beautiful.
We spoke for a bit about our respective vocations and interestingly, like me, she isn’t formally trained in the area about which she is most passionate. Yet still, she has found a way to feed her passion to the extent that it’s now feeding her. So she can spend more time on it. That gave me the idea to write a blog post about this general subject.
Periodically, I check the statistics on who’s reading The Upbeat Dad blog. And consistently two things stand out – 60% of our readers are female and most of our readers (male and female) are between ages 35 and 44. I’d like to focus on the age range for a bit. This range tells me that most of you are in the prime of your careers. Which is great on the one hand; on the other hand, I wonder if each of you is fulfilled in your work.
Way back in the early 90s, when I just started my professional career in the accounting profession, I remember something quite significant that occurred on a work assignment. There were about 8 of us working on an audit at a client’s office. We ranged in experience level from a newly hired person like me to a partner in the firm with over 30 years experience.
I was quite excited to be in the profession. Any accounting student in school today dreams of graduating and going to work with one of the Big 4 firms. And there I was, just out of school with this dream job at one of these firms. I was on cloud 9. I thought that everyone else in the firm had my same mindset – that this was as good as it gets.
Well, this next statement I’m about to make has remained with me since then: none of them really wanted to be there – they were only there for the money. Wonder why I say that? Here’s why. One day, I asked them the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Every one of them – every single one of them – said that they’d quit their job immediately. One of them even stated that he’d just not show up to work for a few days and then mail in a postcard from Tahiti that quotes the country song, “Take this job and shove it; I ain’t working here no more.”
We went on to discuss the topic a bit more and I was quite surprised with what I heard. They’re all really intelligent and were very good at the work that they did. But still, they didn’t find the level of fulfillment that would keep them working if they knew that their financial needs were met. That whole thing bothered me greatly. As I figured then, if you really like the work that you do, getting lots of money shouldn’t influence you one way or the other. Your work should be fulfilling. The money should really be a bonus - a byproduct, if you will.
If you asked me when I just got out of school what my dream job was I’d tell you that I dreamed of being a partner in a Big 4 accounting firm. That was my ultimate goal. As my career has developed, my outlook on life and my vision has expanded. I realized that accounting was just the tip of the iceberg. What accounting has done is give me a thorough understanding of business and how companies function. Knowing how to read and interpret financial statements is really essential to understanding how businesses function.
But here’s the deal: what I love more than anything, is impacting people’s lives in a direct, personal and meaningful way. As an accountant, I do get to impact others’ lives – it’s generally through the area of accounting and taxes. Still, it does allow me to get to know the persons behind the numbers. That part, to me, is what makes the journey fascinating. So many times I’ve met people in the world of accounting and taxes and before you know it we’re talking about the meaning of life and the related issues.
When I went through my divorce in the early 2000s, that really rocked my world. I wrote about the impact of that on me in The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad. But what I’ve been able to do since then is channel the negative energy from that experience and become a better person instead of remaining bitter. And I think I’ve done just fine in that regard.
I don’t believe that the lessons that I learned were for my benefit alone. People go through divorce and broken relationships every day – that wasn’t unique to me. So I thought that if I could share some of the lessons that I learned with others, I could make an impact on their lives in a positive way.
Since I started writing this blog in October of last year, I cannot tell you just how fulfilling the experience has been for me. And I know that we’re making an impact. We’ve developed quite a following – last week we got hit number 20,000. And as I say, each of those hits represents a way in which we can touch the lives of others.
Now here’s the most significant statement I could make in this post. If you look at my resume, there’s absolutely nothing that would cause you to think I could be proficient as a writer. I’m not formally trained in that area. I’m trained as an accountant, remember? It’s not about what you’ve been trained to do – it’s about what you were born to do. One of the greatest singers and songwriters in history, Bob Marley, was never formally trained in music. He said, “I don’t have education; I have inspiration. If I was educated, I’d be a…fool.”
What I’ve been able to do is develop my skill as a writer to do what may have seemed impossible several years ago. At another point, I will write a blog post about how my former ways of stuttering actually helped me to become a better writer. You can’t stutter on paper, right?
Thus far, I’ve been able to balance my formal training as an accountant and my growing passion, which is writing and speaking, while making a meaningful difference in others’ lives. I authored the book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation. When it was released in 2006, that book was on the bestseller lists of Barnes and Noble and Amazon in the self-help section. This whole area is what I enjoy more than anything – helping others. It’s truly priceless to contribute to another’s well-being.
I wonder, is the work that you do fulfilling? Do you enjoy it? Is there something else that you would rather do? I’m not suggesting by any means that you get up tomorrow and quit your job but I am suggesting that you begin taking steps to feed your passion. It’s there for a reason. And just forget your formal training for a moment. If people only pursued areas in which they were formally trained, many of the great feats throughout history would never have been accomplished.
I say all the time that I’m an accountant – a Certified Public Accountant. I’m also a speaker but my greatest gift is writing. So when all is said and done, I believe that my greatest impact on the world will be through the medium of writing.
I challenge you to find out what your true passion is. And take small steps each day to feed that passion. You’ll be amazed at just how things will fall into place as you do this. There are things that you are trained to do; and other things that you were born to do. My hope for you is that you will discover the thing that you were born to do. Until you find that, nothing will be quite as fulfilling as it ought to be.
I hope that this post has given you fuel for your fire. I hope that it’s inspired you to get to work on your life’s purpose. That’s what this whole thing is all about. When you’re at your best, you’ll be more effective in your personal and professional life.
Enjoy your day. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family.

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Are Those New Year's Resolutions Coming Along?

It's hard to believe that we're almost at the end of the month. Didn't we just welcome the new year? Where has the time gone? As we approach the ending of the first quarter of the year, I just want to ask a few quick questions: where are you in terms of meeting your goals? Are you on track? What about those new year's resolutions? Remember those?
At the end of last year, I wrote the post Year End Inventory. I wrote about my background in the accounting profession and how at the end of each year, companies do an inventory count to show the figure that they will report on their financial statements.
As I mentioned in that post, in our lives we ought to take inventory of where we are. More importantly, we ought to take steps to position ourselves where we desire to be. A new year is well underway and while that's a good thing, I'm concerned that many of us have become so comfortable in our daily routine that we've forgotten those things that set out to accomplish.
I believe strongly in setting career and professional goals. I've done it since college days and it's worked wonders for me. But how many of us set goals for our lives at home? What do we do differently in order to get the families that we desire?
You may have heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Year after year, many of us have the same lack of satisfaction with how things are at home. And each year end we plan to do something about it. And before you know it, when the thrill of the new year’s season is gone, life gets back to normal and we get settled in our routines. Work and school and the daily chores become the norm again and our euphoric moment in which we made our resolutions seems a distant memory.
My challenge to you today as we prepare for the end of the first quarter is that you gauge where you in your family life so far this year. How's the communication between you and your spouse? How about the kids? Are you spending enough time with them? Do you have periodic family meetings to assess how things are with everyone?
Here's my recommendation. If you haven't already done so, document a family plan of action. Get everyone's input so each of you take ownership of it. That also establishes some accountability.
The summer's coming up. Decide as a family what you'll do for summer vacation this year. If you're a single parent, you can plan something special with the kids. You know, they can easily feel like they're lacking something that their friends from 2 parent households have. It's really all about being proactive and getting from life what we desire. And our families should be our biggest priority.
Abraham Lincoln said, "If you fail to plan, then plan to fail." That phrase is quite applicable to us as we seek to get the most out of this year. It's easier said than done, I know. The economy has its issues. And our lives have unforeseen circumstances that alter our plans at times. But just like with a sailboat in the ocean, we can't control the wind and the direction of the wind. However we can control how we position ourselves. And in so doing, no matter how the winds of life blow, we will come out victorious.
If you've found yourself going off-course in this relatively new year, I hope that this post is just the jolt that you need to get you back on track. I said when the year started that someone's going to have a breakout year this year so why not you? Check the post. I think you can be that one who's poised for a breakout this year - both in your personal and professional life.
Let's make some great things happen this new year. Your greatness must be on display - the world needs you to shine like the star that you are. I look forward to hearing of just how this has been the year when things have come together for you. This can really be a reality in your life.
As Nike's slogan says, "Just do it!"
Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Helping Your Kids Discover Their Greatness Within

Last week I started a weekly Sunday post where I share a thought for the week and conclude with a poem. This week, I'll share with you one of the first poems I ever wrote - from back in the mid 90s. It's a poem that I think speaks to each of us as citizens of this world who want to make our lives count for something meaningful.
I wrote this poem as I reflected on my life's journey. I had always looked to others and admired their greatness, not recognizing that I have my own inherent greatness. Far too often we admire the skills and talents of others and never look within to see that we, too, are highly gifted.
As our kids grow and develop, we should help them to embrace their individuality, being happy with just who they are. Sure they can have sports and entertainment heroes. Sure they should look to us as their guides. But there comes the point when they need to look within and embrace their own innate brilliance.
The poem Greatness Within speaks to this need. Enjoy reading it and share it with your kids, if you will.
I’ve walked all along this lifelong highway;
the lessons I’ve learned have guided my way.
But I never could solve the deep mystery:
I saw greatness in others, but never in me.

I looked at my father, my brother, my friend;
to life’s great heights they always transcend.
Shouldn’t I have his talents, or her dignity?
I can’t seem to be happy with just being me.

So I sought and I tried to be like each one,
to get their rewards and to have all their fun.
But strangely I found that I failed every time;
I can’t have their gifts—I’ll just work on mine.

Could that be the answer? Do I have what it takes?
Could my life make a difference to the whole human race?
Of course, I am gifted, and that’s not a sin.
I look in the mirror and see greatness within
Your kids were born to be great, in their own way. As they embrace themselves as they are and look at the gifts they were born with, there's nothing that they cannot accomplish.
I hope that, like so many who have lived and discovered their talents, your kids will look in the mirror and see true greatness within.
Enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad