Posts in Work/Life Balance
How Morning Quiet Time Led me to a Career Change

One bottle of wine.  A lovely framed picture.  Some wonderful toasts from people I care deeply about.  These were the mementos of a going away party from the faculty I've served for the past seven years.

 

I had told them several weeks prior that I would be leaving school in order to become the Executive Director of a national, Catholic organization.  We laughed, cried and hugged one another good bye.  Some food and wine didn't hurt.  Very special moments that I will cherish.

 

Coming this July, I'll be leaving the comforts of K-12 education and entering the new world of higher education.  What led me to this point is very simple: I needed a change.  I couldn't put my finger on it but there was something inside me that was part restless and part antsy. 

 

What about you?  How do you know when you're ready to make a move?

 

For me, it was rooted in my prayer life. As someone who craves the quiet of early mornings (although I hate waking up!), years of mornings cultivated an awareness in me that I was not only ready to make a change but that God was calling me to do so. 

 

This was of course, a scary realization.  As a head of a secondary school, I've been so blessed and I am so thankful for what my school has given to me and my family.  Nothing but gratitude...

 

Still, I was willing to trust God and step out of my comfort zone. 

 

Interestingly, I've had no less than five adults come to me in the past few months looking for guidance in their own careers.  They are exactly where I was.  The inner voice was stirring and they weren't ready to get fully out of the boat but did want to dip their foot in to the water.  I realized that I was not alone, that many others were also considering career moves.

 

This is normal, healthy and good.  The old paradigm of staying in one company for your entire career is dead.  Now, there is a new ninja skill to be nurtured by professionals- paying attention to your spirit.

 

The key to all of this is listening- to what gives you joy, to the rhythms of your day, to the activities that you're really good at.  Listen to your strengths and look for careers that play to those assets.  Listen to those "wisdom people" close to you who can speak guidance into your life.  Ask yourself the tough questions that matter.

 

I suppose when you look at it this way, listening is a tactical career skill.  Who knew that some quiet time in the morning, day after day, would reveal such an insight to me and probably to countless others?

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 15: Guest Interview with Mark Sanborn

Have you ever wondered how some people deliver amazing results week after week and month after month?  In this episode of the Emergent Leader Podcast, I talk with Mark Sanborn, author and speaker.  Mark was an awesome guest- full of wisdom and really down to earth.  

Mark and I talk about several of his books, including The Fred Factor and You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader.  We also chat about productivity and the need for personal reflection.  Mark is someone who I could talk to for hours on end.  Since he's an author, his thoughts have all been synthesized into a cohesive curriculum for a career (and life) of excellence.  

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 12: Terry Hershey

When was the last time you took time for yourself, to pray, think and just "be"?  Best-selling author Terry Hershey was my guest for Episode 12 of Emergent Leader Podcast.  To say that this was a thrill is an understatement!  I've looked up to Terry for years as a sort of "virtual mentor".

Terry's Sabbath Moment newsletter, which arrives each Monday, is excellent.  Better yet, his new book, Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life is now available.  I've started reading it and it's absolutely great!  

Terry and I discuss ambition, prayerfulness, why it's important to pause in the midst of a busy day.  His deliberate manner is both humble and inspiring and I think you'll absolutely love this cast.



Why Playfulness is Important for Your Career

If you walk through the Google Headquarters, you’ll find brightly colored bikes to help employees get around campus faster. Keep walking and each of the Android statues greets you, from the huge Donut to the enormous Ice Cream Sandwich.  It's weird...and cool.

Not that all tech offices are like this but a thread of playfulness runs through Google’s top spots and at those of...

Lego (you know...)

Zynga (video games)

Moo (business cards)

Dropbox (online storage)

Skype (online phone calls)

LivePerson (marketing)

How about your current workplace?  Is it playful?  Is every wall off white?  Does everyone dress like they are the most boring people on Planet Earth?  You can check out some of the most fun workplaces here.

I’m feeling very guilty about this because my work is pretty vanilla.  In a traditional field like education, bold colors and indoor slides are well, unheard of.  If I’m honest, I need to do a better job of promoting “play” and being a more playful person.  Still, it's not exactly clear how I should do this.

The quality of "play" is important for a number of reasons:

  1. People tend to be drawn to organizations that are fun and playful.
  2. Play makes you less boring as you get older.
  3. Play gives you a wonderful set of interests that will come in handy for your next interview.

Let’s take these apart, one by one:

  • Job seekers want to get paid for doing meaningful work.  But, and this is at least true for younger workers, they also want to be a part of something cool, something fun.  Companies like Google know this.
  • Most of us wear khakis and drive Camrys and Accords as we get older (at least speaking for the guys reading this).  Playfulness says “hold up” to this trend.  When I see an old guy driving a Harley, I smile and realize that he’s on to something (and I need to save more cash for that bike!)
  • Playful hobbies are really important for your next interview.  At some point, they will either ask you or you’ll bring it up.  The bottom line inquiry is this, “What’s the rest of your life like outside of work?”  As a hirer, I always ask this and find the responses typically dull.  

Take inventory this week- how playful are you?  What can you do that’s fun and makes you smile?

The Surprising Ingredient to a Great Day

When was the last time you had a truly great day?  What did it look like and if you could, wouldn't you like to repeat it at a moment's notice?

I know that I would. 

This past weekend was Memorial Day in the States and the weather was perfect here in Jersey.  Parades, barbecues and sprinklers for the kids... absolutely perfect! 

What made the three days off from work even better was the fact that I was coming off of a few tough weeks of work.  May is very busy for school leaders and graduation is right around the corner.   

Surprisingly enough, the key ingredient was a complete lack of hurrying. No rushing around.  No hurried pace.  No frantic running of errands. 

Leisure is like that.  It's full of margin.

Joseph Peiper, the famous philosopher said this about leisure: 

“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”  Josef PieperLeisure: The Basis Of Culture

When we have a great day, we are typically experiencing a balanced view of work and the rest of life.  Things seem to be "in check".  Life makes sense.  

The lack of hurry is critical.  If you want to have a great day at a moment's notice, you'll need to cut down on the hurrying around that is part of so much of daily life. 

It's tough to enjoy leisure when you're in a hurry.

It's tough to enjoy leisure when you're in a hurry.

Less hurry, more balance.  

The Power of Deep-Seated Routines

Routines are so big a part of our everyday lives that, according to Charles Duhigg, they account for nearly 40% of our day.  In his book, The Power of Habit, he talks about routines and habits as if they hold a magical power.... because they do.

I've been reading through Duhigg's book and even got a copy for my leadership team members for Christmas.  It's that good of a read.  While I'm reading, I'm thinking (isn't reading funny like that?) about my own routines.

How about you?  How concrete are your routines on a daily basis?  Here's a brief quiz to get you thinking:

  • Do you get up at the same time every morning? / Do you get up at a different time each day?
  • Do you go to bed at the same time every night? / Do you go to bed whenever you feel like it?
  • Do you get in to work at the same time every day? / Do you get in to work at different times?
  • Do you work out regularly at scheduled times? / Do you workout at random times each week?

As you go through these questions, you start to get a feel for how deep-seated your routines are. I know for me, I'm very disciplined at some things but very scattered when it comes to other habits.  I'm a work in progress- you too?

Here's the thing- to the degree that you can cultivate deep-seated and routinized habits, strong, neat things will start to happen.  Here are just some that I've been uncovering:

  1. Because I get to work at roughly the same time each morning (between 7:05-7:15am), my morning traffic pattern is predictable and I stress less.  In addition, my colleagues can count on me to be there. This might also be a sign that I have my act together (debatable I'm sure).
  2. Because I write each Sunday morning for my newsletter group (you're not a member yet?), my readers can count on me.  They are then more likely to read my blog and when I have a special announcement, more likely to respond with generosity.  
  3. Because I take my kids to church each weekend, they can count on a weekly message from our pastor and this church-anchor breaks up their weekend into two distinct 24 hour periods of time.  
  4. Because I visit my spiritual director every 6 weeks, my soul is a little less likely to get crusty and whatever issues I'm working through are more likely to be resolved.  This makes me a more cheerful person and increasingly contemplative.  My family then looks forward to when I come home after spiritual direction, knowing that I'm going to be in a good mood.

Habits matter- they matter a whole lot.  They are part of our routines, whether we know it or not. How about you and I work to first inventory the routines that we have down pat. After that, I suggest working towards those routines that you know will pay off.  

For me, this includes getting to bed at a reasonable time each night.  It also involves no meat during Lent (which has been easier than I thought).

As you go through these questions, you start to get a feel for how deep-seated your routines are. I know for me, I'm very disciplined at some things but very scattered when it comes to other habits.  I'm a work in progress- you too?

Here's the thing- to the degree that you can cultivate deep-seated and routinized habits, strong, neat things will start to happen.  Here are just some that I've been uncovering:

  1. Because I get to work at roughly the same time each morning (between 7:05-7:15am), my morning traffic pattern is predictable and I stress less.  In addition, my colleagues can count on me to be there. This might also be a sign that I have my act together (debatable I'm sure).
  2. Because I write each Sunday morning for my newsletter group (you're not a member yet?), my readers can count on me.  They are then more likely to read my blog and when I have a special announcement, more likely to respond with generosity.  
  3. Because I take my kids to church each weekend, they can count on a weekly message from our pastor and this church-anchor breaks up their weekend into two distinct 24 hour periods of time.  
  4. Because I visit my spiritual director every 6 weeks, my soul is a little less likely to get crusty and whatever issues I'm working through are more likely to be resolved.  This makes me a more cheerful person and increasingly contemplative.  My family then looks forward to when I come home after spiritual direction, knowing that I'm going to be in a good mood.

Habits matter- they matter a whole lot.  They are part of our routines, whether we know it or not. How about you and I work to first inventory the routines that we have down pat. After that, I suggest working towards those routines that you know will pay off.  

For me, this includes getting to bed at a reasonable time each night.  It also involves no meat during Lent (which has been easier than I thought).  Both require small bits of sacrifice but they, in return, give me something as well.  Something of value that I can take with me throughout the day.

As a homework assignment, why not check out my friend Gene's website and podcast which features practical ways to stop feeling guilty over small things that don't matter.  

So here's to your well-formed conscience to guide you through the week.  You can do it, that is to say, you can live with joy and spontaneity and freedom... without the guilt.