Posted on May 3, 2010 by Dan Blank
So many of us get caught in ruts, buried under too many tasks, and trapped between competing priorities. With work, family, hobbies and financial obligations, it’s easy to wake up one day – when you are 32 or 42 or 52 and think, “How did I get here? Where am I going?”
So today, I want to talk about ruts, about how we define ourselves and about how we grow.
Spinning Your Wheels But Not Getting Anywhere
I know so many happy people – thankful appreciative people – who, deep down, feel a great deal of angst that they are not achieving what they hoped to in this world.
Do you feel like 1 in a million in your career? Do a search on LinkedIn for the term “IT Manager” and it delivers 1,561,076 results. “Administrative Assistant” gives you 450,404 results. “Marketing Director” gives you 1,391,058 results.
If your title is one of these – it’s easy to see why someone would feel like a cog in the machine – and begin to wonder: “Do I matter? Is this the legacy I wanted to build?”
I think the web empowers us in many ways, but it also fuels the realization that others are achieving the goals that you wanted for yourself.
How Do You Structure Your Personal & Professional Growth?
For many folks, the first 21 years of their lives are highly structured, with systems in place to push us forward every few months into a new semester, a new class, a new test, and a new set of people. The world kicks us to the next stage.
But after age 21, that tends to slow down dramatically.
Did you meet as many people between ages 21-31 as you did from ages 11-21? Did you push yourself in as many new directions, stay up late learning about new things, did you make as many decisions about your future?
Oftentimes as adults, we pursue opportunities as they arise, and we approach them cautiously, to ensure there is little risk. But this cautiousness can lead us to stagnation… as it seems safer to stay with what we know, than to make a change that can risk how we define ourselves or provide for our families.
So the question is: how do you structure personal and professional growth? How do you start down a new path?
The Question Isn’t “How,” But Rather: “When.”
If you want your career to move in a new direction, if you want to redefine your value to the world and the legacy you are building, it is not a question of “how” to do it, but rather of “when” you do it.
Nobody has the safe and easy answer for how to move forward. No scheduling or productivity tool in the world will suddenly free up 2 hours in your day so you can focus on learning a new skill.
And the answer to the question of “when” is always the same:
Because if you don’t do it right now, then you never will.
Defining Your Value
You are not your job title. This idea is so counter-intuitive in the U.S., it bears repeating: YOU ARE NOT YOUR JOB TITLE.
This can be both humbling and empowering. If you are a CEO at a huge company, you may not want to hear that. The job title is an affirmation of your years of struggle, determination and achievement.
But if you are a middle manager at a middling company, sitting in a gray cube all day, the idea that ‘you are not your job title’ may be a revelation.
What if you could redefine the value you deliver to your community and to the world? What if people would look at you in an entirely new light – what would you want that to be?
What if you could choose the one thing you are most passionate about, and be known for that?
To move in this direction – the solution is very much about learning, about development, about pushing yourself and very much about breaking down the walls that box us in.
In the coming months, I will be launching some online courses – ways for us to work together to redefine your career, grow your skills and connect with a community you believe in.
So let me know if you are in a rut – let me know where you want to be – and let me know how I can help. @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.