Putting Together the Pieces

Every one of us is going to “get it” at different times in our lives. When someone says you have to know what you want right now — or that you need to have decided the course for your life by a particular age or time — kindly tell that person: only you will ever know that answer. Right now, it’s wise to consider that you may not know. And that might be one of the best things you have going for you.

You may be on the beginning of the road to discovering what you want, while putting together the pieces and allowing others to help you. You may be halfway there, having formed the passions and desires that will sustain you, motivating you along the journey of life. You may have part of the skill set you need but perhaps there is a mentor, job, educational course or partner that will forever change and bless your life.

As I’ve grown, I’ve learned that many of the people who say, “You have to know what you want,” on the outside, truthfully don’t know what fulfills them on the inside. They have always done things one particular way. That may be working spectacularly for them. It may not be. I have close friends and acquaintances that make lots of money but are deeply stressed and unsatisfied. They have told me as much.

They have to get away to second-homes or vacation houses just to peel themselves away from the rat-race. They may have the making-money thing figured out but rest assured, a daily feeling of peace of mind is not one of them.

I promise that this is not for show but let me candidly tell you — the times during my career when I have made the most money, I’ve been the least happy. That may be the way the breaks have gone for me. This article is certainly not a manifesto about making less money. I want to make more money! I want to use that money to my creative advantage to boost my emotional and spiritual well-being.

I’ve found stress and less direction when I’ve followed a more formulaic path — one of least resistance that has disabled creativity and thwarted the kind of personal growth that I have always craved. Is that you, too?

If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. — Michael Jordan

Because We Always Have

In my work as a strategy consultant, I have worked with the highest levels of the U.S. government. I have worked in a major city government and with Fortune 100 companies. A common thread that is sewn into the fabric of many of the conversations I have had with businessmen and women is the following:

“Why do you do things this way?”

“Because we’ve always done things this way.”

“Why have you always done things this way?”

(pause) (silence) “You know, I don’t know?!”

Many people simply don’t always know what they’re doing. They’re just… doing something that they’ve always done. Or that they’ve inherited from their parents, friends, co-workers, celebrities, predecessors, teacher, coaches or bosses. They haven’t taken the time to think things through and reflect on whether their current path is their chosen one. Or if there is a better way.

There is a better way. But it requires self-reflection, contemplation, fact-finding, willingness to listen and belief in yourself. The better way is rich in spiritual thought and emotional intelligence. It’s where you get to understand yourself, your relationship with yourself, and where you call the shots. It’s where you decide whether your future will be a carbon copy of the lives of others or the unique story that you get to write.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started — Mark Twain

Dig a Little to Find Value

You have to put pieces together that aren’t exactly as easy as a Milton Bradley puzzle. This requires making sense of your experience, motivations and how you can transfer skills over to something that you truly want to do. In the interim, it’s about doing your best in your current situation and believing your reward will come.

I’ve found that you have to dig a little and you have to be willing to put yourself out there. That’s not easy for introverts and it’s not easy for those who think they can do it all on their own. I used to struggle with shyness. I still do. I still get “butterflies”* before speaking in front of groups or occasionally when meeting people.

* I don’t like this term but it’s the best way to explain that super-nervous feeling we all get when we’re about to get real and open with someone about our current emotions or condition.

Here’s what I recommend:

When what you’ve been trying hasn’t been working and you still feel confused, you have to make a change. Do so swiftly. But before you do, think about things from a value-perspective:

  • What are the ways that I can add value (to an organization, relationship or to your own life)?
  • What do I not do well? What situations would I dread to be in due to lack of experience, confidence or knowledge?
  • What skills (emotional intelligence, a trade, technical knowledge, coaching, etc.) can I apply to what I want?
Don’t block your blessings. Don’t let doubt stop you from getting where you want to be. — Jennifer Hudson

Standing Tall

A few years back, I was put into the role of managing a budget for a program office in the U.S. Air Force. I was not qualified in the slightest bit to do this. So, completely honestly, through sheer force of iron will and a refusal to fail, I learned the budget process for the U.S. Department of Defense.

I understood what it would take to make a compelling request for funding from the legislative branch of the U.S. government to help support key, Top-Secret programs that would help our nation’s Airmen. Even as I write this, I can assure you, this was not due to a particular talent. It was pure desire and effort. I succeeded because the alternative was giving up.

I’ve been down. But I never give up.

This is not to say I’ve succeeded in everything I’ve ever done. It’s merely to point out, I realized that I was in a situation where I did not have experience. So I learned what I needed to and willed the rest into reality by using my writing talents and persuasive techniques. I put together the pieces at a time where a Lieutenant Colonel was standing over my desk demanding answers. I needed to produce them stat.

I stood at the Pentagon making a funding request for millions of dollars in front of General officers, initially scared for my life, yet as I kept speaking, I felt more assured in what I was doing. On the side, I began to start writing more, coaching and doing things that I truly love. I made the transition to personal discovery during a time of tremendous challenge and adversity. It’s always worked that way for me.

Six Steps

Our greatest breakthroughs come from our most challenging and defining circumstances. Here are six steps for helping you to put together the pieces if you find yourself in a difficult situation. They have worked for me. They work for the clients that I consult with and the individuals that I coach. I hope they work for you!

  1. Learn about yourself (intuition, emotional intelligence, personal discovery, building up faith, hard work ethic)
  2. Learn about your job/class/school assignment/project
  3. Learn what you really want to do (read, observe others, be a sponge and view every situation as a learning opportunity)
  4. Begin to come to conclusions on what will make you happy (self-actualization- the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents or potentials)
  5. Allow others to help you. Seek out people of influence and humbly ask them to help you. They will vault you into the role you want to be in (no one makes it on their own)
  6. Do the job well and with consistency. Continue to evolve and learn, refreshing, improving and keeping a positive attitude

Keep the Momentum Going

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